Designing Your Dorm

For many, heading off to college means freedom. But dorm rooms are often compared to jail cells, at least when it comes to design. Stiff single beds, clunky, oversized desks and too-tiny closets are common at many universities.

But with a little ingenuity, these small spaces can be transformed into stylish sanctuaries.

Interior designer and event planner Minoo Hersini, who runs Au Ciel Design Studio, shares her expertise on how to create that perfect modish dorm room.

Your goal is to be organized, not to have clutter and various collections.

Most dorm rooms are shared, therefore, it is vital to have a functional living/study space. Considering that you have to furnish your entire room, use modular/platform beds with drawers or a trunk.  Here, you will have a clean and modern look and you will have storage space underneath which will prevent clutter. Also, add one bedside table that is shared between the two beds.

For simplicity, use solid colors for sheets and bed covers with accent of prints, stripes or plaids for cushions. You can always mix and match your accessories.

In regards to lighting, use wall-mounted lighting and insert lighting on the wall next to the bed for reading.  Additionally, you can use floor lamps for extra lighting if necessary.

Another neat and multi functional piece of furniture is a trunk/cabinet.  Here, you can store books, CDs and DVDs.  Also, you can throw on a couple of cushions in order to create additional seating space.

Since most students use laptops, you can eliminate desks.

Lastly, creating a wall cork panel framed to compliment the colors in the room is a clever way of displaying pictures, memos and invitations.


How To Make Your Planner Work For You

Photo credit: churl han

Photo credit: churl han

Last week, we outlined the 3 Things You Need For The Next Semester. Now that you have your daily or weekly calendar, here’s what to do with it to make sure you have time to get good grades, stay involved on campus, and still have a life! Successful college students live by their calendar, and carry it around with them everywhere. They consult it before agreeing to anything. It’s your lifeline to sanity (and good grades!).

When you get your planner, go through and mark down important dates – birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and other important non-school events. If your birthday falls during the school year, decorate that page!

As soon as you get your syllabi from your courses (usually available on the college’s website a week or more before classes start), go through your planner and write down the dates of tests, homework due, presentations, field trips, days off, final exams, and any other dates noted in the syllabi. If available, also write in your reading assignments. This way, you’ll always know what is going on, even if you miss class. And it will help you see, at a glance, when you have an intense week of exams or presentations.

Also write in other standing engagements – campus organization meetings, tutoring appointments, work, and any other items that you can think of. This is a good opportunity to schedule in some gym time — if it’s on your schedule, you’re more likely to go! If it helps, treat your work-out time like a class: you have to go, and gaining that freshman 15 (even if you’re a senior) is your failing grade.

If it helps you, go through and highlight different items in different colors – maybe all tests are highlighted in orange, or math class and math tutoring are blue.

Now that all these dates are on your calendar, it’s time to plan for straight A’s. Yes, you can plan for A’s! Take time to mark the days on your calendar when you should start researching for projects, when the first draft should be done, when the revision should be done, and when the final copy should be done. Optimally, you’ll finish your papers several days before it’s due. Schedule in some time to visit the student help center, where they will check your grammar and format. Schedule time to study for exams for several days before the date.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it will help you immensely during the semester. It’s especially critical for maths, sciences, and foreign languages – you have to schedule time to study because if you get behind, you’re dead.

Once you have your planner in order, carry it with you! Take it to class, to club meetings, rehearsals, practices, when you visit your parents — everywhere! This book owns you now. Listen to what it says.

3 Things You Need For The Next Semester

The beginning of the semester is the most important time of the next few months. You may think that the most important time is finals, but nope – it’s the beginning. Before the classes starts, even! That’s because the beginning is your window of opportunity to get organized for the entire semester!

Photo credit: Mike Rohde

Photo credit: Mike Rohde

1. A planner. This is your lifeline to staying on top of coursework, campus organizations, birthdays, deadlines, and anything else you need to keep track of.

