100+ Helpful Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Dorm Life

Congratulations, college freshman. You graduated high school, got accepted to the university, and you’re about to embark on the happiest, wildest, scariest journey you could ever imagine. Part of the process is the infamous college dorm. You probably took a tour and saw an empty room, and perhaps it looked "spacious enough." Wait until you fill it with your body and your roommates, plus all the clothes, office supplies and textbooks each of you will bring. Fortunately, we have over 100 amazing tips and techniques for optimizing your space and overcoming any difficulty living in a dorm might impose.

Time Management

Though your dorm room is possibly the smallest living space you’ve ever experienced, it’s filled with more distractions than you know. Manage your time wisely, or your room might just lead you to your academic demise.

  1. Ask the Experts: Get Ivy League tips for optimal time management.
  2. Plan Each Week: Use this free printable planner to map out your weekly schedule.
  3. Beat Procrastination: Learn the psychology of procrastination and the steps you need to take to beat the nasty habit.
  4. Keep Track of Due Dates: This user-friendly device develops a work schedule for you based on your assignment due dates.
  5. Know Your Daily Schedule: My Daily Schedule allots the 24 hours of your day into 12 categories.
  6. Make To-Do List: Todoist is so fast and easy, it has its own fanbase.
  7. Remember the Milk: You won’t only "remember the milk" with this tool, you’ll be reminded about important events, like your monthly dorm meeting.
  8. Wake Up On time: This practical online alarm clock serves as back up when you have an early morning exam.
  9. Learn From Your Own Habits: MyHours is a time management solution that allows you to track your work time, projects you must manage, and tasks you are scheduled to complete.
  10. Use 30 Boxes: This calendar application is the college student’s best friend. You’ll never miss a meeting, test, birthday, or party again.

Organization

Welcome to the undersized, overloaded world of dormitories. You probably noticed a sudden onset of claustrophobia soon after you moved in. So what can you do to maximize your small living quarters, and turn your dorm room into a place that feels like home? Follow the tips below to a more comfortable, less suffocating space.

  1. Bring Only What You Need: Sure, you’re moving far away and you’d like to take everything you can to remind you of home, but the truth is you really won’t have enough room. Follow the link above to your ultimate packing list.
  2. Start with An Organized Move: If you begin your new dorm life with a messy move, you’re probably starting off on the wrong foot. Keep your packing and boxes organized, and you’ll be glad you did.
  3. Use Space Effectively: Your dorm should already have some storage space available for you, so make sure you use it to its full capacity.
  4. Find Your Floorplan: Before you get settled in, make sure you know how you’re going to define your space. Create your optimal layout for an optimal living situation.
  5. Decorate, but Don’t Overdecorate: You might want to put up all your favorite pictures, but overdecorating your walls can make your room look smaller and darker. Stay on the safe side and don’t go overboard.
  6. Watch a Bit of HGTV: Like you need an excuse to turn on the TV. These shows feature experts in organization and healthy housekeeping.
  7. Break Bad Housekeeping Habits: This site was created to help readers break bad organizational habits within their homes.
  8. Donate to Charities: Follow this rule: articles of clothing you haven’t worn in the last year should be donated to places like Goodwill. If you’re not wearing that old pair of jeans anymore, why not give them to someone who truly needs them?
  9. Learn to Love Shoe Boxes: Stop throwing away old shoe boxes. You can store your shoes in them, since they stack easier than the shoes themselves, and keeping them is cheaper than buying a special shoe organizer.
  10. Use Your Trash Can: If you feel overloaded with clutter, it’s probably because you’re hoarding things (papers, old notes, etc.) that you don’t need. Purge unneccessary documents, and don’t forget to recycle.

Unwinding

Your dorm room is your haven at times, your refuge after a hard test or a long day. Follow these tips to relax and get some dorm therapy.

