What is in a College Dorm Room?

Carolina Jacobs

Feb 25, 2023
Dorm Room 3

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If you’ve never lived in a dorm before, you may be unsure what to expect. Although every college is different, all dorms have a few features in common. Learning what to expect will help you pack and prepare you mentally for the first few weeks at school. 

Although many students tell horror stories about living in college dorms, others make lifelong friends there. Your experience in a dorm will depend on the school you attend, the people you meet and how you respond to the challenge of living away from home. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for dorm life. 

What to Expect When You Arrive

Most dorm rooms contain a bed frame, mattress and storage for clothes. There might be a closet, wardrobe or dresser depending on the school you attend. Some schools provide sheets and blankets while others expect you to bring your own. Most dorm rooms also provide desks and chairs. 

Lighting in dorm rooms will vary, although every room is required to have a window. Bathrooms are typically shared between several roommates or an entire floor of students. They’ll include the basics – showers, toilets and sinks with mirrors. Some dorm rooms also share a communal kitchen or living area. 

Most dorms have onsite laundry facilities with a number of washers and dryers for students. Dorm spaces are typically quite small, with little privacy or sound barriers between students. You should check with your school to know exactly what to expect in your dorm room. 

Essentials for Dorm Life

Every student has a different list of essential items they need for studying, sleeping and going about their day. However, there are a few items that every student can benefit from having in a dorm. Here’s a quick list of items that will make dorm life easier

  • Shower equipment: shoes, caddy, robe
  • Laundry bag
  • Handheld vacuum cleaner
  • Mini-fridge for snacks
  • Lamp for studying
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Brita filter

Visualize yourself going through your day and pack everything you think you’ll need. As long as you cover the basics, you’ll be fine until you go home for a break. If you forget something important, you can always ask your parents to send it by mail or bring it when they visit. 

If you’re concerned about having enough storage, you can take bed risers and storage containers. Only pack what you really need – dorm rooms are small, and too many things will make your space feel disorganized. Instead of storing extra toiletries, try shipping them to your dorm room as needed. 

How To Make a Dorm Cozy

Your dorm space will be cold and impersonal when you arrive. It’s up to you to pack personal items that will make the space feel homey and comfortable. Try to cover as many of the five senses as you can – sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. For example, you can bring family photos, blankets, a rug and toiletries that smell like home. 

Choose a simple color palette and then layer textures to make your space feel cozy. Different textures are usually found in fabric items like curtains, rugs, blankets and pillows. Bring in warm lighting with a lamp and keep a kettle with tea or coffee by your bed. You can also create some playlists to boost your mood when you feel homesick. 

Dorms do have regulations that prohibit certain items. For example, students can’t bring any type of fire hazard into their dorm, like a hot plate or candles. Electric heaters, air conditioners and extension cords are usually banned too. Some schools don’t allow fairy lights either, so check your dorm’s rules before getting too excited about your decor. 

How to Survive Dorm Life

Living in a dorm is a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll never forget. If you treat it like what it is – a specific season in your life – you can avoid feeling stressed and enjoy it instead. You won’t live in a dorm forever, so take advantage of this time. The lack of privacy and inconvenience can make for some pretty incredible personal growth. 

Since you won’t have much privacy in a dorm, find a quiet place on campus you can go for alone time instead. View your dorm room as a launching pad instead of a place to relax and always go to bed early. Many factors of dorm life are out of your control, so it’s best to be flexible and find creative solutions to any problems you face.

Your relationship with your roommate will play a big factor in your experience with dorm life. Some people are easy to get along with, while others may take some work. Do your best to be respectful, kind and supportive even if your roommate isn’t. Most students are stressed their first year and need some time to adjust before they act like themselves.

Plan for Success 

Living in a dorm is like having a never-ending sleepover. Everyday tasks like eating and showering take longer than usual and you’ll have to share a bathroom with many other people. Even your sleeping area will be shared with a roommate – someone who may or may not follow your sleep schedule.  

Use these tips to pack for success and prepare to have fun in your dorm. Take essential items with you and treat your roommate with respect. With the right attitude and enough creativity, your time in a dorm can be empowering instead of draining. When it comes time to move out next year, you may even find yourself missing it. 

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