Dorm Living: Changes & Challenges

Living in college dorms can be exciting, but it may also be a struggle. From communal bathrooms to hard mattresses to bad roommates, we have advice for making it through those first few years away from home.


Should I Have a College Roommate Agreement?

It’s taken for granted that college freshmen will be forced to live with at least one stranger, but when you take a step back, that’s actually a really intense proposition. Sharing a room with someone you don’t know is hard enough — when that room is smaller than your average bedroom and serves as your only place to get away from the fast-paced college lifestyle… that’s a whole other situation entirely.

Colleges claim that they match roommates based on their preferences, but those preferences are usually measured by a short questionnaire — hardly enough to really get to know a person. Some roommates get along great from the get-go. Others will have different beliefs, different habits, and different friends, all of which can lead to problems.

Fighting with a roommate isn’t just uncomfortable, it’s also inconvenient. After all, it’s difficult to avoid someone when they live just a few feet away from you. Luckily, many roommates can prevent this kind of situation by agreeing to a set of ground rules at the beginning of the school year.

Are you the kind of person who would benefit from a college roommate agreement? We’ve designed a quick and easy quiz to help you find out.

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8 Good Questions to Ask College Admissions About Dorms

When it comes to college dorms, some things are universal. Loud music, all-nighters, the lingering smell of burnt popcorn — these things are the same no matter what college you choose to attend. However, there are many other facets of dorm life that are heavily connected to which school you go to and which residence you live in.

When choosing a college or university, academics should be your first concern. Dorm life, though not quite as important, should still be a major consideration in your decision-making process. After all, when you’re not in class, you’ll spend the majority of your first few years at school in your dorm.

Understanding certain things about living in dorms at your college can help you prepare for a seamless and successful transition. Most schools have an entire department of admissions specialists who are prepared to answer your questions. Take advantage of this resource and get to know the student housing landscape for your top schools.

Some important questions include:

  • Do most students live on campus?
  • Do students generally go home for the weekend?
  • How old are the dorm buildings?
  • Are there special dorms/floors that are suited to my lifestyle?

We've gone into detail about these and four more great questions to ask admissions departments.

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Related: What to Do About Gross Dorm Shower Curtains


How to Make My College Mattress More Comfortable

We like to think of mattresses as expressions of our individual personalities. Some people like soft mattresses, some prefer firm ones. Some like pillow top, some want memory foam. Mattress salespeople will spend hours helping you find just the right mattress for your tastes. There are even mattresses that claim to adjust electronically to the exact needs of your body.

Dorm mattresses, on the other hand, don’t account for any of this. They are ordered in bulk, and designed to suit the minimum needs of the entire student population. In addition, they’re reused for years or decades before being replaced. As a result, they have a reputation for being firm, uneven, and uncomfortable.

If that wasn’t bad enough, dorm mattresses often double as the main seating area in a small dorm room, so they get more use and more wear than a standard mattress would in a home.

The mattress in your college dorm isn’t going to have all the great qualities of one you might buy at a store, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own. There are a wide variety of foam mattress toppers, sheets, and blankets that students can buy to transform their drab dorm beds into comfortable, personalized spaces.

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Related: Why Are So Many Dorm Mattresses Bad?


Mattress Fabrics 101: What You Need to Know

Going to college is a major life change, and it deserves major care and consideration. The process of choosing a school often takes months or years, and students go through several rounds of decision-making before finally settling on their school of choice.

Throughout this long process, students end up doing a lot of research. They go to college fairs, read through university websites, visit campuses, and speak with students and alumni. They ask questions about almost every aspect of student life. But one important thing often goes entirely overlooked during this research process: the mattresses.

Dorm mattresses might seem like a small consideration, but when you remember that you spend a third of your life in bed, they suddenly seem a lot more important. How can you determine if a college is taking all the necessary steps to provide safe, comfortable sleeping spaces for their students?

Here are some items to consider:

  • Are the mattresses flame resistant?
  • Were the mattresses designed to prevent the spread of diseases?
  • Are the mattresses free of heavy metals?
  • Were the mattresses built to resist dust mites and bed bugs?

Many of these features are regulated by state and local laws in the U.S., while others are up to the college to regulate. In either case, it’s crucial to make sure your future bed will be one that you feel safe sleeping in.

We’ve detailed everything you need to know about mattress fabrics in a 10-page eBook.

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Related: How To Tell If My Dorm Mattress Is Clean?


A Beginner's Guide: What is Antimicrobial Fabric?

College dorm room with bed covered with antimicrobial fabric

We have fairly high standards of cleanliness in our society these days. Restaurant and retail employees are required to wash their hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom. We install hand sanitizer dispensers in waiting rooms and lobbies. Gyms have disinfectant wipes that members use to wipe down equipment after use.

All of these measures help prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and it’s a good thing, too. As our cities get bigger and more and more people live in smaller areas, a high standard of cleanliness is indispensable.

But while we’re very clean in certain aspects of our lives, other aspects get passed over entirely. For example: When was the last time you washed your mattress?

If you answered “never,” then you’re in the majority. The fact is that most mattresses aren’t designed to be washed. However, we still sweat, drool, and shed on them every night. When mattresses are shared between many people over time, like in a college dorm, this can pose serious public health questions.

One way that mattress manufacturers have addressed this issue is through the use of antimicrobial fabric in their mattresses. But what exactly is antimicrobial fabric?

We put together a guide that will fill you in on the basics.

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Related: Dangers of Using Poor Quality Fabrics in Dorm Room Mattresses

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