  1. Build Something Fantastic: Fantastic Contraption is an overwhelmingly fun online game that requires you to build devices to transport the pink ball from the building area to the goal area.
  2. Chill with Tetris: Pogo doesn’t just offer Tetris, but a boatload of other games, like Sudoku, Word Whomp, Texas Hold ‘Em, and more.
  3. Get Puzzled: This site features free puzzles of various difficulty levels.
  4. Play Pandora: This free music site creates playlists based on your favorite artists, songs and genres.
  5. Watch Hulu: Hulu features the cable TV shows you missed during your Thursday night study session. So on Friday afternoon, put on your pajamas and catch up with The Office.
  6. Plan a Date: See trailers for upcoming movie releases and those showing in theaters with Apple’s movie trailer Web site.
  7. Get an Alter Ego: Second Life is an 3D virtual world imagined and created by you. Create your own avatar that represents you, then use it to meet people, shop, work, learn and play.
  8. Learn Something Fun: Follow these recipes for awesome at-home experiments brought to you by San Fransisco’s Exploratorium.
  9. Laugh a Little: This site’s comic strips are sure to help out during stressful times.
  10. Put Life In Perspective: Don’t make a habit out of it, but reading gossip and entertainment news from time to time is a great way to put life into perspective.

Personal Wellness

Living in the crowded world of a dormitory has its ups and downs. For example, you’ll make a lot of new friends, but your chances of getting the flu increase. You might also feel overwhlemed by constant interruptions and "togetherness" so make sure you take some time for yourself and stay healthy.

  1. Get a Life Coach: Horse’s Mouth offers free online life coaching, which can be a great tool if you’re not comfortable talking to your parents and you don’t have time to see a therapist.
  2. See the Light: Marc and Angel are two postitive, practical thinkers help give perspective to tough situations and help you see the end of the darkness.
  3. Find Your Marbles: This mental health site examines stress and crisis management.
  4. Manage a Crisis: If you find yourself in crisis situation, being away from family could be harder than ever. Read this site’s suggestions for keeping your head above water.
  5. Stay Healthy: Use this advice to beat depression, prevent weight gain, maintain positive relationships, and more.
  6. Ask Wikihow: College students learn how to learn, how to study, how to take exams, and how to make good grades, but what about the really important stuff? Wikihow can teach you: how to cook, how to wash laundry, and how to ask someone on a date. Brilliant.
  7. Meditate: Here’s a free short guided meditation from Brain Sync.
  8. Practice Yoga: These online yoga videos and pictures show you how to practice this great method of relaxation.
  9. Stay Calm: This site is updated daily with new tips and guidance for handling stress. It also offers a free stress-less kit that includes four useful tools.
  10. Consult a Nurse: Follow these 101 health and wellness tips, from diet and exercise to sleep and mental stability.

Roommate Etiquette

With everything you’re facing during your first year of college, the last thing you need is the added pressure of roommate discord. Make sure you’re on your best behavior, and you might want to share these etiquette tips with your roommie as well to avoid any tension throughout the year.

  1. Express Issues: One of the worst things you can do as a roommate is to let your anger and frustrations build up without tactfully confronting your roommate. Make sure you express your feelings in a timely manner to keep things from overheating.
  2. Respect Your Roommate’s Stuff: This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a huge reason conflicts occur. Don’t borrow anything without asking. For any amount of time. End of story.
  3. Pick the Right Roommate: Look at this guide for a list of good questions to ask before choosing your living companion.
  4. Compromise: Don’t think of compromising as surrendering, but rather that you are showing your willingness to reach an agreement you and your roommate can both live with.
  5. Set Rules: Make a list of rules you and your partner both agree on, and put it in writing if you must. Whether it’s about visitors, sharing food, clothes, or budgeting bathroom time, put it on the list and stick to it.
  6. Get to Know Each Other: This helpful sheet has a series of sentences for both you and your roommate to complete. For example, "The way I react when working under pressure is…"
  7. Practice Quiet Time: Be courteous about making loud noises late at night or having friends over to study without your roommate’s permission.
  8. Be Neat: Nobody likes a pig. Clean up after yourself, including trash, dishes and laundry.
  9. Follow the Golden Rule: Treat your roommate (and everybody else) the way you want to be treated. Let him or her know you expect the same.
  10. Know When to Switch: Unfortunately, many students realize they simply are not compatible with their roommates. Learn how to tell when it’s time to give up, and how to go about finding a replacement.

Healthy Eating

Of course you’ve heard about the freshman 15, but have you ever researched what it really is? A major part of this unfortunate first-year weight gain is the constant cafeteria eating for dorm students who don’t have access to their own kitchen. But that doesn’t have to be the same for you. No matter where you go or what your dorm is serving, you have the power to stay healthy and eat smart.

