Straight Talk Advice

College freshman dreads barfing, urinating students

Jul 28, 2015

Drug-free dorms in college — do they exist?

Dear Straight Talk: I’m going to college next month and dread the horror stories of drinking and drug use in the dorms. I do not use drugs and hope to never start. Do colleges have drug-free dorm halls? Or please suggest how to deal with students barfing and peeing in the halls, stumbling around naked, or needing help in the bathrooms as my sister (who is into the party scene) describes. Do I just look the other way? Will I be unpopular?  —J.N., 18, Toledo, Ohio

Lisa 23, Eugene, Oregon Ask me a question

Horror stories definitely exist, but much depends on your school and dorm. One dorm on my campus was the “party” dorm, while mine was so quiet and antisocial I felt I was missing out on the college experience — not that I wanted to use drugs. Looking back, I wish I'd joined more clubs. They offer a great solution to both problems. Even with drug-free policies, many students break the rules. If this causes too much mess and noise, complain. You'd be surprised how many students share your view. Starting college is intense! I felt pressure for it be like in the movies, even though I didn't necessarily want that, but then it felt weird when it wasn't. I ended up creating wonderful friendships and you will, too.

Christina 22, Marysville, California Ask me a question

I lived in the dorms and was a resident advisor for two years. As a federally-funded state college, our campus and halls had drug-free policies. That said, stuff does happen somewhat regularly — like at every college. Some kids get caught, some don't. Resident advisors are human, some more lenient than others. Their main concern is safety, not kicking kids out. My big takeaway: Not everyone parties. And you can coexist without being influenced. Best approach: Get involved in events and clubs. Ask for a room or hall change if needed.

Nick 18, Corte Madera, California Ask me a question

I go to college and there are plenty of people who don't party. Don't worry about it making you unpopular.

Samantha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

I commuted to college so avoiding the party scene was pretty easy. By college, I was mostly turned off to it anyway. Could you live off campus or commute? If not, focus on your studies and speak up about problems to a supervisor, asking to keep your name anonymous.

Justin 18, Brentwood, California Ask me a question

I'm about to start college as well. Who cares if they don't like you? Hopefully you don't need their approval if they're not your type. In college you make friends for life so don't waste time with incompatible people. You control the quality of your experience.

Elle 19, Boca Raton, Florida Ask me a question

I'm on a dry campus with zero-tolerance for drugs, but that doesn't stop everyone. An agreed-upon clean-and-sober dorm is a great idea to broach with your school. You're paying crazy tuition and deserve that! A barfing hall mate is not your responsibility. Get involved in clubs or intramurals and find friends who aren't puking all night. Say no to study drugs, too, and earn your degree with real sweat and tears (people do). Be able to tell your future kids about college without embarrassing omissions.

Dear J.N.: Bravo to being substance-free! Unfortunately, those horror stories (and I've read many, ah, sobering ones on our comment board) are from “drug-free” halls. All college dorms are drug-free in policy. But in practice? As Lisa says, they vary widely. You're smart to avoid the peer pressure — and the lovely smells. Call housing or use an online student forum to determine which dorms have studious reputations and specifically request them. Clubs sound like a great way to find fun. Many freshman die or are raped while intoxicated so looking the other way is cool if the student appears safe, otherwise call 911 and/or assist her or him until help takes over — I know you'd want this for your sister.

Editor's Note: The horror stories are real. And so is the peer pressure. Despite what Christina says about being able to “co-exist", for many, the pressure to appear “fun” is too big.

To parents reading this, your conversations do make a difference! Drinking is the top culprit in college hookups, rapes, arrests, alcoholism, early death — as well as low grades and dropping out. A recent Penn State study shows that drinking is significantly reduced when parents speak calmly with their kids about the dangers.

The most effective time for such conversations is before college starts. Don't delay. A top resource for how to make your communication effective is the Tufts Parent Handbook. I beg you read it. 

Also, please read Part 1 and Part 2 of our double column on college drinking/drug use. You will be glad you did because THERE IS TIME TO TALK TO YOUR KIDS IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS BEFORE THEY LEAVE. Reading these quick columns will show you why it's so important! 

