Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
If you have a son or daughter heading off to higher learning at a college or university who will be living on campus, this can be an exciting and stressful time for both of you. Will they study hard? Will my kid get homesick? How can I afford that skyrocketing tuition? And how can I make him or her feel more comfortable in campus housing?
While many of these questions may go unanswered for a while, one query you can quell is the latter. Because there’s lots mom and dad can do to help their student acclimate better to a shared or single dorm room.
“Designing, styling, furnishing and appointing a college dorm room with thought and care is important because this will serve as the student’s home away from home for a significant period,” says Amy Smith, blogger at AmyandRose.com and parent of a teenager. “A well-designed space contributes to your child’s mental and emotional well-being, encourages productivity, and fosters a sense of belonging. It also helps maximize space, promote organization and create a comfortable environment conducive to studying, socializing and resting.”
Leslie Josel, an academic/life coach for college students and owner of Order Out of Chaos in Los Angeles, vividly remembers getting her college-bound son readying to room away from home.
“It was a balancing act. On one hand, we had to make sure not to bring too much stuff so that my son wouldn’t get overwhelmed. But on the other hand, we needed to ensure he had the essentials to feel settled, organized and productive,” says Josel. “That’s why I recommend that you call the college’s residential life office and request a floor plan of the room before moving. This way, you know the exact layout and measurements of the room and its existing furniture, which can help you know what to purchase and pack.”
Questions Josel recommends asking of the school include:
- Is the included bed adjustable, and how high does it go? This allows you to plan how to best use under-the-bed space and know which organizing items to purchase.
- Does the room’s desk come with a hutch? If not, you may want to purchase one to create a study/homework zone.
- Does the room include a dresser? How many drawers are in the dresser?
- How is the closet laid out?
- Is the bathroom attached to the dorm room or located down the hall? A travel caddy may be needed to store bathroom essentials.
Additionally, follow recommended tips for appointing a shared dorm room.
“Coordinate with the roommate to establish a theme, color scheme, or design aesthetic to create a cohesive look,” suggests Smith. “Try to maximize space using multi-functional furniture such as loft beds with built-in desks, storage cubes that double as seating or folding desks. Use area rugs to divide the space and add a touch of personal style. Invest in bed linens, throw pillows and blankets in coordinating colors or patterns to create a visually appealing dorm. Use wall shelves, cork boards and magnetic boards to display personal items and save floor space. And utilize under-bed storage and over-the-door organizers for additional space-saving solutions.”
If your student is lucky enough to live alone, Smith advises picking a theme or color scheme that reflects his or her personality and interests. Invest in a comfortable, ergonomic desk chair for long study sessions. Additionally, ponder purchasing a futon or sofa bed for additional seating and sleeping options for guests.
“When decorating the room, you want to keep in mind the scale of the space. When you have a very small area to work with, make smart choices to best utilize the available room you have,” says Erika Ross, a certified interior decorator with PDR Interiors in Lexington, Kentucky. “Adding in extra seating like a small ottoman is a good idea, too. This can hold your backpack or be tucked under your bed.”
Try to set aside a dorm decorating/furnishing budget of at least $500 to $1,000. But if you want to take the space to the next level, count on investing $2,000 or more for upgraded or additional goods, Ross adds.