What to expect when you live in the dorm - things to know about college dorm (dormitory)

Take a deep breath. The first few days might be scary, and you’ll probably be homesick, but soon you’ll settle into a rhythm. You have the opportunity to make lifelong friends, but this might be the first time you’re living on your own, and who knows what you might have forgotten when packing for the adventure.

There are a few things you can do and things you should know about staying in a college dorm. Particularly as a freshman coming into the dorms, knowing these facts will make your life easier and less stressful.

  1. Privacy
  2. Noise
  3. Conflict
  4. Shower
  5. Food

Know that you don’t have much privacy the dormĀ 

things to know - you don't have much privacy in the dorm room

One of the adjustments people have the most trouble adapting to is the lack of privacy. While you might have had your own bedroom growing up, and many people are lucky enough to have their own bathroom, you’re usually going to have a roommate in college. Sometimes you just have to share a bathroom with a couple of other people, but more commonly the bathroom space is shared with other students from the same floor.

In addition to needing to transition to a more communal style of living, you often can’t “escape” those you’re living with. Walking across campus, you’re bound to see people you know. While this can provide a great sense of camaraderie, particularly as a college freshman, if you’re looking for a bit of anonymity, you’re going to have trouble finding it.

One of the ways to cope with a lack of privacy is to find an area away from the dorm where you can relax and recharge on your own. Some people use the library while others pick the back booth at a local coffee shop. Wherever you choose to go, make sure you can spend time reflecting on you, studying, or just taking a breather, rather than focusing on the people around you.

You should know that dorms can be noisy

things to know - college dorm can be noisy

When you’re in a building with college students of all levels, you’re bound to experience a little (or a lot) of noise. Most schools have restrictions and noise policies in place, so talk to your RA (residential assistant) about any concerns you have. Even with those policies in place, it’s quite likely that other students talking, music playing loud, and people practicing instruments can all contribute to noise levels.

There’s also the noise that occurs within your room. You might have a roommate that snores, or maybe she always has her boyfriend over. Regardless of the cause, it’s hard to get peace and quiet.

Most people can adapt to the noise levels, especially when they are controlled, but you might consider ways to limit the noise, particularly when you need to sleep or study for an exam. Using earplugs is a simple solution. Noise-canceling headphones can also help.

Get ready for personality clashes

there will be conflicts between you and your dorm roommates

That’s not to say that you are going to find yourself facing a personality clash, but you should be prepared for the fact that you aren’t always going to get along with everyone you meet on campus, particularly in the dorms, where you’re often stuck seeing each other regularly, such as with a roommate.

When you find yourself not seeing eye to eye with another person, you should take a minute to reflect on why you might be facing a bit of conflict. Is everyone stressed from preparing for midterms or is it just that each of your roommates is suddenly on their own without their normal support system in place?

If you can, sit down with the person you’re having trouble with and see if you can reach an understanding. It could be as simple as she needs to go to sleep by 10 PM for an early morning class, and you’re busy playing video games in the meantime, which could be frustrating for your roommate. Talk through possible solutions and do hesitate to get your Resident Assistant involved as a mediator.

When you’re in college, it’s hard to get away from conflict and potential problems. By being prepared with possible solutions and opening up your mind to different possibilities, you might find that things aren’t so bad.

Be ready with your shower essentials

Shower essentials - things to know about dorm living

Unless you are lucky enough to have a private bathroom or one shared with just a couple of people, shower time can take a little bit of planning. You won’t usually have a bathtub in the dorms; showers are usually the name of the game.

You are definitely going to want to be prepared for going into the communal showers by wearing waterproof shoes, such as flip-flops which can protect your feet from bacteria, plantar warts, athlete’s foot, etc.

You should also get yourself a waterproof shower caddy to carry your shampoos, conditioners, body wash or soap, razors, shaving cream, and anything else you might need. It’s a lot easier to lug the caddy around that trying to balance everything in your arms.
If you’re going to be walking down the hall from your dorm room to the showers, you should really consider getting a bathrobe. Walking with a towel that could easily slip is less than ideal.

What to eat when you live in the dorm?

Food and snack to eat when staying in a dorm

Gone are the days where mom or dad happens to be fixing your meals. You’ll first want to evaluate the meal plans your school offers to see which one works best for you. If you have dietary restrictions, talk to the different food service workers to see what items you might be able to eat. You might even find some new places to eat at on-campus that you weren’t aware of.

If you can head to your nearest outlet store, such as Walmart or Target, or even just the grocery store, it’s a good idea to stock up on food and snacks that you will eat. It tends to be cheaper to buy a box of 6 granola bars from the grocery store than it is to by one or two bars from the student store.

When you’re living with someone, you will want to designate whose snacks are whose. Many rooms benefit from a communal pile of snacks, where you each contribute to the “pot” and can eat whatever you want out of it. Otherwise, label your foods and set up expectations that your food belongs to you. Maybe your roommate can’t get a ride to the store: you could offer them one and share a bonding experience while both of you get your own snacks.


Living in a dorm can be challenging, especially for incoming freshmen. There are plenty of resources you can use to smooth the transition, such as talking things over with your RA and finding quiet areas to study on your own.