Best Places to Relax on Campus (That aren’t your Dorm Room)

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Living life on campus can totally get stressful really quickly.  Between class, dealing with the roommate, and trying to manage a social life, you can get worn down and stressed out pretty quickly.  And if you can’t manage to get your dorm room to yourself often enough, this can increase tenfold.

Finding the right places to kick back on campus without worrying about everything weighing you down can really help keep your stress level in check.  Whether you’re kicking back on a lazy Saturday or looking for something to do to relax between classes on a Monday afternoon, you need to find the right location to really get the most out of it.

Here are our favorite places to hit up (that aren’t your dorm room) when you finally decide to take some time to relax.

#1 – THE LOUNGE

If you’re living on-campus in a dorm, chances are that there is a lounge somewhere in the building for students to use.  This is typically a pretty under-used location, even with the number of people living in the building, and you can easily sneak in and kick back without being interrupted.

#2 – THE LIBRARY

Not just a place to go to study or read, the library is definitely one of the best places on campus to relax.  It’ll be nice and quiet most of the time and is probably packed full of comfortable chairs and couches that you can kick back on.  There’ll definitely be Wi-Fi available, so you can totally catch up on your favorite shows or listen to some tunes while you relax (as long as you have headphones – duh).

#3 – THE QUAD

Perfect for the more outdoorsy types among us, the quad is one of the best places to get some sun and chill in the great outdoors.  If you’re on a campus where it’s still warm enough to hang outside that actually has a quad area that you can use, you can totally take a blanket to sit on and just hang out and enjoy yourself.

#4 – THE GYM

When you really need a kick to help you relax, try hitting up the gym on-campus (if you have one).  This is the perfect way to blow off some steam and get a little bit of physical activity in, too.  If you’re a little self-conscious about going alone or prefer to have a group with you, invite some friends to play basketball or run some laps with you.

#5 – THE ART BUILDING

If your college doesn’t have one of these bad boys on campus, you can totally ignore this option.  For those of you with an art building at your school, chances are that there are some art classes open that you can join that are free to students.  Ask around to find out what you can get yourself involved in for an easy and active way to help you relax and take your mind off of everything else.

Grocery Shopping Essentials for Dorm Rooms

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Dorm room pizza

If you’re living on campus and totally sick of the food in the cafeteria or can’t deal with the super limited options available, never fear.  You can easily hit up a grocery store to get the snacks, beverages, and anything else you need!  But finding food that is affordable on a college budget and will last the whole semester can be a challenge if you don’t know what to look for.  And if you’re new to the grocery scene, finding what you need can be a little overwhelming amongst the mountains of food.

Don’t you worry at all – we’ve gathered the five most affordable and delicious foods you can easily snag at your local grocery store.  Without further ado, here is our list of must-have food items for your college dorm.

INSTANT OATMEAL

Super cheap and easy to make, instant oatmeal is the broke college student’s best friend.  You can easily buy a tub of plain oatmeal and your favorite toppings to mix in for less than $5 total, and it will last you for plenty of breakfasts.  And the best part?  This bad boy has a super long shelf life so you can stock up when your parents in town to have enough to last all semester long.

MAC-AND-CHEESE

Super delicious and super cheap, mac-and-cheese is a definite must-have in your arsenal.  Not only is mac-and-cheese super filling and affordable (under $5 a box), but also it makes for the perfect late night snack or hangover food, too.  Stock up on a mega-sized box from your local big-box store and you’ll have the perfect anytime food ready to go.

RAMEN NOODLES

The holy grail of college life, Ramen Noodles are probably the cheapest and most delicious food you can have in your arsenal.  All you need to do is add a little water and nuke it in the microwave and you have a hot and tasty meal (almost) instantly.  A super-sized pack of ramen sells for less than $0.50 each at your local grocery or big box store, making it super affordable, too.

INSTANT RICE

Another must-have for college life is definitely the oversized $5 box of instant rice.  Another product that just needs a little bit of water and a microwave, you can totally cook up a bowl of steaming hot rice in minutes.  Throw a little of your favorite hot sauce in it, mix in some salt, or add ramen noodles (if you really want to get crazy).  Any way you eat it, instant rice is going to taste great.

