What the First Week in a College Dorm Is REALLY Like

It’s almost time for one of the most exciting chapters of your life to begin — moving into college as a freshman! You might be feeling anxious, excited, nervous, worried, and a whole mix of different emotions before you leave.

You might be wondering what you will do in the time between move-in and the start of classes. Most schools have students arrive a few days before the first day of classes to settle in and get used to living in the dorms before the busyness of school, homework, clubs, sports, and Greek life begins.

College dorm life can be overwhelming, especially at first. (Twenty20 @charlenemears)

What the first few days in the dorm might look like


First, you will probably feel super overwhelmed during move-in because there is so much happening at once. You have to figure out where to put all of your stuff in your room and also are meeting many people on your floor.

After everything is all set and your parents leave, what happens next? It can be emotional when your parents leave, and you feel kind of weird because everything is finally real. I remember right after my parents left, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had an empty feeling because I was in a new town with a bunch of people I’d just met. However, right after your parents leave is a great time to go and hang out with people to distract yourself from feeling lonely. And remember you are all in the same boat.

Making Friends

During the first few days in the dorm, you will be meeting so many different people including RA’s. Try your best to remember names and faces and don’t be afraid to ask people their names again if you forgot!

It’s better to know than to just keep wondering. You will be meeting tons of different types of people so make sure to keep an open mind and be open to being friends with people who are different than you. The best time to make new friends is during the first few weeks of the school year because no one has a friend group yet and almost everyone is open to making new friends. 


There will probably be events and activities within the dorm during the first week so try to encourage your roommate or someone on your floor to go to these with you or go alone! These events are great ways to meet people in your hall. Try to introduce yourself to at least three people at each event. The whole purpose of these events is to help freshmen make new friends, so be sure to start conversations with new people. Even if you are naturally shy, push yourself to go up to people. This demonstrates confidence and people are naturally drawn to that. 


You will likely eat your meals (at least lunch and dinner) at the dining hall and going alone is not as scary as it seems. The first time is always the hardest, but after you go alone once, you realize that it’s not weird or uncomfortable. Try to coordinate with your roommate or floormates so you can go eat with others, but your schedules might not align and that is okay. The dining hall can be a great place to meet people too. 


You might not sleep great the first few nights — this is NOT how it will always be, your body just needs time to adjust to living in a new place. If you are still having trouble sleeping after the first week, try using earplugs or ordering a weighted blanket. This made a huge difference my freshman year because with earplugs I could sleep through anything and a weighted blanket helped me relax. 

Your Roommate

It might feel awkward in the room during the first few days because you are both moving in which can be a stressful time. Also, having silence in the room can feel a little odd at first because you both are just sitting there doing your own thing and not talking, but this is something you will get used to.

Some people might feel uncomfortable changing in front of their roommate at first, but you will get used to it, or you can always go into the bathroom if you don’t want to change in the room. Keep in mind that it’s best to over-communicate with your roommate during the first few days because you never know what could bother them and it is important to start on a good note. Also, make sure to bring up anything that is bothering you, but do so in a friendly way. 

What to Do If You’re Bored

Before classes start, you might have some free time and feel a bit bored. Take advantage of this time and use it to relax as you get ready for the first day. If you are feeling bored and want something to do, here are a couple of ideas:

Go door-to-door on your floor and introduce yourself. If people have their doors open, this is the perfect opportunity to stop in and say hi. 

Walk to all of your classes and figure out where they are on campus. I invited someone in my dorm to do this with me and we went to her classes first and then to my classes. You could also take a walk around the campus and check out the library, other dining halls, the campus gym or pool, and the campus coffee shops. 

Getting Ready for Classes

Make sure to read the syllabus for each of your classes before the first day so that you know what is expected. Some classes may not allow iPads or laptops for note-taking or some may have assigned reading to be done before the first class. The syllabus will also tell you what materials are required, such as calculators, textbooks, etc. so make sure you have everything you will need.

Also, figure out what you are going to wear on the first day of classes. It is always fun to get a picture with your roommate and a few friends on the first day of classes freshman year. You can also pack your backpack and figure out what you need to bring on the first day. If you have back-to-back classes, make sure to pack yourself a snack! 

How to Handle Homesickness

The first few days after your family drops you off, you may feel a pit in your stomach or feel a sense of emptiness because you are all alone. But, keep in mind everyone around you is also going through the exact same thing. A good way to alleviate this feeling is to keep yourself busy by hanging out with people on your floor.

Distract yourself by going out to eat, walking around campus, and connecting with people. The worst thing to do when you’re homesick is to hide in the dorm room not doing anything or scrolling through social media. When you are out and about, you tend to forget about being homesick. If the homesickness gets really bad, talk to your RA. They are a great resource and are there to make sure you are comfortable and happy living in the dorms. 

Three more tips that will help get you started

  1. Have a fun fact ready! Whenever you are in group settings for activities in the dorm or on the first day of class, you will probably be asked to give a fun fact about yourself when introducing yourself. Your fact can be a unique hobby, a cool place you traveled to, your favorite activity, something about your hometown, or whatever you’d like. Try to think of something that might be a conversation starter with your classmates. Having a fun fact prepared in advance saves you from having to think of something interesting about yourself on the spot. 
  2. Go places when you are invited! Always say yes to going places during the first week, because this is when most students make friends.
  3. Have fun! This is such an exciting part of your life so make sure to cherish each day and live in the moment because it will go by super fast. 

More Great Reading:

Professor Offers Best Advice for College Freshmen

About Madeleine Korn

Madeleine Korn is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. After graduating, she worked in marketing for a cybersecurity company for a year and a half. For the past year, she has been traveling the world while volunteering in hostels. Some of the countries she has visited include Portugal, Croatia, Greece, Albania, Cyprus, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and more. You can follow along with her travels on TikTok and Instagram. She loves writing and creating videos and really enjoys working for Grown and Flown!

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