GC How To: Transition to an Apartment

Story by Amy Cain
Photo by Anne Langan

If it’s only the second week of school and you feel like moving from the dorms to an apartment is making you question everything you know, don’t panic. We’ve all been there.

When I first moved out of the dorms I thought living in apartments was the “cool” option and a reason to use my Pinterest board. Oh, how I wish I could shake some sense into my younger self.

I lived in a dormitory for three years and loved it. In my dorm, there was a great community, ready-made meals and an easy walk to classes. However, the first week living in my first off-campus apartment I realized how much residence halls pacified me.

The first realization you will have is that the “Broke College Student” label doesn’t fully set in until you move into an apartment. Living in a dorm is great, but it doesn’t prepare you for living in the real world, and moving into an off-campus apartment is a tough transition.

Now, I share my advice and wisdom with you as an apartment-dwelling pro.

Your Situation: Going Grocery Shopping (and Cooking)
Do you already regret bad-talking those cafeteria meals from your underclassman years? Having withdrawals using cash at Starbucks instead of Flex dollars? You are not alone.

Every time I saw students walk into a cafeteria, it took energy to hold back my inner saltiness. Now, when a dormitory resident invites me into the cafeteria, it feels like entering the promise land.

To make your life easier, the first thing you must realize is that grocery shopping requires a serious budget and planning.

Food is one of the biggest expenses while living off-campus alongside bills and commuting. I usually spend between $20 to $40 on weekly trips, but there will be some trips where you will spend over $50 to restock staple foods. When I paid for my first pricey grocery bill of $70, I sat in my car and cried. It’s actually funny to look back at that moment of transition, but it is something I had to grow into. You’ll laugh too, eventually.

Our Advice: When shopping, focus on the essentials and make a reasonable grocery list. Seriously question the value of an item before putting it into the cart. Can you see yourself using this item in the long run? Sometimes in life, we have to put the ice cream back.

Your Situation: Keeping Your Social Life Alive
When I lived in the dormitory there were constantly peers around. Resident Assistants would also put on programs to create good vibes in the hall. At an apartment, your roommates are all you have with inclusion of your neighbors – who may be random strangers.

Our Advice: Keep going to the events put on by organizations of interest. I now hang out with people I met through an organization and friends within my major. After years in your major, you create friendships with peers in your class. Don’t have an organization? Take the initiative and get involved again.

Your Situation: Commuting to Campus and Parking
Heard of the saying “get hit, get rich” from college students who walk to class? Those students need to chill because I want to get to class without hitting somebody. I honestly want pedestrians to pick up the pace so us car-dwellers can get to our classes on time. People who cross the streets sometimes forget drivers have to get to class too.

Parking is another story. Depending on the time of the day, getting a good parking spot can be impossible. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on campus is when the parking lot will be full and there will be times where you have to walk a distance to your class.

Our Advice: Avoid crossings and intersections as much as possible. For example, Preston and Washington is a trap for drivers commuting to class. Take the back road to a commuter lot that doesn’t have as many intersections, and remember to keep quarters in your car at all times for emergency meter parking.

Your Situation: Maintaining Your Place
Oh, the drama of chores. *Dun dun dun.*

Just like the dorms, chores are still negotiated between roommates and chores are debatably one of the main causes of conflict between roommates. Everybody is your average stereotypical busy college student. We are all human. There are times when somebody forgets to take their clothes out of the washer or forgets to lock the door, (but hopefully not). Trust me, I’ve been there, pretending the dishes aren’t adding up.

Our Advice: Do your part and communicate with your roommates about chores.

Your Situation: Spending All Day on Campus
Living off-campus calls for much planning at the start of your day. I am sorry to say, there is hardly ever time for quick naps, unless you have a quality gap in your schedule, and driving back in forth to grab something can be too much. Carrying an extra load with you on campus is normal when you’ll be on campus for most of the day.

Our Advice: Carry a decent-sized bag or have a dedicated section in your backpack. If you drive to campus, keep some items in your car. Personally, I carry a backpack and a purse (err, suitcase!). In my purse I carry an umbrella, electronic chargers, snacks and any other personal items needed.

Hopefully, upon reading this, you’ll be stress-free. We wish you luck in this year! In times of worry, take a deep breath and remember: you’ll be a pro by the end of this year, too.

All GIFs courtesy of giphy.com and the creators who supply them