PROTEIN BARS

An essential for any college student on the go, protein bars are a quick way to get a satisfying snack or mini-meal if you’re running late to class or are in the middle of a four-hour lab.  You can easily buy them in bulk for under $20 a box at a Costco or Sam’s Club and keep them stashed in your dorm for whenever you need them.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Remember, you don’t have to settle.  When it comes to campus food, you can totally skip the trial and error of the cafeteria by hitting up your local grocery store.  Keep to budget-conscious foods like mac-and-cheese, ramen, and protein bars to keep yourself fed and in the green. Trust us – your stomach and your bank account will thank you.

Dealing with Specialty Diets and Food Allergies in College

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When it comes to campus life and trying to balance classes, homework, and an attempt at a social life, what you can eat is often the last thing on your mind.  But if you’re someone who suffers from food allergies or is on a restricted diet, figuring out what you can eat and actually getting your hands on it should totally take priority.  After all, how can you manage everything else if you’re starving or in serious stomach pain?

What if you are trying out the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle? How about a gluten intolerance? Cafeterias aren’t known for being the most friendly to restrictive diets, although they are getting better.

Without further ado, here are our top three tips for dealing with specialty diets and diet restrictions on campus.

TIP #1 – DO YOUR RESEARCH

Step number one is definitely to break out your laptop and do some research on restaurants, cafes, and shops around your campus.  Even your school cafeteria may have some info or reviews online!  There are plenty of specialty websites out there that you can hit up for info depending on your diet or your dietary restrictions. 

If you can’t find any information online, you can always hit up the restaurant itself and ask for clarification on what you can eat.  Knowing where and what you can eat ahead of time will help you feel comfortable and confident when you head out, freeing up your mind to worry about other things instead (like that paper due tomorrow morning you haven’t started yet).

TIP #2 – ASK AROUND

If you can’t find the info you need browsing online, you can totally ask around to figure it out.  Ask your classmates, roommates, professors, anyone.  Someone you know may have the insight that you need to figure out where and what you can eat on campus.

Another great resource would definitely be the staff of your on-campus eateries.  If you’re not sure what you can have, ask to speak to the manager or one of the chefs to get their insight and opinions.  They will be able to provide you with an honest answer on what you can eat and may be able to even incorporate some of your food suggestions into the menu, too! 

TIP #3 – HIT UP THE GROCERY STORE

As always, one of the easiest ways to make sure that what you’re eating fits with your specialty diet or restrictions it to just make it yourself.  If you’re living in an apartment on campus with a kitchen or have access to one, whipping something up for yourself to eat that you know is within your restrictions is totally the safest thing to do.

If you don’t have access to a kitchen or really have the time to cook for yourself, pick up some healthy snacks to stash in your room and bags for when you’re in desperate need of a pick-me-up.  That way, you have something you can eat if you need to in a pinch, like an unexpected late night study session or night out on campus.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Remember, if you have dietary restrictions you can still totally eat on campus.  Just make sure to do your research, ask around if you need help, and hit up the grocery store if you need to for snacks and other goodies.  All of this can absolutely help you feel more comfortable and less stressed on campus!

I Hate My Roommate!

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Roommate playing video games

Maybe you were expecting it, or maybe not. The roommate seemed like such a nice person on move-in day…! They say you never truly know someone until you live with them. There is no harsher reality then moving into your freshman dorm with a complete stranger. You can hit the lottery and find your best friend, or it can seem like a living hell.

Schools use a very flawed system  to make the best matches possible. Information provided on student housing questionnaires just scratches the surface of what it will really be like living with someone. But inevitably — rules will be broken, limits stretched and established habits discarded. Some personalities just don’t click even when everything looks good on paper.

It’s a life lesson.

An annoying roommate can be the first time that young adults have to deal with conflicts that cannot be immediately changed. In the past, if conflict arose, our room at home may have been a safe space where you could get away from everyone for a while. However, with a troublesome roommate this is no longer the case where the small dorm rooms provide little privacy and personal space.

