Student Life

Helping Your Child Adjust to Living in the Dorms. What to Ask and When to Ask it.

UniversityParent Staff

Living away from parents and the comforts of home is one of the greatest challenges of going to college. Students usually have to share a space with at least one other student, sometimes more, depending on the layout of the dorms. For a freshman, it’s usually difficult to get a single room — although not impossible — depending on the college’s regulations. Fortunately, having a roommate is usually a good experience for a freshman because it helps him or her to get to know at least one other person at college.

Meeting People in Dorms
Of course, there are many ways of meeting people at college but if your student is a reserved person, living in the dorms with a roommate and various other students on the same floor will make it necessary for him or her to mingle. Usually, each floor or each section of the residence hall has a resident assistant who can be approached for any problem that the student may be having. Resident assistants also organize socials to help students get to know each other.

Having a Physically Comfortable Environment
No matter how well-adjusted your student is, she or he is bound to run into some adjustment issues where she or he will need your help. The first, most basic thing that the student will need to adjust to is the smaller personal space. You can help your student to do this by getting him or her the things needed to make this space comfortable. A TV and DVD player or a laptop that plays DVDs will provide some form of entertainment. Boxes that fit under the bed will provide a little more storage space and hanging storage units you can put over hooks on a door or in a closet keep things organized. A portable shower caddy and a bathrobe makes it easy to use communal showers.

Mentally Adjusting to Dorm Life
Once you’ve got the physical environment under control, you can start to think about how your student is adjusting mentally to dorm life. It’s normal to miss home and to call every once in a while with complaints. However, if your student is calling home and crying all the time, you might want to advise him or her to reach out to a school counselor or resident assistant. Encouraging the student to get more involved in college activities is also a good idea.

On the other hand, you may find that your student has actually become more distant and rarely ever calls home. There is such a thing as being too involved in college activities because it won’t leave the student time to actually study. You don’t want your student to lose sight of the big picture. In such a case, the student might benefit from coming home during breaks or over long weekends, if possible. There’s nothing like the daily routine of life at home to break the hectic pattern of school.

Setting Up a Time to Talk
Helping your child adjust to living in the dorms involves knowing what to ask and when to ask it. As a parent, you have to maintain a balance between getting too involved in the student’s college life and not being involved at all. Setting up a fixed time to speak with your student every week is a great idea. This will help ensure that she or he doesn’t call when you’re at work and that you don’t ring him or her up when they’re busy with other activities. Plus it will help you keep track of what your student is doing on a regular basis and you can rest easy about their adjustment to dorm life.

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