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How to Transition From a Dorm to Your First Apartment

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Ah, the fall semester is starting soon and you have to move into your first apartment. Summer is coming to a sad end, and you have lots of preparation to do. The hard part of finding an apartment is over and the keys are now yours to a new adventure in this new location. Whether this apartment is on campus or not, you have to figure out how to live by yourself in your college city/town. Let’s talk about some ways you can smoothly transition from living in a dorm on campus to your first “adult” apartment. You’ll probably want to write this down!


No matter who you are living with, old dorm roommates, friends, or randoms, coordinate with each other. Do not buy multiples of anything and only buy what you need. You’ll learn that fast. Divide costs accordingly on shared items.

It is also important to sit down and have a roommate agreement like you probably were required to do by your freshman year RA. Discuss boundaries in the beginning to ensure clear communication and to better understand each other to avoid making anyone uncomfortable. A tangible chore schedule is essential for a fair and efficient system. Sharing an apartment is a group effort and if everyone feels acknowledged, respected, and everyone is responsible, there should be little to no tension.

Romanticize your new (probably small) space

Okay, you graduated from a one-room dorm to an apartment. This is a big relief, although your apartment will still probably be small, it does not have to be totally uncomfortable.

Something my roommates and I plan to do is to add one new element every season to romanticize our place. For the fall season, buy a candle that reminds you of autumn. The cold winter months are sure to come but that does not mean it has to be dreary and depressing. Add string lights in the living room to create a soft glow. Whatever symbolizes comfort throughout each season, romanticize that time especially if you get homesick or overwhelmed with schoolwork.

You can also thrift! While everyone has a different personal style, thrifting is practical for everyone because of the cheap prices and variety of styles. Take advantage of thrift/antique stores that are available. Second-hand items usually have more character than that plain IKEA desk you have in your online shopping cart. Since this is not your forever home, buying expensive, brand-new furniture is unnecessary. Thrifted items are a great option for your own room and for the commonplace in your apartment. Grab your roommates and go shopping together for things like a couch, coffee table, lamp, etc. to find a style you can all appreciate.

Make your room your number one safe space

We all know things may come up with school or roommates that will stress you out. This is normal. The positive thing is that you have your own room to return to as opposed to one dorm room. Sometimes you just need to decompress alone after socializing all day. Prioritize making your room your recharging station, however that may look.

Create boundaries for what you do and do not do in your personal space. Will you only do school work in the common space and save relaxing and winding down for your bedroom? Is food allowed in there? We all need consistency in our environment to stay sane and comforted and sometimes we have to do that for ourselves. We cannot control every curve ball that comes our way, but we can try to control our safe space.

Budget wisely (dining plan?)

Yay! We are not subjected to dining hall food anymore! If you enjoy cooking as I do, this is a big deal. Your own kitchen has so many possibilities for what you eat. But…maybe still get a small university meal plan. While it is not required to have a meal plan after freshman year, it is still available to all students. If you do not like to cook or find it difficult to make something new every day, get your university to do it for you! On nights when you come home later than expected, forgot to meal plan, or ran out of groceries, head over to a place on campus you can use your meal plan. Living on your own means you have to rely on only yourself for feeding yourself every day, so have a backup plan for when life gets busy. Meal planning each week and buying only the ingredients you need is essential too. Research what grocery stores are near you and where you can get the best deals. Buy whole foods that will fill you up and stay away from prepackaged meals, sodium-loaded meats and junk food. Nourish your beautiful body!

Take your time

The most pivotal piece of advice I have for you all that I needed to hear during my first few weeks of settling into my new place is to take… your… time! This applies to setting up your room, putting everything in its place, decorating, and taking time for yourself. Rome was not built in a day so do not stress if it takes many weeks to figure out how to best organize your apartment. 

Most people will say decorating is a nonessential step in moving in but I believe your room should feel and look like you. Put at least something up on your wall so your room does not look uninviting to you or unique to your personality. But, with that being said, take your time figuring out where everything needs to go and being efficient in your small space. Take your time looking at your school schedule and budget your time wisely by creating a manageable calendar with a balance of school, work, socializing, grocery shopping, keeping your space tidy and downtime. Once you get in the groove, a time of overwhelmingness and disorganization will be long gone.

Have fun in your new space

Last but not least, have fun! Embrace this new independence of living on your own. Celebrate the milestone of having your first apartment. Every challenge is a new opportunity to grow. Schedule friend/roommate dates; for example, have movie nights, cook together or go to events on campus. It can also be fun to make your apartment a place you can host friends and club meetings if you and your roommates are comfortable with that. Make the most of these years and the people around you along with the opportunities your university can provide. Good luck, girl. You got this.

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Ariana is a fashion merchandising major and theater minor at Virginia Commonwealth University with interests in costume design and film. She is a member of the editorial team and is enthusiastic about sustainability, fashion, beauty, mental health, and current events. She loves supporting women through HC.