Here are our top 5 roommate conflict tips:

  1. Remember this is a time of transition and adjustment for both of you. Things may work themselves out, if you give it the chance to do so.
  2. Examine your own expectations. Focus on the positive aspects of the situation. This isn’t forever — next year you’ll have more choice and control about where you live and who you live with.
  3. If an issue comes up with your roommate, try to open up a dialogue that can lead to resolution. You may both need to budge a bit. Compromise is a great skill to learn.
  4. Establish clear boundaries in terms of your space and your stuff. It’s a good rule not to share clothing and expensive items.
  5. Get to know your RA (Resident Advisor). They are there to help mediate conflicts and keep the residence hall running smoothly and it will be easier for your RA to support you if you have a friendly relationship.

Ongoing interpersonal conflict in what’s supposed to be a “safe space” can wreak havoc on your academic and personal life. If your roommate situation becomes hostile or causes emotional or physical problems, it may be time to request a new roommate or explore the possibility of a single room.

The good news about roommates

Even with bumps along the way, most roommate relationships are successful or at least tolerable. Stress and drama will be minimized if both parties are willing to communicate and respect one another. The hated roomie may become a dear, lifelong friend after both have grown up a bit during the challenging early months of college.

Freshman Year is a Time to Reinvent Yourself

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College Freshman

Freshman year of college is like being given a blank slate or a free pass. No one knows who you are or about how you embarrassed yourself that one time in second grade. You’re given a second chance, of sorts, to be the person you’ve always wanted to be. Sound great? It is! Here’s how you can reinvent yourself during your freshman year of college.

Start Journaling or Visioning

Part of being confident is having a sense of self. That’s not easy to restart once you’re eighteen or older. But one way you can prepare is by journaling or visioning who your perfect person is. Maybe she’s smart and sweet, or perhaps he’s funny and outgoing. Whatever it is, start jotting it down.

Not a writer? No problem. Vision boards are the perfect way to see it all on paper without having to put it into words. Grab some magazines or a printer and cut out words, phrases, quotes, images, graphics, etc. that inspire you or remind you of where you want to be. Lay it out in a way that resembles a roadmap for your next year.

Stay Realistic

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will be your new self. You’ll fall back into bad habits, especially if it’s a trait that’s been ingrained in your mind. Very few people decide to be athletic and then go running every morning. You’re not a light switch.

Instead, make incremental changes. And then, reward yourself for when you do well. For example, if you’re trying to be more personable or social, treat yourself to something nice when you make an effort to meet new people or go to an event. Those little rewards pay off.

Change the Outside With the Inside

No, we’re not talking about your looks. We’re talking about the clothes you wear, the look of your bedroom, or the way you rock your makeup. All these little outward things do have an effect on the inside.

When you wear a pair of killer heels, how do you feel? What about when you stay at a luxury hotel room? In both cases, your inside probably feels similar to a rock star. That’s because the setting matters. Surround yourself with things that make you feel like a new person, and you’ll become that new self.

Embrace Your Best Self

Reinventing your total self is probably not going to happen. And plus, you don’t want to lose what truly makes you happy. So decide what you can and can’t get rid of. Instead, find a way to work it into your new personality.

You love playing video games but want to make friends outside that space? Great! Don’t throw out your system yet. Use that love of video games to start a club or make events for other gamers. Teach your new roommates how to play or volunteer with kids and teens.

Remain Positive

We have already mentioned that it takes time to create a new persona. The wait can be the hardest part of your transformation. But, no matter what, you need to keep a positive, forward-thinking attitude.

It won’t be easy, and your change may not be as simple as you think, but if you remain in the right headspace, you can reinvent yourself in time for your freshman year.

How to Stay in Touch with College Friends Over the Summer

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college friends hanging out over the summer

Whether you’re going into your first summer break as a college student or are in graduate school, leaving behind the relationships, you spent all year making can be dramatic. But there are ways to take the sting out of the separation. Here’s how you can stay in touch and maintain your college friendships even with thousands of miles between you.

Get a Group Chat Going

If you haven’t already, you need to get your gang on the same page. Group chats through apps like GroupMe, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. are great ways to stay connected when apart — especially if your inner circle has more than a few people involved. Plus, it keeps everyone in the loop without any hurt feelings.

