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The average American moves about 11 times during his or her lifetime. In many cases, the first and most momentous of these moves is leaving for college. For a lot of young adults, the day they move into their college dorm or apartment is the first time they have lived anywhere other than their parents’ home. It’s a big day for countless reasons, and one of the most important steps a young person can take toward becoming an independent adult.

Along with all of the obvious items college students need when setting out on their own — remembering to pack more than one bath towel, for example — there are many other details that are just as important but not as obvious. One of the most commonly forgotten tasks students should do when moving to college is changing their permanent address. For some students, the fact that they will continue to have mail delivered to their parents’ home isn’t that big of a deal, but it can be much more convenient for them to change their address. This is especially true when going to a college far from home or out-of-state.

Going through the process of making an address change official is important for college students, but there may be some confusion about how exactly this is accomplished. In addition to alerting the U.S. Postal Service, there are numerous other parties that need to be made aware of the address change. For example, failing to notify the Internal Revenue Service can result in delays when receiving important tax documents or a refund check. If students have credit cards, failing to notify their providers of an address change might mean they won’t receive their statements in time to pay their balances, which can severely affect their credit scores.

To help students successfully navigate the process of changing their permanent address, the following guide from University Moving and Storage illustrates all of the necessary tasks they need to complete. Moving to college is one of the biggest steps a young person can take on his or her way to becoming a responsible adult, and that includes handling even the smallest details of the move.

Image by University Moving and Storage

This article was contributed by University Moving and Storage.

Photo by Gleren Meneghin on Unsplash

Living in a dorm can be heaven or hell. You can make a ton of friends or a host of enemies. And this can make your studies easy, or incredibly difficult. The fact that you clicked on this link shows that you have an intent to make a few friendships, but as the road to hell is paved with good intentions, that alone won’t do.

You’ll also need to know what to do (and actually do it, of course) to make sure that your dorm becomes a phenomenal place filled with fantastic people. So here are some of the things you’ll want to consider:

Be flexible

Not everybody lives like you. They’ll have different expectations, different wants and different needs. For example, some people might be incredibly extroverted and want to talk all the time, while other people are introverted and desperate for alone time (here’s a chart to help you). Some people might like to party, while other people might like to read a book. So on and so forth.

The thing to realize is that your way isn’t the only way to live your life. Everyone has their own vision of what is right for them. Be accommodating to that. Understand that just because they don’t like what you like doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad people. They’re just different.

And what a boring world this would be if everybody was just like you.

Communicate clearly

Being flexible does not mean swallowing everything other people do until you explode. That might keep the peace initially but can cause all sorts of resentment down the road. Instead, make sure you communicate clearly and ask other people to do the same -right from the get go.

Do note that ‘communicating clearly’ is not the same as ‘getting angry and shouting’. In fact, raising your voice in the hope of getting your point across is almost always a bad idea as this will cause people to stop seeing it as communication and instead as an attack. And when people feel attacked, they pull up the drawbridge and get ready to defend themselves. That’s not a good place to compromise from.

So if you’re angry about something, stop. Slow down. Process the anger. Then start the conversation from a neutral place. From here you’ll be far more likely to actually get them to understand why you don’t appreciate the behavior.

Try starting with a compliment as it will soften whatever criticism is coming their way.

Realize that we don’t see what other people do

We always know exactly what we did for the dorm, but we rarely see what other people did while we weren’t there. This psychological bias causes us to overestimate how much we believe we did and underestimate everybody else’s contribution. The result is that it’s often very easy for you to feel you’re doing far more and working far harder than everybody else (even when this isn’t necessary true or isn’t true to the extent you think it is).

For that reason, before you start yelling, ask to make a list of all the activities people have already done so far. This will make it far easier to give an overall accounting (and make it clear to whoever isn’t pulling their weight that they really aren’t).

Do stuff for them

Particularly when you first come together, make sure you go out of your way to do some nice things for everybody else to show your willingness to create a good dorm. Do something that you’re good at and that you like doing. Perhaps you like to bake cookies. Perhaps you’ve got a good setup with which you can show movies. Or perhaps you’ve got a car with which you can go pick up stuff before you guys have your weekly sit down. It can also be academic, like helping them with a paper, or just by sending them links to a citation program or some cool new apps.

Sure, not everybody will appreciate what you’re doing, but enough people will that it becomes a good idea. This will give you some goodwill and give people the benefit of the doubt in future situations. Hopefully you won’t need it, but hey. Who knows what curveballs life will throw?

