Tips & Tricks

Back to School: Dorm Living Advice from the Dolly Team

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Your first dorm room. It’s your first taste of freedom, your first chance at living on your own. Unfortunately, your dream of a comfortable space with stylish furnishings and killer views is pretty unlikely: you’re more likely to find your dorm room is an oversized closet sealed in with concrete and filled with furniture that’s barely holding together. And sharing that tight space with an unknown roommate (or a few roommates)? Well, it’s going to be a challenge. So how do you survive dorm life?

There’s no easy answer to the question, but there are some ways to make it easier. Here at Dolly HQ, many of us have lived through the craziness of college dorm living firsthand. We put together the most important things we wish we knew before moving into our college dorms to help you stay sane:

Plan, Plan, Plan!


Every year, there will be one student on your floor who goes a bit overboard with the dorm room shopping and ends up with more stuff than a dorm can hold. It’s not the best way to start off the year or your relationship with your new roommate.

Our Helper Recruiting Admin Martin knows this all too well. “Ask yourself some questions, like what does my room come with? Closet space? A desk? What size/setup is my bed? How much space do I get, and how much does my roommate(s) get? What’s the room’s floor plan?”

Customer Success Specialist Rachel recommends a similar strategy: “Don’t take more than necessary, because you’re sharing a room with someone else. Communicate with your roommate ahead of time about things that you’ll both be using in the room that way you can go halfsies when you get there or you can split them up.” This will save you money (which you’ll desperately need – more on that later) and plenty of space.

Accept the Truth: Rowdy Neighbors Are a Part of Dorm Life


Almost as important as your relationship with your roommate is your relationship with your neighbors. But don’t expect them to be as considerate of your needs as your roommate is. “Bring earplugs, especially if you have an 8a.m. class,” Rachel recommends. “Other people don’t always respect quiet hours.”

Keep Your Brain Food Stash Overflowing


Your dorm room probably doesn’t have a kitchen, but it’s going to be your late-night eating central. Rachel suggests this method: “Stock up on snacks. You will have all-nighters and it’s best to be prepped for them.” Just don’t forget about the freshman 15. Gummy bears may seem like a perfect studying snack at the time, but your brain will not be thanking you when you sugar crash at 2am.

Get Ready for Some (Mostly Untrue) Dorm Room Legends


Pranks run rampant in dorms. Our very own Co-Founder Kelby likes to joke that the first thing you should do in a dorm is “check for ghosts.” That might be a good idea if you’re superstitious, but regardless if you are or aren’t, you’ll quickly learn that every dorm has its own urban legends – mostly passed down from upperclassmen as a way to play some great pranks. If you’re superstitious, you might want to keep it to yourself – unless you want your new neighbors to play some spooky sounds into your room in the middle of the night. On the flip side, if you’re a joker, this is the perfect way to make some friends and spook your dorm – especially around Halloween.

But if you really are a bit more nervous around the idea of something supernatural, our Customer Success Specialist Jamie has some pretty clear advice: “Bring some salt.”

Prepare for Some Extra Dorm Living Expenses


You’ve heard the joke that college is more expensive than just tuition. In case you already haven’t already realized, it’s not a joke at all: college, and especially living in a dorm, costs more than your school will lead you to believe. Endless quarters (that really add up) for laundry, decor to keep your cinderblock home looking cool, even late night pizza runs start to cost a fair bit after a while. Our Director of Legal Armikka says one particular item hurt his dorm budget: “Parking.”

You can budget for these things, but if that’s not your style, Rachel has another idea: “Explore ALL the student discounts that they can. Most places offer student discounts for computers, clothes, etc. because they know you’re broke.” And when she says “most places,” she means it: this list shows over 100 stores and chains that offer student discounts.

Don’t Make Move-In Day Any Harder Than It Has to Be


Move-in day is daunting: unfamiliar fellow students, overly excited resident advisors, and a staircase that’s much more daunting now that you have two dozen boxes to get up it. Our UX Designer Clare knows firsthand how difficult it can get when you overpack for move-in: “Stairs and boxes of books, equals my dad getting very annoyed with me when we tried to lift them up five flights of stairs!”

One easy solution to moving day back pain: Dolly. Save your parents’ sedan (and their backs) by using Dolly to transport your stuff. Or, use Dolly’s labor only service to get help unloading your stuff and tackling all those stairs. Our friendly Helpers will take care of the moving day hassle so your family can focus on getting you emotionally settled for college.

And remember, if you’re unsure about bringing something, you can always have it shipped to you later. And remember that you probably don’t have room for it – space is going to be the most precious commodity in your door room after move-in is said and done.

When Your Roommate is Happy, You’re Happy


You’re going to spend at least eight hours a day (and likely many more) with your roommate, so even if you despise them, it’s in your own best interest to maintain a good relationship with them. A few ways to do that:

  • Don’t move your roommate’s stuff without their permission (unless you want to start World War III).
  • Establish clear “sides” of the room and keep your stuff on your side.
  • Communicate clearly about any of their habits that are bugging you. Don’t hold in the rage about them constantly having friends over, or the never-ending late-night FaceTime calls with their significant other. Tell them how you feel, and ask them to do the same to you.
  • Dolly Marketing Coordinator Miranda thinks the best way to keep a roommate relationship positive is to be the friendly one: “Always go the extra mile for your roommate. At some point, you’re going to do something that will make them angry, so if you have a good baseline relationship with them, they might be willing to forgive you.”
  • Set your own quiet hours and visitor hours for your room, especially if one of you is a light sleeper.
  • Our Director of Data Analytics recommends keeping things clean, both to keep the peace and to keep yourself from getting too shabby. In one word? “Febreeze.”

Above all, respect your roommate, and they’ll respect you in return (or at least, that’s the hope).

Dorm living can be a challenge, but at least move-in day doesn’t have to be. Use Dolly to make the most stressful day of your college life a little bit easier. Our Helpers will take care of all the heavy lifting so you can focus on forging friendships and figuring out where your classes are going to be. With Dolly by your side, you’ll be so prepared, even your roommate will be impressed.

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