Don’t like the option of chatting? You could always start a private social media group, like one on Facebook. There, share your summer stories, arrange events, or seek out encouragement. The best part is that these groups can be private so what happens over the summer stays in your summer friendship group.

Do a Vacay Swap

Got the money and the time? Why not spend your summer vacation visiting the homes of your friends? This is a great move if your clique is scattered around the country or living their best life in some exotic place. Take out a map, plan a course, and hit the road. It might be the best vacation you ever take.

Send a Care Package

While we like to think of summer as total relaxation — we all know it’s often not. Summer can be stressful with getting back into the swing of things with parents or having to work full-time to afford rent. Your friend may even be stuck taking courses back at school while you’re back at home. If this is the case, be a good friend and send them a package that shows you care. Include items you love, like your favorite drink or a handmade card, and throw in a note on how awesome they are.

Share a Little Love from Home

Speaking of care packages… don’t forget to throw in some mementos from your summer. You can bond without him or her there by your side when you ship them that awesome candy from the sweet shop by your home or that hat from the baseball game you went to. It’s almost like having them with you, and, if anything, it tells your friend that you’re thinking of them even when you’re hours away.

Keep Your Routines

We know we’re going to miss our TV show marathons or our Netflix nights in. But being apart doesn’t mean we have to give all that up! With Skype, we can keep these routines all summer long. Pick a date that works for your friend(s) and share the TV. Press play at the same time and prepare to enjoy a night together.

If your routine is working out with your buddies, stay accountable by using fitness apps to track your habits. You can compete on who runs the longest or who racks up the most miles on the elliptical.

Get Pumped for the Fall Countdown

Of course, the best way to bond with your college friends is to gear up for the school year. If you’re roomies, start planning your next bedrooms by coordinating decor. If you’re in the same academic programs, work on making your fall schedule lineup so you’ll have plenty of time to hang.  And don’t forget to countdown! It’s only a few more months until you’ll be together again.

How to Last-Minute Prep for the End of the Year

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Woman posing after graduation

The end of the year is coming around, along with all the unavoidable stress. Even if you can put aside finals (which is a big if), the whole situation is already stressful. You’re probably moving out of your dorm or apartment for the summer, and even if you’re not, your friends probably are. How can you best handle all the non-school related stress that comes along with the end of the school year, so that you’re free to stress over finals?

Plan Out Your Living Situation

Hopefully where you’re going to be living is already figured out (if not, get on that ASAP), but you still need to make a plan for the specifics. There are some great sample moving plans online, but you might need to make your own if your situation is unique.

If you’re moving out of the dorms, where are you going to store all your things? Most college towns have storage facilities available, and the university itself probably has some sort of free storage space available. Ask your RA about it! Be aware, though, that space is likely limited, so compact your personal items as much as possible.

If you’re moving out of an apartment, then it gets a lot easier and more complicated at the same time. On one hand, you’ve got some free storage if you’re renting the apartment all through the summer. On the other hand, a lot of college kids only rent their apartments through the school year in order to save some extra money. So then you’ll have a lot of extra stuff that needs to be put somewhere safer than the side of the road.

Decide if it’s even possible to take your stuff back home with you. If not, you’ll have to fork over some cash for a storage unit or ask if you can fill your friends’ garages over the summer.

A lot of students spend the summer at their parents’. If you will be, establish some ground rules with them before you even cross the threshold. Summer can be a strange time because you might not have a lot of responsibilities to keep your busy. Discuss with your parents exactly what they expect from you beforehand before you get pumped for three months of vacation.

Plan Out Your Connections

During the school year, it’s easy to maintain a connection with your friends or significant other, since you all see each other nearly every day. You probably even live with some of them. However, once summer rolls around, it can introduce a different dynamic into your relationships.

Despite all the ways to keep connected long distance these days, young people are more worried about losing relationships than other generations. We have more nightmares about our significant other leaving us and it’s harder than ever to maintain meaningful friendships with the proliferation of social media.

Make sure to put a plan in place with the people you really care about staying close with. We all know life happens, but there’s nothing wrong with promising to exchange emails weekly or Skype usernames. This not only puts the framework in place for your friendship to flourish, but it lets the other person know that you’re interested in maintaining your relationship. If you can, plan a trip together!