Be careful with doing this kind of stuff all the time, however. It is better to do it occasionally and not turn it into a commitment. Otherwise, people will stop seeing it as a kindness and start seeing it as an expectation. And when that happens, it can often end up backfiring on you.

A good strategy is for you to do different things. And if they ask you do something again, smile sweetly and stand your ground. You’ll quickly remind them not to take anything for granted – particularly not you.

This article was contributed by guest author James Scott.


Image by Daniel Borman on Flickr

Getting by in college can be a challenge, especially when you’re confronted with the small confines of a typical college dorm room. College is a time to concentrate and minimize your distractions so you have more options for work when you leave school. If you want to get a masters or doctoral degree at a school like Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, you’ll find you need excellent study skills and a highly efficient workspace. Don’t leave decorating and space organization until halfway through the year. Make sure your dorm can accommodate you and all the studying you need to do.

Shelving Units

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on shelves, but you should certainly put something on those walls to make the best out of your space. There are very affordable stackable crates you can use for bookcases, or you can purchase some racks to help organize your papers. If you have a lot of papers and you live with another person, make sure to get folders to keep your papers from getting lost or shuffled around. Organize your shelves in a way that maximizes your study time, and promotes movement so you can go for longer lengths of time without breaks to find your materials.

Get a Mini Fridge

If you don’t yet have a mini-fridge, seriously consider one. You can put a printer, more shelves, and other items on top of the fridge, or it can double as a nightstand. It will provide you with a great deal of convenience you might not otherwise have. Keep coffee and snacks in the fridge to help power you through long study sessions, and you can even use the top as a plate warmer to keep your food warm while studying. Obviously, it won’t keep food extremely hot, but it can keep pizza and sandwiches warm enough to be enjoyable.

Set Up Tension Rods

Small tension rods can be placed almost anywhere. If you need a place to hang your coats, get a tension rod and place it between two walls. You can set up a makeshift closet in nearly any corner, and save space in the process. If you want to free up more space, attach used soda caps to the ends of coat hangers, and loop another coat hanger through the bottom hole of the cap. This way you can hang two items for every coat hanger, and save additional room in your closet. This leaves more room for storing other items like shoes, books, and study materials.

Get a Shoe Organizer

Unless you have tons of shoes, get a shoe organizer and use it to store snacks, pens, pencils, tools, and other school supplies. It’s much more organized than pushing things away in drawers, and the see-through plastic makes it easier to see everything inside. You can hang the organizer from your door and free up additional desk space that can be used for more important items you need immediate access to. Never lose your keys again by throwing them in the top organizer pocket as you walk through the door.

Organize Your Cords

If you’ve got a lot of electronics you often need to plug in when you get home and sit at your desk, consider using binder clips to keep the cords from falling behind the desk. Clip the binder clip to the edge of the table and loop power, usb, or other cords through the clip. When you’re done using the cable, it won’t slip down behind the desk. This can help save you time by not having to dig down behind the desk to get your cables.

Get creative and you’ll find that there are plenty of ways to organize your dorm to maximize your space. Having an organized dorm will help you to have a more productive study space and save you money and time. A more enjoyable and productive college experience is possible with these tips, and the time you save can be used building meaningful relationships with your friends.

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

Image by Georgia Southern on Flickr

Image by Georgia Southern on Flickr

Whether returning from school after a much needed summer break, or going back to school after a brief lapse to finish your degree, there are several things you need to prepare in advance to make the transition smooth. Getting organized and prepared for the school year in advance can help ease the transition to student life, calm your nerves and create a more enjoyable experience.

Access Your Syllabus
It used to be that you had to wait until the first day of class to obtain your syllabus. Now, many teachers make the syllabus available online for students to view ahead of time. Once you know your class schedule, you can often check the class website for any notes and other materials you’ll need for the class. Make a plan for your semester and schedule specific times to complete work for each class. This way, when you arrive on campus, you’ll be able to hit the ground running and not miss a single beat.

Electronics, Tablets, and Computers
These days, you can’t attend school without some basic electronics. A tablet, laptop and note-taking devices are all important items that will serve you well in college. When you consider the average cost of a year of tuition, the cost for upgraded hardware is well worth the investment. The average tablet will easily last you through a four- or five-year program. Make sure your laptop is powerful enough to run your word processing applications and any other student-specific apps you might need to participate in your classes. Install any software you need before arriving on campus. If you don’t yet have all the software you plan to use, look online for companies that provide student discounts. Often, you can get discounted or free software from your school, so make sure you check around before paying for any new software.

