For college freshmen, the prospect of moving away from home and living on your own is both equally terrifying and exciting! After all, it’s the first time in your life you won’t have your parents or older siblings around to help with the little things like laundry or cooking dinner. Whether you’re ready for this newfound independence or skeptical about life on your own, there are several skills you need to know before move-in day.
Luckily for you, we’ve talked to real collegiettes to find out the truth about what you actually need to know before you head off for school.
1. Doing laundry
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: going off to college means being forced to finally learn how to do your own laundry. While the task may seem tedious, there really isn’t much to it. Products like Tide Pods make it easy to throw your dirty clothes in the washer and go, without having to measure out soap and detergent. “Most importantly, just remember to keep up with your laundry,” says Shaela Nelson, a junior at Minnesota State University. “It’s a pain to have a mountain of clothes that will take four loads and lots of your time.”
There are several other tips that will make your laundry experience much less stressful. Be sure to always separate your colored and white clothes before throwing them in the wash, and keep an eye on special garments such as button-down dress shirts and sweaters that may require different settings, temperatures or air-drying to avoid shrinking. Websites like RealSimple offer specific instructions on what settings work best for each type of clothing.
You may also want to invest in a portable laundry hamper with a handle, as they allow you to easily move large loads of laundry from your dorm, down the elevator and to the laundry room. Many of these hampers even have pockets to store your detergent, pods and dryer sheets.
The summer is a great time to start doing laundry on your own at home so you can get a feel for the process. With a little practice, you’ll be the one showing everyone else how to do laundry on move-in day!
2. Defrosting a fridge
If your school allows you to keep a mini-fridge in your dorm, you’re most likely going to want to have one to store snacks, drinks and last night’s leftover pizza. Luckily, mini-fridges don’t take up a lot of space and require minimal maintenance.
While leaving your fridge turned on when you go home for the weekend is perfectly fine, you’ll definitely want to defrost it if you’re headed on break for any longer than a few days. Not only is it important to remove all of the perishable food items from the fridge, but you’ll want to ensure you defrost it properly before heading home for fall, winter or spring break.
- Turn the fridge off, leave the door open and remove all items inside.
- Pull out any shelves and clean them down with a wet towel or cleaning wipe.
- Cover the area inside and surrounding the fridge with newspapers or small towels to account for melting and leaking of the ice as it defrosts.
- Once all of the ice has melted, remove any water inside the fridge and dry the inside of the fridge with a towel.
Allowing the fridge to naturally defrost may take as long as a day, so plan ahead and begin the defrosting process no later than the day before you head out to ensure it’s dry in time.
3. Keeping track of your finances
If you held a job throughout your high school years, you probably have a pretty good idea of what it takes when it comes to keeping track of your finances. However, this can become even trickier when you don’t have your parents around to keep you on track or control your spending.
“After my first semester, I realized I needed to download a banking app,” says Caitlin Duncan, a junior at the University of New Haven. “It showed me how much money was in my account at all times. From there, I set limits on how much I could spend per week. Of course I cheated sometimes, but I was able to have fun and not spend all my money!”
If you already have a bank account set up for yourself, most banks offer a mobile app or website that allows you to monitor your balance, withdrawals and other financial activity. If you don’t have an account, talk to your parents before you leave for school about what bank they use and whether or not you’ll be using a credit or debit card at school to make purchases.
While banking and keeping track of your money may seem scary at first, it’s an essential part of life on your own! Many banks even offer special plans for college students, which allow you to easily set up your own debit card or checking account before you head off for school.
4. Communicating effectively
One of the most exciting parts of college is the opportunity to meet and interact with new people every single day. Whether you’re meeting your roommate for the first time, meeting up with classmates for a group project or scheduling classes with your academic advisor, you make to make sure you’re communicating as effectively and clearly as possible. Not only does effective communication make your life less stressful, but it makes it easier to form lasting relationships with the people around you.
“At the beginning of the year, it’s important to discuss what is and is not okay with both you and your roommate such as hookups when they’re around, what items to share and not to share, guest policy, noise policy and study habits,” says Shaela. “Discussing these things up front will reduce problems in the future.” If you know you’re both going to be at orientation at the same time, plan to meet up for lunch and have a discussion in person. However, if there’s no way for you to meet before move-in day, initiating a Facebook message (or even a phone call, if you prefer!) is a great way to make sure that you and your future roomie are on the same page.
Communicating with your roommate as early as before move-in day can even help make your first weeks of school less stressful. “If you know you’re going to have a roommate, moving in at the same time as them can be hectic and pretty difficult to do in a timely manner,” says Kristen Adaway from the University of Georgia. “It’s best to make plans ahead of time so one person moves in before the other.”
Shaela also recommends learning how to communicate effectively with the adults in your life, such as professors and advisers. “Your academic advisers are there for you,” she says. “Don’t waste time and money by registering for classes that you ‘think’ are required. Schedule an appointment, grab a requirement sheet from their office and have them aid your every move. If you create a good relationship (with your adviser), they may even help you get into classes that are already full or guide you away from not-so-good professors.” If you’re not sure about how to get in contact with your adviser, look for their phone numbers and email addresses on the school website associated with your major or area of study.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out to the people on campus, whether they’re professors or your own peers. More than likely, everyone else is just as excited and nervous about the upcoming year as you are!
5. Making the most of your dorm
While your dorm room may seem bleak when you first move in, there are plenty of ways to express your style and tastes through decorations such as posters, picture frames and desk accessories.
“Remember, (your dorm) is your home for the next nine months,” says Shaela. “Don’t be afraid to personalize it. When you’re stressed from school, a break-up or homesickness, you’ll be glad that you added a comforting and homey touch.”
Pinterest offers countless ideas for decorating your dorm while still making the most of the small space. Browse around the various boards to find inspiration, and don’t forget to leave space for your roomie to personalize the dorm as well!
While moving away from home is exciting, there’s plenty of responsibility that comes with life on your own! By staying organized, communicating effectively, and not being afraid to reach out for help from both peers and adults, you’re setting yourself up for a first semester of success. Best of luck out there, collegiettes, and let the countdown to move-in day begin!