College Corner: Transitioning to Dorm Life
Beginning college is an exciting time, but transitioning from high school to college can seem overwhelming. College freshman have new and exciting experiences ahead of them and should look forward to beginning this new chapter in their lives with out worrying too much about the transition itself. To start off on the right foot, here are a few tips for college freshman to help them transition and succeed in college.
Making the Move
Making the move from your family home to your new college dorm can be overwhelming. Beginning with packing for school, it is important to really ask yourself what you will need in college. With limited space and the experience of sharing that space with a roommate, you probably won’t be able to bring the entirety of your bedroom; but consider this a new start. Decorating your college dorm can be fun and allows you to create a space that is truly yours in a brand new environment. Before you start picking out your new room colors and accessories, it is important to check with the college to see which items are not permitted in the dorms. Colleges typically prohibit the use of cooking appliances, space heaters, and items that require installation into a room, check out the requirements beforehand to save yourself time and money when preparing for your big move. The best advice to follow is to stick to the basics, you will accumulate more things throughout college; don’t feel that you need to buy everything all in one shot.
Utilizing your space
Dorms are fairly small and are meant to fit up to three people in some, but more likely than not you will have one roommate. To best utilize the available space, try to arrange the furniture in a way that meets both of your needs. Talk it out with your roommate and rearrange the room together; this will not only be a constructive project, but a great way to get to know your new roommate. Consider lofting the single bed provided by the college. Bed raisers can be found in most department stores and are easy to use. Some colleges are now investing in adjustable bed frames that have built in raisers; however if this is not the case at your school, the plastic risers or cinderblocks work the same way. Lofting the beds allows for more storage space for bigger items, like totes, and helps to save floor space. It is also important to organize, limiting mess and scattered items will help to make your room more welcoming and visually open. Stackable drawers are also effective when trying to utilize a limited space and can go a long way to keep you organized.
Each dorm and college is different, but there are a few blanket rules that typically apply to all dorms. Moving into a new environment, it is important to make an effort to learn and observe the expectations of the people or governing bodies in charge. After arriving at college and getting settled in, a resident assistant (RA) or student leader will call a floor meeting. At the floor meeting the general rules of the dorm and campus will be explained. Rules about guest sign-ins, courtesy/quiet hours, and hall etiquette will be discussed. Drinking in the dorms is typically prohibited and students may be removed from campus housing or asked to leave the college is offenses repeatedly occur; this standard also applies for drug use. Guest policies are individual based on the college, but typically there are set hours that a resident is permitted to have guests, and the number of guests allowed per resident; check with your RA if you are unsure of the dorm rules, they will be able to clarify any questions.
Living with a college roommate is a typical part of the college experience. Not only does having a roommate provide daily socialization, but they may turn into life long friends. Having a roommate that is a good match is important to any college experience and greatly influences student’s impressions of the college and their peers. Sometimes, students may be mismatched with a roommate that is not a good fit. In such cases, it is important that both students express their concerns in a constructive manner and remain open minded when solutions are offered. Some sticking points that may require mediation are noise level, guest expectations, cleanliness, sleeping habits, and the use of another person’s personal items. If either roommate is incapable to solve issues constructively, it is best to seek out the RA. An RA can provide mediation and various solutions to fix a roommate disagreement. The general rule of thumb is to always treat others the way you wish to be treated; don’t use things that aren’t yours, don’t bother people when they are trying to study, be courteous if you are coming in late, clean up after yourself, etc.
Living on a large campus with thousands of students, it is important to protect yourself and think one step ahead. When moving into your dorm, review any fire safety and emergency procedures. Be aware of appliances, including lamps that are known to cause fires. Overloading a power strip is one thing to avoid, overloading a power strip can cause electrical fires and shorts in the electrical system. Each hallway in a residence hall is typically equipped with a fire extinguisher, but please do not feel obligated to use a fire extinguisher. The biggest concern is your safety, if you suspect a fire exit the build through the designated fire exit and proceed to a safe location. Dorms usually have a few fire drills and alarms per year to make sure that students understand how to keep themselves safe. Cooking is one major cause of dorm fires, please use your best judgment when cooking in a dorm and use a designated area or an area with good ventilation when cooking.
Students should observe campus safety when walking through campus, especially at night. Universities usually have a private police department available to meet student’s needs. Following dorm rules, campus policies, and reporting any criminal or suspicious activity can go a long way in making your dorm and campus community a safe place to live and grow.
Transitioning the Mind, Body and Soul
Transitioning from high school to college is tough. Students typically leave a setting they are comfortable in, and it is natural to feel nervous and hesitant about a new environment. Many resources are available to students transitioning into college, peers are a great resource and understand the struggles that freshman face when they get to college; don’t hesitate to discuss homesickness or anxieties with your RA, they can provide support and insight to help you through your transition. Counseling and professional help is also available at your campus wellness center. College wellness centers usually offer some type of counseling to students struggling with leaving home for the first time or adjusting to college life. The wellness center also offers advice for students struggling with the Freshman 15 and can provide valuable advice about how to stay healthy and active in college.
It is also important that students use the academic resources available to them, college libraries usually offer a free tutoring or study group program to help students to stay on track in college and succeed in their classes. College is a once in a lifetime opportunity and should be embraced, this is your chance to be the person you want to be and begin building the skills needed for a bright future. Take advantage of all the opportunities at your college and experience life and adulthood through new and enlightening experiences.
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