What You Need to Know Before Moving Into Your First Dorm

It’s almost move in day! You’re moving into a dorm for the first time, and possibly moving away from home for the first time. It’s exciting…and let’s be honest, it’s a little terrifying too. Here are some things you should know before move in day in order to be prepared to make the most of it.

The Night Before

The night before, double check where you need to be to move in and what time you should be there. If you need to find directions or have to take a flight to get there, make sure all that information is written down. Don’t depend on your phone or tablet to keep track of that for you!

You may also want to take a look at a campus map to see if you’ll be able to park near the dorm or if you and your family will be lugging your belongings across a quad.

What to Bring

Speaking of belongings, it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll need in your dorm, but if your stuff doesn’t fit into a minivan, you’re probably bringing too much. Ask yourself as you’re packing: do I really need this? You probably won’t have too much time to read for fun, so you can leave your high school books at home. If you have a pile of stuffed animals you like, bring one or two with you and leave the rest to comfort you while you’re on breaks from school.

Most schools supply a desk, chair, bed, dresser, and either a closet or wardrobe. It’s up to you to supply the rest. You can use checklists from places like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond to guide your shopping trips.

Resident Assistant

Resident Assistants (RA’s) are called many things at different colleges across the country, but they all basically do the same thing. They are the person or people you can go do when you have questions or need something in the dorm. If you and your roommate really aren’t getting along, the resident assistant might be able to step in and do some conflict resolution. They may also hold study breaks or keep snacks available in a public place.

When you arrive on campus for the first time, make sure you meet your RA and introduce yourself. Ask them what they’re duties are and the kinds of problems you can ask them about.

Quiet Time

Your dorm may have “quiet time” hours. These may be hours when most students are supposed to be studying or sleeping. The idea is to be respectful of some people’s need to have quiet during certain hours. When you get to campus, figure out if your school has designated quiet hours and what they are.

And then, use them to your advantage! If you tend to be a night owl and relish a quiet space to study, you can plan your day so that you’re doing the bulk of your work at night in your dorm. If you’re the kind of person who needs noise in order to concentrate, perhaps quiet time isn’t the best time for you to study in the dorm.


When you start buying things for your dorm room, you may want to double check with your school to see if there’s anything that’s not allowed. For example, many schools don’t allow candles or personal heaters in the dorms. If you want to have a coffee pot in your room, you may have to buy a certain type. The last thing you want to do is have to figure out how to return items you bought and schlepped onto campus with you.

Roommate Contract

One of the first things you and your roommate will want to do is set up an agreement. This is where you will explain your preferences and figure out a way to make sure you are both comfortable in your space.

What goes into a roommate contract? Here are some suggestions:

  • Set study hours or quiet hours for your room
  • Preferences around what you can borrow from each other (food, clothes, etc.)
  • Temperature—how hot or cold do you want the room to be
  • Rules around when the door will be locked or unlocked
  • When visitors are allowed and how long they can stay

These are just a few things to know before move in day. Pay attention to every piece of mail, electronic and paper, that your school sends you before it’s time to move in. They will let you know school-specific details that will help the day good smoothly.