Are you moving away for college for the first time? We’re discussing the benefits of moving out of your parents’ and tips to get you started.

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going away to college tips

You might be nervous about moving away for college, but you should be excited, too. Leaving high school life behind is a significant transition that many young adults tackle with a fear of the unknown. During this somewhat tumultuous time, you’ll likely be living in on- or off-campus housing, both of which come with their share of adjustments.

There’s a lot to figure out when moving to college and leaving home for the first time. You and your roommates have to furnish a house or dorm, keep a bathroom and kitchen clean without your mom and dad there to do it for you, and pay your bills. This extra responsibility might seem daunting, but there are added benefits of going away to college, i.e., your newfound freedom and education.

Don’t let fear stand in the way of this new adventure. The best way to move to college is to plan ahead and to keep the future move-out in mind, too.  We’re sharing some helpful college tips on how to be successful with your first college housing experience.


1. Set up a realistic monthly budget.

college budget

Plan:

  • Set up your utilities.
  • Decide who will be in charge of water, electricity, energy, and cable/internet, or if one housemate will be in charge of all of them.
  • Set up Venmo accounts so that you can send the money to roommates if cash or checks are inconvenient.

When you move in:

  • In the kitchen, hang a dry erase board to keep track of who’s paid and who hasn’t each month.
  • Next to that, put a hanging mail organizer to keep the paid and unpaid bills separated and easy to access.
  • Keep the invoices and the receipts once you’ve paid them, just in case.

When you move out:

  • All the bills will have been paid, and you’ll have proof. Everyone will have paid the same amount for the utilities and services that you all shared throughout the year.

2. Discuss rules and regulations with the landlord.

moving away from home for the first time

Plan:

  • Pay attention when you’re discussing the lease with your landlord. You’ll want to know what you should expect, which will hopefully be functioning appliances and plumbing.

When you move in:

  • Check to make sure that everything is in working condition. Appliances like dishwashers, stoves and ovens, washers and dryers, and refrigerators should be usable, and the plumbing should be in good shape.
  • Check for mold in the kitchen and bathroom. If you find that anything is wrong upon moving in, call the landlords immediately.

When you move out:

  • With photo proof from when you moved in, you won’t get charged for any damages or issues that you and your housemates didn’t cause. And you’ll get that deposit back, hopefully!

Related: First Apartment Checklist for Renters on a Budget


3. Communicate with roommates about big-ticket items.

sharing items with college roommates

Plan:

  • By communicating with your housemates in advance, you can avoid unnecessary duplicates of things that can be shared. Talk about the following items.
    • Small kitchen appliances: coffee makers, toasters and microwaves
    • Cleaning and maintenance supplies: vacuums, toilet cleaners/plungers, toolsets, and brooms/swiffers
    • Furniture for shared spaces: kitchen tables and chairs, couches and coffee tables

When you move in:

  • Make lists of what kitchen appliances, dishware, silverware, and utensils; furniture; and cleaning supplies each roommate has brought.

When you move out:

  • Nobody will have spent money on things that were never even used, and there won’t be any confusion over who takes what.

4. Save money on furnishings.

save money when going away to college

Plan:

  • Spend the summer looking for cheap furniture at thrift stores, yard sales, and your relatives’ attics and basements.

When you move in:

  • Don’t bring your beautiful furniture from home or spend too much money on buying all new stuff.

When you move out:

  • You can decide to donate, toss, or store big items that you don’t feel like transporting without regretting how much you spent on them.

5. Get creative when decorating the space.

decorating a dorm room

Plan:

  • Plan on making it a year worth remembering.

When you move in:

  • Hang string (or string lights!) with clothespins, magnetic strips with magnets, or corkboard and pushpins on a living room wall.
  • Add pictures to it throughout the year. It’s not expensive or hard to order prints from the drugstore.

When you move out:

  • Spend time with your housemates to take the pictures down and have fun reminiscing about the year you’ve spent together.

Related: How to Become a Dorm Room Organization Expert


6. Coordinate cleaning efforts to maintain the space.

cleaning a first apartment or dorm room

Plan:

  • Plan on keeping the house clean and functioning.

When you move in:

  • Take time with your housemates to discuss how you’ll work together to keep the house clean.
  • If you all agree on splitting chores or rooms to clean weekly, make a “chore chart.” Vary up who does what on a monthly basis.
  • On the other hand, if you’d rather each do your own chores around the house, make a list of rules (e.g., if you use a dish, wash it; if you have friends over, clean up the mess you make).

When you move out:

  • There won’t be any resentment. None of you will regret living with one another.

Related: Moving Back Home: How to Make Sure it’s a Good Decision


7. Consider renting self storage during school breaks.

10x15 storage unit with trophies, boxes and other belongings
  • Self storage for college can save you money. Storage is pretty versatile, and cheap storage isn’t impossible. There are ways you can find a place to keep your stuff when moving away for college. The rental keeps you from buying items all over again next semester.
  • A self storage unit can keep expensive items safe. If you’re moving into a small apartment or living with roommates, self storage can prevent you from sacrificing essential, sometimes valuable belongings like furniture or even your car.
  • If you’re living in a major metro area like New York or Chicago, you may not need to drive. Vehicle storage is likely less expensive than a parking garage, gas, or getting your driver-side mirror fixed when you get randomly sideswiped on a crowded street.
  • A self storage unit is a stress-reliever if you don’t know where you’re headed next. Traveling? Are you joining the service? Are you moving for work? You may be better off putting your possessions in storage, rather than lugging them across the map. It’s probably cheaper, too.
  • You can keep your childhood belongings there if your parents downsize. Mom and dad are moving. They don’t want to tote your teenage bedroom’s worth of memorabilia to their new place out West. Self storage can prevent you from seeing your fondest memories end up in a dumpster because your first apartment or dorm room is the size of a matchbox.

Related: Do You Need Climate Controlled Storage for Furniture?


Best of luck moving away for college! You have a lot to look forward to in the years ahead. Follow these tips for a seamless transition and make sure your past isn’t crammed into your closet.

About the Author

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Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann is a moving and storage expert. She attended the University at Buffalo and has worked in the storage industry for over five years. Here on the Life Storage blog, you can find Lauren covering everything from finding a home, settling into a new home and all the stages in between.

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