Go out and buy a daily or weekly calendar that can fit in your backpack or bag. During Back-To-School sales, they are less than $5 for a student calendar (the only difference between a regular planner and a student planner is that student planners are August-July instead of January-December and also usually have cheatsheets in the back for maths and sciences).

As soon as you are registered for your classes, go through your calendar and pencil in the classes every day. Don’t just write them in the first week – you don’t want to have to remember when your classes begin and end when planning with someone.

As soon as your get your syllabi (usually available a week before classes start), go through it and mark down every test, exam, homework due, field trips, days off, presentation, final exams – anything that has a date in the syllabi. Don’t be the doofus that doesn’t know when anything is due – write in your planner.

Expanding File Folders

Expanding File Folders

2. Expanding Folders. These things have saved me many times!

Average folders cost $5-10 each, but you can often find them pretty cheap at Back-To-School sales, yard sales, estate sales, and thrift stores. If you get one with a ton of pockets, you may only need one. I got one folder for each course.

When you get your folder, place a spiral-bound notebook in it (for taking notes in class). When you get your syllabi, or if you print it out yourself, place this in a pocket as well. Your other pockets are for assignments to do, finished assignments to turn in, and graded assignments you’ve gotten back.

When it’s time to go to class, all you have to do is grab your textbook and your expanding folder, and you’ve got everything you need! (Just make sure that you put your finished homework into the folder after printing it!)

3. Highlighters. These are an absolute must for any college student. Get several colors (about $1-2 each for good highlighters that don’t fade).

Get a rainbow of highlighters for ultimate organization!

Get a rainbow of highlighters for ultimate organization!

For books: highlight the things you notice in one color, and passages the teacher mentions in another color. This way, your papers and assignments can be top-notch!

For your planner: Highlight each type of event in one color (ie, tests are orange, club meets are blue, etc) or highlight each catagory in a different color (ie, language arts class and tutoring are purple, drama club and performances are green, etc).

Be sure to get highlighters that don’t fade. I got a cheap yellow highlighter my first semester, and when finals rolled around I discovered that the first month of readings had no markings! The highlighting had faded completely. While this was great for selling the book back, it was very difficult to study for my exam.

When you get a system of organization — stick to it! Try it out for at least a semester. If it doesn’t work for you, try something else. But don’t eschew organization completely!

Top 3 Ways To Save Money On Back-To-School

Back-to-school can be costly, especially for first-time freshman. College students have to set up their own household at school – including electronics like printers that have previously been shared by the whole family. However, there are some great ways to save money!

1. Buy used. Almost everything you need can be found used! Used textbooks can be found on,, and other sites. Used electronics can be found online and at thrift stores. Used, but still hip, clothes can be found at consignment shops. Craigslist and Freecycle are heaven for the student seeking dorm furniture.

2. Seek deals. Scour the papers and the internet for the best deals on school supplies. I have found Target to have the best prices on notebooks, pens, etc, but you may find something else in your area. If you can wait until the beginning of September to stock up, you’ll find lots of items even cheaper.

3. Check out the facilities. If the dorm already is outfitted with a microwave (even just one or two per floor), there’s no need to purchase a personal one – rare is the day when you have to wait in line for the microwave. Do you really need a coffee maker if the cafeteria serves coffee every morning? How often are you really going to need to chill something – really often enough to need a fridge? If you decide you do need this stuff, see if your roommate wants to split the costs with you! (Just be ready to let them have the fridge at the end of the year.)

If you have a tip not listed here, post it in the comments!

12 Tips For Saving Money On Clothes

If  it’s not food or gas, us college students probably can’t afford it. So what do you do if you love buying clothes but don’t have the budget?

