Tips to Stay Healthy This Semester

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Getting back into the groove of school can be challenging after winter break. You just spent a few weeks kicking back, enjoying the holidays, hanging out with friends without a care in the world. You’ve conquered finals! Nothing to worry about until new classes start! You earned a bit of relaxation.

Except now that break is over, you’re back in the real world: back to hectic schedules, walking across campus, and constantly braving the cold. The average undergrad student spends about 3 hours getting ready and walking to and from class. There’s hardly any time to focus on school work, let alone think about staying healthy — and I’m not talking about hitting the rec center.

We all get sick this time of year, but there’s a reason that college campuses get hit particularly hard. Freshmen, in particular, are vulnerable. It wouldn’t have been that bad to get sick over break — but now, just when you’re starting to get back into the swing of things? A bad cold can make it difficult to study, and bad flu can set you back a few weeks. How can you stay healthy this semester?

What Everyone Knows But Doesn’t Do

Stop it before it even starts … Diseases spread more during winter months because everyone holes up indoors. That means that all those communal surfaces have more germs than you’d think. The average desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. In order to prevent getting sick, follow some common sense advice!

  • Wash your hands thoroughly, regularly. If you live somewhere with cold, dry air, make sure to moisturize afterward.
  • Carry hand sanitizer for sticky situations. Many schools will give small containers out for free, so be on the lookout at career fairs and the like!
  • Don’t share straws, silverware, or pencils that have clearly been chewed on.
  • Don’t touch your mouth or face after spending time in class, the library, or any high-traffic area.
  • Get a flu shot. Most colleges offer these for free! Since this year’s flu season is going to be particularly bad, make sure you get yours.

Yeah, you might know all this already. This is just a friendly reminder to actually follow the advice this year.

Advanced Advice

Alright, those are the basics, but what else can you do to prevent from getting sick? Well, there are a couple of habits that make college students particularly vulnerable.

Are you getting enough sleep? And, no, in class doesn’t count. You probably need around 8 hours a night. That might sound like a dream, but without proper sleep your immune system is vulnerable. If you just can’t make it to 8 hours during the night, though, don’t be ashamed to take a nap. Better you lose a few hours of studying than a few days of class.

Naps can also lower your stress level, which is hugely helpful towards maintaining a healthy immune system. Make sure you are taking time to relax. Too many college students are too busy multitasking and resume-building that they work themselves to bed.

Be aware of your surroundings. This is one of the hardest things to monitor but by far the most helpful. Many college dorms are cramped spaces filled with as many people as possible. This is the perfect environment for bacteria and viruses to spread. If your roommate says they are not feeling well, stock up on antibacterial wipes and vitamin C!

Know When to Get Help

Too many college kids are so worried about saving money that they spread disease and get worse when they should’ve gone to the doctor. Your college probably has a clinic on campus, and they will work with you to cut down on the cost! There’s no reason you should continue to languish in misery when there are medications and treatments to help you get back on your feet.

If you’ve been sick for more than a couple days, consider that you might have something more serious. That sore throat might be strep — the differences between the flu and pneumonia aren’t as obvious as you’d think — and having a fever for multiple days is a definitely a cause for concern. If you’re worried that this could be something more, go to the doctor and encourage friends to do the same.

Staying healthy in college is more challenging than most people think. Between classes, work, and juggling a social life, you’re stressed enough as it is. This is just one more thing to think about. However, if you’re health lags behind, you can’t really juggle anything else. Staying in tip-top shape needs to be a priority this winter. So bundle up and use your head!

Winter Themed Desserts to Make in Your Dorm Room

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Winter is the perfect time to snuggle up in your comfy dorm room getting cozy with some delicious sweets. From chocolate and berries to whipped cream and powdered sugar, there are plenty of winter desserts to indulge in. But the best part is that most of these don’t require an oven and are so easy that you could make it in your dorm room! Here are our top picks for winter-themed desserts.

Cookie-in-a-Mug

Party for one? No problem. You can make a delicious single cookie that goes great with a scoop of ice cream or a cop of hot chocolate. You’ll love it because you only need a mug and a microwave to make it happen.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • 1½ tbsp. sugar
    • ½ tbsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 egg
    • 3 tbsp. flour
  • Directions:
    • Spray mug with cooking spray.
    • Melt butter in mug for 30 seconds to soften
    • Add the rest of the ingredients one at a time, stirring until well-mixed.
    • Microwave for intervals of about 20 seconds until cookie has risen and is done.
    • Top with sprinkles, chocolate syrup, powdered sugar, etc.

