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Tips for Adapting to Dorm Life

After many months, perhaps years, of planning for college, the big day is near. You are about to embark on one of the most meaningful experiences in your life. Rarely will you face such sudden and radical changes.

Living away from your parents, having to make your own decisions, is enough of a challenge. You also must learn how to live with new people in a different environment. Here are six tips for adapting to dorm life.

1. Pick the Right Dorm

Most universities offer a number of student-housing options. Dorms vary in their cost, amenities and features, proximity to classrooms, and other aspects. Some feature bathrooms in every room, while others have communal toilets and showers.

You may want a single-gender or coed dorm. At some schools, students with similar interests or majors are housed in the same residence hall. You could have one person, or several students, sharing your room.

2. Reach Out to Others

On your first day on campus, begin the process of connecting with others. You need friends and allies to get the most out of your college experience. Make eye contact, communicate, and employ your best people skills to meet fellow students. You are all going through the same experience, so it should not be hard to find things to discuss. Express your interests and show people who you are. Listen to what they say, so you get to know them.

Understand that you are going to be spending a lot of time with these people. You will be sharing common dorm areas like dining halls and perhaps showers. You are going to pass one another in the halls, and take some of the same classes. Every fellow student is not going to be your friend. But you need to get along with everybody. Take the time to really get to know your roommate and the resident assistant. They are key to helping you adjust to this new way of living.

You will likely make friends quickly. After all, you have chosen to attend the same school, and even take the same classes. It is easier to find people with whom you have something in common in college than it was in high school. Many people make lifelong friends during their college years.

3. Make Your Nest

As much as possible, you want your dorm room to feel like home. It is natural to long for some elements of your old life. The transition can be emotionally difficult.

Pack items, like photographs and high school mementos, that have sentimental value or other special meaning. In conjunction with your roommate, choose wall art (such as posters and pictures) that inspire you or promote peace of mind. You may want to take your old pillow and other personal things. Surrounding yourself with familiar items from home can help ease the shock of this big move.

You will have to make some adjustments. For one thing, you will have space in your dorm room for just a fraction of your stuff. Pack accordingly, and leave valuable items at home because they could be damaged or stolen. Pets are not allowed. Because of the close living conditions, most dorms have “quiet hours.” Make sure you know all the rules before moving into your new home.

4. Find a Place to Study

Keep your eye on the prize. Never forget that the main reason you are in college is to learn and get a degree. It is critical that you find a place where you can study effectively.

Ideally, your study space will be in your dorm room. You need an area large enough to accommodate your computer, books, and other materials. Make sure there is room for you to write. You need a comfortable chair and good lighting. Try to establish this space as far away as possible from your roommate’s activities, and study while the roommate is gone.

If your dorm room has too many distractions, there are other options. Many residence halls provide study lounges. You also can go to the library, or sit on the lawn under a shade tree.

5. Schedule Your Time

In college, you are responsible for getting things done. You don’t have your parents there to tell you what to do. You need to budget not only your money, but also your time. Everything revolves around the class schedule. You also need to plan blocks of time to study.

Living without your mom means doing your own laundry, and shopping for your own food and other things. These chores require some planning, because you don’t want to find yourself without a clean shirt before class or nothing to eat when you are hungry. You can save money by carefully planning your meals, and eating often in the dining hall. By scheduling these activities, you can be sure to have enough time left over to enjoy socializing with your new friends.

6. Stay Safe

College life poses many temptations, and your parents are not there to set boundaries. The common advice is to not drink, take illegal drugs, or have sex. However, college students are at an age when some experimentation is to be expected.

Remember that with your newfound freedom comes personal responsibility. Understand the risks involved in certain behaviors, and make sure you are always in control of what you are doing. You will probably find yourself at parties where students are guzzling keg beer, or drinking fruit punch laced with hard liquor. It is vital that, if you are of legal age and choose to drink, you know your limit and have a designated driver.

Do not smoke, cook, or use devices that could start a fire in your room. Keep the doors and windows locked, and control who comes into the room. Avoid walking around campus by yourself.

These are some of the ways to aid in the process of adapting to dorm life. It isn’t easy. The course work is harder than it was in high school, and it’s entirely up to you whether you get to class on time or do your studying.

You will face responsibilities that you did not have before. By overcoming these hurdles, you can do well in your studies and make friends. This will enable you to enjoy your college years while earning the degree you seek.

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