There’s nothing quite so exciting as moving into your first digs away from home, and in this article, we take a look at how to prepare for college dorm life. In the first part of the article, we will go over some basics of how to survive your early days and weeks in student housing. Following, we provide a packing list to help you gather all the essentials you will need before the big day arrives.

Surviving Your First Week in the Dorms

You’ve probably been looking forward to this for a very long time. You may have even started gathering supplies early in high school. But the reality of living in the dorms is different than the daydream. To ensure you make the most successful transition to dorm life, read on.

1. Be Prepared for Noise

If you are used to a quiet bedroom and study space, your first week in the dorms is liable to be a shock to the system. The excitement of so many students arriving at school takes the decibel level up several notches. If you have lived with a house full of people, this might not even phase you, but if you are accustomed to silence, it could be problematic.

The solution: Bring some earplugs. You may not find them attractive or even comfortable at first but believe us when we say you will grow to appreciate them.

Another potential help? Buy a fan. In fact, white noise of any kind can help neutralize slamming doors and voices echoing down the hallway. If you can’t bring the whole fan with you, look for white noise apps on your smartphone.

2. Privacy Will Become a Rare Commodity

Unless you have a room to yourself, privacy is at a premium. If you are a naturally sociable person, this might be a refreshing change. For those who like to hide away by themselves, this is one adjustment that can be very difficult.

The solution:  Find a quiet space in the dorms or someplace nearby on campus just for you. This could be the library or a study area nobody seems to use. If you have a car, take a ride to get a coffee and sit quietly in a peaceful neighborhood or public park to recharge your batteries so you can “people” again.

A set of headphones with some soft music can also provide the illusion of privacy even when you are surrounded by others.

3. Shared Bathrooms Are Now a Thing

You are now sharing a bathroom facility with dozens of other people. Leisurely showers are a thing of the past for now—especially if there is a line waiting behind you. If you are the modest type, there are ways to make the experience a little easier.

The solutions: Always use flip flops to avoid nasties that could make their way back to your room. A nice big robe can help you feel covered if privacy is your thing. Also, make sure you use a shower caddy to bring your supplies back and forth.

Additionally, you might want to set your shower schedule for off times when others are less likely to be waiting. Another solution is to use the showers at your school’s fitness center.

Preparing for Dorm Life—What to Bring

Now let’s take a look at some of the most important things you should bring with you when you are packing for your new life in the dorm. This list is not exhaustive, as there will be things unique to you that you absolutely won’t want to part with. Likewise, some of the items on this list you might not even need. Start with the basics and then revise as you go along.

Large Items

You will need to contact the school to obtain a list of what you can bring and what is not permitted. The rules about larger items will vary from college to college and will depend mainly upon how much space is available.

Most dorms come furnished with beds, desks, chairs, and dressers. Here are a few bigger things to consider:

•Television and game consoles



•Extra seating such as bean bag chairs or folding stools

Essential Items

Some things are absolutely essential when moving into your new dorm room. This list comprises the must-have items you will need to either purchase or bring from home:

Bedding such as a mattress cover, sheets, pillows, and a warm comforter are a must. Depending upon the climate, you may need extra blankets. One thing you definitely want when you are far from home is a comfortable bed in which to rest, so make it as cozy as possible.

Your digital items like laptops, cellphones, printers, and tablets also make it to this essentials list.

If permitted, a wastebasket, filing bin, fan, and even a small area rug can help make the space feel more like home.


Depending on the climate, you will want to make sure you have clothes to suit a variety of temperatures and weather conditions.

Jeans, short and long sleeve t-shirts, shorts, underwear, and pajamas should make their way into your bag. You may also want at least one formal outfit and a swimsuit. If you play sports, you will want to bring any sports-related clothing you need.

For cold weather, a warm parka, winter boots, gloves, and a hat are in order. For wet regions, an umbrella and a raincoat will come in handy.


Toiletry basics include shampoos, conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Some students (girls in particular) have large collections of cosmetics they won’t want to part with. To keep everything organized, you will want to purchase a cosmetics caddy that can be transported to and from the bathrooms. This will make getting ready for class a breeze.

You’re also going to want some flip flops, towels, and a robe for the shower. If you use hairdryers or other heat styling tools, you should bring those as well.

Other Items

Let’ s not forget some necessary items that are taken for granted. Cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, and quarters for the washer and dryer come to mind. You also want to make sure you have enough hangers for your closet and some plastic cups, plates, and utensils for late-night snacks.

Be sure to bring some paper towels in case there is a spill. You might also want some spare toilet paper for those times when the communal bathroom runs out. Trash bags, tissues, a first aid kit, essential tools, and a pair of scissors are also likely to come in handy.

Prohibited Items

Most schools will send a handout of banned items, but in general, you should avoid candles, weapons, fireworks, and gas or charcoal grills. For a full list, consult your college’s website.

Preparing for Dorm Life—Final Thoughts

After you have been living in student housing for a couple of weeks, you will probably have a list of things you wish you had remembered. Likewise, you may have a bunch of things you didn’t need. Carefully pack away the items that are unnecessary and make a list of those you do want so you can make a clean swap on your next visit home.

If you find it hard to adjust to dorm life, don’t despair. Seek out your RA, who is there to help you resolve the challenges of living in close quarters with others. If you still find yourself distressed, consider speaking with a mental health professional on campus.

After a while, you will ease into dormitory living just like you have everything else—with time and patience. These are the years you will remember, and they are the perfect time to make some great friends for life.


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