Get a Storage Unit
Especially for students living in shared housing and dorms, a storage unit such as The Storage Center can make your college life much safer and less stressful. Paying a set monthly fee to store your less-oft needed valuables in a storage unit can protect you from potential theft and damage of your items.

Buy Items in Bulk
Water, food, extra school supplies, and anything else that you don’t need immediate access to can be placed in your storage unit. This can help keep your valuables safe, save you time and manage your budget since you won’t have to run to the store every time you run out of paper or notebooks. Take a trip to a warehouse and buy your supplies in bulk for the entire semester. This way you can concentrate on your studies, and worry less about budgeting for school supplies along the way. Plus, when you go home for the summer, you’ll have a unit ready and waiting to store your items.

Most college students would like to have a car, but in most cases, it’s not really necessary. Even if you do have a car for weekend outings and exploration, consider getting a bicycle as well. Using your bicycle on campus can be one of the easiest ways to get quickly between classes. This is especially important if you need to schedule one or more classes within 5 minutes of each other. You’ll be grateful during the hot, summer months that you decided to have a bicycle to trek around campus. When you go home for the summer, you can keep your wheels in your storage unit and not have to worry about taking it home with you.

School is an exciting time in your life, and by preparing for the semester in advance, you can make your experience a success. It’s important to limit and reduce your distractions as much as possible. Going to the store, dealing with car issues and wasting time trying to fix and old and outdated computer take away from time you could be using to enjoy your college experience. Save money and be prepared for anything by staying organized and planning your semester in advance.

This article was contributed by guest author Lizzie Weakle.

Image by Toms Bauģis, Flickr

Image by Toms Bauģis, Flickr

The 2014-15 school year is already underway, so most of you may have already established your living situation, whether you’re staying near or in residence, or living at home. For those of you who are still in the process of deciding where to stay, or future post-secondary students looking for advice, this article is for you. There are positives and negatives to both living at home and away from it, and hopefully most of them will be detailed here:

1. Money
There is no question about it, living away from home is much more expensive than staying at home. If you’re tight on money or don’t want to spend too much, try not to move out. However, you may not have a say in the matter depending on your location and school of choice.

2. Location
If you’re living in Edmonton and you want to attend OCAD in Ontario, your ability to move closer to school is the main factor you want to consider. If you’re not extremely far from your future school, you won’t have to move. Nonetheless, consider how far and long you will have to commute to and from school. Waking up two and a half hours before class to commute as opposed to waking with 20 minutes to spare can put a damper on your health, motivation, and attitude toward school. If you’re concerned about this, you may want to consider moving.

3. Desire for Independence or New Experiences
By staying at home, there can be fewer opportunities to socialize and get out on your own. If you move near your school, it is much easier to meet new people and separation from your family provides a good learning experience. If you have roommates or live in residence, bonds can develop quickly with other first year students or those in the same situation as you. No matter what you choose to do, keep in mind that there are always chances to make new friends if you look for them: clubs, classes, and school events like Frosh Week are all hubs for getting to know potential friends.

4. Other Options
If you don’t fancy living at home or in residence, look into renting or buying an apartment near your school. Try splitting the cost with friends and living with them, or look into classified ads for anyone looking for a roommate. You might not have the opportunity to socialize as much as you would in residence, but if you prefer to live alone and desire independence, moving into an apartment may be the way to go.

As is the case with everything, circumstance is key. Factor in your options, your school location, your budget, and what you want when making your decision, and chances are you’ll be satisfied regardless of what you choose.

Image by William Mewes, Flickr

Image by William Mewes, Flickr

Rape, kidnapping, shootings – you’ve heard the news stories of these happening, even on campus. Although rare incidents, they can happen to the least suspecting people. Often, students haven’t taken the proper precautions.

There are steps you can take to increase your safety on campus. Although taking these measures doesn’t mean you’re 100% safe, it will minimize the risk of having anything catastrophic happen to you. Use the following guidelines to safeguard yourself on campus:

  1. Avoid being on campus late at night. If you can avoid taking night classes, great. Walking around campus at night, especially alone, can be unsafe. You never know who you’re going to run into. Run any errands during the day, and don’t walk to visit your friends on campus alone at night.
  2. Travel in crowds. Always walk with at least one other person while at school, as this makes you less of a target for crimes. If you are alone and need to travel to on-campus events, campus security can walk you to and from the event.
  3. If you’re going to a party, make sure you know at least one person there. Going to a party where you don’t know anyone is risky. You’re in a private setting with people who you don’t know whether to trust. Let’s not forget some parties can get out of hand, making them the perfect setting for crime.
  4. Don’t open the door to strangers if you’re living in residence. Doing so gives him or her easy access to your home. Make use of the peephole in your door, and don’t be afraid to ask who it is before you open the door. Remember to keep the door locked and have an alarm on, if possible.
  5. Read the news and pay attention to talk about the latest crimes. This way you are not only informed, but you are also able to protect yourself. Campus crime may not always be published or broadcasted, so it’s important to listen to other people’s reports of what’s happening on campus. Even if they’re just rumours, it doesn’t hurt to keep an extra eye out.

