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Exam Prep for the Dorm Kids: Making Personal Space

I’ve never had trouble making friends. I love being around people, and I like to think that I’m fun and interesting enough that people like to be around me. But as my exams came rolling around, I quickly realized that I no longer want to sacrifice my grades for a social life. Don’t get me wrong- I can unequivocally say that I made the right choice in the on-campus residence I picked here I the University of Waterloo. My don is fantastic, my roommate is by best friend, and all of us on my floor regularly congregate in our hallway for cuddle-fests. But I needed boundaries. The social gluttony has gotten stale. At first, I tried just leaving my rez and going to the library. But it’s big and impersonal, and I like to get warm and cozy with a mug of hot chocolate when I study. And then I tried going to the quiet study rooms in my rez, which are excellent and work at least 80% of the time. But I don’t like having to leave my room to get work done. As social as I am, I’m very much a home body, and I like being able to work and live in the same space.So, much like the inspiration for the post-it calendar, I came up with this idea in the middle of the night after this dilemma was keeping my awake for a touch too long. Behold the Epic Do Not Disturb Sign:

Full Length Door- Sharper Picture

It consists of 4 parts: 1) A Declaration- “Stress Free Zone” sign. Beside it was a horizontal strip of paper detailing my new rule: “Everyone is heretofore forbidden from coming into my room to complain about academia related stresses.” I actually kicked people out when they come seeking me to talk about how they have 6 exams 4 essays and a dissertation of epic proportions due in the nest 48 hours. I have my own stress, as as much as I love my friends, I need a sacred space to my own, free of the nastiness of “reality”. To do so requires that I keep the energy in my room positive at all times.

stress free zone

2) My hours of operation- on weekdays, I had a strict “I will not open this door unless we planned on doing something earlier” rule. It’s 9am-9pm each day. (I had a lot of catching up to do.) Weekend hours vary. Notice the bright colours so there is no excuse for not seeing it. The important part of Do Not Disturb hours is to maintain them. At first, I was terrible at this. But then I really buckled down and people began to understand just how serious I was.

do not disturb colours

3) How to Reach Me- I admire Cal Newport, and talk about him all the time. But his whole “making himself difficult to find so he can work uninterrupted” dance would never work for me. I am only a pretend hermit, and would slowly die inside if people began to feel like I’m unapproachable. So I make my phone number, my twitter and my facebook all available so friends can warn me before they come by. I also specified that I’d like to be text’d, because I can let texts build up, but ignored phone calls send me on a guilt trip.



if it cant wait

4) The Exception to the rule- the only exception is if my door is open, which means that I’ve finished studying for the day, and am available for whatever. Except listening to academic complaints, which is a never. It says “mi casa es su casa” which is Spanish (probably) for “my home is your home”. My door was kept closed most of the time.

The Exception

And then of course I let my roommate know of the importance of my Do Not Disturb hours.

So, how did I manage on my exams after enforcing stronger personal boundaries? Well, I got a 79.9% average in my first term, which isn’t bad. It’s not the Dean’s List average I was aiming for, and it especially stings because I missed the mark by 0.1%, but I am now going into my second term with a greater understanding of the importance of jealously guarding my personal space and keeping my mental space clutter free.

My question to all of you who lived in residence: Did you have this problem of too much socializing, or where you able to keep it under control? If so, how? If not, why not?

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67 Responses to “Exam Prep for the Dorm Kids: Making Personal Space”

  1. Tom says:

    Kept mine under control by going to the library 8am-6pm most days and sat in the silent areas. Earlier if I could get up – the library is 24 hours but got noisy from 3pm onwards but was dead in the early mornings. Then went home and chilled out in the evenings with several beers!

  2. Ayomide! says:

    Beer is always good! I think it’s way cool how your library is 24 hours. What I would give for that on those insomniatic nights!

  3. My residence experience was that the social life swamped everything else. Partytime was anytime, so needless to say my college education never culminated in my earning a degree. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, it was huge fun!

  4. Link Wheel says:

    I think you will naturally find a balance between work and friends, and it is always important to pursue both.

  5. free beats says:

    Beer is always good!

  6. scalp med says:

    My friends would never respect a sign on my door like that. Love your creativity though.

  7. Ayomide! says:

    @ Link Wheel. Well, the reason I made the sign was because that natural balance was taking much too long to even itself out. So I sped it along a bit :P

    @scalp med. Oh, my friends ignored it at first. But after they kept getting ignored during my work hours, they figured it out!

  8. used tires says:

    I can relate to alot of what you are saying Ayomide which is why next year I am going to go for a single dorm room, right now I have a shared room, which at times makes it very hard to study. And you are right.. it is just not the same as studying in your own room. Thats great that you were able to dedicate yourself like that and brave enough to put up a sign!

    Till then,


  9. Money Bins says:

    I cant stress how important a quality personal room is for having success as a student. Thanks for the article.

