College / Tips & Tricks

The DOs and DON’Ts of College Dorms

This article is dedicated to Gillian Kiernan, as well as every other student moving away to pursue their educations this year. Good luck in the fall, for wherever and whatever you decide on!

When I started college as a freshman, I remember hearing everyone’s opinions on what to bring to start my college career. It seems like everyone has different opinions on what priorities and mistakes should take place in my dorm room, and I started college with a bit of a messy and overfilled dorm room. But, after two years into college and now working for my college’s Welcome Back Weekend where I help move students into their new homes away from home, I’ve gotten a good idea of what common mistakes college students like making. While I know I’m prone to making them too, I’m trying to help every new (or returning) student moving away from home in the fall. While shopping for a dorm can be stressful, it’s made a lot simpler with a few tricks to keeping yourself in line and on point. So, with as little bias as possible, here is my complete list of what to make sure you pack for college…and what to leave back home or in storage.

1. DON’T bring so many clothes!


You might think you need three extra cocktail dresses, six pairs of boots and a lot of gym clothes. But, you should really try to stick to the basics when you pack your clothes for college. Remember to ask yourself, “Do I really wear this?” If it’s not something you wear often, trust me—you won’t miss it when you’re away.

And on this note—DON’T BRING TOO MANY T-SHIRTS! My rule of thumb is between five and seven, and that’s even too much. Remember, you’ll be getting new T-shirts from your school and local businesses trying to advertise and giving merchandise away for free. Just this past year, I got at least six new T-shirts from apartment complexes marketing to local students. Even if all you do is sleep and work out, it’s okay. Five T-shirts will be enough for you. Leave the rest home.

2. DO splurge on the important things!


While price is always scary when shopping for an entire dorm room, it’s important to make an investment in the big parts of your room. Make the effort to find a sturdy, durable comforter that makes a statement and matches the overall look of your dorm. Spend the money on a good mattress pad, because you’ll definitely need it every year. If you like having pictures around your room, invest in frames or clothespins—whichever makes your dorm feel more like home!

3. DO bring a lot of bathroom supplies!


I know this sounds strange, but it’s hard to feel like a person in college. With your home being temporary for the semester, or the year, it’s easy to live off of only what you need. But when it comes to your bathroom needs, always try to live by the mantra I hold near and dear—TREAT YO’ SELF. Buy the big bottles of your favorite brand of shampoo and conditioner; it’s worth the price to have enough for the semester. Always keep extra razors and feminine products on hand. Use face masks, lotion, or have mani-pedi nights to make yourself feel beautiful. For my fellow broke college students, Walmart sells $1 face masks that last at least three uses, and any drug store near you will sell good, cheap lotion to keep you moisturized.

4. DON’T bring an iron or drying rack!


Irons are hard to use in a small dorm, and usually take up more space than they’re worth. I’d recommend using a steamer for your thicker clothes. And definitely invest in a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release Spray. I use it all the time for my professional clothes during mock trial tournaments, and to keep my dresses and pants nicely pressed all week. As for the drying rack, I’d vote against it, though I’m sure I face opposition on that. Honestly, think about how many of your clothes really need it, and ask your roommates or apartment-mates if they’re bringing one you can borrow, before you invest in one yourself.

5. DO bring more storage!


The most important part of a dorm room is the storage—or lack thereof. When all you have is a dresser and a closet, it’s hard to make room for everything you’ve dragged with you to college. The key is bed risers, and utilizing your under-the-bed storage. Be sure to bring small stacks of drawers to make up your nightstand and make the most of all that room you’ve opened up underneath your bed. And crates can be great for those shelves in the top of your closet or wardrobe, or for conserving shelf space!

6. DO bring board games, card games or other weird ice-breakers!


The funniest part of college is the weird things you find yourself doing on the weekends or to meet new people. It’s always a great idea to keep your favorite games around to introduce yourself to people by playing around. I’ve been using classics like Trivial Pursuit, Clue, and Killer Bunnies to make friends on the weekends. And I’ve been taught how to play Spoons, Bulls**t and other card games by strangers who stuck up conversations in lounges. Grab your favorite game and keep it in your dorm room—it’ll work wonders as an ice-breaker or a time-waster!

7. DON’T expect your new roommates to share!


Hopefully, you and your new roommates will all get along as well as I do with mine. But, that doesn’t always mean that what’s theirs is yours. Always be sure to check with them what to bring and what to share, but if you need to do your hair everyday, don’t rely on their hair straightener or blow dryer. Same goes for things like movies, bathroom supplies or food. Basically, if it matters to you, bring your own!

8. DO make your dorm feel like home!


Your dorm is your home for the next year. It’s always enticing to just live with barren walls to avoid the mess of taking everything down, or to keep to yourself when sharing a room and bedroom. But, living in college means making it your home. Whether your style is more minimalist, or if you’re like me and thrive in covering every inch of wall(despite fire regulations), always try to make your dorm feel like home to you. At the end of a long day of work, classes, clubs and homework, you’ll be happy to rest your head in a room that makes you feel safe and secure.

And lastly…

9. DO remember you can always ask for help!


Remember, getting to college is never done alone. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, your family is always just a Skype call away. Or, if your family isn’t always the most comforting, keep in contact with old teachers and friends from home. Learn about your college’s counseling and mental health programs available to students, or reach out to local therapists and psychiatrists. Make sure that you create a strong support system for yourself, and a safe space for you to rest in whenever you need a mental health day.

If you keep all these DOs and DON’Ts in mind, you’ll be all set for Move-In Day in August!

For dorm and apartment resources, try shops like Bed, Bath & Beyond, DormCo and different Buzzfeed lists for new ideas about decor!

Photo credit: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9


3 thoughts on “The DOs and DON’Ts of College Dorms

  1. Pingback: Advice from an RA to Incoming Freshmen | Vocalady

  2. Pingback: 7 Self-Care Methods You Can Actually Use | Vocalady

  3. Pingback: 10 Moments You’ll Encounter In Spring Semester – And How To Deal | Vocalady

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