An inevitable change that comes with the victorious freedom of moving out, and the intense education-level up that is College, dorm life is a minefield of unknown challenges.
To help prepare you for this next great task, the massively wise Magoosh team of magical sages got together to come up with a list of ten things you might not expect, but should know, about dorm life. They hope you read, and avoid making their mistakes!
1) Ask current students when researching dorms.
Ronke lived in Clark Kerr and Unit 3 during her years at UC Berkeley. And although she did her research and knew Unit 3 is “located one block from campus”, she didn’t know it would be cheaper than Clark Kerr, and have more social energy. She didn’t know that Clark Kerr would be chock full of sports players who dominated the dining hall. So when it’s time for living assignments, make sure to ask students to give you the low-down on the facts you really need to know (like these 14 Things Prospective Students Should Know about UC Berkeley).
2) Honors dorms don’t mean no social life.
Peter’s experience in the honors dorm at the University of Arizona was full of all-dorm BBQ’s and like-minded people who both studied their butts off and liked to have fun. There was never competitiveness, and he absolutely recommends living in the honors dorm at your school (most large public universities have them) if you can.
3) You will make lifelong friends.
Magoosh intern Maizie (also at the University of Arizona) met her two best friends in the dorms. In fact, almost every Magoosher mentioned that they have friends from college that they still hang out with today. But as Peter (who met two good friends and wife in the dorms) puts it best, you don’t have to stress about finding them because “People are desperate for friends!” After all, that’s one of the main purposes of orientation.
4) You will have to work to be social.
That being said, socializing doesn’t come unless you take the right steps. Ronke highly suggests leaving your door open, and going to other people’s rooms. Maizie says go to the RA’s cheesy activities, because they will actually help you meet people. There is a culture of almost forced social interaction, but try to just accept it for what it is and find friends who you feel comfortable with.
5) Orientation and freshman year will probably be an excited/nervous/awesome blur.
Peter and Mark agree that the entirety of the first year of college is chaotic and high energy. In their opinion, there is a magical energy that clings to freshmen that practically shouts, “OMG WE’RE FRESHMAN.” That’s not a bad thing, but actually unifying because you’re all going through it. Just be prepared to experience the constant combination of stoked and terrified.
6) It’s okay if your roommates aren’t your best friends.
Lena (who attends Harvard University) says it’s actually a good thing if you and your roomies aren’t the best friends. The reason being if you go out and hang out with them and then come home…and hang out with them, you get can a little sick of each other. The best medium is to be friendly (and able to go do things if you want) without having to be together all the time.
7) Living with people you know from high school might not be the best.
Maizie lived with two girls from her high school to avoid the terror of random roommate assignment, and quickly regretted it. Because college is an opportunity to reinvent yourself and be a new person, living with people that know all your drama from high school can hold you back. For Maizie, it ended up being so bad that they stayed at home on the weekends.
8) You’ll have to work a lot of things out for yourself.
In college, no one is going to police you the way teachers, administrators, and parents have in high school. Often times you’ll have to figure out your friendship issues, find better ways to study, and decide things for yourself. General advice from Magooshers is to solve roommate problems before they happen, don’t be passive aggressive (no sticky notes or text messages) and above all, remember your roommates have to live with you too.
9) Clean up after yourself.
Most college disputes happen over the little things, like doing dishes and taking out the trash. And not leaving food to rot in the minifridge, or blowing snot rockets in the shower (I’m looking at you, UC Berkeley coed showers). Just make sure you respect the fact that you are living with other people who aren’t your mother who will clean for you.
10) Colleges are very different, so don’t be afraid to transfer if you’re unhappy.
Mark transferred from Hofstra University to UMass Amherst halfway through his freshman year. As he explains, the two schools are radically different in terms of social scenes, dorms, and campuses. He also says missing orientation was difficult because students had established friend groups, but it wasn’t an impossible task to make friends. So if you really aren’t adjusting well to your knew school, transferring is always an option.
Good luck everyone! Please comment with your own dorm advice or fears.