Making Hillsdale a Home: The Do’s and Don’ts of Dorm Life

Written by Emily Marsh and Megan Schultz

You’ve made it to move-in day! Welcome to Hillsdale, your new home for the next four years. Hopefully the sun is out, you didn’t forget anything terribly important, and you’re looking forward to being on your own. Lugging your bags out onto the sidewalk is overwhelming, but don’t worry—even though it feels like it, you didn’t overpack. Cheerful RAs are waiting to take you to your room, where you’ll meet your new roommate and the hall you’ll bond with the rest of the semester. You’re leaving your hometown and family behind. While that might be intimidating, your time in the Hillsdale dorms is about to begin. Are you ready?

Do take advantage of your RAs.
Your RAs are your friends. They know campus better than you do, so reach out! They know the best parts of Hillsdale, and they want to share them with you. Ask for their advice and listen to it; get a meal and catch up once in a while; and don’t forget to say thanks for everything they do. Your RAs want to help you integrate into dorm life and campus culture, so take advantage of their knowledge and desire to help.

Do keep your door open.
At least for the first few weeks, an open door policy is a great way to meet your hallmates (and show off your new room decor). If one of your hallmates leaves their door open, peek in and introduce yourself. Your hallmates are likely going to be some of the first people you meet on campus, and living in a hall with almost forty other guys or girls is an opportunity to foster lasting friendships. The dorm halls at Hillsdale quickly become a tight-knit community of students who genuinely care about one another.

Do participate in dorm events.
Whether it’s a pancake breakfast at McIntyre Hall or a Simpson Christmas party, engaging with dorm events is a great way to get to know other students. Dorm camaraderie is important, especially during Homecoming season when you’ll compete against other dorms in banner-making, trivia, wing-eating, and finally, the dance competition, Mock Rock. Your RAs work hard to put on fun events, so do them a favor and go to a Simpson dive night or a Mac-Olds movie night.

Do make time for friends.
College is a busy time, especially at Hillsdale. Sometimes you might feel like you’re being pulled in twenty different directions at once. There’s more to Hillsdale than homework; the relationships you build will help to grow you as a person. Find ways to make study groups with people you’d like to get to know; bring your homework to the dorm common areas; or get coffee with a friend on a study break.

Do get to know your roommate ahead of time.
Communicating with your roommate before moving in is an excellent way to ease any fears you have. The transition to living together will be much easier if you start getting to know each other over the summer. Find each other on social media, chat about clean/messy preferences, coordinate dorm decorations, and find out what you can! You’ll both feel less nervous about living with a stranger.

Do be courteous to your roommate once you move in.
Respect the boundaries and agreements you make at the beginning of the semester. A successful roommate relationship involves compromise, communication, and creativity. If there ever is a problem, having an honest, polite conversation is the first step to figuring out a solution. By being thoughtful and respectful, you and your roommate should be able to live together without any problems.

Don’t fall behind on chores.
I know all too well of the towering pile of dishes balanced precariously on any flat surface in your room, or the overflowing laundry, begging to be washed before you run out of clean socks. Do yourself and your roommate a favor, and do your best to stay on top of chores. It can be annoying, but it all has to get done sometime, and washing a week’s worth of coffee cups and laundry is no way to spend a Friday night.

Don’t skip last-minute Walmart runs.
You’ll learn quickly that Walmart is a student staple. Take advantage of friends with cars taking trips into town. Keeping a note in your phone of the groceries or toiletries you need is a lifesaver when you’re wandering the aisles and can’t remember anything you knew you needed yesterday.

Don’t be afraid to make time for yourself.
In a dorm, you suddenly live in a building with over a hundred other people and share your room. This can be overwhelming, even if you’re extroverted. Sometimes a little alone time is all you need to clear your head or knock out a big project. Part of mastering dorm life is balancing alone time with your social life. If you know you need some alone time, go on a walk by yourself, use a private study room at the library, or wear earbuds while you work out at the sports complex.

You don’t have to wait till your senior year to feel like you’re coming home in the evenings. The community waiting to welcome you to campus is excited to help you transition to living here. With a little intentionality, Hillsdale College and its community will become a new home.

For further reading:

Cultivating Friendships That Will Last a Lifetime

Things to Bring to College

A Community of Study

Emily Marsh, ’23, studies Economics and Mathematics. She is a self-diagnosed coffee addict and she loves the water, meeting new people, and writing (on the good days). Her favorite part of being on campus is people watching when she’s supposed to be doing homework.

Published in April 2020