Resident assistants share their advice on how to manage dorm life
Be honest with roommates and address issues head-on, RAs advise
Going from living in the privacy of a family home to living in a freshman residence hall with one or two roommates can be a rocky transition. From building relationships with roommates to making new friends, past and present resident assistants have advice for incoming freshman on how to manage dorm life.
Meaghan Kirby, a recent graduate and former RA, said it’s important for first-year students to be honest with their roommates.
“When you first move in, it’s really easy to want to be the cool roommate or floormate who doesn’t care about boundaries in terms of sharing items or space, maintaining a schedule or quiet time,” Kirby said. “It’s so important to make sure that your space, whether that be the room, lounge or bathroom, can foster healthy and safe living. If you like to have lights off by 11 p.m. so that you can function the next day, you should say that.”
Although it might be difficult to set ground rules with a new acquaintance, establishing rules with a roommate will allow for both people to feel more comfortable in their living space, said senior and current RA Christine Cornwell.
“If issues arise, do not let it go,” Cornwell said. “Talk about it as soon as you can. The more you communicate with each other, the better the relationship will be.”
Putting in time into writing a roommate living agreement -- a requirement for freshmen living in AU residence halls -- and taking it seriously is another great step to help deal with conflict if it ever arises, Cornwell said.
Figuring out a daily schedule that works will require a lot of trial and error since moving into a residence hall is a huge transition, Kirby said.
“Use your resources, talk to your RA, meet with someone in the Academic Support and Access Center and get advice from someone who has been through it before, rely on your network for support,” Kirby said. “You’re not alone, and, although it might seem like you’re the only one who isn’t perfecting the transition, you are absolutely not.”
When arriving at AU, students will have an instant support system comprised of faculty, staff and students who want to seeing incoming freshman succeed, so do not be afraid to reach out for help, Kirby said.
Kirby and Cornwell compiled a list of essentials that are commonly forgotten when moving into a residence hall:
- A coat to prepare for the unpredictable D.C. weather
- A planner, agenda or something to help the student stay organized
- Clothes hangers
- A reusable water bottle
- A power strip
- Kitchen supplies
Since residence hall rooms have limited space, Kirby recommends storage containers for the space under the bed, which are useful for stashing shoes, clothes and other items not needed on a daily basis. Communicating with roommates when deciding who will bring large items, like vacuums, to maximize space is another important tip, Kirby said.
Freshmen will also be introduced to the the First Year Residential Experience program, or FYRE, which works to ensure that student living spaces are also a place where first-year students can socialize and engage with peers, faculty and staff, according to FYRE associate director Christina Colasanto.
“Our mission is all about helping students learn more about themselves, more about resources on campus, getting involved, having some fun and engaging,” Colasanto said.
FYRE also holds yearly signature programs, like Halloweek, a week full of programming surrounding Halloween, and Sexapalooza, a week of activities surrounding sexual health.
The FYRE program is also launching FYREwards this year, which is a rewards card that freshmen will get during Welcome Week and will be stamped at programs, Colasanto said. After a certain number of events, they will get a prize.
College is an exciting and scary transition, but if freshmen use resources wisely and take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way, they will have an incredible experience, Kirby said.
“This is your moment to try, fail, try again,” Kirby said. “You have the tools to succeed, use your on-campus resources and have fun. You’re going to love AU.”