Last Updated: May 8, 2017
Dorm life is an adjustment. You have a limited amount of space, and you’re sharing it with a perfect stranger. Plus, it has to work as both a place to hang out and a study/work space where you can actually get stuff done. After all, you can’t live in the campus library—though many have tried.
Luckily, these tips will help you set up an A+ dorm for studying. So you can crank out A+ college work.
Decide on a smart layout
When you and your roommate arrive on move-in day, decide how to set-up your dorm space. This will be influenced by factors like the furniture your school provides, what each of you brings, and personal preferences.
In particular think about how you like to study and where you work best, and try to set up your dorm room accordingly. For example, if your desk at home was near a window, you might want to replicate that in your dorm. On the other hand, if you’re easily distracted by what’s going on outside, you may want your desk to face a wall!
Understand you will need to come to a compromise too, especially if your roommate has different priorities. The good news is with a little creativity and communication, you can make your dorm room double as the place to be and the place to buckle down and study. Plus, you can always rearrange your room if the initial layout isn’t working
Maximize your space by lofting your bed
College dorm rooms are small; most are about 228 square feet. (Yikes.) But lofting the beds so they’re off the floor will help you make the most of the space you have.
You can raise your dorm bed just a little and put storage underneath or loft them even higher to put a desk or wardrobe under there. This not only creates more floor space but also gives you a nice little study alcove. Just make sure you have a desk lamp so you have enough light under there!
Another option is to bunk the beds. You won’t be able to fit as much underneath them, but you can put them against one wall and then put your desks together. Just make sure to check with your resident advisor before making these heavy-duty changes. Assuming it isn’t a problem, they may be able to get someone to move the beds for you too.
Give yourself a super desk for studying
So, now that the rest of your dorm says “dean’s list,” let’s focus on where the real magic happens: your desk.
Try to keep important school-related items on your desk and less important things elsewhere. A bunch of knick-knacks on your desk may make you smile, but too much clutter can make it difficult to concentrate. When you remove the clutter from your desk, you create a distraction-free workplace and, according to Coaching Positive Performance, individuals who limit clutter in their home and work environment are less irritable, less distracted, and more productive.
Of course, you should have the tools you need to get work done readily accessible, and you can pick up cute desk organizers and stationery that make you feel put-together and fancy. But just keep in mind that you probably don’t need much on your dorm desk. In fact, if you don’t truly need the item at arm’s length, you can probably put it in a drawer—or get rid of it entirely. (How often are you going to use that stapler, really?)
Add some flair
Aside from the pre-set furniture, your dorm room is your space to do what you please (within reason). And even though you’re going to make your dorm into the best study den ever, you probably want fun decorations and reminders of home to boost your mood. After all, a dorm that makes you happy will be a dorm you’re happy to do work in.
So invest in some décor that makes your dorm feel like home: posters and artwork, colorful chairs and small furniture, and more. Talk to your roommate about bringing a TV and speakers (ideally the summer before you arrive) so you can set-up a designated area for watching movies and hanging out—when you’re not studying, of course. You can also talk to your roommate about having an overall theme for your room or just bring things that make you happy while you’re away from home.
Get to know your roomie and set some study rules
You almost certainly won’t be able to create a sound study space in your dorm without talking with your roomie first. But before we get into this one, let’s talk about what not to do first: don’t show up on campus the first day with a list of demands, don’t be disrespectful, and don’t assume that everything in your room is fair game.
What you should do is talk to your roommate about your personality and preferences. Are you a morning person? Do you have specific times you like to study? Are you super organized? Do you expect low-key midterm and finals weeks, with no guests, parties, etc., so you can bring your (literal) A game to your tests? Get to know your roommate’s personality and preferences too. If you communicate about these things ahead of time, you can work together to make your living and studying situation easier for both of you.
Also, if you’re super studious and organized but your roommate is not, don’t expect them to change for you. Just try to set reasonable expectations and compromise when you can. It will take a little while for you to learn how to live together, but clearing the air ahead of time can prevent misunderstandings later. Respect your roommate’s wants, needs, and space. After all, you’d expect the same from them.
Every single little distraction cuts into your ability to do good work—not just in college but for life. So when you’re trying hard to study or bang out an essay, you want uninterrupted blocks of time so you can do your best work. That might mean blocking the Internet for a while, closing your otherwise open and welcoming door, or unplugging the dorm TV (provided your roomie isn’t watching it). Also, have a no-phone-zone, a designated place in your dorm where if you put your phone there, it essentially “disappears” while you’re studying. Turn the phone off too!
Speaking of your roommate, it’s hard to concentrate when they’re listening to loud music or binge-watching Netflix. This goes back to communication and sharing your expectations with your roomie. Let them know what you need to focus and do well in your classes. You may need to create a schedule and designate certain times of day as social or recreation hours and other times for homework and studying. Although, to be fair, you also may want to consider going to the library to study on occasion, especially if you like to cram extra study hours on the weekends.
Whether you study in your dorm or the library, try to simulate the test environment whenever possible. Eliminate distractions, time yourself, and try not to use study aids. For example, “a common mistake is for students to work on math problems in too relaxed a posture,” according to USATestPrep. “They should be sitting at a desk, with minimal distractions, and working the problems exactly as if they were testing.” That way you will feel more prepared and relaxed when it’s time to take the actual test.
Be flexible and make your dorm your own
You can come up with the perfect dorm room for studying, make some ground rules, and hang some sweet decor, but at the end of the day, what works best for you is going to depend on you and your college roommate.
You may not like your initial study setup, but you have all year to tweak the layout to your liking. Also, remember, living with someone else comes with its own set of challenges. Anticipate that you may not agree on everything and find a compromise to keep the peace. It’s a long school year. Do your best to study hard and make it a good one.
A comfortable, study-friendly dorm can make all the difference in college. What awesome dorm room study tips do you have? Share in the comments!