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Dorm Survivor: A Handful of Tips for Thriving in a Residence Hall

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One of the biggest adjustments for a lot of new college students is dormitory life. Everything is new, the rules are uncertain… and how are you supposed to sleep with a party next door? Most of it you’ll pick up with time and experience, but to get you started here are a few great tips for making your residence hall feel like home:

Be nice. You might have heard your mother say that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Have a neighbor who just can’t seem to be considerate of you and your sleep schedule? Go out of your way to make friends. Most people are much more accommodating when a smiling friend asks them to keep it down than when a grumpy stranger does.

Get involved. Go to any dorm meetings or orientations and participate to the best of your ability. Make the dorm your home. Make an effort to spend time in common areas chatting with your neighbors.

Befriend your resident advisor. R.A.s can help mediate disputes, offer advice and resources, and help you navigate the complexities of dorm life. If you ever have a conflict that needs mediation, it will be much easier to work with a resident advisor you know than one you don’t. R.A.s also know professors and academic programs you don’t, and can provide personalized advice and contacts that will benefit you for years to come.

Do Unto Others… and all that jazz. Actually, a better rule than the golden rule is “don’t do unto others as you would not have the do unto you.” This applies to excessive noise, smells, messes, etc… consider it “the platinum rule”.

Live and let live. Other students on your floor and in your dorm may make choices you don’t approve of. They make break school rules, as well. As long as people are not seriously endangering themselves or others, however, you’ll do well to remember your first grade teacher’s maxim and Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper, so to speak.

Own your mistakes. While of course you wouldn’t damage your dorm room on purpose, accidents happen, right? If you are pleasant and prompt in reporting damage instead of leaving it for the staff to find after you move out (or worse, attempt to hide it or fix it yourself) you’re likely to end up with a smaller repair bill and increased mutual trust and respect between you and the staff.

Finally, talk it out. If you have roommate or floor mate problems, talk them through instead of just getting upset. Ideally, talk issues through before they become actual problems. These should include:

  • Sleep schedule (including dealing with alarms when one person is getting up and the other isn’t)
  • Bathroom cleaning duties
  • Guest protocols—especially overnight/sexy guests!

When you live with someone, some things can be embarrassing to talk about—but I guarantee you they will be less embarrassing to talk about before they become problems! If problems do crop up, handle them promptly instead of letting resentment fester.

Got it? Life in the dorms will help prepare you for life after being a college—especially learning how to get along with other and be a good neighbor. So get in that hallway, make some friends, and enjoy yourself!

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Elisabeth Bailey+

Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.


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Dan Ralph over 4 years ago Dan Ralph


Like your statment on Dorm life, but you left out the dangers of being rape. And how to advoid of being rape. You just might be helping alot of young women out by adding this to dorm life. For it really happens.