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How to Make a Miniscule Dorm Room Feel Less Like a Broom Cupboard

by Abby Egan

On the way to college: "Okay, the car is packed. I can’t see out the back window but everything fit – barely. I wonder how I’ll fit it all in my dorm room..."
Unpacking at college: "What do you MEAN I only get one closet?!"
All unpacked: "I guess I’ll just send half of this stuff home with my parents because there’s no more room for it."

Dorm rooms are notorious for being the size of a closet – think Harry-Potter-Cupboard-Under-the-Stairs small – but you can do some magic of your own when it comes to organization. Most dorm rooms come with a closet/dresser, a few extra drawers and a desk for storage. The best trick to making space is by utilizing the space under your bed: Though it can be disconcerting to have your bed so high – I’d suggest getting a stepstool if the height is a problem for you – it’s the easiest way to free up space. Plastic drawers, bins or boxes can be used as under bed storage, plus most colleges have beds that can be adjusted high enough to slide at least one piece of furniture under. The more you fit under your bed, the more floor space you’re going to have.

Thank goodness we live in the 21st century where stores are stocked with aisles of nifty little storage contraptions for dorm rooms. There are amazing storage products out there for students like us – shoe holders that hang on the back of your door, accordion shelves that hang from your closet pole and bed risers to give you even more height than the school bed can reach – so take advantage of these opportunities to create more space. Freeing up even a few square feet can really make the difference between feeling claustrophobic and feeling comfortable in your own space.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Dealing with Disappointment in College

by Carly Gerber

I had my freshman year of college perfectly planned and one aspect that was going to make college the ultimate experience for me was to join a sorority. During rush, I found the sorority I wanted to join as well as an equally awesome backup and when the second round came along, I was ecstatic to find out that I was asked back by my top two choices. Then, third round I was extremely disappointed that neither sorority chose me. A sorority I knew I didn't want to join requested to see me during the third round, but I was too upset about getting rejected by the houses I was most interested in so I dropped out of rush entirely.

I felt alone because all of my friends from home and the friends I made at school got into their first choices. I thought there must be something about me that the women in the sororities didn't like and instead of being happy I made great friends at school who accepted me, I became extremely insecure. Looking back, I wish I had rebounded quicker. Honestly, it took me almost four years to accept that not getting into a sorority was best for me but now I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Going Greek wasn’t in the cards for me and if I were in a sorority, I would not have had time to join other extracurricular activities that I love and I also might not have reached out to people who are now great friends.

The lesson here is to not let disappointment affect your college life. The seemingly bad things that happen to us can secretly be the best things so move on and accept that better experiences are ahead of you. You’ll see!

Carly Gerber is majoring in journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She loves fashion and hopes to cover the topic for a Chicago-area magazine. In her free time, she focuses on her blog, loves making jewelry and spending time on Pinterest and Pose. She hopes to use this blog to guide and relate to its followers: college students like herself!


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The Three Things You Absolutely Need In Your Dorm Room

by Abby Egan

When I started living at school, it became very clear to me that there are certain things that you absolutely need in the residence halls. Every person is different but the three main items that I found were impossible to live without were a fan, a surge bar and a hidden stash of cash. Here's why:

  • Fan: The September heat is killer in dorms without AC, plus cramped rooms can get stuffy from stale air after a while. A fan will get things moving so your room doesn’t begin to take on the smell of your overflowing laundry basket of dirty clothes.
  • Surge Bar: If you're anything like me, you own tons of electronic technology that need to be charged/plugged in/juiced up on the daily. Many schools (mine included) don't allow the use of extension cords because of the fire/tripping hazards so surge bars are a great alternative. Grab some extra-long ones to keep your room hazard-free and avoid arguments with your roommate when it comes to sharing the outlets.
  • Secret Cash Stash: Money is a foreign concept to most college students because they have such a hard time keeping any in their pockets between loans, bills and late night pizza orders. At the beginning of each year, take the time to find a safe hiding spot in your room to stash a little emergency cash. If your room comes with a safe or a lockable drawer, put the cash in there where it won’t be easily accessible...though rolled up in a pair of socks in the back of your dresser is just as safe. You may trust your friends but keep the location of your stash a secret just to be on the safe side. You never know when you may need it!

What are YOUR dorm must-haves?

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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Making the Most of Your Spare Time

by Mary Steffenhagen

It’s agonizing to suddenly relinquish a free and easy summer schedule to the clutches of the college schedule...but what happens when your weeks in school are just as free they are over break?

You may end up with a situation a lot of college students dream of: a surplus of free time. This happened to me during my freshman year, as I had a pretty open class schedule, a weekends-only job and didn’t join any clubs. I ended up bored to death nearly every day! But I didn’t realize that the extra time was an advantage that not only gave me a chance for homework but time to focus on personal goals. If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few tips as to how to best spend your time:

However you choose to spend your extra time, make sure you enjoy yourself. Having time to yourself while in college is a rarity and you may not have such an opportunity in later semesters. College is about exploring and learning...not being bored because there’s nothing to do. So get out there and make use of your time – you won’t regret it!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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When Choosing a College, Research Early and Often

by Abby Egan

I started looking for colleges in my junior year of high school because I was so unsure about what I wanted. Deciding on a college was a scary thought to me because I was under the impression that I was going to be stuck at whichever school I chose for four whole years. So to ease my ever-increasing stress levels, I visited my dream school (MCLA) almost seven times before accepting to attend for the fall of 2011.

