Making the Move

The move to college can be exciting and liberating. It can also be terrifying and confusing. You don't know what to bring, who you'll meet, or what to expect in those first few weeks. However, with the right preparation and a good attitude, you can survive your first steps into the collegiate world.

Contributing Editor

Last Updated: Sep 6, 2011

Your parents pull away in their Volvo after a tearful goodbye from your mom and a firm handshake from your dad. Freedom at last. Now what?

The move to college can be exciting and liberating. It can also be terrifying and confusing. You don’t know what to bring, who you’ll meet, or what to expect in those first few weeks. However, with the right preparation and a good attitude, you can survive your first steps into the collegiate world.

Know before you go

Before you load the trailer to drive off to your dream school, you have to know what to pack. There are hundreds of listsout there telling you to take everything but the kitchen sink. (Do you really need a paper shredder in your bedroom?) Try to remember that most freshman dorm rooms have very limited space, so leave your personal library at home--you’ll be doing enough reading for classes.

When you’re packing all your worldly possessions, just keep one question in mind: do I really need this, or do I merely want it?

Here are a few tips to remember when packing:

  • Keep things you don’t need at home. A parka is useless in September. And those sandals will gather dust in your closet in January.
  • Bring storage for the items you pack. A crate here and a desk organizer there can go a long way in keeping things neat.
  • Don’t forget that you’ll most likely be walking down the hall to the showers, so flip flops are a must and a bathrobe is handy if you’re uncomfortable in a towel around others. (Lots of people aren’t, so be prepared!) You’ll also want to bring a tote or a shaving kit to carry everything in.
  • Beds are often extra-long twin beds, so take the appropriate sheets. A feather bed or mattress pad wouldn’t hurt, either.
  • Check lists on your school’s website for illegal items such as candles, certain types of lamps, and pets (just leave Fido at home).
  • Two words: duct tape. One roll can cure a whole mess of problems.

Most of the lists out there are pretty comprehensive, so take a peek and pick and choose what you really need versus what’s just going to waste space. Get in touch with your roommate about things like TVs, fridges, and microwaves so you don’t end up with two of each, or worse, none. If you happen to live near each other, consider meeting prior to the big move.

Dorm décor

This is the chance to show your new friends what makes you, well, you! There are millions of ways to make your dorm room unique, but don’t forget about your roommate. If you two want to hatch out a color scheme and stick to a unified theme, that’s great, but sometimes you’re just going to have to be satisfied with their plaid comforter, and they’ll deal with your all-fuchsia sheets. You both should be able to express yourselves and decorate how you want, which sometimes turns into some pretty interesting rooms.

You should also bring a few choice items from home. Pictures go a long way to ease the transition of moving out, and you can hang them up anywhere. Corkboards are convenient when you want to hang something up quickly, and dry-erase boards are key when you want to leave your roommate a message. Also, almost every school has poster sales at the beginning of the semester where you can get good finds for cheap, so take advantage of them!

Your bed is going to be your biggest piece of furniture, thus the focal point of your room. Grab a comforter in any color you love and dress it up with throw pillows and blankets. Make sure it is easy to clean, because you’ll be sleeping, eating, lounging, and studying on top of your bed. You’ll need to get extra lighting as well. The overhead lights are definitely not enough, and at times you are going to need light while your roommate wants to sleep. Desk lamps come in all different colors, with many providing places to put pens, pencils, and school supplies.

You’re also going to want to get some storage. It’s certainly a key to decorating at college. Depending on your room layout, you could get rack raisers for the bed so you can fit hampers and stylish storage bins underneath. Shoe racks can be hung in closets to maximize space and keep things organized (and not just shoes!).

If you’re decorating on a budget, or just want to find ways to go green, think about looking for reused items. You can find almost anything on Craigslist or in consignment and thrift stores. Also, websites like have great, budget-friendly ideas (like wrapping paper framed as art) to really make your place unique and stylish.

Freshman Facebook

“My freshman year of college was also Facebook’s first year,” says Stephanie Underhill, a 2008 graduate of Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. “Back then, it was strictly for college students, and Emerson wasn’t incorporated until October, so I spent a whole month aware of the Facebook mystique, but having no access to it. That first semester, once I signed up, I think I spent more time navigating Facebook than textbooks.”

By allowing high school students to access the site in 2005, Facebook created a place where college-bound teens can find out about the classes to take, professors to avoid, and best places to hang out. One advantage incoming freshmen have in the Facebook age is meeting their new roommate. Students can discuss likes, dislikes, room décor, and the logistics of move-in day, all without even so much as picking up their phone.

Groups on Facebook number among the millions, so finding people to network with isn’t a big problem. Most likely, if you run a search of “Your College, 2013,” multiple pages will turn up with freshmen entering this year just like you. You can start discussion topics with questions you have, or simply take a look at what everyone else is saying. Don’t be afraid to add someone as a friend; they’re new to the school, too!

Although Facebook certainly can’t replace meeting the people on your floor and the friends across the quad face-to-face, it can certainly help calm some of the first-day jitters. “Nowadays, you’ve practically got your master’s in Facebook and can be friends with your entire graduating class before you’ve even gotten to campus,” quips Underhill. “But old fogies like me had to meet people the old-fashioned way.”

Roommate rules

We’ve all heard the roommate horror stories. The girl who throws parties in your room at two in the morning on a Tuesday. The guy who refuses to bathe. The neat freak who gives you the death stare every time you dirty a dish. In a tiny space such as a freshman dorm room, there are going to be personality clashes. It’s unavoidable.

One thing to remember is to try not to arrive at college expecting your roommate to be your new best friend. Hey, if your personalities match, then great, but don’t be completely disappointed if you aren’t sharing clothes and braiding each other’s hair within a week. Some people have a hard time warming up to others. Some will be your complete opposite. You are not going to be friends with absolutely everyone in college, and that’s okay!

If issues begin to arise with your roommate, it’s important to take steps to solve them—quickly. Open communication is the best way to stop problems before they get out of hand. It’s a good idea to sit down and have a one-on-one talk at the beginning of the year and set down some ground rules. You should discuss things like music, sleeping schedules, and study habits.

If you clash on an issue, find a way to compromise. Being open to change is a great way to avoid a year spent bickering. Compromising with your roommate will allow both of you to lead a less-stressful life.

If you find there is still an issue, instead of filing for a room change right away, try working things out. Talk to an RA or someone who can help you two resolve your differences. This can be a great learning experience, so don’t be in a rush to move out.

With that said, roommates can also be your friend, confidant, or just a pal to get you through those first awkward weeks of college. Once you see past annoying habits, you may find the person typing away at the computer next to you is actually a nice person.

There is a good chance that you’ll find your best friend in your freshman year, whether it is your roommate, a person down the hall, or the girl from French class (you’re going to need someone to practice with). So try not to sweat the small stuff and make the roommate situation work.


Related Article:

Dorm Sweet Dorm 

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