TO TEENS who won't be getting this talk from your parents, I'm telling you right now, this is YOUR life. Almost every major decisions that will affect you for the rest of your life, you will make when your parents are not around. I had parents who actually supported me — to drink! I first got drunk with them when I was 12. My parents were alcoholics and they misguidedly thought that if I got sick enough I would leave it alone (and not end up like them). Alcohol doesn't work like that, and the younger you start, the more likely you will end up alcoholic. At 14, I drank to unconsciousness; nobody took me to the hospital. I weighed only 80 pounds and am lucky to be alive and writing this.

Eventually, I learned that I needed to be my own best parent if I was going to get anywhere in life, or even have one. In fact, I spent a lot of time thinking about what a 'best' parent does so I could have one inside me — and someday possibly be one for my own kids. That said, the Tufts' parent handbook is a great resource for you, too. And so is the Part 1 and Part 2 of the double column. I can't recommend both enough for developing your own best inner parent: one who holds high expectations of you, listens, loves you unconditionally through mistakes, respects and understands you and your world, is reasonable and fair, and who you can trust to be honest with you about the facts — including being tough when needed.

For many, you are all you've got. Your life ultimately comes down to you. Developing your own inner parent is part of becoming the best you can be. —Lauren

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  1. By Mindy, age 19, from Santa Ana, CA on 07/28/2015

    I can really relate to this.  I couldn’t wait to go away to college and get away from having to share a room with my pesky little sister who couldn’t leave me alone and drove me crazy and would even make excuses to walk in me in the bathroom when I was on the toilet just to bug me.  I thought it would be great to share a room with someone mature like I.  I even chose what was supposed to be a “drug free” dorm, which was a total joke.  I ended up with a roommate who would come back from parties every weekend either totally smashed from drinking or loaded with drugs or a combination of both.  It should not have been my responsibility, but I learned very fast that if I didn’t take her to the bathroom so that she could barf in the toilet and help her on and off the toilet and stand there while she peed and pooped, there was a great likelihood that she would do these things in her bed (as happened more than once), and if I didn’t clean her and everything else up, I had to live with the stench, so I had little choice.  I would also have to undress her and put her in bed after taking her to the bathroom. I was stuck with her the whole first semester until I was able to move in with another girl who is more like I who also had a roommate similar to mine whom she wanted to escape.  Even so, we still had to put up with the girls on our hall who would barf in the hallway and bathroom floor and even sometimes pee and even poop on the bathroom floor when they were too wasted to make it to the toilet!  This usually happened on weekends and the maids who cleaned the bathrooms weren’t working, so the rest of us would have to either clean it up ourselves or live with the stench.

    This ruined my freshman year, and my roommate and I are going to live in an apartment next year.  All we can afford is a very small, cheap, 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment, but that seems like heaven after the dorm.  Sharing a room again with my little sister this summer also doesn’t even seem nearly so bad anymore after the dorm.


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    1. By Miranda, age 17, from Carmichael, CA on 07/28/2015

      It was very similar with my sister.  We had always been very close and actually liked sharing a room and always being together and being there for each other.  She was the one I went to about things like using Kotexes and waxing as I was too embarrassed to talk to our mom or do such intimate things in front of her, but I was totally comfortable with my sister who was very good about helping me with things like this as well as being someone I could always confide in.  Then, when she was a senior, she suddenly decided that she wanted nothing to do with her “little sister” and started constantly putting me down and even making fun of my less than perfect body when I was naked in our room which really hurt.  She couldn’t wait to go to college and live in a dorm and get away from me.  However, she ended up with a “Roommate from Hell” similar to the one described by Mindy.  She realized that sharing a room with me wasn’t so bad and now treats me like she used to when she’s at home during vacations and in the summer and we’re sharing a room again.  I’m sorry about her terrible experience, but I’m also very glad to have my sister back the way she always was before.

      This also worries me as I will be a senior next month and will be applying to college.  I also looked forward to living in a dorm, but from the horror stories I’ve heard from my sister and others and read about (including this week’s column) I’m really starting to wonder.


