When you head off to college, it can be a new and exciting experience, but, it can also be overwhelming. For students who have never lived alone before, heading off to college, and finding themselves in a more independent lifestyle than ever before, can be an adjustment. Check out these tips and life hacks for college students that can make your life easier than you ever thought possible.
Learn How to Do Laundry Before You Go to College
Believe it or not, there's an art to laundry, and if you don't master it, you might wind up needing a whole new wardrobe. Most college students can't afford that! Doing laundry means remembering a few rules, and understanding how to take care of your clothes means you will save both time and money. What kind of rules? Wash like fabrics with like fabrics (don't mix towels and silk), like colors with like colors (white clothes and red clothes do not get along well!), and not everything goes in the dryer. You don't want a shrunken sweater, pants covered in towel fuzz or pink socks and shirts, so learn how to properly wash and dry your clothes before you go off to college (or invest in a laundry service).
Fake a Clean Outfit, Even if Laundry Day Has Passed
You know it's going to happen… you're going to put off laundry day and your clothes aren't going to get the washing they need all the time. There's help though. Put dryer sheets in your drawers (or bags or piles of clothes) to keep them smelling fresh, even if they are on day 2 or 3 or 5 of being worn. Febreeze also helps if you're pushing it, and it's less assaulting to the nose than bathing in cologne and perfume. Bonus tip: keep dryer sheets handy because they can also eliminate static cling.
Hamper Backpack and Laundry Detergent Pods
A good hamper backpack can make lugging your clothes to the laundry room easier than carrying a laundry basket while juggling detergent and fabric softener. As a bonus, many of these backpacks even have places to carry your detergent and fabric softener. Have a long way to walk? Avoid lugging large and heavy bottles of detergent by buying detergent pods in bulk instead. Then, you just need to carry a few pods at a time with your laundry. Use dryer sheets instead of liquid, and once again, you've lessened your load.
Always Stock Up on Plastic Baggies
From storing leftover food to carrying those laundry detergent pods, plastic baggies are a must-have to keep stocked in your dorm room. They are a great way to store receipts you need, wrangle that mess of pens and pencils you have, and store band-aids and other meds. In a pinch, they can even double as a bowl or cup, and they are a great way to seal up leftover food that you're tossing so it doesn't stink up the room. We all know that taking out the trash isn't always a top priority.
Save Money by Eating in the Dining Hall
Most colleges offer awesome dining hall plans, and taking advantage of these plans can save you money over always ordering out. You may not like everything that's served, but if there's a salad bar, sandwich bar, pasta bar, or pizza station, you can often find something. Many dining service plans offer unlimited food when you eat there, but they may limit what you can carry out.
Fear not! Most dining halls will allow drinks to be taken out, and so hiding your foraged food can be a cinch. Always carry a giant empty water bottle or two to store that forbidden extra food in, so that you can stealthily carry it out of the dining hall. A clear water bottle won't work, as you'd be able to see through the bottle to know you're breaking the rules. Be smart, don't go crazy carrying like 10 water bottles - that's a bit suspect - and always wash your water bottles thoroughly in between food foraging sessions.
Juice Up Your Technology
Stock up on extra external chargers and cords to get through the day. It's too easy to run out of battery mid-lecture and miss important notes or not have your calendar at the ready, or worse, not be able to find out about the latest party, catch an Uber or order pizza at night. Keeping extra cords and chargers in your backpack can be a life saver. Some of the most popular cords are retractable cords that don't take up a lot of room in your bag and that have multiple connection ports, so you can charge your chargers, iPhone, camera and whatever other electronic goodies you may have, right from the same cord. Buy two or three cords just in case you lose one or want to charge two things at once because you know you will. And remember to have the plug for the outlet or a charging port that charges multiple devices at once. Keep one by your bed at night and one in your bag for emergencies.