I jumped at every opportunity to get to know my top choice better and better: I visited on long weekends with my parents, signed up for multicultural nights and participated in overnight programs bussed from Boston. I took the drive to MCLA whenever I needed to talk to the Bursar about bills or the financial aid office about student loans. Though it was a long ride, I got on a first-name basis with the librarian and a handful of school officials, putting faces to names and breaking down that wall between being strangers and being acquaintances.

I took the time to really determine whether I wanted to spend the next four years at MCLA. Though my parents researched facts online and talked on the phone with MCLA officials, I made sure to do my own research as well. The bottom line was that I was attending MCLA, not my parents, so I made sure everyone I encountered at the school I spoke to knew me and not just the me my parents spoke about.

I knew I wanted to attend MCLA after my first visit but I’m glad I took the time to get to know the institution a little bit better. It made me feel more prepared for my first semester of freshman year but even if you visit 100 times, you might not know if your school is the one for you until you immerse yourself in the community. If for whatever reason you don’t feel it’s right, don’t panic: You can always transfer. Deciding on a college isn’t the end all be all – there’s always room for change – but you just have to find what’s right for you.

Abby Egan is currently a junior at MCLA in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where she is an English Communications major with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy. Abby hopes to find work at a publishing company after college and someday publish some of her own work. In her spare time, Abby likes to drink copious amounts of coffee, spend all her money on adorable shoes and blog into the wee hours of the night.


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What to Expect as a Resident Assistant

by Melissa Garrett

Resident assistants. So you’ve seen them around campus and you admire how much they help out their fellow students. You’ve seen how much everybody loves them and what a positive impact they have on your university. Are you thinking of becoming a resident assistant yourself? As a new RA, I honestly expected it to be a lot less challenging than it has already proven to be but rather than explaining every last detail, I can tell you that there are some major dos and don’ts for the job:

  • Do come up with some great ideas for your residents. Do you want to plan a fun event or activity? The power is in your hands!
  • Don’t dominate everything. It is important to work with your co-RAs when planning events or deciding on new residence hall policies.
  • Do get excited! Being an RA is not only a rewarding experience but it is also a great way to get to know a lot of people.
  • Don’t expect it to be easy. RAs have to go through a lot of training and come back to campus earlier than most students.
  • Do put your residents first. They will be coming to you with some pretty intense problems and you should be willing to help them out whenever they need it.
  • Don’t abuse your schoolwork. Although your job is a super important duty, learn to balance your time in such a way that your academic performance will not suffer.
  • Do be sure to alert your residents if things are getting out of hand. Nobody wants a messy kitchen or bathroom and chances are that your residents will blame you for not calling a hall meeting.
  • Don’t be bossy. Your residents won't feel comfortable coming to you for advice if they’re afraid that you will snap at them.

Most importantly, you should never get involved in something simply for the popularity aspect. If being an RA sounds like something you would be really dedicated to, go for it! It may be a lot of work but if you enjoy helping people, you will probably have a lot of fun being a resident assistant at your university!

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.


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Popping the Bubble: How to Keep Up on Current Events in College

by Mary Steffenhagen

The crisis in Syria! The Bradley Manning sentencing! The fracking debate! Yet another random act of violence!

The media bombards us with information and news every second of every day – a sensory overload of grim stories and political biases. It's overwhelming but college can become a sort of bubble, a relaxing retreat from the cares of the outside world. You don’t see the news unless you turn on your own TV or radio or follow a news site or newspaper. With all the other fun things to do, who’s got time to be depressed and bored by other people’s problems?

It’s incredibly easy to feel that what you see on CNN doesn’t affect you – a college student in America – but it does. You may not live in a small village in the Middle East but actions cause ripples and what happens across the globe may, in any small way, touch your life. Some events will affect you directly. For example, President Obama recently signed a bill to restore lower interest rates on student loans: This directly affects you and me, who will now be paying a 3.4 percent interest rate on our loans as opposed to the previous 6.8 percent.

Current events are nearly always incendiary topics as well. You will encounter a diverse range of people in college with a diverse range of ideologies...and a shrug and a “Whatever, I don’t really care about that” won’t get you off the hook in discussions anymore. It’s important to know where you stand and even more important to do your research, so as not to form a hasty assumption. First off, it will help you not to look like a buffoon or needlessly offend others and secondly, being able to form and articulate a well-thought argument is an invaluable skill!

Lastly, being cognizant of “the outside world” is an important development in the whole messy process of becoming an adult. Forming opinions, arguments and worldviews – and having them challenged – is a necessary part of life...especially in an environment such as college, where it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. So don’t let college become a bubble and cut you off from the vital circulation of ideas and news. Get (and stay) informed!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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Who Am I Really?