Chocolate chip cookies

No-Bake Chocolate Cookies

A favorite from childhood, no-bake cookies are perfect for those who are die-hard chocolate fans. These cookies give you a burst of energy and make a good breakfast treat. This recipe makes a dozen.

  • Ingredients:
    • ⅔ cup sugar
    • 1½ tbsp. cocoa powder, unsweetened
    • 2 tbsp. milk
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • ¼ tbsp. vanilla extract
    • 3 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
    • 1 cup quick oats
  • Directions:
    • In a larger-sized microwave bowl, add sugar, cocoa, milk, and butter. Microwave for about one minute or until bubbling. Microwave for another 30 seconds.
    • Stir in the rest of the ingredients one at a time.
    • Drop spoonfuls on a plate and refrigerate for about 3 hours. Best served cold.

Puppy Chow

Another childhood favorite, puppy chow is a favorite guilty pleasure. It’s such a mess to clean up, but it’s worth it for its chocolate-peanut butter goodness. Your friends will want a bag each.

  • Ingredients:
    • 3 cups rice squares cereal
    • 3 tbsp. peanut butter
    • ⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • Directions:
    • In a microwave-friendly bowl, melt chocolate at intervals of ten seconds (stirring each time you take out).
    • Add peanut butter and microwave for two-30 second intervals, stirring until well-mixed.
    • Add cereal and mix. Pour into a plastic bag and then add powdered sugar. Shake bag until evenly distributed.

Banana Pudding Jar

We always found banana pudding to be uber-sophisticated, especially when done up all fancy in a tall, glass dish. But did you know you could make expensive-tasting banana pudding in a jar with only a few ingredients and a mason jar (or regular bowl)? Seriously!

  • Ingredients:
    • Vanilla wafer cookies
    • 1-2 bananas, sliced
    • 1 packet of banana or vanilla pudding, prepared (or use 2-3 cups of pre-made banana pudding)
  • Directions:
    • Line bottom of your bowl or jar with vanilla wafer cookies as a base.
    • Make another layer of bananas
    • Add prepared pudding on top and alternate with layers of sliced bananas and cookies until at the top.

fruit parfait dessert

Berry Good Fruit Parfait

Berries are all we want come wintertime. Thank goodness there are plenty of berry-themed recipes for us to enjoy. This recipe uses pre-made cake (think leftovers) and blends our favorite fruit and loads of whipped cream.

  • Ingredients:
    • Pre-made cake (including cheesecake) in small chunks
    • Variety of berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries
    • Whipped cream
  • Directions:
    • Add a layer of cake chunks to bottom of jar or bowl.
    • Add a second layer of fruit and then top with whipped cream. Repeat until full.

These are just a few of our favorite desserts to make when we are stuck inside on a cold winter day. Make one of these (or all, we won’t tell!), binge your favorite Netflix series and let us know which one was your favorite!

Christmas Decorations for Your Dorm Room

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Christmas decorations on a tree

Seasons greetings! The holidays are almost here, and we are so excited! And sure, we’ve got our minds on vacay, but we’re also dreaming of all the fun ways we celebrate. One of our favorites is decorating. That’s right — just because you live in a tiny dorm room doesn’t mean you can’t get into the spirit. Here are 8 ideas to make your dorm room festive and bright.

Twinkling Lights

The easiest way to give your dorm room a makeover is to change up the lighting. Grab a few strands of Christmas lights and go nuts! Line the ceilings! Make a cool ceiling display above your bed. They’re so inexpensive and easy to find that you can do just about anything with your favorite lights!  

Mini Trees

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a tree! Grab a mini-sized one from your favorite store and add on tiny ornaments. If you’re more of a DIY-er or want a fun party game, you can cut out a large-sized tree and ornaments using felt fabric. Play pin the star on the tree or make ornaments featuring the faces of your friends.

