My younger brother is starting college this fall, an he and his friends have been asking for a list of things they should have in their dorms aside from the obvious, and of course I can’t help but attempt imparting knowledge at his face. THINGS TO TAKE TO A DORM THAT NOBODY MENTIONS
Small vacuum cleaner: Either a stick vac or a little hand held. You WILL drop things, and eventually you’ll have crumbs everywhere. You’ll make more than a few friends if you’re the only one on the hall with a vacuum cleaner.
Swiffer (if you have a tiled floor): In the winter, you’ll somehow manage to track mud, dirt, and salt in. And if you spill something sticky on your floor (you will), this is loads easier than wiping things down with water and tissues.
Lysol spray/wipes: Someone in your hall will get sick, and that will start a chain reaction of EVERYONE IN THE HALL GETTING THE PLAGUE. There is no avoiding it. But when your roommate gets sick, or the guy two doors down starts sniffling, whip out the germ killer and try to contain the epidemic. You will be hailed as a hero. Also good for if you leave for the weekend and your roommate doesn’t. You never know what’s going on all over you shit when you’re gone.
Lockbox: This is especially important if you don’t take your computer to class and everywhere you go. It’s not hard to break into a dorm room. People steal shit. Put your shit in a lockbox and hide the lockbox (or else that will get stolen too).
Pyrex containers: You know the Tupperware-esque containers made of glass instead of plastic? Get a few of those. They can be microwaved, and then you can store your leftovers in one go. And they’re easy to clean.
Dish soap: Get a small bottle to wash out the Pyrex containers, plus the bowls/mugs/cups you’ve got.
Small fan: If you can’t control the room temperature of have a rude roommate who won’t compromise and insists on having the room feel like the Sahara desert. Also good for drowning out noises from that one person in the hall who comes home at 2am and insists on chatting on their phone on the top of their lungs all the way down the hall.
Brita pitcher/extra filter: Dorm water is disgusting. Filter it before you use it to cook, make coffee, or drink. May also help to have a reusable water bottle because buying bottled water on campus is a ripoff and college towns don’t always have the best water. Also, some dorms have free filtered water machines in the lobby (mine did. It was awesome) and you can fill up before class.
THINGS ABOUT FIRST YEAR THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
-For things like cans of pop, ramen, and other snack that you and your friends all tend to eat, make friends with someone who has a wholesale club membership, and go buy them in bulk and split the cost. But take advantage of your meal plan. Find out if you weekly allowance rolls over (mine didn’t and I never used it all) or if it has to be used up in the week. If that’s the case, find out where on campus you can use your meal plan, sometimes you can buy a few boxes of juice or other food for one meal exchange.
–Set a bedtime for yourself. The first few months in the dorms is really weird and it feels like you’re supposed to stay up late and either study all the time or party all the time. Don’t be afraid to be the first person to go to bed. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.
–Set homework time. Come back from class and relax, and then sit down and work, or go straight to the library or another quiet place to get things done. Since you live and study at the same place, unless you’ve been to boarding school, it’s gonna be hard to make yourself follow any sort of schedule.
–Do laundry once a week. Doesn’t matter how much stuff you have to do. Pick a day and time, and treat it like any other commitment. It gives you some regularity, and dorms are small, so if it starts to pile up it’s gonna overwhelm the room fast.
–Make friends with your roommate, but don’t push it. If they don’t want to be friends, keep it civil. Just keep up some sort of relationship so that you can somewhat depend on them. In case you get locked out, or run out of something important, or desperately need a ride somewhere. Also set some ground rules, like no overnight guests (trust me, make this a rule at the very beginning. Aside from the potential awkwardness, a lot of times it just isn’t allowed and you can get penalized if the RA finds out.) or no loud music/audio after 10pm.
-Get to know your RA. They’re not just an enforcer. They’re a student too, and can offer some pretty helpful advice about the building, and the school. My freshman year RA is still a good friend of mine, and was super helpful when we had an issue with someone on our hall.
–Get to know a few people in your hall, especially if they’re outside your major. My best friends now all lived on my hall freshman year. I lived off campus with one of those girls each year of college, and the others joined us for my last year. The people you live with will know you better than anyone else. And if they’re outside your major, the temptation to constantly talk about school is gone, and you have other things to talk about. This is the main reason I don’t like Honors Dorms or major specific dorms. That leads people down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and worry because they’re all taking the same classes and are in some form of competition with each other.
-Don’t call home at first. You’ll be homesick, that’s a given. But give yourself a few days before you call or Skype. You’ll be able to handle it better. And don’t go home every single weekend your freshman year. That’s when everyone is making friends and going out and bonding, and you really don’t want to miss out. If you absolutely have to be home, go either once a month or every other. My freshman year I didn’t go home at all, because I was across the country. If you’re feeling homesick, text a sibling. Your parents’ first impulse will be to coddle and baby you and offer to come get you, your sibling will remind you that you that you can handle this shit, so get over yourself.
–Keep in touch with your high school friends. You’ll find that soon you’re only really in touch with one or two. And they’re the ones making an effort to talk to you. A lot of high school friendships end spring semester of your first year in college. Be prepared for that, and don’t be too upset. You don’t need them anymore, and the friends you’re making now, some of them are going to be your friends for the rest of your life. When I was going to a really rough time the year after I finished college, it was my freshman dorm mates getting me through it, not my high school best friend, who had stopped talking to me.
–Join a club that has nothing to do with your academic major. It brings you close to people who are interested in the same thing as you, but who you may not have met otherwise.
–Don’t be afraid to eat dinner alone. Sure, there are always groups of people going to the dining hall in swarms, chattering about banal bullshit like frat parties and chapter meetings, but don’t be afraid to be there alone. There’s no shame in having different eating schedules with your friends. Bring a book, sit with someone new (this is only okay in the first two weeks of the semester, otherwise it’s a little weird), do your thing.
–Register your bike with campus police. It will likely get stolen. A friend of mine got his bike stolen seven times in one semester. Registering it with campus police may not get it back, but it will help if you have it insured or if it’s found and someone is claiming it’s theirs (happened to my friend).
–Make friends with older students. They’ll subliminally help you get your study habit straightened out, can offer advice on professors, and can just generally be there for you. Since I got into a lot of upper level classes freshman year thanks to my AP credits, I made friends with a lot of older students and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
–Get to know your professors. If you’re planning on needing recommendation letters for jobs, grad school, or internships, find a few professors within your major department that you like, and take every class they offer. Get to know them, raise your hand in class, keep it professional and courteous, go to office hours, and when you ask for a rec in three years, they’ll jump your request up to the top of the pile.
–Have fun. It’s school, you have to study, yes, but remember that how you feel now will affect how you feel about your career path. If you’re miserable doing it now, you won’t want to do it for a living when you have to. Take care of yourself. If that means changing your major or picking up a minor, carefully consider it and then go for it. It sounds cliché, but you really need to find what you’re passionate about.