Ten Practical Advice For Dormitory Life

It's graduation time once more and many kids in the provinces will be moving to Manila for college. Parents are busy preparing for this move emotionally and financially. Thank God, I did not have to do that as my son chose to go to a university less than 25 kms from our house.  Last year  however, I was asked by my brother to assist my nephew for his move to Ateneo de Manila, where he was going to be enroll as a college freshman.  Why me?  Well, I think it's because I am most familiar with Metro Manila and I continue to come and go for seminars and other work related events.  Like me, my brother also spent his 8 years of schooling there, but for the last 15 years or so, he rarely goes there and he says he does not know how to get around anymore.  So last June 2011, I helped my nephew settle in his student residence outside campus. The whole experience of helping him move was I think, not much different to my own experience in the mid-70's when I went to UST, also in Manila to study.  In fact, I had a strong sense of deja vu...only this time I was no longer the child but in the role of my mother.  Living away from all things familiar and a pampered life, makes a person very appreciative of what they left behind.  I won't write about how to choose a dorm or boarding house, as I'm sure most if not all Manila-bound students have chosen a place to live by now, rather here are my 10 practical advice to help parents and children make a painless transition from living at home to away from home.

Practical Advice No. 1  Make A List/ Checklist
Making lists helped me organize all the essential things my nephew needed for dorm life. I divided the items into categories like dorm room necessities, electronics, clothes, etc...and those we can bring from home or source locally and those we will buy in Manila. I used a computer for this since it was too tiresome writing it down.  This helped us save money on many things like pillows, bed linens, clothes, etc.  The list also was a way to keep an inventory of all the things he had.

Practical Advice No. 2  Open A Bank Account
Open an ATM bank account for easy transfer of funds for allowances and other miscellaneous expenses.  It would also be useful if your child has an e-card (attached to your main credit card) for on-line payments of airline tickets. For easier financial management, dormitory fees can be paid directly by way of PDC's (post-dated checks) good for one year.

Practical Advice No. 3 Make A Budget
It is important that a budget is made so that parents can make a projection of the amount of money they have to prepare for each semester. The budget should include food allowance, dormitory fees including electricity, water and laundry, school expenses like projects, field trips, etc., grocery and toiletries. Other miscellaneous expenses can be requested for and reimbursed when necessary. This will help your child be conscious to live within a budget and avoid unnecessary expenses.

Practical Advice No. 4 Plan An Itinerary
Before leaving, it would be useful to check via the internet (for ex. google maps) the surrounding area where your child will be living and plan an itinerary of places to check out. In my case, I had a daily schedule of where to go and what to do for the 6 and a half days that I was there. It made each day more organized and less tiring.

Practical Advice No. 5  Have A Mini-Conference With Dorm Manager
Aside from the usual contract signing and house rule orientation, ask for a mini-conference with the dorm manager.  Here we were able to talk about safety and curfew, visitors, transportation, laundry, use of kitchen appliances (not allowed) and other related issues.  It is important to ask and clarify all concerns especially if this is not clear or well understood. This also established a good rapport between the dorm staff and myself which facilitated an open and easy communication between us in the coming months.

Practical Advice No. 6 Explore and Identify
Use every available opportunity to familiarize your child with his new environment. Once we arrived at the airport, I began giving him tips on traveling alone and as we were going to his dormitory, I pointed out places that can be used as landmarks. The next few days we walked around the area, checked out the banks near his dorm, the eating places, churches, etc. We also checked out the local transport, the tricycle whose route includes the Ateneo campus. And don't forget the MRT/LRT. It is the fastest way to commute but avoid the rush hours. We went to the nearest malls and visited relatives in the Quezon City area. We also explored the whole length of Katipunan Avenue and found that basically everything can be found here.

Practical Advice No. 7  Make Friends, Establish Contacts
Once settled in, encourage your child to get to know his roommate/s and to make friends with other dormers.  It would be wise also to establish contact with schoolmates who are already studying in Manila.  My nephew and I met up with his seniors in high school a few days after we arrived.  They were only too happy to assist him. As the days went by, we saw other students with their parents coming in and I would start a conversation with them much to my nephew's embarrassment.  Also, meet up with relatives living in the area (Quezon City in our case), know how to go to their houses, get their contact numbers.

Practical Advice No. 8  Create A System/Coordinate with Roommate/s
Living away from home means you have to learn how to take care of yourself. This means taking charge of your meals, laundry, personal belongings, etc. Then there is scheduling the cleaning of the room by housekeeping, trash collection, use of air-conditioners and other electrical appliances in the room, including placing of food in the fridge and pantry. A system should be agreed upon with your roommate/s regarding the use of facilities and common areas/communal items for harmonious living.

Practical Advice No. 9 Know Important Numbers
Keep a list of emergency numbers like the doctor, assigned guardian (my aunt in our case), front desk, dorm manager, security. Provide the dormitory with contact numbers of family and next of kin.

Practical Advice No. 10 Watch Your Back
Better safe than sorry. Don't take unnecessary chances. Those are noteworthy statements that I have tried to inculcate in the minds of my children and my brother's children. Manila is not a safe city and it is up to us to make it safer for our kids. We warn them, teach them to be streetwise, provide them with skills and knowledge but we can only do so much...the rest, we leave up to God.


  1. hi doc merl,
    This extracted feelings of deja vu for me too. Although I've studies in uplb, i'll never forget the feeling of certain independence. 16 years old and feeling free and growing and learning! awesome!

  2. Very helpful pieces of advice, Doc Merl. I remember, I used to have in almost all my notebooks in high school the number of the nearest police station and that of DSWD because I was only 13 years old when I left my province and lived with a relative who financed my high school education. Being a promdi, Manila was a big, strange jungle for me haha.

    Just dropping in from FBW and saying hi to a fellow Tomasina :) Magandang araw po :)

    Miss N of

  3. budgetting is really important

  4. tis very nice advice and good infos for the parents or relatives whos havng a hard time listing down things to do.

  5. I will urge my niece to read this as she may still get some helpful tips, as she's also a dormer in ADMU.

  6. make a budget and watch your back <---- very very true.

    it's very important for those living in the dorm to make a budget talaga kasi they are living away from home. and watching ones back rin is very important kasi you never know what kind of people you'll be with.

    have a fruitful holy week =)

  7. Yay! very practical ways to spend a day or so in Manila. What I am only familiar with is that 'watch your back' since I usually watch stories in TV about pick-pocket scenario or anything else close to that event. :)

  8. Practical Advice No. 9 – Know Important Numbers. Lalo na sa panahon ngayon. It is really more important to have.

  9. dorm life is a great way for teens and young adults to learn how to be independent.

  10. when I first lived in a boarding house I have difficulty making friends with other people because I always stayed in my room. This practical tips are of great help.

  11. If I could turn back time and convince my parents for me to stay at a dorm, I would definitely do your tips as religiously as I can. ^_^

  12. I stayed in a dorm way back in college and I definitely recommend your tips in this post.

  13. I never experienced that. Buti na lang. I might not have survived.

  14. The only time I lived in a dorm was when I was reviewing for the CPA board exams. It does help you develop an independent mindset and develops your social skills. I so agree with your advice.

  15. Do not leave cash on your cabinets!

  16. Thanks for this! For sure you help a lot of people who stay far from their home. Everything is true! :)

  17. Really practical advises for staying in a dorm while studying away from home. I appreciate these 10 tips.

  18. Helpful tips. Many will benefit from this.


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