Dorm Life

How to survive your time living in residence

Most students live in some form of on-campus housing during their early college years. It’s an experience that’s unlike anything else. There will never be another time in your life when you have the chance to live in a close community of people who are the same age as you, who have the same goals as you and who are experiencing the same intellectual and emotional growth as you (unless you join a cult or move to a commune).

Dorms may not be the most luxurious living accommodations (the word Alcatraz comes to mind), but they certainly serve their purpose. They are a decent place to study, a convenient place to hang out and (if you’re lucky) a good place to sleep. Besides, you can always spend time decorating your dorm room to make it less prison-like.

Types of Dorms

The standard dorm setup is a floor of double rooms with communal washrooms that are shared by all students (one for each gender). Each floor is supervised by a resident assistant, or R.A., who is usually an upper-year student trained to help resolve conflict and attend to emergency situations. Dorm rooms usually come stocked with a bed and a desk, but students are expected to bring everything else they need for daily life.

Although it is possible to get a single room at some colleges, you will almost certainly be assigned a roommate to share your dorm room. Some residences offer suites where you may have your own bedroom but will share a bathroom, kitchen and living area with a few other students.

Some colleges have residence halls devoted to one segment of the student population. In larger halls, groups of similar students are often divided by floor. For instance, you could live on a floor with students who are all:

  • Freshmen
  • The same gender
  • Accepting of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) individuals
  • Alcohol-free
  • In the same program
  • International students
  • Committed to being quiet

Advantages and Disadvantages

Dorm life inevitably leads to some of the highest highs and lowest lows of college life. You can throw a legendary party in your room one night (to celebrate getting an A on your essay) and then find yourself sleeping on the cold floor of the common area the next (because your roommate threw up on your bed).

Some of the pros of dorm life include:

  • Academic success. Studies show that freshmen living in on-campus dorms do better academically than those who live in off-campus housing.
  • Convenience. You’re close to everything you need, including your lecture halls, the library, the cafeteria and the campus pub.
  • Community. There’s no easier way to make friends in college than by living in residence. Other students are never more than a 10-second walk out your door. Many college students look back on dorm shenanigans as some of their favorite memories of college.

Conversely, some of the cons are:

  • Distractions. Though most students perform better academically, some have their grades suffer because they are unable to focus on their studies with everything that’s going on around them. Dorms are rarely, if ever, quiet.
  • Lack of privacy. There are always people around, and this may end up getting on your nerves. It’s inevitable that the close proximity will cause some conflict and drama in your dorm.
  • Theft. Many freshmen dorms have an open door policy. While this facilitates social interaction, it can also leave you vulnerable to theft. Tether your laptop to the wall or, better yet, store it in a locked safe whenever you aren’t in your room.
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