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What is college dorm life really like? | Tips from a student Residential Assistant


Behind the scenes of a food blog. Have you ever wondered what we really do?


Happy Summer everybody!

I wanted to take a break from the food scene here in order to reach out to all of you awesome soon-to-be college students out there!  Our daughter had a short break from college life as a residential advisor before going on to do exciting things with children this Summer.  I was able to nail down this busy college student just long enough for her to answer some questions about student life in the college dorm and what it’s like living in a college dorm room.

What is college dorm life really like?

Below are the 8 questions I posed to this amazing young woman.  It is my hope that you will be enlightened and inspired by Bianca’s knowledge of what living in a college dorm room is really like.  Her insight comes from living in a college dorm as a Freshman,  and also as a Residential Assistant (RA) at a major state university in Texas.  Hopefully her college tips will help you too make this an awesome experience!

What is dorm life like?

Dorm life is often a very rewarding but very trying experience. Most likely, incoming freshmen will find themselves living in a small space with at least one other person, often sharing the same sleeping area. It’s very probable that you’ll argue with your roommate, tire of carrying your laundry all the way to the machines, and become disgusted at the community bathrooms. But at the same time you’ll grow in a community of other young students, make lifelong friends that you wouldn’t have met otherwise, and enjoy the freedom and flexibility that accompanies living on campus. The biggest regret I’ve heard upperclassmen talk about is that they didn’t live in the dorms their first year on campus. You’ll be exposed to many opportunities to get involved and engaged on your campus that you would’ve missed if you commuted from home, and those opportunities often serve as the fondest memories a college students can have.

Why is dorm life an advantage?

Living in a dorm or residence hall your first year has a lot of advantages that you won’t get by living in an apartment off campus. Living in a dorm allows you to build relationships with people in your community quickly because of how close everyone is to each other. In apartments, you’ll share the same building with other people but not all of them will be in college. In addition to the close proximity to other college students, dorms come with upperclassmen called Resident Assistants (RA’s) that live in the dorms specifically for you. They’re there to help answer any questions, assist you in any way they can, and give you opportunities to get connected to events and organizations on campus.

Dorm, what to bring

There are a lot of good things to bring to a dorm. Among my personal favorites include a higher quality mattress topper, an electric water kettle, and string lights. I could go on, but these three things I find myself intentionally appreciating. The mattresses in the dorms are going to be low quality and sleep in college is crazy important! A good night’s rest is more important than saving $50 at the beginning of the semester. I use an electric water kettle mostly for tea, but they come in handy when you’re in need of a quick cup of coffee or a late-night cup of ramen. The ability to boil water without having to worry about it spilling and making a mess in the microwave is insanely helpful. As far as the string lights go, they serve no practical function other than allowing you a dim light setting that can help you nap or de-stress. They’re beautiful and relaxing, that’s just about it!

Dorm, what not to bring

Most dorms come fully furnished, so don’t bring extra miscellaneous furniture. At the very least wait until after you move in to assess how much free space you have after moving in. Often times freshmen will move in thinking they have more space than they really do and they’ll bring too much stuff. Lots of dorms will come with dressers, desks, and chairs already and there might not even be a need for anything extra. If you think you’ll have enough space for something you really want (like a futon or a lounge chair), try living in the dorm for a week before buying or bringing one from home.

Where to get dorm room decorations

Anywhere you can get home goods is a valid place to buy decorations for your dorm. Target and Walmart are two very popular and very affordable options. If you’re looking to save more money, explore Ross, Goodwill, and other thrift stores around the area. It’ll be more difficult this way to find something that fits the vision you have for your dorm, but sometimes you’ll find gems like paintings and mirrors that will make your dorm really stand out!

Is dorm living safe?

Dorm living is generally much safer than apartment living! Part of the Clery Act (1990) requires universities to maintain a standard of safety and security among residential buildings on campus. Depending on the university or college campus, the on-campus dorms may have key card access and only allow residents to enter the halls. In addition, most dorms will have a front desk with someone behind it 24/7. Your university’s website should have details about the security and services of your dorm, but if you have trouble finding information you can always give a quick call to ask about how exactly the university staff ensures the safety of all residents. This is also a great question to ask your RA!

Why are dorm beds longer?

I was told that the beds are extra long to accommodate for taller students. Extra long twin beds are placed in every dorm for consistency as well, meaning the university won’t have to switch out regular twin beds for extra long twin beds every time a really tall student moves in. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told!

How to raise/lower dorm beds

Depending on the style of bed that’s provided by your specific university, this can range in difficulty. Always ask someone who works in the dorm (like a receptionist or an RA) how you’re supposed to raise and lower your bed. This will help prevent injuries and ensure you do it correctly. Some dorms require you to call maintenance because they don’t want students or parents messing with how the screws or the fixings fit together.

Tips for cooking in the dorm

YAASSSS!!  You CAN cook in the dorm.

For our gift guide for the dorm room cook, click here.

Parent's gift guide to dorm room cooks. A must-have for college students.

Most dorm rules allow you to have a microwave and a fridge.  Typically you can also have a few appliances, like those with auto shut-off mechanisms.  In my dorm, I can have a rice cooker, crockpot, microwave and tea kettle. 

Cooking in the dorm has its challenges.  I have enjoyed tackling each obstacle and creating some fine, dorm cuisine for you to enjoy.  I have a meal plan but eating in the cafeteria three times a day can get tiring.  There is variety but after awhile it all looks the same.  I like to eat when I am hungry and sometimes I am up late studying.  Having the flexibility of cooking some of my meals in the dorm helps me to eat healthier and satisfy those late night hunger pangs.

It is my hope that as you continue your studies,  you will learn to master the potential of the rice cooker, microwave and crockpot. I challenge you to embrace the culinary adventures that await you and stop eating out of the vending machines.


My mom really encouraged me on this.  ‘Bianca, you can help so many new college students learn how to cook for the first time!  You have learned so much, why not share your knowledge?’.

With some tips and tricks, you too can cook in the dorm room.

So if you want more information and a peek into my new ebook, click here.

If you have some dorm hack ideas or recipe ideas, leave a comment below.  I would LOVE to hear what you guys are up to!

Tips on living in the college dorm.

Make it a great week!

 Mom’s College Advice

Sorry, I couldn’t let you go without giving you some advice from a Mom’s perspective.  It’s in my DNA:)

Practice not having a curfew or bedtime during your last year of high school.  Your parents won’t be there to wake you up in college, this is a skill you have to figure out on your own, as well as the consequences of over sleeping.  Set your own alarm clock and get yourself up.  You CAN do this!  

Do you own laundry during the Summer before college.  This is important so that your gym socks don’t turn pink and your clothes actually get clean.  Have somebody who knows how to do laundry guide you through the washing machine and dryer settings.  Also, go shopping with your parents and pay attention to the laundry aisle.  There is a WHOLE AISLE dedicated to laundry.  Ask questions.

When you get to college, text your mom every day for a week just to let her know you are safe and not unconscious in an ER somewhere, Mom’s think like that.  Text her around the time you want her to think you are going to bed and ‘tuck’ her in.  It will take a little getting used to not being around her baby.  She will get there, just be patient.  After the first week, start weaning her off but do stay in touch.  That’s just polite.

If you are driving:

  1.  Learn how to change a tire.
  2. Learn what to do if you get pulled over by the police.
  3. Learn what you need to do in order to call roadside assistance.
  4. If you don’t have roadside assistance, get some.
  5. Learn how to pump gas.

That’s all for now.  Good luck kiddos and make good choices!


Biancas Mom