Do you get to see your dorm before you move in?

You’re moving to college and have decided that you are going to live in dorms. Dorm rules are different from college to college so check out what applies to your chosen college.

Most schools do not offer tours of halls or dorms prior to moving in. You can see a virtual tour online on the school website. While visiting campus you will be shown a sample dorm room.

As soon as you accept your college place you need to start thinking about your living space. Due to most colleges not showing actual dorms you will most likely have to select a dorm on pictures and floor plans. Choose wisely and do as much research as you can. Here are some tips on what to check out.

First Steps to Dorm Choosing

When you have received the fantastic news that you have a place in college you need to figure out where you are going to live. If you have decided to live in dorms your first job on your list of things to do is to fill out a housing questionnaire. This gives the college basic information about you. You can set a preference for which halls you would like and also whether you would like to share with a specific person. A friend from home, or high school.

In saying all of the above, just because you have said you would like a, b or c these are not set in stone. Your college ultimately has the last word. They have strict rules and guidelines when it comes to dorms. They after all have to be assured the college year is going to run smoothly in each dorm.

If you are interested, my post Living in dorms – 5 tips to survival, may be a good read.

As I said, on your campus tours of dorms, be it in person or online, you will be shown the best dorm (Obviously!) The reality is that not all dorms are shiny and new and you won’t be getting the one you are shown.

You may just be shown a floor plan, which to be honest is probably more useful.

If you do manage to get an on-campus tour try and encourage your guide to show you alternative dorms, not just the sample one. Check out any social media linked to the college residence or halls.
After you have filled out your housing questionnaire, contact your Residential Life Office (sometimes called Housing). This is who will answer all your questions about what your dorm is going to be like.

Housing Questionnaire

College Dorm Rules

When you contact the office it’s good to have a clear list of questions

  • What are the exact dimensions of your area and the overall room?
  • What is the furniture requirement?
  • What is forbidden to be in your dorm by the college?

Exact dimensions

These are important for you to know. It allows you to plan what you can bring to the dorm. If you are moving across the country you don’t want to arrive and realize that most of your stuff doesn’t fit in your space and it will have to go back home with your parents.

What is the furniture requirement?

All dorms are furnished in a basic but sufficient way. All have a standard twin bed, a desk, a chair, clothes storage (either a chest or a closet), and usually a bookcase. Again check with Residential Life or Residential Assistant, as to what is available in your allocated dorm. Things to be mindful of about furniture.

Your closet might not close properly, be prepared to do some repairs

Your bed and mattress may be older than you! When our daughter moved to the dorm we bought a Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Bring a lamp for your desk. Chances are there won’t be one

Remember you can bring as much stuff as you want, no one is going to tell you to get rid of it. However, chances are you are going to be sharing. Half the space is theirs, they don’t want to be tripping over your stuff all year. And neither do you. Bring items that are going to add comfort but not create clutter.

What is forbidden in dorms by the college?

Some situations and some items are forbidden by the colleges. In your housing questionnaire if there is no section for ‘preferred roommate’ then the college possibly doesn’t allow it for freshmen. I can understand why this is the case.

Colleges want freshmen to mix. If you and your high school buddies are all together, you are not going to mix with others and it leads to students that don’t know anyone feeling left out and alone. Our daughter’s friend put her name down as the preferred roommate with our daughter.

The girl wouldn’t mix with anyone else and was using our daughter as a crutch. I wanted my daughter to mix with everyone and enjoy the full dorm and college experience. This does not work out when individuals cling to one person.

In the end, she moved back home. To be honest, I was glad that my daughter didn’t have to engage with her anymore. No one wants to see anyone drop out but she was going to hold my daughter back and I didn’t want that to affect my daughter’s college experience.

Items that are forbidden by colleges are often related to fire safety. If they are found in your dorm room they will be removed. Candles and burners are a definite no-no. But also hot plates such as coffee makers, toasters, sandwich makers, AC, extension cords, and multi plugs. These rules are all in place to keep you and other residents safe.

Candles and Hotplates

Arrive at Dorm Early

If you haven’t had a chance to walk around a dorm or even if you have, I advise you to arrive early on move-in day. The later you arrive the worse your location is going to be within the dorm. Your space may already have been assigned but that doesn’t mean that the people that arrive first won’t swap out the lumpy mattress or the broken chest.

By arriving early you can address which space will suit your needs best. Along with all your belongings consider bringing a couple of tools. The best closet and desk might still need adjusting. The bunks might suit better as lofts and you won’t be able to do even the simplest of tasks without basic tools.

It is also a good way of meeting other people in your halls as word will get out that you have a screw gun! Do all your chores first before you let them go as you may not see them again for some time or ever!

What if I don’t like my dorm

Moving to college is a big deal. Moving to a dorm and sharing with someone you barely know, only through limited contact over the summer can be very daunting.

My post on Where do college students live explores dorm options as well as other living situations for college kids.

Many students arrive on campus and find they don’t click with their new roommates. They are not as clean as you would have liked or they game all day or are simply just not compatible. Some students’ expectations are too high. They think their new roomy is going to be their BFF. And that’s not to say that doesn’t happen but it’s not necessarily going to happen instantly.

If you find that you are a couple of months in and you can’t bear one more minute in their company then you can request to be reassigned. This is, however, a process, and sometimes doesn’t happen as quickly or efficiently as you would like or imagine.

The first step is to contact your Resident Life Office. This generally has to be done in writing. You cannot just decide to move to another room because there’s a vacancy in your friend’s dorm.

In order for you to move to another dorm, there must be an opening. If someone leaves a dorm the other residents generally have 48hrs to request who they would like to fill the space. The Resident Life staff must agree to the request.

Alternatively, you may find that the person you hang with shares a dorm with your roommate’s friend. In this situation, you still need approval from the housing office but the swap usually works out.

If you have decided that dorm life is not for you then you can see if there are other alternative living arrangements available. Single rooms / single apartments are usually not offered to freshmen and to be honest, are like gold dust and would rarely become available.

However, if you decided to move off campus you may be entitled to a room and board refund on a pro-rata basis, but this is specific to each school. So check out your college policy before you do anything rash.

No one wants you to be unhappy in your dorm. There are always people willing to help. Start with your Resident Assistant and explain your situation. Do as much research as you can before you arrive on campus. Give as much detail as what kind of person you are and who you would want to share with on your housing questionnaire.

Making your dorm room as cozy as you can is a huge part of settling in. Planning what way you are going to decorate and the items you are going to bring with you will make the transition to dorm life fantastic, whether you get to see the actual dorm or not!

Tara Cunningham

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort. I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.

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