The Do’s and Don’ts of Living in a Dorm Room

Don't settle for just a job. Find a career. Unlock your potential with PathMatch.

Join PathMatch

By Lexie Brada

Ahh, college is finally here!

If you’re like the average college freshman, chances are you’ll be living in a dorm with one or two or even three other roommates in a very small space. Even if you’ve lived with a sibling before, living with a non-blood relative (that chances are you haven’t met in person yet) can come with a lot of adjusting.

While this list is not comprehensive of every struggle you may face in your first few years living with a roommate in a dorm, here’s some quick tips to help you settle in and have the best first year of college possible!


  • Make Your Room Feel Like Home
Christmas Elf GIF - Christmas Elf GIFs

Even if you’ve been bouncing off the walls for the entire summer, totally psyched to move away from your parents and go somewhere that is ‘yours’, there will come a time when you feel terribly homesick. It may be the first night, after the rush of excitement wears off, or it may be months down the road when you’re not expecting it.  Either way, make sure to bring some comforts from home to make you feel a little better when the homesickness blues kick in.

Another point is simply that this is where you will spend the next nine months. You probably don’t want to live in the equivalent of a prison cell (and some of those dorms empty can sure feel unwelcoming) so don’t be afraid to bring lights, pictures, posters, or blankets from home!

  • Read Your Dorm Rules
Idiot Lafuddyduddy GIF - Idiot Lafuddyduddy Rules GIFs

No two dorms are alike, even ones on the same campus, so be sure to read through any pre-existing dorm rules so you don’t end up spending unnecessary time or money on prohibited items.

Some common dorm rules may be:

  • No alcohol in dorms
  • No nails in the walls (Command Strips are your best friend!)
  • No pets
  • No fire hazards; so no candles, candle warmers, hot plates, or anything with a burner (this can sadly mean no coffee machines or no quesadilla makers!)

You don’t want to pack your keurig machine all the way just to have it be turned away at the door, so do yourself a HUGE favor and make sure you know what you can and cannot bring before you arrive!

  • Get to Know Who You Live With
Did We Just Become Best Friends Did We Just Become Best Friends Meme GIF - Did We Just Become Best Friends Did We Just Become Best Friends Meme Step Brothers Best Friends GIFs

On the most basic level, we sure hope you’re getting to know your roommates. However, it would do you well to put yourself out there and get to know the other people, at the very least, on your floor. If you’re a bit introverted, try to make an effort to get to know the people that you share a wall with and the people across your dorm hall from you.

You may not be best friends with your roommate, but maybe you’ll find companionship with some of the people living in close proximity to you. And, depending on the collection of people living on your floor, certain doors may have more of an ‘open door policy’. My dorm was pretty closed off (boo) but one of my friend’s dorms was like one big town where you could wander into any dorm with a door open and play video games, watch a movie, or study with the people in there.

  • Get to Know Your Resident Assistant (RA)
How Do You Do Fellow Kids Steve Buscemi GIF - How Do You Do Fellow Kids Steve Buscemi 30rock GIFs

An RA is a very important part of ensuring everyone’s time in the dorms goes smoothly. So, even though you might only see them as the uncool older siblings who take away prohibited items right now, an RA can do so much more.

An RA can offer assistance if you're unsure of your path in college or put you in contact with people that can help you, an RA often knows the traditions and fun quirks about the campus you may be unfamiliar with, or, most importantly, an RA can act as a mediator.

If you’re having any troubles, specifically with your roommates, you’ve tried your best to resolve it among yourselves, and it’s just not working, go to your RA right away. That’s why they’re there, and take it from someone who didn’t go soon enough, if you cannot fix a problem, you should be at your RA’s door yesterday.

  • Take Rule Making Seriously
We Set The Rules Michael Broome GIF - We Set The Rules Michael Broome James Nesbitt GIFs

Some colleges and RAs ask dorm-mates to fill out an agreement questionnaire at the beginning of the fall term, with basic rules such as music being played, lights out times, quiet times, or having visitors over.

If your RA doesn’t do this, you still should. Get on the same page with your roommates right away with rules and expectations, and then stick to them! This would also be the time to bring up any big issues you need to make sure are followed, such as having allergies and needing the room clear of certain foods.

You should also take this seriously. Even if a rule from a roommate seems silly to you, don’t be the jerk to ignore it or tease about it. Be a better person and agree. Take the whole discussion of rules as seriously as you can.

