Stomping the Yard

It’s a Dorm Room, Not The Taj Mahal!

Our college blogger talks to former and current college students to find out why they decided to transfer to another campus.
Credit: Thinkstock

Calling all college students! Our new weekly column, Stomping the Yard, aims to help undergrads excel in their studies and social lives.’s team of experts will show you how to get it done, from the day you move into the dorms to the minute you step off campus for that first job. Submit questions and feedback for Stomping the Yard via

Going to college for the first time can be such a thrill! It’s full of new experiences, new friendships, new cities and a great deal of freedom.   You can hit snooze as many times as you’d like and sleep in — there’s no one to nag you about getting up for church or doing your chores. Much of this has to do with you having your own space, but dorm life is not quite living on your own. Some students get so excited about starting college they set high expectations for their dorm rooms and campus living in general.

But college and dorm life isn’t always fun and games, so let’s get a reality check on what to expect when moving on campus:

Reality Check #1: It’s Not a Tricked-out Apartment! The Art of Simple Living

Here’s the reality: Most dorm rooms are pretty basic. You can expect beds, some sort of community or shared bathroom, a desk and a closet. Many schools will provide a list of items that they recommend you bring (e.g. an alarm clock, bedspreads and sheets, shower gear, a computer), which provides you the perfect opportunity to personalize your new space with cute color-coordinated bedding, throw pillows, rugs, family pictures, posters and the like. But before you go all D.I.Y. & HGTV, realize that most dorm rooms are pretty small and limited on space, so don’t bring too much stuff. I brought so much stuff when I went away to school — as if I would never get another opportunity to visit a store again in life! Unfortunately, that left me with no place to store some of my possessions.

Reality Check #2: Yes, You’re Probably Going to Have a Roommate — Maybe Two!

Only the most fortunate of college students will achieve dorm living without a roommate. This is usually only the case for upperclassmen, or any student willing to pay a hefty surcharge. So, get ready for one of life’s essential lessons — learning to live successfully with others. Although schools do try to match students with similar interests and living preferences, dorm life still requires learning how to tolerate others’ differences. When living with a roommate, you should initially discuss issues like how the dorm space will be used, which side of the room you will occupy, and cleanliness preferences. You may want to consider setting a cleaning schedule, and consider negotiating personal practices like whether you have to study with music, or if you can only get to sleep with your favorite TV show on in the background.

Reality Check #3: Co-Ed Living: Beware of ‘RoomieLoverFriends’

Some campuses have separate male and female dorms, and some have co-ed dorms as well. Gender-specific dorms can be beneficial to help you form really strong friendships and bonds with classmates. Meanwhile, co-ed dorms have the lure of living next door to the opposite sex, but it can also can introduce other issues to consider. There will be plenty of new dating opportunities and desire to start romantic relationships, but the consequences of all your actions should be considered. A relationship gone wrong can make a lasting impression. You’ll be around these same people for four years, so think twice before starting a casual fling. And, in the inevitable case that such a fling occurs, please be sure to practice safe sex using the proper condoms and contraceptives, all of which can be found at campus health clinics.

Reality Check #4: Yes, There Are Rules

Some dorms may vary with the amount of rules that they have, but as a new college student, you can expect that your dorm will probably have a fair amount of restrictions. Some dorms may include curfews, and some dorms may not. Visitation hours are usually enforced in most dorms by school staff and security. Make sure you respect local and state laws as well as your school’s rules: Violating visitation hours and/or getting caught with prohibited items such as alcohol and illegal drugs can result in facing disciplinary committees, losing your visitation privileges or even getting expelled.

Reality Check #5: Remember, You’re There To Study!

Having a stylish dorm room and a vibrant social life may seem really important, but your priority is to earn a degree. So, that will require lots of studying, and your dorm room should be the proper environment to support that.

About Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair

Kelly Fair is the founder of the highly successful Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program that  has served more than 600 girls, aged seven to 17 years old, to be effective communicators, and career and community conscious leaders! This work has been supported by a network of 300+ volunteers from the Chicagoland community and area businesses such as Bloomingdale’s, Microsoft, ThoughtWorks and many more. You can follow Kelly on her blogand on Twitter at @KFairtheMentor.