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Dorm life: Living in 114 square feet
Dormitory rooms at colleges and universities usually average about 12-by-19 feet. That means students entering their freshman year at universities across the county have, on average, 228 square feet of living space. And most will have at least one roommate - which means the amount of personal space shrinks to about 114 square feet. It's safe to say most students have a lot more than 114 square feet of space to store all their junk, so fitting dorm room essentials into a teensy area can be tough. But there is a way to do it, if you're smart about what you pack and creative in your organization methods.By LAUREN REES
Dormitory rooms at colleges and universities usually average about 12-by-19 feet.
That means students entering their freshman year at universities across the county have, on average, 228 square feet of living space.
And most will have at least one roommate - which means the amount of personal space shrinks to about 114 square feet.
It's safe to say most students have a lot more than 114 square feet of space to store all their junk, so fitting dorm room essentials into a teensy area can be tough.
But there is a way to do it, if you're smart about what you pack and creative in your organization methods.
1. Utilize space efficiently
Wall space is abundant in dorm rooms, and most are ugly anyway. Susan Sharp, a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and head of the theater department at Carl Sandburg College, recommends installing hooks, magazine bins, file holders and other vertical organizers to maximize that space. Many schools don't allow nails or screws in walls - which is why Sharp swears by 3M Command adhesive strips, which hold strong to wall hangings, but come off clean. Velcro also can work.
Thomas Reichert, a 2008 ROWVA High School graduate and current Southern Illinois University-Carbondale student, said his essentials include shelving and wall storage.
"Otherwise, things just get cluttered," said Reichert, who has spent two years in dorm living.
Sharp also recommends considering items that do double-duty, such as using a storage trunk as a coffee table, or searching for atypical organization methods.
"Use something that wasn't necessarily made for organization, like galvanized metal buckets," she said. "They could easily hold magazines."
Katie Sexton, a 2010 Galesburg High School graduate, will enter St. Ambrose University in August. Her secret storage weapon?
"I'm looking for things you can slide underneath the bed," she said. "That way I can just store stuff under there."
Over-the-door shoe racks or hooks also free up space.
2. Don't overstuff your room
You might think you need every T-shirt you've ever owned, or maybe all the photos you've taken since middle school, but you probably don't.
Sharp recommends gathering everything you think you want to take to school, then editing it.
"Get rid of 40 percent of it," she said. "Then buy your organizers." Without knowing what you have to organize, you might buy an entire organizing system that you find doesn't really work for you.
"The key is to figure out your own organization style," Sharp said. "Just because you see the same organizer that everyone is buying doesn't mean it will work for you. It doesn't have to make sense to anybody but you."
Reichert said he repeatedly brings way too much to school, thinking he'll be able to find space. But that's not always easy.
"I had too much stuff both years," he said. "Last year, I just left stuff in my car the whole year."
As Sexton packs, she said she's worried she'll take too much.More Video: Tom Loewy's Afternoon Chat with City councilman and Knox College professor Peter Schwartzman
"It probably won't all fit, so I'm just trying to figure out what clothes to take and try not to pack things I don't need," she said.
Use Sharp's "one in, one out" rule: for every new item, piece of clothing, etc. you bring into the room, swap it out with something you might not need that semester or season.
3. Keep organized, even if roommate isn't
If you control your own side of the room and maintain order, your habits could rub off on your messy roommate, Sharp said.
"Label everything that's yours," she said. "Then it will become real clear who's stuff isn't in its home."
When Reichert shared a dorm room with two other guys, it sometimes became an issue over who would complete what chore. So the group made a chore chart. It didn't solve the problem of a lazy roommate never taking out the trash, but it did help.
"Just be blunt about everything," Reichert said. "Don't hold anything back. People are more appreciative when they know."
4. Consider college a clean start
Students sticking at home for a while to attend community college can use this time to do a room makeover, Sharp said, which can prepare them psychologically for the shift from high school to higher education.
"Put away most of your memorabilia, like awards," she said. "Think of it like you're making room for new awards. Maybe this is the time to get rid of the My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake stuff."
Make sure your room is conducive to studying by having a large, well-lit desk, either in your room or in a quiet, private area.
"This is the time to invest in your own computer and printer, and not use the family computer," Sharp said. "You have your own sort of sanctuary."
5, Don't get overwhelmed
Whether you'll be a freshman or a senior, beginning a new school year can be challenging. Keeping your space organized can help with transitions.
"We live in a fast-paced world, and if you can't put your hands on something quickly, a lot of times, opportunities can pass you by," Sharp said.
Still, don't forget - "everyone has piles," she added. "Being organized doesn't mean you're a neat freak."