  1. Check out your local thrift stores. There are Salvation Army stores and Goodwill stores nearly everywhere – but also check out small local shops. I’ve found some of the best deals at the small shops that benefit shelters (for people or animals), churches, and hospitals. They usually have lower prices and a wider variety of product than the big stores.
  2. Consignment shops are a great place to look for in-style clothes (rather than basics, vintage, and fun stuff). Check out national chains (like Plato’s Closet) and local versions. If you like designer or name-brand style, you’ll find consistent deals here. I found brand-new (with the tags) Hollister jeans for $5 at a consignment shop.
  3. Browse your local Craigslist. There is a section just for clothes! It will take time to find your sizes and styles, but the stuff is cheap.
  4. Join Freecycle in your city. Search on Yahoo Groups or Google Groups for your city + freecycle. People are always giving away clothes, customer jewelry, shoes, and non-clothing items!
  5. Check out the sales and clearance racks at your favorite stores. Sure, the stuff is a few months old, but it’s a deal! (Warning: if you can’t resist deals even if you don’t like the clothes, don’t shop sales racks!)
  6. Think about you need for different seasons. Shop ahead — shop for your next winter coat in April, for example, and get your next swimsuit in September. What you’ll lose in selection, you’ll make up in money saved.
  7. Don’t buy new (or new-to-you) clothes at all. Instead, buy new accessories and continue to use your basic wardrobe. Spending a few bucks on earrings and headbands gets you a lot more new items than spending the same amount at the mall!
  8. Go to outlet stores for designer clothes.
  9. Swap your threads at SwapStyle.
  10. Organize a swap in your dorm or with friends.
  11. Patron garage and yard sales.
  12. Go to junk sales like church rummage sales and flea markets. Don’t be afraid to haggle and watch out for designer knockoffs!

I hope these tips help you out! If you have any that I missed, post a comment!

Save Money On Laundry

College students always need to save money! Luckily, there are ways to save money on laundry that don’t involve smelling like a football player after a hard practice. These are nose-approved and wallet-friendly.

In the Washer:

  • Use half the amount of recommended detergent, unless you’re washing clothes that are disgustingly dirty.
  • Buy concentrated detergent, and use only a couple tablespoons.
  • Don’t use fabric softener at all – it barely makes a difference.
  • Use cold water. This saves your clothes (hot water breaks down the fabrics) and the environment.
  • Use stain remover (I like OxyClean, personally) before washing your clothes so you don’t waste money on multiple washings or ruin your clothes. Some stain removers even work on blood and grease!
  • Buy a dry-clean-at-home kit.

In the Dryer:

  • If you have room, get a clothes rack and don’t use a dryer at all! (Doesn’t work well in really humid areas.)
  • Don’t use dryer sheets. (Especially with jeans, sheets, and towels. They really don’t need it.)
  • If your clothes are static-y, ball up some aluminum foil and throw it in with your clothes.
  • To soften your clothes, spritz a fabric napkin or washcloth with fabric softener and toss it in the dryer with your laundry.
  • Always empty the lint trap! A full lint trap prevents your clothes from drying.

Other tips:

  • Use your towels for at least three showers or baths before you wash them.
  • If you let your laundry sit too long and it’s wrinkly, toss it in the dryer with a damp washcloth for 10 minutes. The wrinkles will loosen up!
  • If you only have a little bit of laundry, join forces with another student who has a half-load of laundry.
  • If you have a car (or can arrange a carpool) check out the local laundromat. Their prices will probably be better than the dorm facilities.
  • Buy your detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets at a bulk warehouse (like Costco or Sam’s Club) for ultimate savings. Split the huge container (and the price) with some friends.
  • Never buy detergent at the laundromat or from a vending machine! You’re paying premium prices.

How To Reheat Pizza

Photo credit: Su-Lin

Photo credit: Su-Lin

Don’t microwave leftover pizza!

Microwaving zaps moisture and gives pizza a tough texture. Ew!

Instead, put the slice on a flat pan and heat it up on the stove. (Kind of like a one-sided quesadilla). This heats up your pizza and keeps it delicious.

If you don’t have access to a stove, eat it cold – waaay tastier!