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Common College Housing Mistakes

By Shannon Bennett
This article was written for CollegeTipsForParents.org by Shannon Bennett who wrote this article just before she graduated from college. Her article discusses on and off campus college housing, miss-information, college rooms, living with close friends, and other items college parents should be aware of.

Incoming college students are in for a great many changes. Among the things they will need to adjust to await the heavier workload of classes, the exposure to new people, and the windfall of freedoms and opportunities that will become available.

The biggest change of all, however, is the move away from the comfort of home. This step toward independence and adulthood may strike some as liberating, others as terrifying, and to all an inevitability.

Careful planning should go into the choices made to establish that first living space away from the comforts of home. The following are the five most common mistakes to be avoided in settling your student down in his or her first self-run home.

5. Domestic misinformation

This seems obvious, but it is astounding the number of first year students bumbling around the laundry rooms in any given campus community trying to figure out how to wash their own clothes. Even worse, there are always those who push forward with the confidence of battle scarred laundry veterans and ruin an entire load before the end of their first week.

Make sure the basics of domestic living and self-care are covered with your student, preferably long before the Big Move. This includes, but is not limited to laundry care, dish sanitizing, and the proper way to use a plunger.

It wouldn't hurt to go over the basics of food preparation either. An alarming number of dorm accidents occur when someone who has never so much as boiled water decides to become a master chef.

4. Underpacking

Many parents feel perfectly secure leaving their student tucked away after a lengthy orientation that seems to have covered every angle. A pricey meal plan may have been purchased to cover food needs, a bag of quarters put next to the hamper for the many vending machines on campus, and a neat stack of composition notebooks and three ring binders is proudly awaiting the start of classes.

However, unanticipated costs begin to arise almost immediately. Forgetting to pack cold medicine or to set aside gas money can quickly create a pile of expense for your student that she may not be able to cover.

The cost of living may be cushioned by what's available in campus communities, but make sure your student has something to land on if an unanticipated need arises.

Also, be aware that your student might need to buy a meal outside of campus once in a while. Meal plans are a good investment, but they won't cover everything.

3. Overpacking

That said, most apartments and dorm rooms are not designed to house every possession your student had in high school.

DVD collections, clothes, toiletries, etc. should be skimmed down before moving so that your student's future living space is navigable.

2. Skipping the Dorm

There is a reason that a large chunk of universities across the US require that first year students live on campus. If your student is attending one of these colleges, the choice has been made for you.

If not, it is important to consider the perks of transition that a dorm provides. It is a safe community with an ever present Resident Assistant to settle domestic disputes and help your student ease into his or her new way of living.

It is also an environment constructed entirely of peers and activities to give your student a solid opportunity to make friends and find the right niche to fall into.

A car is expendable on larger campuses, since most things are available within walking distance, and your student will be more inclined to explore campus in his downtime.

1. Living with a close friend

This one may come as a surprise. However, statistics in campus housing communities almost always report at least 90% of requested roommates ask to be transferred before the end of the year.

Your student's first instinct may be to live with someone familiar, but with the exception of siblings, who have already experienced sharing a living space, this decision often destroys the friendship between the future roommates.

It is best to either leave the rooming choices to the university's placement procedures, or to live with an acquaintance. This way, your student remains free to expand as an individual rather than feeling that he must share every invitation with his roommate.

Tension won't run as high between strangers. Preventing home-drama will save a lot of stress and distraction for your future student, who needs to be able to focus on his new home, and, above all, his education.

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