Campus Life

From Your Bedroom to Your Dorm Room

Here's a question for all of you graduating high school seniors who are about to be college freshmen this fall: Have you ever shared a bedroom with another person? I'm talking about the experience you're about to have at college, in your dorm room with your roommate(s).

If you come from a large family, you may have had to share your bedroom (let's just call it “your room") with a sibling when you were younger. Or, maybe you shared your room into your teen years until that sibling (or siblings) moved on to college or other living quarters. If you're an only child, as I was/am, you may be accustomed to complete privacy, with your own little kingdom into which you can retreat to escape the perils of life and parents.

Well, most of that will change when you enter the wonderful world of dorm life at college. Your parents won't be around to tell you what to do, when to study, when to go to bed, or who can (or cannot) be in your room (sometimes alone) with you. Your migration into this new world may come as a significant shock to you if you're not prepared to adjust and deal with it.

Naturally, as is my boring custom here, I'll give you some insight from my own experiences as a freshman (and relatively spoiled only child) living away from home for the first time, sharing a room not much bigger than a walk-in closet with a complete stranger

My freshman roommate, let's call him Greg, came from a wealthy Philadelphia Main Line family. Unlike today, with all of our communications and social media advantages, I had zero contact with Greg before my first day on campus. I didn't even know his name before Day 1. My parents and I were the first to arrive at Room #216, so I had the honor of selecting which of the two beds I wanted, which also allowed me to plant my flag on my preferred side of the tiny room.

To make a long (and sleep-inducing) story mercifully short, let's just say that I learned more from my big-city roommate than he learned from flyover-country me. We were both confused about what we wanted to do with our lives and had some long, honest talks about that. He wanted to be a farmer, but was at college as a business major. I wanted to be a professional tennis player and was facing the head-banging agony of an accounting major.

He was a binge drinker and I didn't drink. He got lots of money from home. I didn't, although I got enough. He was very generous with his money and many a night he would “buy" if I would “fly" for our late night snacks off campus. Bottom line: I liked Greg a lot. We went our separate ways and I never heard from him again.

Anyway, the point of all my rambling here is to give you some advice about the adjustments you will likely have to make when you make your move (literally) into your college dorm room. There's lots of advice out there on the Web about how to make a positive transition, so I'd like to share a bit of that with you here. offers a very comprehensive survey of 100+ Helpful Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Dorm Life. Obviously, I'm not going to mention all 100 here, but I would like to highlight some of the more important issues so that you can at least start to think about this important upcoming phase of your life.

So, here are a few of the major categories to consider, along with a detail or two to follow:


Bring Only What You Need: Sure, you're moving far away and you'd like to take everything you can to remind you of home, but the truth is you really won't have enough room. Follow the link above to your ultimate packing list.

Learn to Love Shoe Boxes: Stop throwing away old shoe boxes. You can store your shoes in them, since they stack easier than the shoes themselves, and keeping them is cheaper than buying a special shoe organizer.

Personal Wellness

Living in the crowded world of a dormitory has its ups and downs. For example, you'll make a lot of new friends, but your chances of getting the flu increase. You might also feel overwhlemed by constant interruptions and “togetherness" so make sure you take some time for yourself and stay healthy.

Stay Healthy: Use this advice to beat depression, prevent weight gain, maintain positive relationships, and more.

Stay Calm: This site is updated daily with new tips and guidance for handling stress. It also offers a free stress-less kit that includes four useful tools.

Roommate Etiquette [Maybe the most important category here.]

With everything you're facing during your first year of college, the last thing you need is the added pressure of roommate discord. Make sure you're on your best behavior, and you might want to share these etiquette tips with your roommie as well to avoid any tension throughout the year.

Express Issues: One of the worst things you can do as a roommate is to let your anger and frustrations build up without tactfully confronting your roommate. Make sure you express your feelings in a timely manner to keep things from overheating.

Respect Your Roommate's Stuff: This might seem like a no-brainer, but it's a huge reason conflicts occur. Don't borrow anything without asking. For any amount of time. End of story.

Be Neat: Nobody likes a pig. Clean up after yourself, including trash, dishes and laundry.

Follow the Golden Rule: Treat your roommate (and everybody else) the way you want to be treated. Let him or her know you expect the same.

Healthy Eating

Of course you've heard about the freshman 15, but have you ever researched what it really is? A major part of this unfortunate first-year weight gain is the constant cafeteria eating for dorm students who don't have access to their own kitchen. But that doesn't have to be the same for you. No matter where you go or what your dorm is serving, you have the power to stay healthy and eat smart.

Watch Portion Sizes: CalorieKing has comprehensive nutritional info and a great Portion Watch tool with pictures of different portion sizes of many popular foods.

Get a Taste of The Daily Plate: Tell your goals to this site, and they'll even hold you accountable for meeting them.


That's just a brief sampling of all the great tips in this article. Check out all of them for a great overview of making your move to college.

Another excellent source for background on the real world of college dorm living is College Confidential. Here are a few threads that will help you understand. You can see what each thread is about from the link description:

So, get ready for the experience and time of your life so far. College dorm living is something that you'll remember for the rest of your days. Go forth and enjoy!


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.

As co-founder of College Confidential and a nationally-known author and columnist