Door Decor

If your residence hall encourages you to customize your dorm door, this is your time to shine! Grab some rolls of wrapping paper and gift wrap it up. Add stockings full of treats for your neighbors or make a chalkboard snowman for friends to write messages on.

Fake Fireplace

You can’t beat a decoration you just turn on! While you can’t have a space heater, mobile fireplace in your dorm room, you can bring in the ambiance by turning your TV into a cozy hearth. Netflix and Youtube offer countless different versions of hours-long fireplace videos complete with soundtracks and carols — perfect for parties or long nights studying.

Snow on the Windows

If you’re a transplant from colder climates or you love the look of snow in the winter, you can make your own using snow spray or frosted aerosol that wipes clean when you’re done. It gives the room a cool, chilly glow, even if it’s still in the 70s or even 80s outside.

Nothing rings in the holiday season like the smell of pinecones

Smelling Like the Season

You can’t talk about the season without discussing all the awesome smells that make you think of holidays at home. From cookies to cinnamon, everyone’s got their favorite holiday scent. Bring in a few flameless candles or use a wax warmer to bring in that homey vibe.

Custom Wreaths

Wreaths are an easy way to decorate your room while also allowing you to show off your personality and creativity. Purchase a base wreath from a crafting store and then use a glue gun to add tinsel, ornaments, pictures, wooden monograms, ribbon, etc. It’s your look, so make it reflect who you are!

Christmas wreath decorations

Burst of Christmas Color

When we think of Christmas, we think of red, green, and white. You can add these pops to a dorm room with throw pillows, area rugs, window hangings, and wall decor. You can also add jewel tones like silver and gold with ribbon wreaths, desk accessories, and lighting. Visit Pinterest for even more color-based inspiration!

Finals can take their toll on your holiday spirits. Ensure that you enjoy some holiday activities and keep the spirit alive by decorating your dorm room. You can keep it within a budget and have the best room in your hall!

The Nine Things Every College Student Should Have On Their Desk

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Female student taking notes from a book at library.

All you need is a computer, right? Wrong! Unlike high school or living with your parents, office supplies do not magically appear. Living on your own means stocking up on essential desk items. To make your shopping list easier, we’ve come up with nine things every college student should have on their desk in order to get through the rest of the semester.

     1. Stapler and Staples

Here’s a lesson all freshman learn real fast — your teacher will not have a stapler on them, and they will expect you to turn in stapled copies of your twenty-page paper! Come prepared by having a stapler and extra staples at your deskside whenever you need it.

     2. Printer, Paper, and Ink

Sure, you could print at the library, but that’s going to cost you, and there’s no guarantee the library will be open when you need it. A small-sized printer can run you around $30 on sale and ink can be cheap if you subscribe to regular refills.

     3. Pen and Pencils

We love the convenience of a computer, but you have to have a pen on you at all times. There’s no telling when you’ll want to make a quick note or write a letter yourself. And pencils are essential for majors that require a lot of drafting or revisiting of work — such as musicians, artists, engineers, mathematicians, architects, etc.

4. Paperclips

Like staples, you need to keep your paper in order or they’ll become a mess on your desk. And who wants that? With paperclips or larger file clips, attach and go. No fuss, reusable, and cheap to buy — you have no excuses not to have a small supply.

Planner with post it notes and highlighters

5. Sticky Notes or Journals

Sticky notes are great for telling your roommate to pick up more milk or that they need to clean their side of the room. But when you really want to get something out, a journal is a must-have. Check out these school-themed journals if you really want to impress.

6. Stamps and Stationery

Sending a letter may seem so old fashioned, but thank yous written by hand are impressive and classy. Grab a stack of cards, like these vintage university ones, for when the occasion arises. And don’t forget Forever stamps from the post office.

7. Organizer

You’ve got the little things down, but what about where to put it all? An organizer for the tiny desk objects that get all over the place can be a lifesaver — especially when you’ve got five minutes till class starts and you can’t find your favorite pen.

desk lamp illuminating

8. Desk Lamp

Your desk may come with a lamp attachment already, but those industrial bulbs can lead to migraines or poor study habits. Find one that matches your style and has the right kind of light for your work. This dimmable, portable one is the perfect size and look for most college students’ needs.

