Five Tips for Thriving in Student Housing

todaySeptember 13, 2022 51

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By Celeste Parler
Web Content Contributor

Living in temporary student housing is a necessity for the majority of college students. Texas State requires most new freshmen to live on campus, given there are enough spaces to house them. Living on campus was overall a beneficial experience for me because I was able to be close to my classes and food options, but for many students, living in a residence hall was just something to get through begrudgingly.

After all, living in a dorm is a near opposite experience to living with family. It’s impossible to bring furniture or an excessive amount of personal belongings to college to live the way you did before. Given that no one lives in a dorm, let alone an apartment, for more than a year or two, many students are unwilling to make commitments to make their homes more livable.

However, that doesn’t have to be the case for students in temporary living situations. Just because you’re living somewhere temporarily doesn’t mean you have to compromise your quality of life. The way we lay out and maintain our personal spaces can either improve or decline our well-being, and these spaces are also a reflection of who we are and the things that bring us happiness.

Over time I learned how to personalize my dorm and apartments to maximize comfort and style. Learning how to live comfortably in temporary spaces mostly comes from the experience of moving in and out of student housing. That’s why I’ve reached out to several Texas State residence assistants (RAs) to also provide advice for people looking to make the most of student living. Here are five tips to make any student dorm or apartment more habitable:

Collect trinkets, photographs and mementos

What I’ve found to be most effective to decorate my dorm and apartments is to preserve memories in the form of trinkets and wall decorations. In my opinion, anything can be a wall decoration if you try hard enough. Obviously, you can always invest in printed photographs and displays to decorate your room, but I love to take papers, postcards and fliers I find to make my apartment bedroom more inviting.

Everything I’ve hung on my walls has a story that is significant to me. Whether it was a button from a student organization, a paper fortune from Panda Express or discarded sheet music. These items may not have monetary value, but they reflect how I’ve spent my time having fun and growing in college.

RA Andrew Hodge told me, “It’s important to collect items that serve as touchstones throughout your college experience. By the end of your college career, you should have a collection of mementos that serve as a unique timeline of your experience at Texas State.”

Get creative with storage

In small living spaces like dorms, students have no choice but to get creative with storage. A common misconception about temporary student housing is that you have to leave behind most of your belongings to make everything habitable. That doesn’t have to be the case when you make strategic decisions about organizing school supplies, clothing and anything else you can’t live without.

The first question you will need to ask yourself is what you will need access to most often. This will determine items to keep in proximity to common areas like your desk and your bed. Other items can be stored elsewhere in drawers and cabinets. You can also decide if any items are worth displaying on shelves like jewelry and trinkets.

I would recommend buying organization tools of various sizes that have multiple purposes. That way, once you move into a new place with different dimensions and furniture you will still be able to use the items you bought. Decorative bins, hanging closet organizers and drawer dividers are all essential to living productively in a temporary space. You might be able to store your belongings in these organizers as you move in and out!


A corner in a college dorm room with a closet and storage space with sliding doors overhead. On the wall cornering the closet are fine art postcards, a mirror with a gold frame and three canvas paintings. In the closet is clothing on white hangers, a wooden countertop with a drawer and cabinet and black racks of shoes.
I had to get creative with storage options by utilizing existing features and furniture in my dorm.

Embrace existing features

Several incoming freshmen across the United States have shared their newly decorated dorms on social media to the shock of previous college dorm residents. To disguise the appearance of traditional college dorm architecture, some freshmen are applying wallpaper or draping fabric on their walls for a more luxurious appearance. But what part of college living is meant to be luxurious? As commenters have also pointed out, these wall decorations can also cause fire hazards and be a struggle to apply and take down.

There’s no need to disguise the defining traits of temporary housing. In fact, it can be to your benefit to embrace the built-in features of your dorm or apartment. For instance, my dorm came with built-in shelves with sliding doors above the closet. Utilizing similar storage spaces can prevent you from wasting crucial open spaces for organization. Generally, adapting to the flow and existing style of your living spaces instead of against it will save you the trouble of always aspiring for perfection.

RA Jackson Barr mentioned how provided dorm furniture may be difficult for new students to adjust to in a new space, but in the end, it leads students to problem-solve to lead to the most comfort.

“Dorm life through the university sacrifices some creativity, but you make the best with what you’re given, and this can lead to a greater appreciation for the possessions one already has,” said Barr.


The wall of a bedroom taken at dawn with a window faintly shining into the room. A Himalayan salt lamp sitting on a table to the right of the bed glows orange, illuminating the room. On the wall hang posters, small canvas paintings and a small mirror. Transparent white curtains cover the window and fake green vines frame the window.
Adding warm and color using a Himalayan salt lamp, green vines and wall decorations made my first apartment more habitable.

Add warmth and color

Unfortunately, dorms and student apartments are not attractive on their own. Off-white cinderblocks and matching wood furniture are unpleasant to the eyes. It is an absolute must to add warmth and color to an otherwise dull room.

Lighting can make all the difference to set the environment in your home. Different types of lighting will create distinct effects. My Himalayan salt lamp is exceptional at adding a warm feeling to my otherwise drab bedroom. LED strip lights and even plug-in night lights also add fun colors to liven up your home at night. And don’t take natural sunlight for granted! You’ll be amazed at how comfortable and serene you will feel.

Greenery and indoor plants are another way to place color throughout your living space. Owning indoor plants has been scientifically proven to boost your mood and increase your productivity and creativity. Even if you don’t have a green thumb for gardening, fake ivy and succulents can be just as effective as pleasant decorations.

Finally, to cover those bland dorm or apartment walls, hang wall decorations such as tapestries, posters and anything else you can find.

As Hodge put it, “Having large amounts of space on the wall can make your space feel empty.” Wall decorations are the most straightforward way to put your interests on display. Hodge also suggested making use of cork boards for their versatility.

“Over time, the board will fill up with your memories from college. It can make your room feel more like a home,” said Hodge.

Make a plan to move everything out

If you’ve just moved into your dorm or apartment, chances are the last thing on your mind is how to move out. However, the best time to devise a move-out plan is to do so while your possessions are boxed up. If you’ve taken the time to cleverly pack your belongings, take pictures of how you’ve stored them to replicate your methods for next time. Then you can label these boxes with the categories to make packing more efficient.

Once you’ve completely moved in, know how you will best keep your living space intact for the next person. No one wants to be charged for room damages just because you didn’t read your housing contract or lease. In the meantime, enjoy student living for all it has to offer!


Written by: Hannah Walls

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