  1. Watch What You Eat: This informative site has thorough data on many restaurant foods.
  2. Don’t Overeat at Restaurants: Many restaurants share their nutrition info with this site.
  3. Watch Portion Sizes: CalorieKing has comprehensive nutritional info and a great Portion Watch tool with pictures of different portion sizes of many popular foods.
  4. Avoid Too Much Sodium: Get all the nutrition label data you could possibly need with CompuFoodAnalysis.
  5. Read Nutrition Labels: Understand nutrition labels and how to adjust your diet according to them.
  6. Become an Expert: Get little-known nutrition facts and advice from this great blog.
  7. Get a Taste of The Daily Plate: Tell your goals to this site, and they’ll even hold you accountable for meeting them.
  8. Choose Food Wisely: Compare foods and their nutritional value so you can tweak your diet for smarter foods.
  9. Know Food Stats: Find out everything you need to know about the food you eat with this awesome database.
  10. Count Calories: Compare burgers, sandwiches, and sides from a dozen fast-food chains.

Staying Fit

Exercising isn’t just about losing weight, it’s about staying sane. Working out helps reduce stress, which can be especially necessary around midterm and final exam time. When you feel like you could go out of your mind in your dorm, get outside for some fresh air and some physical activity.

  1. Keep a Fit Diary: Track your daily routine for unneccessary calories and missed exercise opportunities.
  2. Set Goals: This weight loss tool will teach you how to keep a daily food diary.
  3. Share Your Goals: Use Shape’s free weight loss tool and network with others who are in your shoes. Great motivational tool.
  4. Keep Track of Food Intake: Watch everything you eat, and remember how dangerous unhealthy eating can be.
  5. Ask for Help: Use this free software to keep you on track in your weight loss journey.
  6. Work Hard: Watch Jasmyne reach her fitness goals, and learn from her dieting strengths and weaknesses.
  7. Do What Works: No gimmicks. If you’re wondering whether you should spend time keeping a food diary, read this article that shows food journals are linked to increased weight loss.
  8. Change Your Lifestyle: This popular lifestyle tool tracks your eating and exercise habits.
  9. Get Inspired: Learn about the truth behind overeating and food addictions. Wynonna Judd shares her battle with emotional eating, and challenges readers to follow in her new healthy footsteps.
  10. Take it One Day at a Time: Let each day of your life be healthier than the last.
  11. Track Your Progress: Watch yourself as you approach your goals, and you’ll be more proud than you can imagine.

Check Out Student Blogs

Take it from these college sophomores, juniors, seniors, and alumni who have been in your shoes and walked a few miles. Get the best advice on dorm decorating, staying safe, healthy, and happy despite your current enclosure.

  1. Take a Shortcut: Here’s a daily blog about software, productivity tools, Web sites and shortcuts that help you work faster and save time.
  2. Develop Zen Habits: This peaceful blog demonstrates how to be at peace while remaining productive in class.
  3. Be Trendy: Get the latest trends, from fall fashion to the coolest video games.
  4. Stay Positive: The Positivity Blog is full of humorous but valuable life lessons every student should read.
  5. Stay In the Know: Perez Hilton keeps you informed with the latest celebrity gossip and strange, random news.
  6. Seize the Day: The posts on Today Is That Day teach you to make each day better than the last.
  7. Get Wired: Gizmodo gives you the latest information on technology you can use to keep you ahead in your classes.
  8. Hug a Tree: Stay in touch with your inner activist and earth lover. This blog has hundreds of links to different sites and articles that can help you.
  9. Stay Connected: The links on this site are as diverse as they are fun, from tech and gadgets to arts and design. Boing Boing is very popular among both college students and working adults.
  10. 43 Folders: Merlin Mann runs this site, where he teaches his readers to pay attention and give their all to everything task they take on.

Read These Books

Go to the library or Amazon.com for these books that will help you make it through your first year with a great attitude, a sense of humility, and a few fun stories to tell your grandchildren.