9. Power Cord

While technically for under the desk, a safe power cord that can support your laptop, printer, chargers, and a lamp cannot be forgotten. Get one that has a surge protector in case of electricity going out.

If you have these nine items, and a few more that we may have missed, you’ll be ready to tackle those study sessions and ace all your exams!

Move-In Checklist for Girls

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College Checklist for Girls

 

College may seem far off in the distance, but the reality is there’s only one year left. That means it’s time to start talking dorm rooms. And of course, figuring out your style and making sure you have the essentials ready to go is an absolute must. This OCM shopping list is the only one you’ll need. Here’s a breakdown of everything that’s on the move-in checklist for girls.

Bedding

Truth be told, dorm beds are kind of miserable no matter where you go to school. It’s almost universal that you’ll need a few things to make your sleeping space comfy. The first is the right kind of bedding. Extra-long sheets, comforter/quilt, and pillows are the basics. But also consider investing in a great mattress pad if you’re worried about a bad back or a thin mattress.

Bath

Communal bathrooms can be intimidating, but they’re a breeze once you’ve got the right gear. Of course, you’ll want your beauty products and favorite shampoos and soaps. We say splurge and get the best to make your shower experience more luxurious. What you really need is a pair or two of flip flops, a shower caddy to carry it all in, and a set of durable towels.

Home Essentials

Colleges do not give their students cleaning services for their rooms — you’re in charge of that. This means you need to stock up on cleaning supplies and gear. Broom or a sweeper are great to have handy, as well as paper towels and some basic sanitizing wipes.

Out of Sight

Small spaces means getting creative with your storage. Under the bed boxes are crucial, as are closet organizers that hang on the door. Trunks are great for being decor, seating, and storage, but you can also consider ottomans with storage built in as an option.

Dorm Cooking

Believe it or not, but you can cook when you’re living in the dorms. Most come with a small, communal kitchenette, and you’ll want a fridge and/or microwave for yourself. That means you’ll also need a few basics — pot, pan, mixing and measuring bowls, containers, mugs, plates, silverware, etc.

Desk Supplies

Keep yourself organized with everything you need — staplers, paperclips, pens, and pencils, together in a sturdy box or desk organizer. You may also want to invest in the must-haves of studying, like highlighters, notecards, notebooks, and other portable items you can take to and from class and study sessions.

Technology

A laptop or at least a tablet with a portable keyboard should be at the top of your list; it’s an essential in the digital age. But don’t miss out on other essentials like a personal printer, a surge protector, extra batteries, and a carrying case. A TV in your dorm is also a great addition that will let you have movie nights or just “veg,” and a pair of noise-canceling headphones will keep you sane if you get a roommate who snores.

Decorating

Now this category is where you can have some fun! Mix in some touches from home (like a favorite throw pillow or a picture of your BFFs) and add in some new, adult items like a potted plant or a gorgeous vintage mirror. The trick is to come up with a theme or particular style and work with it until it feels like home.  

Extra Essentials

Some things don’t fit into categories but are totally necessary. We’re thinking of first aid kits, umbrellas, lockboxes, and other frequently used items. Think about what you use around your house and add it to this category. You may be surprised what you need — and what you can leave behind.

How to Turn Your Dorm Room into a Cozy and Healthy Environment

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Dorm rooms are not exactly the epitomes of health, tidiness, and cleanliness. In fact, those that cause the envy of the whole floor are few and far between. This is quite surprising considering that with a bit of effort, as well as an investment of time and money, it is possible to make the dorm room look much more inviting and comfortable. Thus, it is time to take action and get into the art of personalizing, decorating, cleaning and reorganizing your student home.

Setting the stage

Photo by Grovemade on Unsplash
The first thing you should do is face clutter, the bane of organized and stress-free living. The best way to go about this is to employ smart storage solutions. Instead of a clunky wardrobe (not such a great space saver, is it?), opt for floating shelves. Apart from buying them, you can make your own DIY shelves by using books, nails and ropes. Likewise, try to repurpose mundane household objects such as plastic crates and shoe boxes for extra storage space.

Next, personalize the space with items that hold meaning and evoke fond memories. Bring color, texture, and life to your small interior world. Photo collages are a nice and simple solution for sprucing up blank walls or sides of furniture and filling the room with positive emotions. Similarly, you can use DIY canvas wall art, hanging accessories, index card quotes, picture frame wall decals, and other creative décor pieces.

