Incomplete Guides: College Living

There have been few things as simultaneously exciting and frightening as moving into my first college dorm. Between moving away from home for the first time to doing my first load of laundry (why do my clothes at school never seem as clean as my clothes at home?), college has been not only a place, time, and experience in which I’ve grown to know myself but has also been a taste of the world outside the comfort of my parents’ home. There are undoubtedly countless more things that I have yet to learn, but here are a couple things I’ve picked up about life in college–


Detergent first before laundry (had to get that one out of the way, embarrassing, I know).

You’ll want to buy every miniaturized, colorful gizmo labeled “College!” at Target, but truly: you don’t need any of it (except a shower caddy for those living in dorms). If you’ve lived your entire life thus far without it, it almost certainly will end up under your bed in the corner three weeks into school.

Don’t buy a laptop lock. Don’t do it (I know you’re going to want to).

Buying groceries for one person is much different than buying groceries for a whole family — I bought three different types of fruit, several packages of meat, and a huge amount of perishable foods on my first grocery store trip in college, only to realize later that I would be wasting (what felt like) a couple pounds of peaches if I didn’t stuff myself for the next three days. I’ve learned to stick to basics that are multipurpose: sweet potatoes, apples, asparagus, baby carrots; from there I can cook them a variety of different ways (or use my go-to method, roasting!) for lunch and dinner (PS: 2-3 servings of each perishable is more than enough to get through the week).

Amazon Prime. ‘Nuff said. (Students get their first 6 months for free and then 50% off by enrolling with their .edu account). It’s great for shelf stable foods i.e. the only foods people living in dorms can have.

I’ve lived one year with a fridge and one year without while in the dorms. Having a fridge is okay to have but not a necessity at all.

Use a service like Mint to track your spending and figure out a good budgeting system — your (poor) future self will thank you!

Having a car in a city like LA where public transportation is less efficient than, say, New York or San Francisco, will be fun but will also be incredibly expensive (parking in LA is no joke); UCLA charges students ~$270 a quarter to park in their garages. I’ve alternated between having and not having a car throughout my college career, and I’ve learned to lower my car usage to a minimum, now using it only for essential outings. Also note that online registrations for UCLA to apply for parking permits online ends very early, after which you will need to stand in a long line in the heat of LA September during 0 week to grab leftover spaces.


Having a watch is one of the biggest nerve calmers during exams. Here’s one I’m partial to — a girl can dream, right?

Office hours are a student’s saving grace. Get help from TAs and the professor if you are struggling with the material.

I always wait until the first class to decide if I should buy the class’ textbooks as they are oftentimes optional or provided online by the professor.

Between a Macbook Air and a Pro, I wholeheartedly and emphatically recommend the Air. I started with a 13″ Macbook Pro but switched to an 11″ Air shortly after starting my freshman year. (Now, if you’re anti-Mac because of the high price to spec ratio then you’re probably interested in power over portability anyways.) The energy I’ve physically saved from not having to lug around a couple pounds everywhere has been tremendous, and unless you are using power intensive applications constantly, you likely won’t see a difference in computer speed. I also have a monitor in my room to allow for work/movie watching multi-tasking when I get back from class. Don’t forget about Apple’s student discount.

Another option a lot of students use is a tablet for note taking and a laptop/desktop in their room. I don’t yet feel that tablets have the computational power to suffice as an everyday workhorse and wouldn’t recommend this option — with that said, if you use the tablet/desktop setup, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Buy notebooks! I have experienced a noticeable difference in my ability to recall lecture material when I write longhand rather than type (here’s a study with similar findings). With that said, some classes’ structure/pace of the class make note taking via a computer much easier. I usually come to the first day of classes with both and figure out the best medium from there.

Go to class :)

photo from: AMM


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