Dorm Selection: A Lesson on Healthy Relationships

Being a Lower, I have never truly experienced the dorm selection process. Quite frankly, when last spring rolled around, I appreciated having no choice but to stay in my Junior Year dorm because of the strong sense of security. But this coming year, Upper Year, I have a choice, just like all the other soon-to-be upperclassmen. If you decide to apply for a stack, you have to come together with a group of people that you want to spend the next year of your life with. You might decide to prefect, but even then, most people want to have a clear idea of who they would prefect with. Or you might just take the typical route of filling out the housing survey, but even that is nowhere near straightforward. No matter the case, there is one thing that is certain: dorm selection Upper and Senior Year is a humbling experience that teaches students the importance of keeping close and healthy relationships while practicing self-advocacy. 

Dorm selection reinforces the norms of communication and compromise, which make up the foundation of any healthy relationship. Living in a dorm or a room with others can be challenging, even if you are familiar with them. With most people, all you have to worry about is a certain number of hours during the day during which you meet and hang out with them. You don’t need to know about their messy habits or irresponsible residential behavior. In a dorm, you get to find all of this out very quickly, and it’s up to you to come up with wise solutions.

Moreover, the people in your dorm will constantly hold you accountable. If you have a fight with a friend outside of your dorm, you have the opportunity to go home, spend some time away from the person, and come back with a clear head the next day. In a dorm, you don’t have those luxuries. You have to walk a fine line between maintaining friendships and protecting the comfort you feel in your room. To do so, you have to learn to communicate effectively and respectfully with the people you are living with. We are often afraid to draw lines with our closest friends because we are afraid that they will take it the wrong way, and we will lose them (or our only secure dorm option). But if you can’t calmly negotiate with your friends to reach a happy medium, then they are probably not the people you want to be living with. 

If you decide that you would rather live with people that you are acquainted with, but not extremely close to, your new dorm also acts as an opportunity to take some time to yourself, expand your social circle, and ironically, preserve your tighter relationships. Every healthy relationship relies just as heavily on the space you take apart from someone as the quality time you spend with them. Space is often necessary to realize what our needs truly are, and how we can best fulfill them. By prioritizing ourselves and our own emotions, space allows us to process situations that we may have ended up escalating due to the heightened emotions in the moment. A dorm is meant to allow you to unwind at the end of the day, which means you may need a little space from people that you feel you need to keep a certain image with or entertain 24/7.

Dorm selection forces you to be honest with yourselves. How much of your time do you truly want to spend with someone? How much of a person do you want to get to know? You may not want to get to know the detailed mannerisms of those closest to you; it might make you run in the other direction.

When you are able to choose exactly who you want to live around, dorm selection requires deep reflection. All of a sudden, every miniscule detail of a person comes to the forefront — how messy their room is, how kind they were to you Junior Year, or even the little pieces of information about their personality that you heard through the grapevine. Although everyone may have their own set of criterias, the common denominator is that people gravitate towards those that make them feel happy, complete, and okay being vulnerable. I bet you are reevaluating your friendships now. Dorm selection can do that to you.