  1. The Dorm Room Diet: The 8-step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan That Really Works: This book has an easy diet plan for college students who eat in dorm cafeterias.
  2. How to Survive Your Freshman Year: By Hundreds of College Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors Who Did: Take it from the experts–other students who have been in your shoes–to give the best advice on surviving your first year at your university.
  3. The College Dorm Survival Guide: How to Survive and Thrive in Your New Home Away from Home: Here’s a great manual with everything you need to know about surving life in the dorms.
  4. A Girl’s Guide To College: Making the most of the best four years of your life: This female-friendly book will prepare you for the ups and downs of college life, starting with moving away to your first dorm.
  5. Dorm Room Feng Shui: Find Your Gua, Free Your Chi: Follow through with our dorm decorating tips with this book, which will help you put everything in its destined place.
  6. Dorm Life and the College Experience: This book sums up everything you’ve learned so far, so it’s a perfect start to your dorm room bookshelf.
  7. Surviving Dorm Life: Author Chris Hellman brings tales of first-year college survival, including how to create a healthy relationship between you and your roommate.
  8. Zen From The Upper Dorm Bunk: The Uncommon Common Sense of Life: A lot of books, blogs, and tips show you how to survive your first year, but this book teaches you how to get even more from it than survival.
  9. How to Adapt to Life in College Dorms: The adjustment from home life to college life is going to be hard, but this book can really help you out.
  10. The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College: You might laugh at the title of this book, but you should take it seriously to prepare yourself for the worst case scenario. If none of these happen to you, thank your lucky stars.

Get Help Studying

Whether you’re heading down to the dorm study hall or staying in your room, you have to figure out the best study habits for you. Don’t get distracted or dismayed; stay on top of your courseload with these awesome tools and tips.

  1. How To Study Manual for Students: This official, scholarly advice uses psychology to determine what students really need to be efficient learners.
  2. Study Skills from Dartmouth: Take it from Ivy Leaguers to teach you how to study like a genius; they know what they’re talking about.
  3. How to Study: Author Ron Fry will help you study, no matter what kind of learner you are.
  4. U Oregon Frequently Asked Question: How Do I Study: Let the University of Oregon answer this golden question for you.
  5. Lifehack’s How to Study: If it’s from Lifehack, it’s worth reading. This amazing blog shares the secrets of learning well with its most studious readers.
  6. Study Effectively: Use this Studenthacks.org page to get all the tips and tricks you need to know for optimal study time.
  7. Academic Resources: Studying: Perhaps the most important academic resource a college can provide is a lesson on how to study. Get yours here.
  8. Effective Studying: Here’s a SlideShare article about the different types, methods and techniques of studying well and learning for life.
  9. WikiHow to Study: Studying might not be a black-and-white task to be broken down into steps, but if it’s possible at all, WikiHow succeeds. From getting out your books to taking notes of the content you read, this article covers all the bases.

Videos

Some of these are funny, other are scientific, but all of them are designed specifically with you in mind, freshman. From basic survival tips to above-and-beyond success, you can use these videos to help you when you need it most.

  1. How To Survive College: A student put this funny video together to explain how to get through the toughest part of your youth.
  2. Surviving Freshman Year: This video looks a bit outdated, but if you look past the mustaches, you’ll find a very helpful video about the challenges of student life.
  3. Tips for College Freshmen: Carol Carter shares tips for first-year success.
  4. 10 Ways to Succeed in College: Three sophomores take a look back at their freshman year and give (somewhat sarcastic) advice about how to succeed.
  5. The ABCs of Good Grades: You might want to mute your computer to the house music that blares during this video, but make sure to watch all of the slides. They offer sound advice on how to do your best without losing your mind.
  6. How to Survive Dorm Living: Heloise visits her old dorm room at Texas State University, and helps the student living there with his dorm disasters.
  7. How to be a Good Roommate: A Texas State student talks about finding a good roommate and being a good living companion.
  8. The Dirt on Your Dorm Room: So you think your roommate is great, but what about the mites, bacteria, and bed bugs you didn’t know about? Get the grotesque facts, then learn what you can do to help yourself and your room.
  9. CalState Fullerton Dorm Documentary: Hear what students and staff have to say about life in student housing.
  10. Dorm Room Essentials: First-time students will love this video, in which an interior designer helps Mary take advantage of small dorm spaces.

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