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Dorm Room 101: Tips for Incoming Freshmen

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Isabella Bosley

Isabella Bosley getting settled into her Texas Tech dorm and looking good in the glow of her blue hanging lights.

Last year, these Buzz-area students were college freshmen; this year, they’re heading into the new school year armed with tips and tricks they’ve learned from their time living in dorms.  

Isabella Bosley relayed some items she considered dorm life-savers at Texas Tech University. “A high quality mattress pad/topper, an easy-to-carry hamper that is not too difficult to get to the laundry room, wallpaper to cover bulletin boards and walls and an Ethernet cable to have stronger Wi-Fi connection.”  
Isabella personally found a printer to be a waste of space. “We barely used our printer. I think you’ll need it even less this upcoming fall semester with more classes being online. Most papers will probably be turned in virtually so you don’t need a printer taking up space in your room; plus, there are printing stations all over campus you can use.” 

The next item she would scratch off the list? “Extra pillows. Even though they are cute for decoration, pillows can take up a lot of room. When I went to sleep, the pillows tended to end up all over the floor just waiting to be trampled on in the morning.”

Taahir Busaidy

University of Houston Cougar Taahir Busaidy setting up his dorm room and getting ready to make his bed for the first time…and maybe the last time?! 

One of Taahir Busaidy’s major concerns when he started at the University of Houston was how he was going to wake up in time for classes. His family bought him the loudest alarm clock on the market. Taahir reported, “I tried the Sonic Boom for two weeks but it was way too loud for me, my roommate and our dorm neighbors! I did find some inexpensive alarm apps that helped. One is Alarmy that requires you take a photo of something (preferably on the other side of your room) before you go to bed. In the morning, the only way to silence the alarm is to take a replica shot of the photo. Helps to get you out of bed and moving. Another alarm app, Mathe, jumpstarts your brain by making you answer math problems correctly before it will stop beeping!”

Once they moved in, Taahir and his roommate realized that it was too bright in their room and the blinds didn’t help much. “We went to the store and bought a curtain rod and some curtains. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we ended up doing it just fine.” 

Mitchell Robbins representing the Houston Texans at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

During his first year at Lewis & Clark College, Mitchell Robbins lived in an older dorm. Space was tight in the tiny room and he found the bed a bit lumpy. Mitchell shared a few things that made the space more comfortable. “A mattress topper helped a lot. It doesn’t have to be one of the fancy, expensive kinds, just something to help soften up your mattress! We didn’t always have control over the temperature in our room, so it helped having a fan and a heavy blanket to help cool off or warm up if needed.” Another way Mitchell helped his room feel more like home was hanging a Houston Texans football-themed Texas flag on his wall.

At Northwestern in Chicago, Sophie Thomas was able to loft her bed and hang out underneath on a beanbag chair. 

Northwestern University Wildcat Sophie Thomas is a big fan of clear stackable drawers. “You can put them between your dresser and bed or anywhere they fit for extra storage for small things or any other clothes.” Sophie added, “I liked having my bed lofted so that I could put a beanbag chair and coffee cart under it. I had a bedside tray that attached to the side of my bed that was really helpful. Command strong adhesive hooks are super useful if you need a place to hang more things like towels, winter coats, etc. Shower shoes and a robe are definitely a must. I would also recommend getting some comfy slippers to walk around the dorm building.” 

Collin Lore spent last fall at Texas A&M and one thing that made his life easier was a laundry backpack. It’s like a laundry bag but with two straps on the back so it was easier to carry clothes to the laundry room. A skateboard that can be carried into class came in handy for getting around campus and cutting down on walking and he also recommends a comfortable backpack that’s not too heavy.

Wishing all students returning to school a wonderful and safe semester! 

More College-Life Advice

These Buzz-area students also shared advice on a variety of topics for incoming freshmen:

Making New Friends
Say hello to everyone, these students suggested, especially that first week of college. Be friendly and open to meeting others.  “Don’t be afraid to start conversations. Just go up and introduce yourself because everyone’s in the same boat socially at the beginning!” advised Sophie.
Taahir seconded, “No one wants to say hello first. Just do it. Say hi. That’s all you need to do!”

Roommate Agreement
A roommate agreement helps to make sure your new roommate and you are on the same page about basic rules. The agreement covers topics like guests coming over, what time lights need to be out, sharing food, clothes, toiletries, a cleaning routine and responsibilities, etc. Even if new roommates don’t fill out the paperwork, there are some good ideas of discussions that could be helpful here

Snack Ideas 
Here are some ideas of snacks to consider keeping in dorm rooms (plus good ideas for parents wanting to send care packages): Animal crackers, beef jerky, Cheetos, fruit snacks, granola bars, fruit, peanut butter, microwaveable mac and cheese, microwave popcorn, peanut butter crackers, Pop Tarts, pretzel slims, protein bars, ramen noodle soup, Special K bars, trail mix. One sophomore advised: “Try to not have too many snacks to help avoid just eating out of boredom.” One mom recommended keeping tea bags and honey in students’ dorms in case of colds or viruses.

Shared Dorm Room Items 

The power of a hanging shoe organizer and matching plastic hangers can even make a teenage boy’s closet look organized. 

It’s always a good idea to communicate with roommates prior to move-in. Which items might be shared? Who is bringing what? How to split costs? Items to consider sharing include: appliances, coffee maker, game console, iron/ironing board, microwave (buy or rent?), printer, refrigerator (buy or rent?), TV, vacuum, curtains/blinds, rugs, etc.

Individual Items
Here’s a list of some essentials to keep in mind for incoming freshmen: 

  • Study supplies: Backpack, chair cushion, laptop and computer monitor, desk lamp, trash can and trash liners, school supplies 
  • Technology tools: Appliances and power sources, six-outlet power cord, alarm clock, ethernet cable, extension cord, extra-long phone charger 
  • Bathroom necessities: Toiletry bag/basket to carry to restroom; robe; shower shoes; toiletries such as shampoo, body wash, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, cologne, mouthwash, razor, shaving cream, lotion, sunblock, etc. 
  • Kitchen supplies: Leftover containers, microwave-safe dishes, plates, glasses, silverware, paper towels/napkins, dish soap, sponge, reusable bottles, ice trays, water filter/pitcher like Brita
  • Comfort zone: Extra, comfy blanket, clip-on lamp next to bed, personal fan, extra set of sheets, mattress topper 
  • Organizational items: Drawer liners, drawer organizers, hangers, hanging shoe holder, hooks to hang towels, clothes etc. over the door, storage boxes that fit in the closet or under the bed to keep cleaning supplies, extra toiletries, etc. 
  • Miscellaneous: Medical kit including a thermometer, rubber bands, clothespin, stapler, duct tape, paperclips, scissors, permanent marker, scotch tape, paperclip, stamps (on envelopes addressed to your house!), flashlights, batteries, heavy-duty 19-gallon IKEA bags (keep to use again for move-out in May), Kleenex, cotton balls, Q-tips, lock box, medical prescriptions, small toolkit with screwdriver and measuring tape, sewing kit, umbrella, raincoat, rain boots
  • Save on stuff: Bed, Bath and Beyond College Pass gives college students an unlimited 20 percent discount off their entire purchase until Sept. 30. The store also offers a feature where families can shop in advance and pick up items at the store closest to campus. 
  • Décor: Make your dorm room feel like home. Some ideas include: Maps, photos, posters, hanging lights, flags, wallpaper (can buy in small amounts at places like Target), full length mirror and sports jerseys. 

Editor’s note: Find more on dorm décor inspiration and the experience of college drop-off and pick-up.  

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