Dorm life is a big change for most college freshmen. It’s your first time living away from home; you’re responsible for your laundry, meals and getting to class on time. But you’re most likely not living alone. There’s a roommate sharing your dorm room. Whether you’re bunking with your best friend from home or if you left it up to chance, you’re going to be sharing quite a bit with this new roommate.
We’ve all heard dorm life horror stories – smelly roommates, loud roommates, ones who steal, ones who never do laundry or throw away pizza boxes. These stories aren’t always the norm. I’m still close friends with one college roommate, and still visit her often. The trick to living well with a complete stranger (or even a friend) is communication. The best way to step off on the right foot is to start talking to your new roommate the summer before you move in.
Your college or university should send you the name and contact information of your future roommate sometime over the summer. Dive right in! It’s so easy these days to connect with people over email and on Twitter and Facebook. This person might not be your best friend for life, but you can start figuring out shared interests and get to know each other a bit.
You can also figure out what you’re each planning on bringing to the dorm and what you plan on sharing. Your dorm room will most likely be stocked with a bed, a closet, a desk, maybe a dresser and a bookshelf. While some schools have upgraded to hotel-like suites and top-flight amenities, dorm rooms are notoriously stark. Prepare to bring your own creature comforts from home.
What to share with your roommate
Get prepared to live in cramped quarters. Even if you do become best friends, you’re not going to have room for two of everything. Consider splitting this list of shared appliances and electronics:
- Mini-fridge—You may be able to rent this from the dorm, but you’ll only need one.
- Coffee maker
- Fan—If your building doesn’t have air conditioning, a box fan or oscillating fan will be appreciated on a hot day.
- DVD/Blu-Ray Player
- Video game consoles—If you’re hard-core gamers, talk about what each of you want to bring. Maybe you’ll end up getting to share a system you don’t already have. A great way to break the ice!
- Phone—Some schools still offer landlines in dorms. If you want to take advantage of this, no need to bring more than one phone.
What you might want to share – or bring your own
In some situations you may be able to share these items, but if you’re very particular about your possessions—or you have a bad roommate situation—you’ll want your own.
- Stereo and speakers—Maybe you’ll share musical tastes, or maybe you’ll each want to listen to your own music while studying. Do your part to be a good roommate and bring your own headphones, too.
- Message board—Even constant texting can’t replace the college tradition of a message board. Tack one up to your dorm room door to get messages from everyone who stops by to say hello.
- Printer—You might not even need one with email the preferred method of submitting papers, and with computer labs everywhere. If you really need a printer in your room, you can probably share it.
- Cleaning supplies—Yes, you will need to clean. You probably want to have a minivac, an all-purpose cleaning spray, cleaning wipes and a duster.
As a warning, be prepared to bring everything. I took my own advice and coordinated with my roommate ahead of time. She brought the TV and stereo and I brought the mini-fridge. Then she moved into her sorority house after a month. It was nice having the room to myself for a few weeks until I got a new roommate, but it was a very quiet month.
Bring Your Own
This isn’t the first time you’ll hear BYO in your dorm life. But when it comes to living with a roommate, some things just aren’t meant to share. If your roommate tries to share these, you might have found a dud.
- Laundry supplies
- Alarm clock
- Blow dryer
- Laptop/Tablet—Of course it’s OK to share every once in a while, but beware a roommate who doesn’t bring his or her own computer and expects to use yours all of the time.
Have I scared you enough? Don’t worry—roommates and dorm life are all part of the college experience. There might be a few roommate horror stories in the making, but most likely you will end up making a new friend with whom to share your first year at college.
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