Even if you and your roommates seem to get along fantastic right now, be sure to talk about these rules now so that when someone gets stressed or this issue comes up, you’ve already made agreements about what to do.

  • Distribute Chores Evenly
Spongebob Overwhelmed GIF - Spongebob Overwhelmed Cleaning GIFs

Chances are you won’t have too many housekeeping duties, and some of them (like making your bed) would be weird for your roommates to be doing. However, you’ll probably need to do some basic housekeeping to make sure this room doesn’t end up smelling like a pigsty. These rules may include:

  • Taking the trash out
  • Cleaning your mini fridge
  • Sweeping or vacuuming the floors
  • Wiping down countertops or windows
  • And, if you have a bathroom attached to your dorm room, cleaning the bathroom

At the same time you’re making agreements about rules, this would be a good time to hash out a basic cleaning schedule.


  • Study in Your Room All the Time
Studying GIF - Shine Text Share The Flip Side Sharetheflipsidegifs GIFs

You want the space you sleep to be stress-free, right?

Colleges are filled with spots for students to go! This will also help you familiarize yourself with the campus if you make a promise to yourself to find the best places to cram for an exam.

  • Bring Too Much Stuff
Overpacking Baggage GIF - Overpacking Packing Baggage GIFs

While I did say above you should bring things that make you feel at home, at the same time, dorms are small. And you have to split that space with one or two people. Bring the items you feel are absolutely necessary that you cannot live without. Worst case scenario is that you might need the adults at home to bring something down on their next visit or you have to shop in a nearby Target for a few hours. I would hedge to say it’s better to bring less than to have to worry about your family hauling back a whole trunk full because it doesn’t fit.

  • Buy Everything Yourself
Carrying Bags Oops GIF - Carrying Bags Oops Too Heavy GIFs

Reach out to your roommates and see what they already have/are already bringing! These rooms are tiny, so the last thing you want (though it may seem like a cool idea now) is two mini fridges or double the amount of futon couches in a room. This will also help you not bring too much if you’re talking to your other roommates and know what they have. If it seems no one has any big things they’re bringing, don’t be afraid to ask if you can agree to split the costs or each take a big item to buy and bring, so you’re not spending all of the money for the dorm room.

  • Be Afraid to Compromise
Compromise Is Always Possible Agreement GIF - Compromise Is Always Possible Agreement Settle GIFs

I know that we all maybe had ideas of going to college and having everything exactly the way we want, but the reality of any part of life is that you may have to make compromises. When it comes to your roommates speaking up about what is necessary for them to thrive, you may have to make some concessions to make sure that both of you have a great year together. You can suggest a more ‘in the middle’ solution if the idea they’re bringing up isn’t something you think you could agree to. However, if your first instinct is to dig your feet in and keep saying ‘no’, take a step back and remember that sometimes compromises are needed and might not be as horrible as you think!

  • Forget to Communicate
Communication Is Key GIF - Communication GIFs

In that same vein, however, make sure your needs are being heard by those that need to hear them; roommates, people living on your floor, your RA’s. It’s better to over-communicate plans or issues than to undercommunicate.

  • Be the Drama
Drama Rpdr GIF - Drama Rpdr Scarlet GIFs

As funny as the viral Tiktok of ‘Am I The Drama??’ is, no one actually wants to be ‘the Drama’ in real life. Adjusting to living with someone is really hard. It’s okay to feel frustrated or overwhelmed at times, but this is good practice for adult life, because you will absolutely be faced with people that drive you crazy sometimes, and you’ll have to work with them and be civil.

College dorm arguments are a good chance to step back and consider if this fight actually is worth it. Pick your battles. Not all of them, just a few. Save the fights for big issues that really matter, and not that your roommate forgets to turn off the light when they come back in the room sometimes.

  • Worry
Breath In Breath Out GIF - Anxiety Scared Nervous GIFs

The final tip is don’t worry.

You’re going to do amazing. College is such a fun and unique experience, and you’re ready for this. It might not seem like it, but trust me, you are. With the right attitude, you’ll figure it all out in good time.

College is the time to be trying out new things and yes, making some mistakes along the way. So if you mess up a bit, don’t panic, just take it as a great learning opportunity and do better next time.

Wondering what you'll do after college? Download the Pathmatch app to discover companies that match your interests, strengths, and goals! Pathmatch can help find the perfect career fit for you! 

Build a better career on PathMatch