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How College Students Can Adjust from Dorm Living to Off-Campus Living
| by Pauline Flores

The transition from freshman to sophomore years makes college students feel two simultaneous emotions: “Finally! I’m moving into my own place!” and “Ahhh! I’m moving into my own place!”

Excitement and fear are two very common emotions to expect after realizing that they'll now be required to live in and maintain their own home. To relieve that anxiety-induced feeling, here are some helpful tips on how to make the transition to off-campus living much smoother.

Going Grocery Shopping

Without the convenience of dorm living, students will have to go grocery shopping all the time. Picking a day of the week and making it “grocery day” is the best way to make sure the essentials won't run out i.e. toilet paper and food.

Unfortunately, it’s not very financially possible to eat out every day for most college students. As a college student, it’s also tempting to spend all money on already-made or pre-processed food. While frozen food and food from the deli counter are the most convenient options at the grocery store, they are not the most wallet-friendly.

Save money and time at the grocery store by making a list beforehand and sticking to it. Sticking to a grocery list is the most effect way to stay on-budget.


Going grocery shopping is easy enough, but cooking is a different ballgame. If those cooking skills are not up to par, start simple! Spaghetti (or any kind of pasta dish, really) is every culinary beginner’s go-to.

Once you’ve mastered the art of boiling pasta and adding sauce, try venturing out of your comfort zone. Use online videos and how-to guides to learn how to properly cut vegetables, masterfully sear meat, and more. Much like all skills, cooking does have a learning curve. It may be hard to get the hang of at first, but you will eventually find it easier with more practice.

If you don’t trust yourself in a kitchen at all, invite a friend who does know how to cook and have a dinner night by cooking together!

Cleaning Your Own Place

One good thing about living in the dorms was not having to worry about cleaning any bathrooms. I hate to break the bad news to you, but you will have to clean your entire house or apartment regularly when you live off-campus.

Do yourself a favor and clean up small spills, stains, and other minor messes so that the work doesn’t pile up into large messes. That means doing dishes every day, vacuuming once a week, and wiping your kitchen counters several times a week.

Finding the motivation to deep clean your place can be tough, but it will be worth it once you have a comfortable, clean living space. Get some gloves, surface cleaner, and a brush and get scrubbing! If you have more questions about cleaning, your parents are just a phone call away!

Staying Focused on School

It’s easier to focus on school when you live on-campus. Your classes, professors, and the campus library are all literally a walk away. Off-campus living is different because you have to juggle off-campus responsibilities (i.e. cooking, cleaning, commuting, paying bills). Things can get pretty hectic and exhausting at the expense of your grades.

The most important thing you can do is to schedule a set time every day devoted to school work. During this time, minimize distractions from your phone so you can stay on task. Practicing good self-care is just as important as spending your energy on school. Without proper self-care, it is much harder to stay awake and concentrate on tasks. So, remember to eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and reward yourself with a good night’s sleep at the end of every day.

Keeping in Touch with Friends

Living in the dorm was like living in a sitcom. Just a bunch of buddies living down the hall from each other having the time of their lives! Off-campus distance may affect these friendships, but a little effort and consistency will help you keep in touch with close friends.

Definitely hang out at each of your new off-campus apartments and houses. If anything, you may have more fun now that you all are free from RA’s and noise restrictions in the dorms!

Paying for Rent and Bills

The ugliest part of living off-campus is all those new expenses that can batter and beat your bank account. It’s good practice to compare your monthly income with your monthly expenses. To calculate your income, add any up any money that you get from jobs or allowances from parents. For your expenses, include what you spend on food, rent, gas, insurance, utility bills, entertainment, and a ballpark estimate of whatever else you purchase. If what you spend is less than what your make, then that’s great news!

Budgeting is more important at this stage in your life than ever before. If you’re finding it hard to stay financially afloat, then you may need to reevaluate your expenses. Are you spending too much money on food? Do you really need to go on that expensive spring break trip?


If you live on-campus you will have to get to school in one way or another. Whether you’re walking, driving, or taking the bus, make sure you give yourself plenty of time so that you don’t arrive late.

Parking is a big factor that college students should take into account when commuting to school. Parking passes can be expensive, but it’s worth having a guaranteed spot instead of driving around aimlessly and risking getting a parking ticket.


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