High School to College, Home with the ‘Rents to Out on Your Own: How College Freshmen Can Make the Transition Easier

As fall approaches and you are preparing to head off to college, you may be facing some nervousness and concerns about what life is going to be like away from home. There are a few things you can do, some even before you leave home, to make the transition a little easier.

Be honest when choosing your roommate.

When you get accepted to any college with on-campus housing (apartments and/or dormitories) you will most likely receive an application to live in said housing. With that application there will often be a questionnaire the housing administrator will use to pair you with a roommate, if you don’t know anyone else going to the same school who you want to live with. And sometimes, even if you request to live with a high school classmate, you might end up with someone else in an attempt to help you meet new people, or because your answers on your questionnaires don’t match.

Either way, you need to be as honest as possible when filling out the questionnaire. If you are a clean person and want a clean roommate, be specific. If you are a smoker, don’t lie and say you aren’t if you are still trying to hide if from Mom and Dad. If you like to stay up late and sleep in, say that. The more honesty and specifics you use when filling out the questionnaire, the easier it will be for the housing administrator(s) to make an accurate match.

Call your roommate.

Generally two or three weeks before you are able to move into your dorm room, your housing administrator will send you a letter telling you about your roommate, including a phone number and home address. While you might find the task a little scary, you should take a few minutes to call your new roommate. Find out as much as you can but there are a few important issues to focus on.

When are they moving in?
You may want to try to coordinate your move-in times so that you are able to meet each other and each other’s families but you don’t want to be tripping over each other carrying things into the room. If your roommate is planning to move in on Monday morning, for example, you might consider being there Monday afternoon to move your things in. That way she will have time to get her larger items (computer, mini-fridge, television) into the room before you get there and then you can move your things in and get introductions out of the way in the meantime.

How old are they?
Chances are your introduction letter from the administrator will answer this question but if not, it’s not rude to ask your new roommate how old they are. Most likely, especially at a larger school, all of the freshmen will be sequestered to their own building but at a smaller school, like the one I attended, there may only be one dormitory and freshmen will be mixed in with older students. Having an older roommate as a freshman can have its benefits and drawbacks. One benefit is that your older roommate will be able to offer you advice from choosing your general education classes to where to find the best parties. One major drawback is that your older roommate will already have his own friends and while he will most likely be pleasant to you while in your room, he may or may not accept you into his circle of friends. Either way, it is helpful to know what to expect before you get there.

What are they planning for the first week?
Most schools will have a week of move-in time before classes begin and in that time they will have activities both on and off campus to help freshmen and new transfer students get used to the town, the campus and each other. It is not only fun to participate in some of these activities, it is a great way to meet new people and get to know your roommate by agreeing to attend some of the events together. Generally speaking, an itinerary of these events will accompany the letter regarding your roommate.

What are they bringing? Find out what they are bringing in terms of larger items. You will of course want to bring your own computer but do they have a television? What about a mini-fridge? How big are either of these things? This might also be a good time to find out if they have thought about how they would like to arrange the furniture in the room, if you are allowed. The beds in the room I stayed in for the first three years of my college career were flat on the bottom and many students would stack cinder blocks and raise their bed frames off the floor. If this, or something like this, is an option, find out if your new roommate has plans to do this and if they are bringing a pre-made frame (I’ve seen several in my years) or blocks so that you can plan accordingly, or offer to bring extra furniture (a couch or chairs, perhaps) to place in the extra space.

Attend orientation classes/programs

If the school you are planning to attend offers an orientation program, especially an overnight program, go. You will get an in-depth tour of the campus, meet other students who are just as lost and confused as you are, and be able to meet your advisor and register for your classes. This accomplishes two things; you get into your classes before the other incoming freshmen who didn’t attend the orientation, and you get the registration process out of the way so you can spend your last week before classes finding your way around.

Agree to meet up with orientation friends during move-in week. This will give you a chance to refresh each other’s memories over some of the things you forgot from orientation. Take your class schedules and room assignments for such and tour the campus together to find each other’s classes. It’s also a good idea to time yourselves walking from your rooms to your classrooms. You don’t want to leave five minutes before your first class if it takes you ten minutes to walk there.

Be as active as possible.

Even if you might be a “loner” and keep to yourself a lot, remember not only are you out of your element, so to speak, and what worked for you before may not transfer from high school life to college life, but, also, you will be living with these people for the next nine months. First impressions are very important, especially in a college dormitory setting. If you spend all of move-in week hiding out in your room, your neighbors are going to be less likely to talk to you in the following weeks. Get out and involve yourself in the welcome activities.

Express yourself.

Don’t waste time splattering your personality across your room. Of course you should discuss all decorating ideas with your roommate, as she will have to look at it for as many hours as you will have to look at her decorating ideas so you should coordinate as much as possible. Hopefully, if you were both brutally honest on your questionnaire, you will have similar interests and your tanned man in a Speedo, basking on a beach shouldn’t offend your roommate but ask her before hanging it up, just to be sure. Again, you will most likely be living with this person for the next nine months, you should both try to make the experience as pleasant as possible.

But don’t expend all of your creative energy on the inside of your room. Check with you Resident Advisor before hanging pictures and things outside the room but if you find out that it is acceptable, let your neighbors know about you before they even walk in the room. You can hang a few pictures of you with your friends or be creative and make a collage of things that represent you. My collage, for example, would include a pen and paper (because I love to write), CD’s and music notes (because I love music), and pictures of my kitties. You can draw the pictures or cut them out of magazines.

If you follow these five little bits of advice, your transition to college dorm life should be effortless and painless.

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