Campuses can be breeding grounds for crime. You may worry that you will be a victim, but ease your mind and know there are precautions you can take to prevent yourself from being targeted. Only worry enough to keep yourself safe. Have fun exploring campus!

Image by mastercabinetmaker, Flickr

Image by mastercabinetmaker, Flickr

If you’re worried about getting wrinkles, I highly recommend visiting your parents back home – you’ll feel the years flying off your life in no time.

In all seriousness, going home after a period of time away can be as much of a transition as it was to move out in the first place. The return to family life – living according to your parents’ routine, helping out with chores, obeying curfews – can feel a little infantilizing after months of freedom. Your parents have had to adjust to your absence, and might clash with the sense of independence you acquired during your time away and subsequently feel entitled to exercise upon your return.

Here are some helpful tips to reduce tension and keep your family visit feud-free!

Set a positive tone for the visit.
Planning is key. If you are honest about going out (inform your parents where you are going, who you’ll be with, and agree on what time you will be home), this will set the tone for the way any subsequent outings are treated. If all goes well the first couple of times, your parents might be less likely to clamp down. However, try to remember that your family hasn’t seen you in months. Hang out with them! Sleeping in late and spending a lot of time out of the house right away are not exactly conducive to catching up with your parents and siblings.

Choose your battles wisely – avoid whining about doing chores.
Keep in mind that you will have to negotiate with your parents over the course of your stay. Choose your battles wisely – if you just do the laundry or mow the lawn instead of putting it off or complaining about it, your parents might be more receptive to the idea of you staying out later to catch up with friends. Also, griping about having to pitch in to wash the dishes is probably not the ideal way to send the message that you have become a responsible, polite, and mature young adult. If you live off-campus, you’ll know how much work goes into keeping your home a nice place to live – when you go home, there are more people to cook for and pick up after, so try to help out in addition to pulling your own weight.

In times of conflict, REMAIN CALM.
Nothing makes you resemble an irrational teenager quite like bellowing at your mother. Do yourself a favour and try to keep your temper in check, no matter how difficult it is to rein in. Maintaining a calm demeanour will demonstrate that you are capable of handling a situation with reason and composure, and you need to seem reasonable in order for your parents to take you seriously when you are upset by something.

Try to communicate how you feel while considering things from their perspective. You have had many new experiences while at university, and have grown a great deal as a result, but your parents still see the same kid who left home a few months ago. Just because your parents have an outdated idea of who you are doesn’t mean that you have to revert to the same habits you had before you left. Take the opportunity to show your parents how much you have matured in the time you’ve spent away from home. They’ll worry a (tiny, infinitesimal) bit less if you seem capable of helping out, cleaning up after yourself, and being polite.

Be strategic about seeing friends, staying out late, and extending your curfew.
Campus life offers this surreal alternate universe where people wake up when they feel like it, come and go as they please, have friends over as late as they want, and Nutella is practically its own food group. While it can be a bit of a rude awakening to come home and surrender your Nutella spoon at the door, you don’t have to sacrifice everything. Be prepared to compromise – and again, negotiation is key. If you have been helpful, present, and polite, your parents will be more receptive to letting you exercise more independence at home.

Appreciate the limited amount of time you have left together.
As much as a stint at home can test your patience, keep in mind that the amount of time you spend together is ultimately finite. You’ll be on your way back to campus soon enough, and then there will be nobody around to stock the fridge or steal socks from, let alone provide the kind of unconditional love and support that family members can offer. As much as a parental overload can feel stifling, you’ll really miss them when they’re far away. No matter how grown up you feel, your parents will always see you as their child, and that is incredibly special.

