Welcome back students: succeeding in dorm life


Dorm life is an integral part of freshman life at Iowa State. The Iowa State Daily offers some tips for succeeding at the most essential parts of dorm life, from laundry to roommates.

Ashley Tibbs

Every year, more than 20 percent of Iowa State students live in on-campus housing and many of these students are freshmen. Dorm life is often a huge adjustment for students, so we have provided a guide for some of the essentials students should be aware of. 



Every student needs to know how to wash their clothes. There are two ways to pay for the machines located in dorms (Frederiksen Court apartments have machines that are free to use). Students can use CyCash, which they load onto their Student ID card through AccessPlus, or the SpeedQueen app, which students load money onto using a credit or debit card. 


Laundry machines in dorms are located on the first floor of each building and cost $0.75 for a load. The Department of Residence recommends students use high-efficiency (HE) detergent when washing their clothes. If you’re using pods, they go directly in the machine with your clothes. Be careful not to overload the machine, as this slows wash and dry times. 


Make sure to keep track of when your laundry will be done. Laundry rooms can get busy, and if someone else needs your machine, they will set your clothes on top of the washer or take them out of the dryer. It’s on you to make sure you get your laundry as soon as it’s done.


Bring a hamper or a basket to carry your clothes to and from the laundry room, especially if you live on the upper floors.


A good tip is to find a regular laundry time and stick to it, or else your laundry pile may grow too large to handle. Be careful to treat stains immediately before they set by using a stain remover or rubbing soap into the stain and rinsing it using a sink in the laundry room.


It’s very important to separate dark clothes and light clothes when loading up the washer. When you dry a load of clothes, check the dryer’s lint trap to avoid covering your clothes in fuzz from other students’ loads and prevent fires. 


Don’t let your clothes sit in the dryer. Many students won’t have an iron, so getting wrinkles out of your clothes will be difficult. Take them out and put them away as soon as the load is finished. 



Roommates can become our life-long friends or the bane of our existence, depending on how your relationship develops. The Department of Residence provides a short guide on their website on getting to know your roommate, which can help with any awkwardness during the beginning of the semester. 


To establish a good relationship with your roommate, it’s important to get to know each other. 

  • Where is their hometown?

  • What are their hobbies?

  • Why did they choose Iowa State?

  • What is their major? 

It’s also important to decide how you want to design your room together. Discuss how you want to arrange the room, what kind of decor you want and how clean you should keep the space. 


Talk to them about their sleep and study schedule. What time should the lights go out? Agree on a time to keep the room quiet and visitor-free when studying. 


Most importantly, communicate. Some problems are unavoidable, so establishing clear boundaries and communicating in a mature way is important. Have clear expectations for your shared space and follow through on your end of the agreement. 


The Department of Residence site also provides roommate agreement forms, which are voluntary and may seem silly at first but can genuinely help you and your roommate establish previously agreed upon boundaries.


And, if you absolutely cannot handle your roommate any longer, don’t worry. There’s always the option of switching rooms between semesters. 



Neighbors can be almost as great as — or as bad as — roommates. The biggest issue with neighbors, in dorms, apartments and suites, is the noise level. When it comes to noisy neighbors, there are lots of ways to adjust your room to drown them out without having to confront them. 

  • Close your door

  • Find a quiet place on campus to study (there’s tons, from the library to the Academic Success Center)

  • Buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Not only will this help with noisy neighbors, but it can drown out your roommate, too

  • Consider earplugs for those nights when the noise level is too high

  • Turning a fan on at night can also help drown out noise

  • Invest in good curtains. These will not only block light when you’re trying to sleep but can also help insulate against noises from outside 


In the event that none of these options work, however, and you need to take larger steps, you have a few options.


You can discreetly let your Community Adviser (CA) know about the noise level, for one. Chances are, you’re not the only one bothered by the noise. If you know your neighbors or are particularly brave, you can also risk confronting them. As is the case with roommates, remain calm and mature about it.


Respect is key. Oftentimes, they aren’t even aware of their noise level, so a simple “Hey, do you mind turning your music down?” or a request along those lines will do the trick. 


Most of all, keep in mind that they’re students, too. Everyone needs a chance to relax, but everyone needs to be able to study and sleep, too. 



Iowa State has a number of dining options available for students living on campus. Every student living in the dorms is required to purchase a meal plan. There are four meal plans to choose from, each with its own number of meals and extra options. The deadline to change or cancel your meal plan is Aug. 27. After that, there are no changes available. 


There are a variety of locations and options available when it comes to dining on campus. There are four dining centers in which students use a meal swipe and can have as much food as they want from these buffet-style locations. There is one near every residence hall.


There are also plenty of cafes, convenience stores and other places around campus where you can use Flex Meals and Dining Dollars for snacks, drinks and meals, depending on your dining plan. Flex Meals are set dollar amounts that you can spend on a meal, a side and a drink, like at Lance & Ellie’s in the Memorial Union, for example. The amount your Flex Meal is worth is determined by what meal plan you have. If your meal adds up to over the total, you will have to pay the difference. If you spend under the amount of the Flex Meal, you won’t be refunded the difference. Try to use these for specific meals to get the most bang for your buck.


Dining Dollars are helpful for snacks and convenience shop items, and they can even be used at the Panda Express in the Memorial Union or at vending machines in your residence hall. Dining Dollars are an exact dollar-to-dollar ratio, but you may get deals on how much you buy when picking out your meal plan. 


For students who want to work on campus, ISU Dining also has openings year-round. For information on employment opportunities, check ISU Dining’s website under the “Employment” tab. 


ISU Dining also provides a list of their rules and policies on their website.


Mail and packages

Every residence hall has a hall desk where students can receive their mail and packages. For letters, students will be assigned a mailbox that corresponds with their dorm room. Mailrooms cannot refrigerate any items, so perishable packages are not recommended. 


When a package is received, the Department of Residence will send you an email with a package number. You’ll use that email to sign out your package from your hall desk. 


Make sure to write your dorm address down correctly to have your package sent to the right place. Format your address like this:


Resident’s Full Name

Hall Name House Name

Street Address, Room #

Ames, IA  Zip Code


With these tips, you’re sure to pass the year with flying colors. Welcome back to school, Cyclones!