Student Life

Back to School: Successful College Dorm Living

For many college freshmen, there’s nothing more exciting than moving into their first home away from home: college and university dorms! Maybe you’ve spent all summer picking out color-coordinated decor, or making photo collages of all your friends back home. Now that it’s time to move in, you’re entering a new social dynamic of roommates, hallway neighbors, and resident advisors. For those wishing to make the most of their dorm experience, keep these 8 leadership tips in mind for a successful semester.

  1. Sharing Space: Before you unpack and claim the top bunk, speak with your roommate about how to divide the space. Ask if they have a preference for which side of the room to take, and talk about shared living spaces, including the closet and desk. Communicating about your living arrangement is key for keeping the peace and making sure there are no misunderstandings.
  2. Save Some Room: Dorm rooms can be small, so it’s important for the two or three of you to find space-saving solutions that let you live comfortably. Consider storing clothes or shoes under the bed in plastic bins, or hanging jewelry on plastic hooks on the inside closet door. Understand that the size of the room may not accommodate larger items, such as your favorite beanbag chair or plush faux-fur rug, and accept that downsizing is all part of the experience.
  3. Stocking up: Avoid ending up with two microwaves and an extra vacuum taking up room in your closet. Communicate and agree before move-in who’s bringing what appliance, such as a mini fridge, TV or microwave. Take turns restocking disposable items.
  4. Coordinate Decor: Leaders initiate communication, so coordinate with your roommate about how to decorate. Coordinate a color scheme for bed linens, rugs, window treatments, and wall decor so that your space is chic and comfortable, instead of a multicolored chaos.
  5. Bathroom: For many first-time dorm residents, sharing a floor bathroom with numerous others requires more planning and consideration than expected. Organization requires pre-planning. Keep your toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving items in a caddy and store them when not in use. Remember to clean your hair out of the sink once you’re done. Lastly, be considerate of how long you spend under the water, your hall-mates are waiting to grab a shower before their first class.
  6. Turn Down: For anyone with a roommate (or several) headphones are your best friend. Plugging in your earbuds when listening to music or reviewing a recorded lecture shows respect for others and lets you avoid uncomfortable confrontations with your RA about volume. If someone is blasting music or making noise while you’re trying to study, discreetly bring your concerns to the RA.
  7. Night Owl: Successful dorm residents don’t play videogames until 4 a.m. or watches movies all night with loud volume. You may not have an early class or practice the next morning, but your hallmates might. Be considerate of their schedules and save the volume for the truly noisy spaces on campus.
  8. Study Buddy: You may come back to your dorm to find your roommate studying at their desk. Show some leadership, enter as quietly as possible and refrain from being a distraction. If you need to make a call, respect their study time by coming back later. If not, join them by studying at your desk if you have work to do yourself.

Living in the dorms can be an invaluable life experience. Starting the year with a leadership approach makes the transition smooth. Best of luck to everyone settling into their first dorm away from home, and have a successful first semester!

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture (formerly Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide). In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

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Cross-cultural & International Etiquette Expert, Best-selling, International Award-winning Author