Just do not go overboard because visual clutter is not what you need in your immediate surroundings. Instead, make every décor piece count and inject warmth and coziness with soft and fuzzy materials. Mix throw pillows, blankets, and other textures to pull off an instant change of atmosphere. Your living environment has a profound impact on your psyche and body, and my guess is that you want to live in an abode that makes you feel good and invigorated.

In a new light

Photo by Sylwia Pietruszka on Unsplash
Pay special attention to lighting, as it infuses the space with both character and functionality. Ideally, you should have multiple lighting sources, not just an overhead one. Think outside the box: in case you simply can’t afford a chandelier, why not create one yourself with a hula hoop and string lights? Aside from artificial fittings, try to maximize natural blessings, the sunlight and fresh air (and finally get rid of those thick curtains).

Furthermore, invite more natural presence inside by placing houseplants wherever you can. They act as natural air purifiers that also double as soothing décor pieces. Their addition is paramount because the indoor air pollution tends to be much worse than the one outside. For some extra flair, make DIY hanging tube vases for flowers and if you want to indulge your other senses, consider essential oil diffusers.

Interior wardens of health

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash
To further promote good health, avoid cleaning and household products that contain toxic chemicals, lead, and pesticides. Get the dust under control to deal with tiny menaces that exist in it, such as bacteria. Ditch wall-to-wall carpets in favor of wood, cork and tile flooring, and 
utilize outdoor mats to keep dirt, debris, and grime at bay. Also, filter tap water to avoid contaminants and pollutants.

Finally, remember that your habits have a crucial role to play. They can either impede your efforts or aid you in combating mess, pollution, toxins, and clutter. Indeed, what good does the new flooring so if you vacuum only once in a blue moon? Along the similar lines, the mold is not going anywhere unless you declare an ongoing war on humidity. So, roll up your sleeves and commit to creating daily habits that promote wholesome and tidy living in the long term.

Design your dream space

Living in a dorm does not have to feel inferior to living at home. There are various reasons to embrace a proactive approach, most notably promoting your health and well-being. So, bring order to your home away from home without enlisting the services of your parents or breaking the bank. Get your creative juices flowing and use pops of color, personal items, DIY creations, plants and other tools. Witness the stunning transformation of your interior space and make a positive change in your life.

Our 7 Favorite Dorm Pillows

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It’s time to kick back, relax, and get lazy with us! That’s right — we’re talking pillows. From essential bed pillows to accent pieces, pillows are one of the top items you should focus on when designing your dorm room. We’ve picked out our top seven favorite pillows to complete your dorm aesthetic (or pillow fort!).

 

1. Everyday Hustlin’

The Erin Andrews collection at OCM is on fire! We’re especially digging this subtle pillow reminder that after the college diploma comes to the good stuff — the payday! Pair up with more sequins or gold details for maximum money-making effect, and don’t forget about the inspirational wall decor, so you keep your eyes on the prize.

dollar-sign-sequin-dorm-pillow

Dollar Sign Sequin Pillow from OCM

2. Marbled Eloquence

Over the marble trend? Neither are we. We declare this is the year everything looks like it could be made into a statue — including pillows. Marble looks best when you match it with white or a color in the marble base (like tan or bronze). Keep it as the main focal point if you want the look to work.

 

3. Mermaid Colors

After marbled effects come this year’s hottest trend — mermaid sequins. Seriously, it’s everywhere, and you won’t want to miss out! Find colors that pop, like purple and blues. And if you can, find ones that have hidden messages or images under the first layer. Your guests will love playing with them! It’s the perfect throw for green or water-themed rooms that need an injection of color.

4. Celebrity Snark

Huge fan of Bill Murray? How about Bill Murray dressed in a 19th-century soldier’s uniform and recreated in an oil painting? These fine art celebrity pillows have us doing double takes! This is perfect for a room that needs a bit of humor thrown in there. Match with darker colors, solid fabrics, and more expensive looking decor to keep your friends guessing.