These steps can help you stay connected over the summer. You don’t want to come back to school and not know where to pick it up again.

You’re supposed to be focusing on finals, but that can prove impossible when you’re worried about preparing for the end of the semester. Check off these big worries so that you can move on to acing your exams and nailing your presentations. Once your living situation is squared away and your relationships secure, you’ll be ready to knock both of them out of the park.

Thinking of a Gap Year? Here’s What You Need to Know

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The Royals do it. Malia Obama did it. Why not you? Gap years, or a delay in starting college, is becoming more and more trendy. But what is a gap year, and should you take one? We break it down to help you make this difficult decision.

What is a Gap Year?

Gap years are defined as a literal gap between high school and college. For most US high schoolers, summer break is all you get between graduation and college orientation. But across the pond, where gap years are common, it’s usually a 1-2 year period “off.”

What you do with your gap year is up to you. Some people decide to work full-time while others relax. Traditionally, gap years are spent volunteering and traveling. Whatever you decide, your time off should be beneficial to you and your reason why.

Reasons to NOT Take a Gap Year

Sounds great, right? A full year break from school may seem like a dream scenario, but there are some pretty big cons you need to consider. Here’s why you shouldn’t go for a gap year:

You’re Interested in a Competitive Program

Harvard doesn’t wait for just anyone. Even though Malia Obama was able to defer her entrance into the top college in the United States doesn’t mean you’ll get the same kind of offer. Deferring your start in an ivy league school or a competitive college program could mean losing your spot altogether. Is the risk worth it? That’s up to you and your future school.

Money’s Tight

Unless you plan on working during your gap, you better have the money to cash flow it. Whether you are planning on traveling or volunteering, all of that will cost you probably the equivalent of a year of your college tuition.

Your Family Isn’t On Board

While not completely necessary, not having the support of your family could ruin your time off — especially if you plan on crashing with them. Selling more traditional parents on gap year could be trickier than you think.

Reasons TO Take a Gap Year

On the other hand, all the risks you take may be worth it. Maybe these reasons can make your decision easier.

High School Was Stressful

If you were a ball of stress and anxiety in high school, a gap year might get you back on the right foot. A year off to explore your interests, find yourself, and could help you better prepare mentally and emotionally for college.

Money’s Tight

While we talked about money being a potential issue, if you plan on working during your year off, a gap could be in your favor. A year’s worth of work could get you the work experience you need and help you save for future tuition costs.

You’ve Got a Heart for Service

If you want to make a difference in the world, you don’t need to wait until college ends. There are many programs out there that will take those 18 and over and help them find their place in the world. You may build homes, serve in disaster areas, teach English abroad, etc. Whatever you decide, you’ll make the most of your time away from school.

Taking a gap year can greatly benefit those that use it to their advantage. It is important to discuss your options with your parents or guardians before making such a decision. But, if you feel it is right for you, dive in head first and enjoy everything that a gap year has to offer!

How to Add Splashes of Color to Your Bedding

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dorm room styles with splashes of color

You don’t have to be an HGTV design star to transform your dorm room or bedroom. In fact, all it takes is a little creativity and a good eye for color — especially for accent colors. Accent colors are the shades that pop out against neutrals. They brighten the room and help tell a story. To help you get started with building an accent palette, we’ve compiled our favorite accent color combinations we know you’ll love.

OCM Pink and Black bedding set

Hot Pink and Black

Almost every girl we know has rocked this combination at least once in their life. It’s fun, it’s flirty, and it’s oh-so-easy to do. The trick to upgrading this look from your high school bedroom to adulthood is not going with any crazy pattern combinations. Toss out the zebra print and say goodbye to damask. Solid black with flashes of hot pink is the way to go.

Fire Engine Red and Cream

There’s something about red that reminds us of our favorite beach towel. It’s bright and bold, and it has that little bit of fun that makes it a great bet for your linens. We especially love it in stripes and chevrons. By not going with white as the base, it’s a tad more muted and perfect for a sunny day or a warm night.

