I lived on campus my freshman year. I could have commuted like I do now, but I wanted at least one year of the "full college experience." (There were other reasons but for purpose's sake, let's ignore those.) I had never lived with another person, nor shared a room in years, so I knew I was in for something.
Living in a dorm was not the worst experience. Other than some roommate troubles, I actually enjoyed living in the dorm and probably would've done it for the next for years if life hadn't happened. And know that I say this after having been put in the crappiest dorm one on campus. The only issues I ever had were roommate things--we were not a great match--and the occasional elevator breakdown that made reaching my 12th-floor room take forever.
So to this year's incoming freshmen, here are some things dorm life will teach you:
1. You'll learn how to do laundry.
This is assuming you don't already know how. It's unlikely you'll be able to go home on a regular enough basis to have your parents do it for you, so college forces you to learn this crucial skill. And yes, there will be those awful people who take your laundry out of the washing machine and leave it sopping on top a machine. I recommend staying with your laundry, rather than tossing it in before going off to class. Bring some homework, plenty of quarters and laundry pods--FOR CLEANING, NOT EATING!
2. Keep your student ID and keys on you at all times.
This one sounds obvious, but it happens ridiculously often. Put your keys and ID on a lanyard, or stash them in your wallet--somewhere that they won't get lost or forgotten. Put them in your bag before you go to sleep, so you never leave for classes without them. And always double check that you have them before leaving your room!
3. Floor meetings are a waste of time...for everyone.
Floor meetings are the college equivalent of business meetings that could have been summed up in an email. Thankfully, they don't happen too often. You'll have one after move-in, before move-out, and a couple more near breaks. It's all basic rules, reminders, and common respect stuff...and you'll just get a handout stating everything you just heard.
4. Dorm events aren't always worth attending...
Dorm events really depend on your RA and if you have friends on your floor. If there's no bond of any sort between you and your RA, dorm events can feel super forced and your RA is weakly trying to get everyone to bond...and everyone, for once, would rather be doing homework. These events get even more awkward when you aren't friendly with anyone on your floor. Unless there's free food, dorm events just aren't worth it.
5. ...But campus events are definitely worth checking out.
See a show on campus. Attend the involvement fair and learn about all the different groups your college has. Watch a sporting event. Your campus will have so many events going on that you'll inevitably find ones you'll enjoy. Don't ignore the things your college has to offer that aren't classes.
6. You will hear at least one couple getting it on.
It's college. People are pretty sexually active in these four years, so hearing things is unfortunately inevitable. Even when people are quiet, there's still the sound of the bed. Just plug in headphones, turn 'em up, and wait it out.
7. You and your roommate(s) will fight at least once.
Even if you get along with your roommate, there's going to be at least one thing that sparks a disagreement. Just make sure to talk (not text, not call, sit down in person and talk) and resolve the issue in a calm, mature manner.
Read more: 6 Steps to Being a Good Roommate
8. You'll get used to the high beds.
Dorm beds can be elevated to different levels to allow for storage space underneath, since the rooms usually aren't that big. Some people put their beds so high up, you need either a running start or a step-stool to get up there. My dorm had a loft bed with a desk underneath, and that took some serious adjusting...and prayers that I wouldn't slip and fall when climbing up or down.
9. You'll learn how to clean up after yourself.
Or at least, you'll learn how to contain your mess to one side of the room (hopefully).
10. Don't take the elevator if you live on the first three floors.
Your laziness to walk a couple flights to your low-level room is unfair to those of us who live on the fourth floor and up, where it's not feasibly possible to climb all those stairs and thus rely on elevators. My dorm had 12 floors, and I was on the top floor. At least once every day or two, people would take the elevator up to the first three floors. I and others found this not just lazy, but rude.
11. Your dining hall is a great way to get extra food.
I'd go in for lunch, stay and do homework for several hours, and then get dinner. It was a smart way to save meals and snag extra food for no extra cost. You can also fill water bottles with milk and other drinks, or grab some fruit and other snacks. You pay a lot to live and eat on campus, so take advantage of that.
12. Fire alarms will always happen at the worst timing.
Expect at least one fire alarm in the middle of the night...each semester.
13. Be prepared for any temperatures.
Most dorm rooms, at least at my college, had individual heat/AC units for each room. However, you're going to be living with someone else who may have different temperature preferences than you. There's also always a possibility of something breaking. So bring a portable fan and extra blankets...just in case.
14. Room decorations can make a world of difference.
Dorm rooms are pretty bland and cold-feeling. Hanging lights, putting up a tapestry, hanging up photos and posters, throwing a bright or patterned (or both!) rug across the floor, etc. can bring warmth to your room and make your little space feel like a home away from home.