Take advantage of your living situation, Reichert said. Many schools have living-learning communities, where students with similar majors or interests live together. As a civil engineering and mathematics major, Reichert lived in a living-learning dorm, where he was able to meet others in his fields of study.
"Be social. The biggest advantage of living in a dorm is the people around you and the knowledge you can gain," he said.
So, it is my first year, my first semester, as a Resident Assistant and man, have I learned some things.
I’ve learned a lot about myself, others, life… and you guys. I didn’t really to expect to learn so much so quickly, but boy, have I. I now know what it’s like to be a R.A. and a resident, I have been in your shoes, too.
With that in mind, here’s a list of things pretty much every R.A. wants to tell their residents.
1. Please appreciate the door decs, I mean, door decorations, that we did for you.
I cringe when I see a door dec on the floor disregarded. Also, the bulletin boards. Please love them, we really want you to. Everything we do for you guys requires a lot of time and effort so please put that into consideration, thanks.
2. PLEASE COME TO OUR PROGRAMS.
We have to do them but we try to make them fun because we don’t want to go to a boring program, either. Also, there is free food.
Let me repeat that, FREE FOOD.
Don’t help yourself though, we have a budget we have to work with and other residents we want to feed. I had a resident help herself to papers plates, like excuse me, need them.
If we don’t use them all in one program, we will be using them for the next one. I mean, I know it’s hard out here but dang!
3. Can you guys behave?
This isn’t for all residents, but some of you are just too much! How about you just don’t smoke weed in your room? Is that too much to ask? Just don’t.
Make our lives and your life easier. We smell it and we really don’t feel like calling campus police and writing an incident report, but you give us no choice. Please stop.
Also, you make things WAY harder for yourself when we knock on your door just to tell you to turn down your music but you whisper to your friends, “R.A.! R.A.!” We can hear you and it’s telling us you’re doing stuff you’re not supposed to. Not the smartest move to make.
Neither is cursing us out. Not a good idea. Like the great Julia Roberts once said, “Big mistake, big. HUGE.”
4. No hard feelings if we have to write you up.
We don’t get to live on campus for free just to chill and do nothing. We have to enforce our school’s policies. It’s our job.
5. Please stop forgetting your keys.
Lock outs are SERIOUSLY THE WORST. When you knock on my door, I’ve probably already taken my bra off for the day but now, you knocked and need me and I have to put the damn thing back on.
A resident adviser or 'RA' is an upperclassman who is available to college students living in dorms and resident halls that help with various aspects of college life. This peer-to-peer guidance can be valuable for incoming freshmen because it is someone they can trust and turn to with questions or concerns.
What is a Resident Adviser?
Schools will have different names for their RAs. Some use the term 'resident adviser' while others prefer 'resident assistant.' Other campuses may use the abbreviation 'CA,' meaning a 'community adviser' or 'community assistant.'
Typically, the RA will be in charge of a single floor in a dormitory. They are often upperclassmen who live on the floor and are available in shifts to aid the other students with a variety of concerns and build a sense of community.
The RA may be one of the first students a college freshman comes in contact with on move-in day. Students apply to be RAs and go through extensive interviews and training to ensure that they are prepared to handle most situations that will come up.
What Does an RA Do?
Resident advisers demonstrate great leadership skills, compassion, and are trained to solve the problems of a diverse group of students. The job of an RA can include anything that a group of young adults needs during their first experience in the real world.
RAs oversee dorm life, plan social events and keep an eye on homesick freshmen. They can provide a sympathetic ear and practical advice for students who need help dealing with academic, social, medical or personal problems.
RAs will also mediate roommate disputes and enforce residence hall rules. This includes calling campus security for alcohol or drug-related infractions and seeking medical attention in emergencies.
Overall, the RA should be a person that college students can turn to, someone they can trust. If an RA cannot solve a problem or feel that more help is needed, they can direct students to the right campus support center where they can find help.
The job of an RA is not all about solving conflicts. They are also there to ensure college students are having fun, relieving stress in healthy ways, and simply enjoying college life.
RAs may schedule a movie or game night as a break from finals week, host holiday parties, or other fun activities to bring their residents together.
Who Can Be an RA?
Most colleges require that RAs be upperclassmen though some will consider well-qualified sophomores.
The application process for becoming an RA is rigorous because it is a very important job. It takes a special type of person to be understanding, flexible, and stern enough to handle the responsibilities of a resident adviser. It also requires patience and quick thinking, so the interviewers will be looking for the strongest leaders among applicants.
Many college students choose to apply for an RA position because it is a great experience that looks good on a resume. Potential employers appreciate leaders with real-world problem-solving skills and there are few better ways to get this in college than becoming an RA.
RAs are compensated for their time because it is considered a job on campus. This often includes free room and board though some colleges may offer other benefits as well.