  10. Nice post! Really a very good experience about a kid life…..

  11. Do you share a very useful article. learned thanks to you

  12. Ana Zoby says:

    I live in Brazil and in my residence we have to share the room with 2 other girls, wich makes 3 of us in the room. It’s not always easy to manage everyone’s schedule, but we try. Sometimes we fail. But since we study and work, we are at home almost never. But when I have to study for real I go to the library, but a library far from my course’s building so i don’t keep finding friends and losing time in conversations. Or i just go to a room in the college that just me and more 2 or 3 other students got the keys, so you never get disturbed there. ;D

    PS.: sorry about the miserable english!

  13. I would like to have “stress-free zone”. For me such achievement is almost impossible to get. Living with a lot of alien people around I just can’t relax the way I like it.

  14. Ayomide! says:

    I love seeing how so many other people have this issue! You’d think with such a universal problem, people would just “get” the need to stay out of each others’ hair!

    @Jean- See, the thing is that I LOVE my roommate. We’re best friends, and I truly believe that I lucked out with her, and we want to live together again next year- I wouldn’t trade her for the world, and even with studying together in the room, we have very similar peak working hours and off hours, so that works just fine. The problem is all my other friends who are all night owls while I like to wake up early and be in bed early. I love them, but chatting all the time burns daylight hours for me. Did you not like your roomie?

    @ Ana- First off, you English was great, so you have nothing to apologize for, :D and second, I think it’s a great idea to just remove yourself from the noise and distractions completely. I want to really start doing that more often, but my ocd tends to keep me in my room, as I get scared that I’ll forget something I need and will have to trek all the way back to get it, haha! When you go to the library to study, do you work on just one subject while you’re there, or go through multiple?

  15. I definitely had this problem in college. When you live with a bunch of friends, it is quite tempting to spend more time drinking and partying. Studying and doing homework is just not as attractive. I even skipped some classes just to stay at home and party with them. I can’t say I actually found a way to properly deal with the distractions.

  16. free beats says:

    always good!

  17. I didn’t have as much of a problem with this in college as I didn’t live in the dorm. but I still run into this problem in my office, People just walk in and want to start talking to you.

  18. I didn’t have this problem in college so much as I have it in my office. I wonder how my coworkers will like my new “Stress Free Zone” Sign?

  19. I have to be honest that I never had this experience as I never went to college, but went straight into the working world, but this something that I will be passing onto a friends child that has just gone to college this year, I am sure that it will come in very handy to him.

  20. Kim Diamond says:

    This is great information and I will be giving the tips to my kids as they start college this year, the eldest could have really benefited from these great tips. Wish she had them 2 years ago. :)

  21. used tires says:

    I have liked all my roommates, but its just that privacy is good you know? And plus… we never get along with sleep times etc.

    Till then,


  22. oyun oyna says:

    ok honestly this is one of the best ideas ive read yet about blogging.. again im in a specific businessy niche and its not a lot of fun to read about pens and hats and golf shirts…. but… maybe i can start a series about some guy jet setting around to trade shows.. or something.. hmmm this im gonna do. thanks a ton

  23. Bidet says:

    Its always hard to balance social life with studying for exams but when exam weeks come, you should put some time to studying, but you should also have some fun. If you study all day you will burn out and do worse than if you studied and than took breaks.

  24. You are so right about this.

  25. Dan Northern says:

    Some really good tips here

  26. pen tablet says:

    That is some interesting idea. Private space is always a comfort and it is always very important to have one. I would even say that some safe and quiet place when no one disturbs you is necessary for your health.

  27. oyun oyna says:

    play games on my web site.

  28. It is best to set up a boarder to define your space. You can create a ‘room’ by using trellis sections in key places, like at right angles to define corners. Simply sink the trellis legs into large pots and plant flowers and vines in the pots so they grow up the trellis.

  29. study skills says:

    My doorm would have giant study parties. Nerdy, i know, but I made really good grades that year.

  30. If you want independence I think you have to take it regardless of whether he’s upset about it or not. Stop speaking with him every day. Do your own thing and find yourself a few dates of your own. Like the other woman said, he’s not dependable so don’t depend on him.

  31. I love this post. I’m a huge believer of a lot of personal space and I’m always surprised when others don’t feel (or act) the same way. You do a great job of addressing the concept of personal space in this post.

  32. India says:

    1 viewpoints- anything- just different views of things- different perspectives of images, maybe how people view skinny people and curvy? idk

    2.- boring one

    3- ANYTHING- just add words to your image

    4. anything again.. chinese new year, anything cultural

    5. photomontages- david hockney

    6.- maybe look at the body, draw the layers of the human, the skin, the skul, the brain. etc.

    7. my world- collage of everything that makes up.. you!

  33. The games on your flash drive or buy an external hard drive. they are really handy.check other user accounts if the computer is shared maybe other people are installing stuff on your computer

  34. Private space is a must, but there should always be pleasure after hard work!

  35. Kelly Foust says: has everything you need to be successful while taking college courses. There are professor reviews, study guides, tips, flashcards, and even an iPhone application available!
    You can find your exact classes and when new information arrives on them, you can check out what your fellow peers are saying!

    This site has helped me a lot and I highly suggest exploring it out and taking advantage of its FREE services!!

