7 College Dorm Life Hacks

By L. Roberts on September 30, 2019

As students across the country begin their fall semesters, whether it’s for the first time or the last, they also take pride in their school’s football team, fall leaves, and cracking open their (very expensive) textbooks for the first time. Long nights are spent at the library, making sure they don’t fall behind on their studies, and early mornings to make sure they’re on time for their first classes of the day.

Many of our college students experience what it’s like to be away from home for the first time when they move to on-campus housing. Living in a dorm is nothing like living at home. All of a sudden, students must scavenge for their food at local dining halls and small eateries. Long gone are the days of helping your mom put ice in the glasses before dinner. Now their days are full of hunting down greasy food between classes and during late-night study sessions.

via Pexels.com

Being in college is a once in a lifetime experience. There’s nothing quite like moving away from home and into a college dorm. Suddenly, you make friends with hundreds of people all at once, living side-by-side, and sharing a (way too tiny) bathroom. You sleep up in the air in a lofted bed, and your desk is below, holding the books and pens that are the key to your future.

Weekends in college are way too short. But Tuesday nights become the new Saturday when you skip your classes every Wednesday and go downtown to see a movie instead. Thursdays become the new Sunday, where you take a mental health day because college is hard and you aren’t adjusting as well as you thought you would to your new life. You drop your head and take yourself back to your dorm room, the tiny space that you share with at least one other person, and crawl back into bed. You miss the days where your mom cooked for you and did your laundry. But this was the independence you’ve always wanted, so you suck it up and keep going.

If this sounds at all familiar, you’ve made it through college. But for those of us who are still fighting the good fight and taking 8am classes on the other side of campus, college life is never-ending. Living in a dorm is just one small part of what it’s like to be an American college student.

Sharing such a small space with at least one other person is a huge life adjustment. Not only are you sharing a room, but you’re also sharing a small mini-fridge, a bathroom, and one tiny window as well. You’re suddenly thrown into the middle of someone else’s schedule — whether they get up at the crack of dawn for their classes or they stay up all night talking to friends from home.

Living in a dormitory on campus is sort of an art. After the first semester or two, you’ll get the hang of the “hacks” you need when you live in a dorm. You’ll learn what kind of groceries you can buy, how to hang your towel over the bathroom door so it dries faster, and how to take showers at all the un-conventional times so you can be sure you get to shower in peace. If you’re new to college living, or you don’t feel like you’ve quite gotten the hang of things, here are seven hacks you need for dorm-life living:

 1. Grocery shopping for small snacks is a must. 

The dining hall food is going to be exciting at first. In fact, you’re probably going to think to yourself, “what?! All-you-can-eat buffet for every meal, every day?!”

And then you’ll gain the freshman fifteen (or forty-five) and you’ll understand the importance of what you put in your body. You’ll grow up really quickly and start a strict gym regiment on top of your classes. And then you’ll start re-thinking the way you eat in college.

Heading to the grocery store and picking up some healthy snacks is one of your best bets towards fighting weight gain. This is going to be a stressful time in your life. Don’t give yourself the option of eating unhealthily. Instead, stock your fridge and your tiny dorm room with almonds and fruit. You’ll thank yourself when all your classmates are heavy after Christmas and you’re still rocking your high school bod.

2. Don’t put off doing your laundry.

The first Saturday/Sunday in college, everyone’s going to crowd the laundry room and start washing clothes … all at once. You’ll get highly annoyed when someone removes your clothes from the dryer without your permission and takes off with a cute top you just purchased last weekend. I suggest you find an “unconventional” day to do your laundry and don’t put it off. When your laundry piles up, you’ll feel your entire life spiraling out of control. Keep what you can in check, and hold yourself steady with all the things that keep you functioning normally.

via Pexels.com

3. Shower shoes and shower caddies are of utmost importance.

If you don’t want to catch some gross foot fungus, make sure you invest in a solid pair of shower shoes. It’s a little weird to get used to at first, but it’s definitely worth it. And those shower caddies? They’ll save your life. Keep your shampoo, soap, and razor right there in your caddy and you’ll always have what you need when you go down the hall to shower.

