Living in a college dorm is a unique experience. For most people, it's their first time living away from home while also starting an entirely new college life. Living with another person -- often a relative stranger -- in a small space can be stressful and lead to disagreements and strained relationships. Preparing for dorm life in advance by planning what to bring, what not to bring and how to get along with another person can make the transition to dorm life a rewarding one.
Just the Essentials
Most college freshmen admit they took way too much of everything with them to college. Space is at a premium in dorm rooms. Even the largest rooms are often shared with another person. Resist the urge to take all your favorite clothes. A few pairs of pants, twice the number of shirts, a sweatshirt, a jacket and several pairs of shoes will do. You'll have limited counter and desk surfaces, too, so limit picture frames and other items that require places to sit. If you'll be going home at Thanksgiving or Christmas or if relatives will be visiting you for Parents' Weekend, you'll have the opportunity to exchange clothes for the changing seasons. Storage containers or boxes can help you keep your items organized in the small space.
Small Comforts of Home
Familiar items make you feel at home more quickly. But limit the items you bring to ones you use most often. Talk with your roommate about items you'll share, like a microwave and fridge if the school doesn't provide them; a TV, DVD player and a stereo; and rugs for the room and bathroom. Arrange to share the responsibility of bringing those items. Think about if you really need an item before packing it. Don't bring an alarm clock, for example, if you can set the alarm on your cell phone just as well. Bring just a few posters and pictures for the wall and find out what type of wall fasteners are permitted in your dorm.
Important Personal Stuff
In the midst of preparing for this important life change, it's easy to forget really important things like medications, important papers and documents, and first aid items. Make a list of prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take regularly so you can pack them at the last minute. Bring your driver's license, Social Security card, birth certificate and auto registration and insurance if you are bringing a car.
A Positive Attitude
Living with another person is always a challenge, and the small space of a dorm makes it even more so. Go into the experience on the right foot by talking with your roommate to set up ground rules. Find out what your common interests are and what makes you different. Decide if you'll share many items or keep everything separate. Either way, set aside clear areas for each of you -- a bed, a desk and a closet each. Ask about schedules, preferred noise levels and how you'll handle visitors. Above all, expect that disagreements will arise, and when they do, know it's not the end of the world. Believe that you can and will solve issues as they arise, and you'll have a much greater chance at a successful roommate relationship.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.