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    2. By C.K., age 17, from Vacaville, CA on 07/29/2015

      I’m in a similar situation and I’m not even in college yet!  My “roommate from hell” is my 18 year old stepsister who moved in with us recently after her mom kicked her out and I have to share my room and full-size bed with.  She has an older “badboy” boyfriend who takes her to parties and she comes back drunk and sometimes I think wasted on other drugs.  My mom and stepdad are asleep when she comes in at 2 or 3 a.m., but she wakes me up when she comes in.  I sometimes have to help her to the bathroom and on and off the “facility” so that she can pee (and sometimes poop) before going to bed and then help her undress and get in bed where she then passes out.  I’ve also seen bruises on her body when she’s naked like was written about recently in Straight Talk, and I’m sure he did it. 

      I was looking to going away to college in another year and getting away from all this, but from what I’m reading here it sounds like things could well be just as bad in a college dorm.


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  2. By Cindy, age 18, from Salinas, California on 07/30/2015

    This really scares me!  I’m going away to college in less than a month and was really looking forward to it, but now I’m getting scared as I’ve also heard similar horror stories from my best friend’s older sister when I’ve been there for sleepovers in their room this summer.  I also selected a drug free dorm, but it sounds like that is no guarantee.  I was also looking forward to getting away from my sister with whom I have never gotten along well with sharing a room and having her put my overweight body down when I’m nude, but it’s very hard to never be nude in front of someone you’re sharing a room with and I couldn’t care less about her seeing me if she didn’t put me down.  I was therefore looking forward to having a more mature roommate my own age and hopefully become good friends with the one I would live in the same room with.  That still could happen as obviously not everyone is a “roommate from hell” on drugs such as those who have been described.  I guess it will be the luck of the draw, but I’m starting to get worried. 


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    1. By Quinn, age 18, from Rohnert Park, CA on 07/31/2015

      Don’t just assume that dorm life will be like it is described in the horror stories others have written about.  I’m sure it happens some places, but this has not been my experience, and I am not convinced that it is the norm in college dorms.  I’m not saying things are perfect in my dorm and sometimes girls have come back from parties sick and have thrown up in the bathroom, but I’ve never seen anything like barfing in the hallway or peeing and pooping on the floor.  When my roommate went to her first party she got very drunk as it was the first time she’d ever had hard liquor and only had a little beer and wine before.  She was in really bad shape and I did have to help her to the bathroom to throw up and even help her pull down her pants and get her on the toilet, but at least she did her “business” in the toilet, although I’m not sure she could have without my help.  I also had to help her undress and get in bed.  The next day she was very apologetic and promised to never do it again.  She learned her lesson and never did it again.  We became good friends and sharing a room with her was a good experience and we are going to room together again next year.  I’ve always had my own room, so I wasn’t sure what it would be like to share a room full time, but it turned out not to be a problem other than this one incident, and I could handle it one time.  I did have to share my room with my stepsister during visitations which was not a pleasant experience as she was very selfish and always had to have everything her way and sharing a room with her every other weekend was much worse than sharing a room with my roommate full time. 

      I think part of the problem that others have described is that unfortunately alcohol is freely available and many college freshmen are not used to it, so they do get wasted like as has been described.  The same is true for other drugs.  Drug free dorms are a nice idea, but I’m not sure that it is possible to enforce such a policy in reality.


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  3. By Janice, age 19, from Redding, CA on 07/31/2015

    I decided to go to a school with a reputation as a “party school” as I wanted to have fun along with getting a good education.  It was also the nearest state university (Chico State) to my home.  I also decided to live on a coed dorm hall as I thought that would make it easy to meet guys.  Roommates were same sex and they had separate bathrooms and showers for guys and girls, but guys and girls lived on the same hall, even next door to each other.  This was a huge mistake!  The partying went on at all hours of the night making it very hard to study or to get any sleep.  Some guys would walk around the hall in boxer shorts and even male thong underwear that showed the outline of their crotches which made me very uncomfortable and embarrassed, but didn’t seem to bother most of the girls as they had chosen this lifestyle, but I didn’t know what I was getting into.  I ended up with a roommate who was not only a party girl, but was also practically a nudist and spent most of the time in our room either nude or just in her thong.  I’m not overly modest and it has never bothered me to see other girls nude or for them to see me when there’s a reason for it.  I shared a room with my sister and we never had a problem with nudity in front of each other.  Even so, I didn’t like having to look at my roommates nude body all the time and it made me very uncomfortable.  She would even go to the shower nude even though she knew that guys could be in the hall and often were, but it didn’t phase her at all.  In fact, she seemed to get a kick out of exposing herself and having the guys oogle her body. 