Community style dorms are probably the least wanted type of living situation on campus. But there’s something special about having the opportunity to share a shower with 50 other college students. Community style dorms are almost a rite of passage, so you should definitely be excited about having the opportunity.

4. Participate in hall/dorm activities.

Regardless of what people say about college, it can be a very lonely time. If you don’t reach out to people, you’ll be going home at Christmas with no fun stories or memories besides pulling all-nighters in the library to keep your grades up.

To keep from feeling alone when you’re living in a dorm, reach out to people and attend all the activities they orchestrate during the semester.

You might find yourself totally dreading the “study skills” session they’ve organized, but once you go and you meet some people, you won’t regret giving up an hour or so of your time. You might even want to get involved in planning the activities for your floor or your dorm. If you have a suggestion for programming, you should definitely reach out to your hall director or your RA.

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5. Find something you’re passionate about and get involved.

Those first two years of classes are all the ones you don’t want to take — history, biology, English, psych, and math. To keep from losing your mind while you’re reading textbooks in which you have no interest, join some clubs or organizations that capture your interest. Figure out what you’re passionate about – what you want to stand up for – and create your identity around that. 

If you’re passionate about making a difference in your community, see if you can find a club on campus that specializes in organizing community service events. If you’re a total book worm, join the Honors Society for your major. If you want to get involved in campus leadership, help with a campaign during your freshman or sophomore year and you’ll have an “in” when you become an upperclassman.

6. Keep yourself on a schedule.

One of the greatest parts about college is having the ability to schedule your own classes. If you want to sleep in every day and go to class until 5:00pm, you can! If you want all 8:00am classes so you can end your days by lunchtime, that’s a possibility too! Regardless of what you make your class schedule, keep yourself on a personal schedule as well. Think about when you want to eat, where you want to stop on campus to take study breaks, and when you’re going to nap away your afternoons. College can be one of the toughest places to keep yourself mentally sane and keeping yourself on your own schedule will make sure you’re successful and healthy while you’re there.

7. Enjoy the dorm life while you can!

Living in a dorm isn’t an opportunity that every person gets. Take advantage of the fact that you’ve left home and you get to live with 300 of your friends. Whether you love it or you hate it, remind yourself that dorm life doesn’t last forever, and one day you’ll be looking back on this time in your life wondering where all those days disappeared to…

Living in a dorm is an experience you won’t forget. It’s also an experience you won’t get more than once.  If you start your collegiate career out living in a community-style dorm, you’ll be more than ready to move into suite-style by the time you’re a sophomore. Once you hit junior year, you’ll either want to keep living on campus because it’s convenient to everything, or you’ll be ready to get yourself an apartment and start commuting to and from campus. If you end up moving to a complex off-campus, then you should especially ensure that you take advantage of this time. Cooking dinner in the microwave, doing laundry and homework simultaneously, and constantly hearing people running up and down the hallway (even in the middle of the night).

Dorm life is definitely interesting if anything. You’ll never be bored. From the activities they’re always organizing in your dorm lobby to your RA making sure to “check-in” on you every few weeks, you’ll never live like this again.

For those of you who aren’t getting the opportunity to live on campus, don’t worry. You aren’t missing out on all the fun. Apply for a job as an RA or a hall director and you’ll get a taste of dorm life. From helping freshmen and their families on move-in day to analyzing what helps colleges retain first-year students, getting involved with housing on a college campus could be a good way for you to go. Additionally, if you’re looking for a part-time job during college to make some extra cash, you should research what it takes to get a job at the front desk of a dormitory. Usually, it just involves answering the phone and making sure things don’t get too rowdy during quiet hours. If you’re looking for a way to get a taste of what it’s like to live in a dorm without actually living in a dorm.. you should get involved with working for housing at your college or university.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her pup at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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