Should I live on campus?

I highly recommend you stay on or near campus. However, your decision should be made looking through two lenses. The first is to look at it through the lens of cost. Living on campus is the #2 (and sometimes #1!) driver of college cost. In other words, living on campus is expensive. If your main goal is to get out with a little debt as possible, consider cutting your budget for living expenses (staying in a lower-cost dorm, enrolling in a low-cost meal plan, etc.) or not living on campus at all.

The second lens is student success. Living on campus will increase your likelihood of getting involved in on-campus activities and places you closer to academic resources located on campus. This, in turn, raises the chances you will be successful in college. Getting involved on campus will no only give you a better college experience, opens up opportunities for leadership roles or paid work positions (which, ironically, can lower the overall college bill).

When should I confirm my housing arrangements?

Make sure you book your housing early! If you don’t, you might miss out on the ideal living situation; housing options can fill up quickly (lower-cost, improved programming, ideal location). It’s the worst feeling when you get to campus only to realize you have to apartment shop because on-campus housing is booked.

Also, make sure to read your lease and abide by the terms of your contract. I know this goes without saying, but not doing what you’ve agreed to in a contract can lead to financial penalties, which are typically unexpected and not in the budget.

What should I bring to my residence hall or dorm?

Before you start to pack your bags, consider the college’s location. If it’s close to your home, you can get away with a minimal amount of personal items. This will decrease the hassle (and expense) of moving and give you an excuse to go home and reconnect with friends and family (it’s common for first-year freshman to feel homesick for the first semester or two).

If the college is far away, plan to pack more. In this scenario you should also consider if it’s cheaper to buy and item new rather than transport an older version over long distances.

Check your residence life website for a packing list for move-in day, or look at another college’s website.  A quick google search will give you several examples. I will recommend this short list typically includes:

  • Bedding (pillows, sheets, blankets)
  • Alarm Clock
  • Towels and personal items (toothbrush, etc.)- shower tote and flip flops if a communal shower
  • Laptop, pens, paper and other essential school supplies
  • Books (if you’ve already bought them)
  • Backpack
  • Lamp (sometimes rooms can get dark)
  • Laundry hamper or bag
  • Hangers
  • Power strip with a surge protector
  • Refrigerator (not full-size) and microwave (sometimes provided or included as a rental package)
  • Clothes
  • Glasses and sunglasses
  • Clothes
  • Medications
  • Trash can (sometimes included)
  • Basic set of dishes and silverware
  • Bicycle
  • Decorations

Make sure to read your dorm’s guidelines for what you can’t bring into the hall. Most of the time open flamed candles, pets, and the like are strictly forbidden and carry heavy fines.

Finally, take advantage of move-in day if you are living on campus. Many schools provide volunteers, water, and other pleasantries that will make your move more enjoyable.

This blog post is part of a series on how to be successful in college.