 

5. Truthful Pillows

You know when you’re alarm goes off, and you refuse to move a muscle? Yeah. Everyday. Erin Andrews (again) knows how to say it right with her “I Need a Minute” design. It’s perfect to snuggle with and to throw at your roommate when they’re noisily getting ready for class at 8 AM. And we especially love this simple throw pillow when added on a black and white motif.

i-need-a-minute-marble-erin-andrews-dorm-pillow

Erin Andrews Dorm Pillow

6. Work in Comfort

So bed-rest pillows may be bulky, but they are essential for all of you bed-workers who insist on doing their reading, studying, Facebooking in bed. Your back will thank you for it, and you’ll be more productive with it. Pick one that can be hidden under the bed or find one in a neutral color so that it blends in the background.

 

7. Color Your Own

If you’re into adult coloring books, you must have these color-your-own-pillowcases. You can add whatever color you want to them, and there are a ton of patterns to pick. It’s an awesome DIY to go with an already colorful room, but we especially love the idea of a crafty, eclectic look to go with this whimsical and fun pillowcase.

Minimalist? You’ll Love These Subtle Dorm Room Touches

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Minimalism is the practice of only living with the things you value the most. This means paring down your closet to a single signature style, keeping non-functioning items out, and focusing on quality over quality.

But many minimalists take it to the next level by keeping their spaces earth-centered with lots of organic products, white linens, and neutral decor. While it’s not for everyone, it’s definitely possible to integrate the less-is-more look into your dorm room. These small touches can help you transform your decor from overcrowded to minimalist paradise.

 

Storage Trunk

Minimalists believe that having items that are not being used out and about creates clutter and chaos. Instead, everything that doesn’t have a place should be neatly and efficiently tucked away.

In smaller dorm rooms that don’t have much space to work with, an armored storage trunk can work wonders. It can double as seating while holding off-season clothing, storing shoes, or hiding cleaning supplies.

 

Hanging Door Mirror

Saving space is a way of creating more room to breathe. That means you should avoid loading up on nonessential furniture, including bulky standing mirrors. But mirrors are also important in decor, so you need to find the right balance.

One way to accomplish this is with an over the door mirror. With hooks, it latches on to the top of your closet or dorm room door so you won’t need to move it around or store it when you have guests. It serves its purpose and then it is out of sight.

 

Mood Lighting

Lighting is huge in a DIY minimalist dorm. Industrial lighting won’t do and you can’t use natural lighting when the sun goes down. Instead, you need something that is both flexible, pretty, and unobtrusive.

Our top pick for nighttime lighting sources is the Sparkly String Lighting. Thin, copper colored, and oh-so-pretty, you’ll feel like your dorm is full of little fairies. The best part is is that you can use these just about anywhere, like lining your bunk bed or around a ceiling.

 

Low-Key Throws

With white being your main color for minimalist decorating, you might get bored easily. After all, an all-white dorm room seems so drab in more dreary months!

Counter this misconception by picking throw items that pop out while still blending in. We love this foil dot pillow that would look amazing on a tan couch or bedding set. There’s just enough color and design there to keep our attention. For an added pop of striking color and texture add this Axel Quatrafoil throw blanket in Aqua.

 

Modern and Typography Designed Canvas Prints

Canvas is a minimalist dream as it stands out without looking cheap. It gives emphasis to what it is showing or the message it has. But you need the right print to go with the rest of your room.

Black-and-white makes a fantastic visual, like this Glam Eyes Wall Canvas. Hang it over the appropriate spot (your bathroom or makeup supplies, for example) to designate spaces. Another idea is to go with the popular typography design where the words are the focus and not a photograph. Good Vibes Only is one of our top choices, because who said minimalists can’t have fun with their decor!

Where Should You Live Next Year?

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Are you already counting down the days until the end of the semester? Probably. While Spring Break might have given you a brief reprieve, now you don’t have anything to look forward to until summer. But with all that scurrying to finish your Spring Break homework, it’s also time to consider another issue: where are you going to live next year?

You might think you have plenty of time to figure that out, but college towns have a unique renting situation. Since they are often empty for those summer months, students usually attempt to line up their living situation well in advance, and you should follow suit. This allows you to avoid stressing during the summer, as well as attempting to find a place to live when you can’t physically view the property yourself.

 

You’ve probably already got an idea of where you want to live next year, but here’s a checklist to see where you best fit:

What’s Your Budget?

