Many first-year college students are receiving what may be the second-most anticipated news from their chosen university: residence hall room assignments. As students pack and prepare for their new homes, doing a little homework in advance can make a big difference.
Start a conversation with your roommate, advises Brian Faust, Residential Living director at UW-Stevens Point. “Communication is the No. 1 key.” Facebook and other social media make this easier than ever.
“Get to know your roommate, and make sure you don’t both bring a 48-inch screen TV and a microwave,” he said. Is your roommate a morning person, a night owl? What does he loathe? What is she interested in? The art of compromise is about to be learned.
Use technology to do research. Find answers to common questions on your college’s website. Most have helpful details about what’s in the room, how much space is under beds and what amenities are included. Look for guidelines from your college on what to bring, and what to leave home. Note that this varies by the institution – even within the UW System.
Many first-year students have already formed Facebook groups to address questions and plan their living space. “Students are extraordinarily inventive,” said Kate Reck, information and outreach coordinator for UW-Stevens Point’s Residential Living.
Based on queries she and others have fielded, here are the top 10 questions to ask before moving into your residence hall:
1. What is the size of your mattress? Is it a twin or a twin extra long? You’ll need sheets to fit.
2. How much space is between the bed and floor? Under-the-bed storage boxes and stacking drawers are available to stash more stuff. Or, ask about loft rental options to make the most of vertical space.
3. What is the thickness of doors? Knowing this will help maximize space with over-the-door storage, such as a closet rod, shoe rack or laundry bag.
4. Are there size limits on refrigerators? Many rooms have a limit for total cubic feet of refrigerated space. Learn what that is, whether your roommate is bringing a refrigerator and whether your college rents them.
5. What cooking appliances are allowed? Typically, popcorn poppers, coffee pots and microwaves may be brought. Does your microwave need to be less than a specific wattage or cubic feet?
6. What is your college’s policy on extension cords and power strips? If you are bringing electronics and appliances, be sure to have a surge protector on your power strip.
7. Is your room air conditioned? If not, you may want to bring a floor fan.
8. What can you use to decorate walls? Most colleges don’t allow nails or double-stick tape.
9. What lighting is available in your room? Is it overhead or under a bookshelf? Consider desk lamps and book lights.
10. What about pets? Most are not allowed in residence halls. Fish are an exception at some colleges, including UW-Stevens Point; the tank can be no larger than 10 gallons.
Finally, know what you can’t bring. Most colleges don’t allow waterbeds; weapons, ammunition or explosives such as fireworks; highly combustible decorating materials, such as fishnet or barnwood; incense or candles (no open flames); or alcoholic beverages if you are under age 21.
It’s a good idea to pack in shifts. Unless you do not plan to go home before the holiday break, don’t bring all your clothes in August. Bring winter wear after Thanksgiving, Faust advises.
“Come with an open mind, and get ready to expand your box,” he said.