OCM Blue and White bedding sets

Vintage Blue and White

Do you remember your grandmother’s teacups? More than likely, they use a shade of blue we could only call “vintage.” It’s a pale sky blue that makes us instantly relaxed. When used in throw pillows or a fluffy blanket, it’s practically inviting the best sleep ever.

Grassy Green and Beige

Get your nature on with grassy green that sings. Green’s not a color that you see around much, especially in the bedroom. But we promise this color is a hit. Go more emerald in accent pillows for a luxe look. Use it in pillowcases or flat sheets and feel like you’re sleeping in a fresh field.

Rose Gold and Pink

We can’t have a post on accent colors without mentioning at least one metallic. Rose gold is the hot color of the year. And outside of your iPhone, it can certainly work in your diva-style bedroom. Go glittery with sequins like in an oversized pillow or add it to a bedside lamp. You’ll feel instantly more luxurious for it.

Burnt Orange and Purple

We’ve never been to India, but this color scheme puts us there. The pop of orange on purple is unexpected, and it takes careful attention to the right shades to work. You’ll want orange in smaller items like vases or desk accessories. Add orange silk sheets or a deeper orange toss blanket. Against the purple, it will surely make a statement.

OCM White and Yellow bedding sets

Sunny Yellow and White

Who doesn’t want to wake up with a smile on their face? A bright yellow room does just that! We love it when white is the only other color present. Think minimal. Then, add yellow in the big pieces — like a funky chair, a set of picture frames, or a lighting feature. This is a look you’ll love.

So there you have it! A list of a few of our favorite looks this year. Do you have another combo that you are looking to pull off or a favorite one from our list? Let us know!

Moving Out or Living at Home After Graduation

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Happiness on the day of graduation

Don’t freak out, but graduation is only a month away for most of us. There’s so much to think about from making sure we’re still on track academically to starting to send out our first real resumes. But where we need to put our focus is on one major decision: where we’re going to live post graduation. We’ve broken down the pros and cons of moving out or moving home, as well as key points you should consider so that you can make your choice without all the drama or stress.

Moving Home: Cons

Not many of us are excited to go home after graduating college. For most, it feels like a downgrade, and for others, there are worries about losing independence or dealing with nosy or demanding parents. Moving home may also limit your career choices if you’re going to a small town or where your new job isn’t realistic.

Moving Home: Pros

Moving home has its upsides, especially when it comes to finances. Student loans can hit hard, and having a year or two to have little (or no) living expenses can mean making a significant dent in your debts. Living at home also gives you time to rethink your next moves. This is especially beneficial for those who may need to go back to school for their next degree before starting work.

Lounging on the living room couch

How to Make Moving Home Work

The biggest concern is your new parent-landlords, and that means communication is key. Before agreeing to move back, make sure you understand what they expect from you regarding rent, bills, groceries, rules, etc. Rules, especially, are important to go through in case there are some ultimatums you can’t get behind. Guests and curfews, for example, can be a sore spot. But if you talk your concerns through and maybe even get the deal in writing before moving back to your old bedroom, living at home could work for you.

Moving Out: Cons

Moving out is the ultimate dream, but that dream can come with a cost. For those living on their own for the first time, be sure you understand that rent isn’t the only thing you’re going to pay each month. There’s utilities, insurance, parking, and home expenses. Even monthly toilet paper can add up over time, and be responsible for chores like lawn care or shovel your driveway can be a major burden when you’re balancing a new job and social life.

First apartment home with decorations

Moving Out: Pros

Moving out on your own means freedom. Your space signals that you’re a full-fledged adult ready to make your moves. You’ll get to dictate your space and your rules for maybe the first time. But what makes moving out ideal for college students is that it opens up a ton of doors regarding location. When you’re free to choose where you want to live, you can explore and grow in new towns or cities.

How to Make It Work

The first thing you need to do is sit down and make a budget. Ask for your parents’ help in estimating expenses in your ideal location and then see if it will work with your projected starting salary. If your pay won’t cover it all or if it’s tight when you add in any estimated student loan payments, you may be able to make still it happen if you sacrifice on space (such as downgrading to a studio or living outside a city) or taking on a paying roommate. With a little careful creativity and frugality, moving out on your post-graduation can be a possibility.