Moving in: College staff, students offer advice for dorm living
By Beth Noffsinger Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer
When Scott Kramer graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan College 26 years ago, the residence halls' rooms didn't have cable TV access.
Kramer, who is now vice president of student services and dean of students at KWC, said the school thought it was cutting edge several years ago when it added landline phone jacks for every room.
Though students can still bring a landline phone — which is recommended — they are virtually obsolete to a student body that has had access to cell phones, and now smartphones, for years.
At some colleges, Ethernet cords were recommended for anybody bringing a computer, which were primarily desktops.
Now, many students are bringing laptops, and all of the residence halls at KWC feature wireless Internet service.
"You're always trying to adapt" to the amenities students want in a dorm room, Kramer said.
And though many of the staples remain the same, college students and staff, along with a variety of websites, have recommendations for ways to make the transition from home to dorm life a little easier.
Colleges and universities all have lists of suggested items to bring to school and items that are banned.
Those can vary from school to school — for example, students can have microwaves in their rooms at Kentucky Wesleyan College. Brescia University, which offers a traditional dorm for freshmen and apartments for upperclassmen, does not allow microwaves in the traditional rooms because they have older electrical systems in them.
There are many necessities, such as linens, shower caddies and laundry supplies, that are on the "need-to-bring" lists at many colleges.
An article by U.S. News & World Report posted on Yahoo News recommends several ways to save money on decorating dorms, including checking with the university to see if it rents certain items (such as an iron/ironing board) on an as-needed basis; touching base with your roommate to see what he or she can bring; checking with family and friends to see if they have items such as microwaves or refrigerators that the student can use; checking for items on the website Craigslist and using stores' apps for coupons, sales and to shop around.
One of the items many students forget to bring is a surge protector, Kramer said.
"Power strips are essential," he said. "With all the electronics they bring ... you never have enough outlets in a dorm room for everything you need. You want a surge protector, anyway."
Many colleges have free cable television for their dorm rooms — and many students are bringing large, flat-screen TVs for their rooms. The schools typically don't supply the coaxial cable, and some students find themselves shopping for one after moving to campus.
KWC even has a deal with Time Warner Cable where students can upgrade (at their own expense) to digital cable and purchase DVRs.
"I don't advise that," Kramer said, "because it will take away from study time. But it's available to them."
KWC has a variety of housing options for students, including traditional dorms with twin-size beds, closets and drawers. In some rooms, only the beds can be moved (they can be bunked). In others, all of the furniture is moveable, and the beds can be bunked or lofted.
The school also offers suites featuring two single rooms, a double-occupancy room, bathroom and living room. Kramer's daughter, Paige, lives in one of the suites with three Kappa Delta sorority sisters.
One of her roommates even brought a full-size bed for the room, which is allowed as long as the student keeps the university's property in the room — in this case, the twin-size bed frame is stored behind an armoire.
Paige Kramer recommends students bring extra storage containers for clothing. The junior elementary educator major said she felt like there wasn't enough room for her clothing in the armoire and drawers, so she purchased plastic bins so she can store clothing under her bed.
The drawers are neatly labeled so she can quickly grab the correct shirt, whether she needs one from her sorority or one for soccer.
"I think coming in my freshman year, I brought too much," Paige Kramer said, "and that's one thing I figured out. I don't need every single thing that I originally thought I did."
She brought several lamps and wall decorations that took up space.
Many students will bring futons to their dorm rooms. At Brescia, some students have asked the university to remove their beds so they could have only the futon, which the school does allow, said Jeff Rudnik, assistant dean of students for residence life.
"We see a lot of futons," he said. "A lot of really nice futons that makes them pretty homey. It's kind of nice to be able to hang on the couch or lay on the bed."
Brescia offers several varieties of housing options. Furniture is able to be rearranged in the freshman dorms. The apartments feature five bedrooms, two bathrooms and shared kitchen and living room. Brescia also owns several neighborhood homes. Some are themed, living/learning communities, such as a house for psychology majors.
Students want to make their rooms stand out, and Rudnik recommends they bring plenty of 3M Command Strips, which provide strong adhesives so students can hang decorations on their walls.
Those strips are one item many students forget, Rudnik said. Most colleges don't allow nails, screws or tape that could damage paint.
He's also found that many students forget an eating-in-the-dorm essential — a can opener. Students have even walked to Rudnik's house to ask to borrow his.
Though the beds in the traditional dorms don't bunk, students will use bed risers to make extra space for storage under their beds, he said.
"One of the biggest things we run into that people goof up on is extension cords," Rudnik said.
Those aren't allowed at Brescia — they are a fire code violation — but students can bring surge protectors to create more outlets.
Other items not allowed at most universities include any appliances with open heating elements, such as coffeemakers, toasters, candles and candle warmers. Brescia does allow Keurig coffeemakers, which don't have a hot plate.
Students also need to check with their colleges on the size and wattage of refrigerators and microwaves they can bring to campus, as those vary by school. Talking to their future roommate is also important to make sure they don't double up on bringing large items, such as TVs and refrigerators.
Seth Ferguson, a sophomore biology major at Brescia from Greenville, said he talked to his roommate freshman year about who would bring what essentials. This year, he'll have a private room since he's a resident adviser in one of the dorms.
Ferguson and fellow resident adviser, Marketa Kreuzingerova, a sophomore business management major from the Czech Republic, recommended living on campus for at least part of college.
"You're always connected to whatever is going on on campus," Ferguson said.
This will be Kreuzingerova's first semester living on campus. She said she brought plenty of storage totes to supplement the drawer space in the dorms. She called living on campus part of the college experience that all students should take advantage of.
And for students who are new to a college campus, "if you need anything, don't be afraid to come to us for help," Kreuzingerova said of the RAs. "We're always here."
Beth Noffsinger, 691-7307, firstname.lastname@example.org
Image & text courtesy Messenger - Inquirer