The dorms are comfortable and relatively easy to navigate. Sure, the first couple weeks take some getting used to, but from about October on, it's a cakewalk. Food is made for you, the communal bathrooms and hallways are cleaned for you, and if your dorm was anything like mine, your room is too small to really cause any sort of damage in.
But for most college students, those dorms only last for a year or two before the migration into an off-campus apartment or house happens. Understandably, this can be a little terrifying. You're responsible for a home now, even if it's cramped, old and has some sort of creature living in the attic.
Here's a list of essential things you'll need to have for those off-campus apartments. Most of these suggestions are for people who go to school in a colder weather climate, because let's be honest, if you go to school in California, Texas or anywhere near a beach, then how difficult can anything really be?
In terms of off-campus housing, I've found that often the smallest things that make the biggest difference.
1. George Foreman grill: You can cook almost anything on this. Chicken, fish, hamburgers, even panini's -- the Foreman makes cooking off-campus about as easy as it could be. There will be days when you want to eat a healthy, warm meal without having to do too much work, which the Foreman is perfect for. It's not glamorous or complicated, but it gets the job done.
2. Rugs (if you have carpet): If you can live in a place without carpets, you should absolutely do that. Carpets are just about the worst thing that could be in an off-campus house, especially if you go to school where it gets cold and snowy. You have a few people over, they track snow and dirt inside, it gets into the carpets, maybe somebody spills something -- pretty soon the entire house looks filthy and smells a little off. If you happen to live in a place with carpets, get some cheap rugs. You can pick those up and clean them outside, which you can't do with the carpet.
It's also not a bad idea to invest in some carpet cleaning materials, which you can use while renting a heavy-duty carpet cleaning machine that you can find in most grocery stores for cheap. Smelly and dirty carpets can affect everything about a house. Try to keep them clean.
3. Swiffer sweeper (if you don't have carpet): Cleaning is significantly easier without carpets, and if you have this tool filled up with some Lysol, cleanup after parties won't be too hard. The Swiffer lets you do a deep clean standing up and comfortable instead of having to scrub the floors on your hands and knees. Can't beat that.
4. Space heater: My house at school was built around the turn of the 20th century. My room was on the second floor and the furnace was in the basement, meaning my room got very, very cold from roughly November to April. Little space heaters aren't expensive and don't use that much energy, but they can be the difference between sleeping comfortably and sleeping under a mound of blankets.
5. Febreze: You cannot ever, ever have too much Febreze.
6. Toilet paper: The same goes for toilet paper. If you're smart, stock up on this when your parents are there to help you move in. Buy as much as you can when they are around because none of your roommates are going to want to do it once February hits.
7. Two sets of sheets: Let's say you want to change your sheets about once a week (which you won't end up doing, but everyone can dream). Having more than one set of sheets will make your laundry life infinitely easier, especially if you don't have on-site machines.
8. Two sets of towels: Same goes for towels. Get a good rotation in to double the amount of time in between towel wash cycles.
Living in off-campus housing is great. It's the coolest feeling. But you also don't want to live in a smelly, cold house that gets disgusting by December.
Everett Cook, who was a summer intern at the Post-Gazette, is a senior majoring in English with a focus in creative writing at the University of Michigan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.