  36. I think Mary Carillo should be relieved from her job. She only has negative connotations about the players. She talks in such a monotone voice. She tries and tell us what the players are thinking. I think Maria Sharpovria said it best.

  37. Whoever the announcer is (sidekick to main one) on US Open live he delivers the most inane comments. He just ponderously told us that the ball doesn’t know the score! Really? Also heard was the fact that Federer was a magnificent stratagician. Stratagician? Oh well, this is America.

  38. That is rude of people to touch your hair. It is hard to prevent compliments and comments. If you see a comment coming step back from them and cross your arms as to set a boundary of your personal space. People who touch your hair are invading your personal space. Sorry you are going thru this. I bet Kramer from the sitcom Seinfeld had a similar problem.

  39. It sounds like a lot of things are wrong with the relationship you have with your sister and mum therefore you are using to Bulimia to feel in control…because you have no control in the family…maybe? I don’t know…Just a thought…

  40. Apparently their culture means a lot to them, and they are finding it difficult to accept that you choose to live your life a different way. It may cause some hard feelings but hopefully in the long run they’ll love you anyway.

  41. Environment in which the kids live is very important. If they feel comfortable and safe there shouldn’t be any problem with their education. But when their life is full of stress and doubts, and they feel like they’re in danger somehow then it can cause many problems, mostly with education efficiency.

  42. Yes, Kids can’t concentrate on their study if someone disturbing. And they also want 0.5-1 hr playing for refreshment.

  43. I still have to watch myself with how much personal space I sometimes (unconsciously) require, but as a result of my own needs, I find I’m more aware of others’. I tend to overcompensate and give people I’m near (in whatever capacity) as much space as I can.

  44. Maybe she has feelings for one of her guy friends and doesn’t want to lead you on so, she doesn’t really stay around you and makes excuses so it won’t seem like she’s rude when she leaves. Maybe there’s some stupid rumors going around and she doesn’t know what to believe. But, she’s obviously having mixed thoughts and doesn’t really know how to react when she’s around you.

  45. I find I’m more aware of others’. I tend to overcompensate and give people I’m near (in whatever capacity) as much space as I can…

  46. If a man isn’t getting it then he’s what’s called a Social Moron! LOL! I think you should push the envelope even further but don’t come across slutty. Try verbal communication if he’s not getting the whole body language thing. Most men aren’t very good when it comes to reading cues a woman gives them when she’s interested.

  47. used tires says:

    It’s definitely hard to focus on dealing with one’s own stress, let alone with others. Lately, I’ve been telling friends to call in at certain hours only and not disturb me the rest of the time.

    Till then,


  48. I hate noise when I study, so I guess it already explain it all. Just like you, I lock myself in a room or go somewhere peaceful and quite when I’m in the study mode. I easily get irritated with sounds (except from music), that takes away my concentration. But after a stressful week, I’m OK with any kind of noise and distractions then.

  49. Maybe he thinks you’re really pretty and gets nervous around you. Or likewise, maybe he’s attracted to you and gets nervous around you. Just give him some time and maybe approach him casually and hopefully over time he will grow more comfortable.

  50. Well, nothing changed since I was a University student. It was almost every day party time. So the study took longer as anticipated. But it was fun!! But I totally understand your handling and I think it will help you in getting on the Dean’s list. :)

  51. I guess it depends how old you are. I never hung out with girls when I was younger, and when I started (not too long ago), I got really nervous and shaky and stuff. Just talk with him and hang out with him, and eventually he should start feeling more comfortable.

  52. horoz says:

    It says “mi casa es su casa” which is Spanish (probably) for “my home is your home”. My door was kept closed most of the time.

    Are u really?

  53. WIth wiseguide, you don’t unless you buy their internet version. Also, the test prep cd looks exactly like the actual exam, but the questions won’t be the same.

  54. It says “mi casa es su casa” which is Spanish (probably) for “my home is your home”. My door was kept closed most of the time.

  55. I had this problem a lot in college. The sad thing is I ended up just going to my moms house to study. It wasn’t great that I had to leave but at least I knew I was getting a home-cooked meal and mom was impressed that I was “adult” enough to recognize I needed the quite space to do what had to be done.

  56. Pretty awesome what you were able to do, the easy part for me would be setting up the signs, the hard part… well… would be actually doing the work, hehe.

  57. mobile phone says:

    doesn’t just work for the dorm room. Works for many other areas of life…public transportation, shared office spaces, open office space, shared living arrangements.

  58. nice pics and article buddy.

  59. My friends would never respect a sign on my door like that. Love your creativity though.

  60. I tried going to the quiet study rooms in my rez, which are excellent and work at least 80% of the time. But I don’t like having to leave my room to get work done.

  61. I like your think of view. Sometimes we feeling bored, stress due to routine work, but this is stress free zone.

  62. That is rude of people to touch your hair. It is hard to prevent compliments and comments. If you see a comment coming step back from them and cross your arms as to set a boundary of your personal space. People who touch your hair are invading your personal space. Sorry you are going thru this. I bet Kramer from the sitcom Seinfeld had a similar problem.

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