Incentivize Studying (with Snacks and activities)
We've all been there. The night is quickly coming to an end and you've got a paper due tomorrow or a test to study for, and you just aren't motivated. That pizza your roommate ordered is calling your name or that party everyone is going to is so tempting. You don't have to recreate the scene from "Legally Blonde" where Elle forgoes Greek Week completely… just show a little self-discipline by creating a rewards system for yourself to keep going. You know you've got 30 minutes before the party starts? Instead of pre-party festivities, focus on that science lab you need to write up and get it done. Making it in that 30-minute time slot means you get a reward - pizza or a party. If you don't make it? You have to stay back. This means you need to have some self-discipline, but challenging yourself to reach goals and rewarding yourself afterward can be a great strategy to get things done, especially if you plan in advance. Add another level of incentives by giving yourself bigger rewards for exceeding expectations. Ace that exam? Treat yourself to a night out or order wings and pizza. Whatever it is that will motivate you to work, use it.
Turn Your Wall Into a Schedule
Here's that plan in advance advice that I just mentioned. Get a white board calendar, idea paint (if your dorm allows it) or larger paper desk calendar and attach it to your wall in a place that you will see it well from any spot in your room. Use it to write down class times, block off study times and important meetings, and even outline sports, activities, and parties you plan on attending. Use a different color for each class or activity (check out the next bullet for more color-coding ideas) and on day one of your classes, invest some time in filling this calendar out with class dates and deadlines in one color. Take the syllabus from every class and fill in the calendar with all the dates and deadlines that are posted. Take a picture of it on your iPhone so it's always with you, too. If you use an online calendar, take the time to match it to the whiteboard - yes, do both! The more ways that you can remind yourself of what you need to do, the more successful - and on time - you will be.
Color Code Your Classes
If organization isn't your strong suit and you're a paper-based study type, color code your classes by getting notebooks, folders and book covers (throwback time - remember your middle school days of wrapping textbooks in paper bags?) in a color that matches the marker on your whiteboard that we just mentioned. Chances are, a typical pack of markers has everything you need. Then, as you're glancing quickly at what's coming up, you can easily grab the colored materials that you need.
Record Lectures While You Take Notes
Assuming you're a note taker, you should still take manual notes, but also get your iPhone recording the lecture (don't forget that extra external charger!). That way, if you don't understand something in your notes, you can go back to the recording for clarification. Know you're going to need to review a certain part of the lecture? Make a star in your notes and write down the time stamp of when that material was covered so you can easily find the right moment without having to listen to everything. There are plenty of apps out there to help with note taking if you need one.
If you're not already, consider a cloud-based service for digital notes so they are always accessible. Find a good note-taking app like Evernote or even just use Google Docs and make folders for every semester and every class. This allows you to store recordings and all your notes online, making them super easy to search. Dictation apps and programs like Dragon and even just your iPhone allow you to dictate your notes and essays without having to type. For many students, this saves a lot of time and energy. Just be sure to proofread and edit carefully. We all know that autocorrect can make mistakes.
Start Slow and Ramp Up Your Studies in Years Two and Three
Many students hit the ground running at full speed during year one, and don't get properly acclimated to school. Use your first year to take the typical number of classes - don't overload - and start with the basic pre-requisites and maybe just a fun class (if you can get in). Take the time to enjoy college for the first year, and then in your next two years, start testing yourself academically with harder classes and heavier schedule loads.
Get a Pinterest Account
Really? This is a life hack? Yes. When it comes to college, living on a budget in a tiny room, Pinterest will become your best friend. From food ideas to storage and space saving tips, Pinterest is a plethora of great ideas. Recipes in Mug? You'd be surprised how many things you can make using a mug and a microwave, and Pinterest is the best place to find endless recipes and ideas for creating a gourmet meal in the dorm. Can't find a home for everything? It's not surprising. Dorm rooms aren't known for being super spacey and luxurious, but Pinterest has a plethora of awesome ideas on how to save space, stay organized and even pimp out your dorm room so that you're one of the hottest stops on the floor.
Alarms are great for getting up, but they also can help throughout the day. Set alarms for every class, study group, and meeting so you're never late. Give yourself 15-20 minutes before class to get there. If you're someone who is often late, set multiple alarms for each class so you don't risk snoozing them.