Image by Peter Alfred Hess, Flickr

Image by Peter Alfred Hess, Flickr

For the next 8 months, your dorm room becomes your home. Sadly, most schools prohibit painting dorm walls, making it a little more difficult for you to truly make the room yours. However, your uninspired space can be spiced up in ways other than just changing the paint colour. Check out these tips on how to decorate it, without breaking any rules:

  • Posters/artwork: Get posters of your favourite movies and bands to show your personality through your space. Show your artsy side with artwork that speaks to you. Looking for more of a design piece? Choose a theme and get posters of different sizes and complementary colours to create a stunning effect. Instead of just taping them onto your walls, consider putting them into picture frames to add a bit of dimension to the room.
  • Wall decals: If you’re more of a minimalist and cringe at the thought of huge pieces of paper hanging on your wall, wall decals are an excellent alternative. You can get anything from inspiring quotes to unique designs. They’re like tattoos for your wall that can easily be peeled off at the end of the year (or if you regret them after a week).
  • Wall tapestries: If you have a huge blank space that’s just begging for an eye-popping piece, consider wall tapestries. Urban Outfitters sells some excellent tapestries, posters, and decals that are sure to make a statement.
  • Wall collage: Instead of buying something, make it! Take old posters, photographs, postcards, typography, or anything else you have lying around that you think will work well together and layer them on top of each other. This is a great way to bring a piece (or pieces) of home with you to college. Karen Kavett (aka xperpetualmotion on Youtube) has made several hip and trendy wall collages. Check her out to get some inspiration for your next dorm room renovation!
  • Peel and stick chalkboards: Super cool in any space, they’re excellent for the artist inside you – and are great alternatives to writing things down on your hand. Combine several of them to make a chalkboard wall that you and your dorm mates can doodle on. They are easy to remove and won’t harm most surfaces.
  • Washi Tape: Easily described as decorative masking tapes, washi tape comes in different sizes and designs, is extremely versatile and can be used anywhere from adding pop to your door to transforming your plain side table. HGTV came up with 10 amazing ways to use washi tape in your room.
  • Rugs: Don’t forget about your feet! A good rug can make your room a lot cozier and homely. Who can forget what The Dude repeatedly said in The Big Lebowski… “That rug really tied the room together!”

Image by kcolwell, Flickr

Image by kcolwell, Flickr

Living with a total stranger might seem intimidating at first, but you can beat the initial awkwardness by making an effort to get to know your roommate. 

  • Grab a coffee or snack together. If you end up sitting stiffly across from each other in your empty dorm room, walking and talking might be a more comfortable and casual setting for that first conversation.
  • Don’t ignore your roommate! Say hello and goodbye when you enter and leave the room. Ask how their day went, invite them to grab a bite to eat, or introduce them to your friends.
  • If you already have a friend on campus, invite both of your roommates to hang out with the two of you.

Don’t expect to be instant best friends.

  • Focus on living compatibility. If you have a roommate who respects your sleeping schedule, cleanliness standards, and noise level tolerance, you’ve scored big time.
  • It’s nice to make an effort to include your roommate in social activities, but it’s also okay to have different friend groups as long as you can be open, polite, and comfortable while living with each other.
  • Remember, you’ve gone from not even knowing this person existed to living in a room with them. Allow your relationship to grow over time!

Set some boundaries and respect each other’s schedules, property, privacy, and personal space.

  • Respect your roommate’s sleeping schedule. Try not to be noisy or disruptive when they are trying to sleep.
  • Try not to be a slob! Keep your side of the room clean.
  • Don’t wear their clothes or eat their food without permission. Not okay.
  • Simply telling your roommate when you plan to invite friends over is not enough. Ask them if it is okay ahead of time, and don’t pressure them to say yes.

Communicate. Living with someone in close quarters is hard work, and you deserve to feel comfortable in your own living space. It is super important to be able to talk to your roommate about any problems you might be having.

  • Don’t assume your roommate can read your mind! He or she might be completely unaware that he or she does something that bugs you. On that note, ask your roommate if you do anything that bothers them. You might be doing something annoying, too!
  • The idea of confrontation might seem awkward and uncomfortable, but staying silent won’t solve any problems. Your stress and resentment might grow, and the tension will erode your relationship over time.
  • Confrontation doesn’t have to be ugly – you don’t have to be overly critical or argumentative. Try to be calm, patient, honest, and prepared to compromise. Explain what’s bothering you, suggest a solution, and talk about it. Afterward, tell your roommate that you’re going to run out for a coffee, and offer to bring one back for them. It’ll give you both some space.

Be nice. Everyone gets stressed out and homesick at some point during the school year. You are the one person that your roommate will probably see every day – it’ll be nice if you can count on each other for support.

Good luck!