    After one semester, I moved into the drug free, all girl dorm and things were much better.  It wasn’t really 100% drug free, but it was much, much better than the coed party dorm, and I was much better able to concentrate on my studies.  My new roommate was also much easier to live with and much more like me.  We weren’t shy about undressing in front of each other and it didn’t bother me to see her nude, but I was glad not to have to look at her nudity all the time as with my first roommate.


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    1. By Clair, age 19, from Sylvania, OH on 08/01/2015

      Living in a coed party dorm was also a disaster for me.  I didn’t know it meant that both guys and girls would walk around in thongs and sometimes even naked in front of each other or that there would be loud music until 3 or 4 a.m. on a regular basis.  And yes, sometimes people would barf and even pee in the hall and the bathroom floor and one time somebody even pooped in the middle of the bathroom floor.  It was gross!  The girls’ showers would always get crowded during the morning rush, so some girls would actually go and use the guys showers which weren’t as crowded if you can believe that!  I’m not overly modest and have never been shy about nudity in front of other girls, but not guys and I don’t want to see guys nude either!  My sister and I never had a problem with nudity with each other in our room and were even comfortable sharing the bathroom, but we didn’t even let our own brother see us nude by the time we were 5 or 6 years old.  Therefore, the coed dorm life was a total shock to me.  Fortunately, my roommate was more like I am than the others and we also moved into the all girl dorm and things were much better. 


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  4. By Marsha, age 42, from Santa Rosa, CA on 08/02/2015

    My daughter also had a horrible experience living in a coed-party dorm.  Even though we live close enough to her college for her to commute from home, she wanted to have the experience of dorm life.  Also, like some of the others have described she wanted to escape sharing a room with her younger sister and have a more “mature” roommate.  She ended up with one of the “roommates” from hell and also could not stand the drug use, partying, and lack of modesty in the coed dorm hall.  She ended up coming home every weekend, and suddenly did not mind sharing a room with her sister any longer.  The coming year she is going to commute to school and is now happy to have her sister as her “roommate.”  The girls are now much closer and get along much better sharing a room, which is the one good thing that came out of this.

    I think that it is sad that drugs and alcohol are so rampant in college dorms and spoil things for those like my daughter and the others who have written who are not into this type of lifestyle.


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    1. By Elle, age 19, from Boca Raton, FL on 08/03/2015


      You’re absolutely right, it is sad that drugs and alcohol are so rampant and are the cause of many ruined college experiences. What’s even sadder, I believe, is the lack of parental influence when it comes to choosing schools or dorms! As the parent, wouldn’t you want the best for your daughter (especially if you’re the one helping to fund her education)? Is a party dorm the best for her? And coed?! Big-time yikes.

      Once we hit 18 and are legal adults, that doesn’t mean it’s in our best interest for you, our parents, to leave all the decision-making in our hands. At 18, we know very little. 

      Parents should think twice and offer serious advice and guidance when it comes to dorm choices. College is already an unnatural grouping of hormonal young adults, and placing them in such close proximity to one another in one building is just as dangerous as dropping a match in gasoline.

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  5. By Alison, age 23, from Washington, DC on 08/04/2015

    I graduated from college last year and I can say that picking the right dorm and roommate are the key to avoiding such horror stories, but that can be difficult or almost impossible for first-year students. My best advice is not to put up with bad situations. The first couple weeks are usually worse than the rest of the year, but if it keeps up for more than a month, don’t hesitate to complain to your RA or housing administration and ask to be moved. Many colleges have spare rooms just for this purpose. I had several friends who put up with terrible situations for too long because they didn’t think they were justified in their complaints at the time, but when they look back on it they don’t know how they put up with it for so long! Dealing with the administration and advocating for yourself can be scary when you’re just starting college, but as a student you are entitled to a safe environment conducive to helping you get your degree. This includes a clean and quiet dorm. Good luck to all of you starting college this fall!

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