College is already expensive enough. The exact numbers will vary depending on your university and the town, the reality is that tuition is only going to go up. When factoring the cost of other expenses, you’ve got to learn how to be thrifty.  Where you decide to live has the most impact on your overall budget.

Don’t just compare the price of your dorm versus rent. Living on-campus typically requires or comes with a meal plan and your utilities are included in that price. When you’re living off-campus, that’s not the case. Make sure that you read the fine print on any legal document, as there may be hidden fees.  It’s usually less expensive to live on campus, barring a couple of exceptions. The more roommates you can recruit, the lower your overall cost will be. If you can get your monthly groceries to add up to less than a meal plan, there’s another money-saving opportunity. Save coupons, stock up at your parents’ house, and keep an eye out for events on campus!  Lots of events feature free food or other amenities that you can take advantage of.

Location, Location, Location

Do you like to sleep in to the last possible moment, then dash to class five minutes before it starts? Or do you want to be equal distance from both work and class? Or do you not mind the extra morning walk? These are the sort of questions that you need to ask yourself and consider how important location is in relation to cost.  While it might feel like you live at the library at times, no one on campus has that central of a location.  Besides work, you might frequent a gym, a park, or a restaurant, and you should those into consideration as well.  While it’s probably good for your studies to be close to campus, you need to remember to have fun too.  Being close to somewhere you can relax and pursue other interests besides school is important as well.

It’s crucial at this stage to consider your mode of transportation. If you have a car, then a “reasonable distance” is different than if you’re only relying on your own two feet to get you around. Additionally, check to see if your college town is bike-friendly. If so, you can get around farther for cheaper, and this will open up your range of options.

Socialization

Alright, this is where some real lines get drawn. How much are you willing (or need) to socialize with people? Maybe you’ve lived a year in the dorms and couldn’t stand living in close quarters with another person. Maybe you’ve realized that not everybody can handle living with their best friend. Some people are just more introverted and need more alone time. Others just need a quiet environment to focus on their studies, and since you will likely be doing most of your homework at home… Well, it might not be the best idea to live next to a frat house if that’s the case.

On the other hand, if you’ve committed to living with roommates, then you’ll also have to take into account their personal preferences. If they have a car but you don’t, for example, you can see where your priorities might differ. Make sure to have a discussion with them well before you sign any leases or agree to anything binding, and try to make a compromise that’s fair for all parties involved. Understand that living together is a difficult situation, no matter which way you cut it, so if you want too different things, then it’s probably a better idea to find another roommate.

Alternative Options

Don’t limit yourself to only the traditional apartment as your only off-campus option. Look into mobile homes or RVs- while this might sound crazy, plenty of cities have college-based RV parks. This allows students to leave cheaply and have an asset to sell after college if need be. It’s definitely a smaller space than an apartment, but maybe not by that much once you factor in that you’d be splitting that space with roommates.

On the other hand, this requires more up-front funds, whereas with an apartment you usually pay a portion of the rent monthly. While you will eventually see a return on that money, it’ll be a long time before you can reap the benefits. If you don’t have that type of cash on hand to start with, that can make an RV-sized investment impossible. Obviously, this is can be a big investment for a college student, so make sure that you’re prepared.  This isn’t the type of commitment to take on lightly, just like college itself.

Some people even get their room for free! You could try to find a family nearby to nanny for, or figure out another way to leverage your time and skill for a reduced rent. In Portland, Maine, a nursing home doubles as a free college dorm. Be on the lookout for opportunities like this (like continuing to live with Mom and Dad)!  However, none of these options offer the traditional college experience.  If that is important to you, this might not be the best way to go.

It can be so easy to get tunnel vision and only focus on the end of this semester, what with end-of-the-year events, summer plans, and, oh yeah, finals. However, it’s important to plan ahead for next semester, even though it seems forever away. Take a moment and access where you fall in these four categories, so you can be sure that you’re making the right call. You’ll be happy you took the extra time to think this out, trust me.  [Read more…]

6 Tips to Set-up Your Dorm Room to Reduce Stress and Maximize Productivity

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College is a fun and exciting experience; you’re away from home, there’s lots of new people and countless events and activities. Remember, however, that you need to prioritize your studies, after all, you’re there to get an education. The way you organize your dorm room can help you perform better in your classes, but you have to set up an effective study space. Follow these tips to organize your dorm room to reduce stress and boost productivity.