Creating Your Own Identity on Campus

August 29, 2013

Who Am I Really?

by Chelsea Slaughter

Starting off in a new place with new people can be scary. As young people, we tend to flock together in “cliques” or groups we feel most comfortable with and the majority of the time, the members of our groups share many of the same qualities. It's perfectly fine to have friends but it’s important not to lose your own identity.

When I was a freshman, I had a circle of friends that were “one for all and all for one.” When schedules got hectic later in the year, we had less and less time to do things together but it seemed like every time I went somewhere alone, someone asked “Where are the others?” At the moment, it did not occur to me that I was not known as my own person but instead as a member of “that group.”

As an RA in a freshman residence hall, I was able to witness the same cycle constantly repeating. I am not saying to not have friends or a circle to can call upon but I AM saying that you must remember who you are and what’s important to you. If you want to join a club and your friends are uninterested, you should still go for it! This gives you a chance to meet others who share interests the friends you already have may not.

As the years progress, you will see the importance of having a personal identity on your campus. You will see the difference between “Oh look, it’s that group” and “Oh look, it’s Chelsea and her friends.” This is your chance to transition from fitting in to standing out – it's time to find who you are, not lose who you are!

Chelsea Slaughter is currently a junior at Jacksonville State University majoring in communications major (public relations concentration) and minoring in art. She serves as a resident assistant on campus, serves as treasurer in the Public Relations Organization and is an active member in W.I.S.E., NAACP and Omicron Delta Kappa Honors Leadership Society. She aims to work in the entertainment industry post-graduation and is well on her way thanks to an internship with a digital marketer to several music artists. Chelsea strives to achieve all of her goals and motivate others along the way.


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Why Single-Sex Colleges are Worth Considering

by Melissa Garrett

With the number of single-sex colleges in the nation dwindling, it can be rare to hear someone say that they attend a college for women but for me, it is something that I say with pride. Although some people have perceptions that single-sex institutions take away from one’s college experience, I personally believe that it has made mine unforgettable.

I had always visited my family in Pittsburgh during the summers as a teenager. As we would drive around the city looking at universities that I may want to attend, I always immediately dismissed Chatham University. However, I began to wonder how much a single-sex institution could really benefit me and over time, the idea actually became appealing. I looked into it and learned some interesting statistics, such as the fact that only 2 percent of female college graduates attend women’s institutions, yet they make up 20 percent of women in Congress.

I ultimately decided to apply to Chatham, which is most famous for alumni Rachel Carson, the marine biologist and conservationist who wrote Silent Spring. Making the choice to come here once accepted was definitely the best one I have ever made: Since we are all women, we can relate to each other well and are free to act as silly and comfortable as we would like. Close bonds are formed that I believe are found much less often at traditional universities. We don’t have sororities because essentially, we are one big sorority.

If you are exploring your college options, I encourage you to add single-sex institutions to your list. The experience is enriching and anybody who gets to attend college in this form should consider himself or herself to be lucky. Traditional colleges definitely have their great qualities but I personally wouldn’t trade my time at Chatham for anything in the world.

Melissa Garrett is a sophomore at Chatham University majoring in creative writing with minors in music and business. She works as a resident assistant and is currently in the process of self-publishing several of her books. She also serves as the president of Chatham’s LGBT organization and enjoys political activism. Melissa’s ultimate goal is to become a college professor herself.


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Becoming a Commuter Student

September 5, 2013

Becoming a Commuter Student

by Mary Steffenhagen

Living on campus is almost a necessary rite of passage for the college freshman. “Don’t miss out on the full college experience!” you’re warned, enticed with stories of spacious dorms, fantastic parties and few rules. Sure, living in the dorms can be fun, exciting and new but it also has it downsides: expensive room and board fees, a mandatory meal plan with food usually not worth the cost, lack of privacy or the risk of a bad roommate. Being a commuter student, on the other hand, isn’t as difficult as it seems: Your school probably has commuter lockers if you have a lot of books, packing a lunch is cheap and quick and carpooling is an efficient way to travel with friends.

I lived on campus for my first two years of school and experienced all the downsides listed above to varying degrees so this year, I am living at home and commuting. In some cases, the pros and cons were obvious. Did I want to pay thousands for a meal plan rather than eat with my family for free? No. Would I rather share a small space with three girls instead of having my own familiar bedroom? No. But would I like to be closer to campus than have the 40-minute commute I now have each day? Yes. I was reluctant to commute at first but I found that the time spent would be made up for and then some by the money I would save. If living at home for a year or two is an option for you, consider it! You’ll save money that you can put toward paying off any student loan debt or – who are we kidding – buying stuff you actually want when you want it.

If a long commute doesn’t interest you but you’re still looking to live off campus, it’s not too late to begin the apartment search. It is possible to find a nice place with affordable rent: College towns often have complexes with student budgets in mind. Splitting rent is an easy way to keep costs down and this time you get to choose your own housemate!

When you live off campus and commute, your time feels more like your own and it doesn’t have to revolve around what’s going on at school. If you’re feeling the itch to leave campus, check out your options and see what’s best for you!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


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