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Two college females hugging as they meet to be roommates.

Freshman year is all about new experiences: new campus, people, classes, and living situations. Toby Brockman, a resident director at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, gave us the inside scoop on dorm life. Below is a condensed recap of that discussion.

What can students expect on move-in day?

The move-in process is pretty smooth. Staff will welcome students when they get to campus, which will be hopping with people. It’s an organized process considering how many people are coming in at once. At UNL, we have a company that helps students move their belongings into their rooms. Our housing staff will greet students, and we’ll start our college journey together. It’s a fun day!

Some colleges require first-year students to live on campus. Why is that in place?

The academic transition to college is much better and more effective for students living on campus. Over the course of the year, the GPAs of students living on campus are higher than those living off campus because they have a support network. There are way more opportunities to meet new people when you live on campus.

What are the best things about living on campus?

One helpful thing is that there are people here who are connected to you that are connected to the university. Being a student at a university of 25,000 students and living in a residence hall of 1,100 students can feel lonely. We want our students to know that many people here care about you, are concerned about you, and love you. Even though you may not know the people yet, they are here. Our housing staff is here to help students get connected, stay grounded, and build relationships.

How are roommates paired together at your college?

We have something we jokingly call the housing dating app, but it’s a roommate finder. Students input their answers from a questionnaire, and the app looks for commonalities. Questions center around sleep habits, study habits, guests, sharing items – all manner of things. Students can go onto the roommate finder, identify people with a similar profile, and begin to connect with others before deciding if they want to room together.

What should roommates talk about before moving in?

Communication is essential, so I recommend they talk via phone, Zoom, or Facetime before moving in. I advise students to refrain from texting one another because it leaves too much room for misunderstanding. It’s important to consider what they want their roommate relationship to look like and what each person will bring (items) to the room.

Is it common for a high school student to request a specific roommate?

It can be a challenge for people who are best friends to live together. Often, you’ve made assumptions about a person, but you’ve never actually talked through expectations. You can be a great roommate without being a person’s best friend, and you can be a best friend and struggle with being a roommate. So, if you’re thinking about living with a friend, have an in-depth conversation as if you are total strangers. Communication is key.

What are some common complaints or misunderstandings between roommates?

Guests in the room, sharing items or food, when you’re going to sleep, the temperature of the room – all everyday things that come up. Most problems have to do with a lack of communication or miscommunication. My best advice is to talk to one another in advance and be open and honest about your needs and expectations.

What advice would you give students new to dorm life?

I would begin by reaching out to the people on your floor. Make sure you attend events and do so with your roommate. Do things together! Go to the bookstore to buy your books, attend athletic events, and go to campus events together. Those are just a few ways to build commonalities and interests and learn more about each other. But it’s also important to network with other people as well.

What does the process look like to change roommates?

That’s when someone like me gets involved. I typically meet with each student individually, get each of their perspectives and try to understand what they’re feeling and experiencing. We look for ways to resolve issues, but sometimes that’s impossible. At that point, we look at what other rooming options are available. Then we work to connect students with other people who might be a better fit.

Want to hear more? View the entire live stream here.

By Sydney Burdick