RA’s Advice for a Smooth Entry into Dorm Life

If your first apartment is a dorm room, our newest guest blogger shares her RA secrets to ease you into your new digs.  Morgan is a senior creative writing major at Florida State University, where she is on her third year of involvement with student housing, the most recent of those years as an RA.

“Home Life to Dorm Life: 8 Tips on Making the Move” by Morgan

Making the transition from home life to dorm life is one of the biggest steps toward gaining your first taste of independence. It’s exciting, a little scary and altogether new. To help make the transition a little easier, here are a few tips from a former resident assistant.

  1. Talk to your roommate before move-in day. This way, you can figure out who’s bringing what (trust me—you won’t have the space for two microwaves and two printers) and get to know each other. You and your roommate may not be best friends, but he’ll likely be your default wingman for beginning of the semester activities.
  2. Plan ahead. Don’t expect to move in right away. You’ll have to sign paperwork before getting your key, so do yourself a favor and don’t come in bringing your heaviest boxes. Also, call ahead to find the best time to move in. Some dorms have most people move in the morning, others have a lot in the afternoon. By moving in when it’s least crowded, you’ll enjoy faster elevators, more parking and a shorter line for sign-in.
  3. Set ground rules with your roommate immediately. Many campuses require “Roommate Agreements” for those in residence halls, but it’s great to have your own rules as well. Talk about the tough stuff first: sleepovers, alcohol in the room and partying. It’s way easier to talk about these issues in the beginning, when you’re both calm and sober, instead of telling your drunk roommate that you’d rather not have a keg in your room after her friend has already thrown up on your floor.
  4. Get organized. Space is at a minimum in dorms, so space-efficient organization tools are an absolute necessity. Stack plastic milk crates of plastic drawers in closets, under your lofted bed or in the space above your closet. Not only will your possessions be organized, you’ll also have lots of floor space for you and your new friends to hang out.
  5. Make your space your own. If you spend all semester staring at bare dorm-greige walls, keeping homesickness at bay will be nearly impossible. Buy a few posters or hang pictures of friends and family on the walls.  Ask a local movie theater if you can have their enormous movie posters once they’re done with them—usually they’re happy to find a home for something they would normally discard. If you’re especially creative, create wall hangings from the leftover scraps of fabric in craft store clearance bins. You can also purchase a small vintage chandelier at a garage sale and hang it in your room using Command strips or another dorm-friendly adhesive. Allocate a small budget—$30 would do—to buying small pieces to spruce up your space.
  6. Attend dorm and campus socials! The free bowling nights, concerts, game nights and “Speed Friending” events held in the beginning of the semester are the single best way to make new friends before classes even start. They may seem a little silly at first, but keep in mind that everyone in attendance is in the same position, looking for the same things. Let loose and have fun.
  7. Get involved. Especially if you were very involved in high school, your first few weeks of school can seem slow and boring if you don’t get out of your dorm! Head to interest meetings for clubs on campus, try out recruitment for Greek life or check out flyers in the hallway for lectures and discussion panels. Attending these is a great way to learn about something that interests you, build your resume and gain friends with similar passions!
  8. Become who you want to be. Be yourself and put yourself out there towards making new friends by starting conversations at events, in club meetings or even in the elevator. No one knows or cares if you were that shy, nerdy kid in high school. You can leave that behind now! College is a fresh start and a chance to become the person you truly want to be—don’t be afraid to take the chance.

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