 

Communicate With Your Roommate(s)

In the average dorm room, each student has about 96 square feet of space, that means you’re spending a lot of time in close quarters with someone you barely know. Open up the lines of communication early. Don’t claim the bed by the window just because you show up first on move-in day. Talk to your roommate about his or her preferences and concerns and communicate yours as well.

You may also find that you have different priorities and lifestyles. Maybe one of you is a morning person, or you may be more introverted or extroverted than your roommate. If you like to get up early and your roommate likes to sleep in, try to be considerate and be quiet while he or she is sleeping. Also, there’s no reason you can’t make time for your studies and the social aspects of college, but you have to be diligent about making a schedule and sticking to it. You may need to work with your roommate to designate certain times of the day for homework and studying and other times for being social.

 

Study at Your Desk, Not in Bed

Your bed looks very inviting when you’ve got 30+ pages of your textbook to read, but unless you go to the library or a study group outside of your dorm room, try to do all of your studying, school work and reading at your desk. When you study in bed, it’s easier to zone out or fall asleep, especially when you’re reading dry, or overly-technical material. Your bed should be the place where you rest and recharge; lugging your textbooks or laptop into bed sends your body mixed signals and studies shows using technology in bed can affect your quality of sleep.

 

Organize Your Desk

Organization is easier said than done when you have a dorm room that doubles as a kitchen, living area and study space. When it comes to your desk, however, try to keep it as organized and uncluttered as possible. “When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus,” according to Erin Doland from unclutterer. “The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information.”

A clean, organized desk helps you feel calm and focused on the task at hand. It also helps you keep track of important materials like study guides, notes and assignments, which is helpful when you’re juggling projects between different classes.

 

Reduce Distractions

This is where communicating with your roommate is key. He or she may like to listen to music or have the TV on while doing schoolwork but you may like it quiet. Can you find a solution that works for both of you? Also, consider limited noise and distractions while studying for tests. When you study, create a test-like environment: sit at your desk, try not to use your books or other references and reduce the amount of background noise, you may also want to time yourself if you know you will have a limited amount of time to take the test. This tactic is especially helpful when studying for Math tests. “A common mistake is for students to work on Math problems in too relaxed a posture,” according to USATestPrep. “They should be sitting at a desk, with minimal distractions, and working the problems exactly as if they were testing.”

 

Make the Most of Your (Limited) Space

Now that we’ve talked about how to set your room up to study, which should be your first priority, let’s talk about maximizing your limited living space. Most of the furniture will be provided by the school, but you can bring some additional shelving or plastic bins to create more storage space. Plastic bins can be especially useful in the bathroom (if you have your own) to store toiletry items so you’re not fighting over drawer space.

You can bunk your beds to create more floor space, but if you’d prefer not to, considering lifting or raising your bed to create additional storage space under your bed. Some students raise their beds high enough to fit their desk underneath, which creates enough space for a couch for lounging and relaxing. Make sure you check with your resident advisor before you do any manual labor on your room or furniture.  

 

Keep Your Space Neat

I know this might be your first time away from home, which means you don’t have your mom around to tell you to make your bed and pick up after yourself. Go ahead and enjoy your newfound freedom, but remember, there’s at least one other person in your room. While you don’t need to be a neat freak, your roommate may not appreciate it if you leave your things all over the room, so try to be considerate.

Also, talk to your roommate about your belongings. If you’re not OK with him or her using your stuff, make sure you let them know. He or she may feel the same way, so you can avoid any issues if you discuss this ahead of time.

 

Part of keeping your room clean has to do with designating specific areas for things like studying, lounging and relaxing and hanging out. Chances are you and your roommate may reorganize your room a few times during the course of the school year. As long as you have a dedicated, organized study space, you can play around with the rest of the room and figure out what works best for everyone. Living in a dorm room may be a big adjustment at first, but with some communication and planning, you can make the most out of the small space. Follow these tips to have a more organized, stress-free living environment so you can enjoy the other, more fun aspects of college. Remember, you need to focus on your studies, but after that, have fun and enjoy the experience.