A New School, A New Home

Dorm Room

For many students, college is their first venture away from home. Among everything that's new, their new home "the dorm room" is the first place to make their mark and build what will be College Life.

Chris Lambert, a housing assignments administrative assistant at UNC-Charlotte, offers this advice to new students. "It's your room; we give you a blank slate. Make sure you bring stuff that will make you comfortable. It's going to be your home for four years, so bring things that will help you make it your home away from home."

For parents, much of what your child should and should not bring can be found on the school's website. And at UNC Chapel Hill, incoming freshmen are mailed a brochure that outlines do's and don'ts. Richard Bradley, Carolina's assistant director of housing, said it's the last tangible brochure the school uses, indicating the value the school places on helping students make themselves comfortable in their new homes.

Don't let your child haul everything he could ever need to campus at once, but there are essentials. Personal linens, sheets, blanket, pillow and towels top the list, followed by a shaving/toiletry kit and the reminder that dorm bathrooms are communal affairs typically down the hall. Then there are the things to make dorm life comfortable, like a TV, gaming system, refrigerator and microwave, and things to decorate with, like rugs, throw pillows and posters. And cleaning supplies. Yes, it's your student's room and it's his responsibility to keep it clean. Cleaning and laundry supplies top the list of many freshmen's first Walmart run of the semester, one housing official said.

Things not to bring include candles, incense, space heaters, or anything that has an open flame or a coil that gets red, as well as multi-plug extension cords and wall outlets. Basically, anything that can be considered a fire hazard is unwanted in what's often a high-rise full of people.

The point of not bringing everything at once is twofold: First there are things the room only needs one of, and roommates can decide who should bring what. For those who don't know their new roommate, schools typically help roommates get acquainted during the summer, and social networking sites like Facebook make it even easier to get to know one another.

The second reason your student should not bring everything she owns from home is that her room will reflect who she is better as it fills with things that come naturally as part of college life. And, believe it or not, a lot of things that are pretty cool in a high school kid's room are going to feel lame after just a little while away at school.

Stay Put and Get Out

Once your child is at school, he should stick around for the first three or four weeks and get to know his new community. In the dorm, he should get to know his RA. The resident assistant is the dorm's staff member on the floor, an upperclassman trained to help students find their way around campus and its resources. In addition to activities at the residence hall, there will be a lot of things happening on campus, especially at the beginning of fall semester. Clubs and fraternities will be recruiting, too. Your child should check things out.

Those who have a hard time joining things or meeting people should check into the availability of jobs around their dorm, UNC-CH's Bradley said. "The willingness for students to leave their room and go out and take a risk and meet people is probably the easiest thing to do" to become a part of the community, he said. "It's the best place to start, right where they live."

Whether it's joining a club, a fraternity, intramural sports or a work-study job, being a part of the school is better than simply attending college. Peter Blutreich, assistant director of housing at Winston-Salem State University, said studies show students who live on campus are more likely to join clubs and other activities, and enjoy college life more. And because they are near libraries and other resources, campus residents make better grades.

After class, students shouldn't rush back to the dorm. They can take advantage of resources like the library, writing centers and professors' office hours during the day. "You should plan on treating college like a job," Blutreich said. ìYou should plan on getting your work done soon and not wait until 10 o'clock at night, because at 10 o'clock at night, that's when things are going to start happening at your residence hall.

And at that cool new room.

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