Housing Advice, Student Life

96 square feet?!? What is a college student to do?

Especially as a freshman, it is hard to know exactly what to expect when you’re moving into the dorms.  This is perhaps not only the first time you’re moving away from home, but it is also the first time you are living with someone else. The first thing you will most likely consider is space; especially when you’re living with one, two, or even three other people, you will want to know just how much space will you have and how you will carve out a space that is all your own.

To find out exactly how much space students are given in their dorm room as freshmen, we recently conducted some research across 50 universities around the U.S.  What we found was that the average square footage universities provide per student is around 96 square feet.  That’s pretty small, given that the average mattress size for a dorm room (an extra long twin) is about 20 square feet.  However, perhaps what is most surprising is that, overall, square footage per student ranged from 132 square feet at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma to 50 square feet at Oklahoma City University.

You’re probably asking yourself, why would they give students so little space?  Well, let’s be honest here:  No school sets out thinking that they want their students to be crammed together like sardines.  Actually, many schools would rather that their students have a lot of space to live and to study within their dorm rooms.  It just works out that, in many cases, they just don’t have the room for it.  Especially if housing facilities are limited, universities can’t provide as much space as both they and their students would hope for.

So what can you do with the little space that you’re given?  We spoke with interior decorator and owner of Fresh Ideas by Sandy, Sandy Alger, about how students can better maximize the space they’re given and make it their own.

The first thing Sandy  suggests is maximizing storage space.  “I suggest using built-ins and shelving on the walls whenever you can.  Under the bed is great storage for the change of season, bedding, etc.”  She also suggests putting extra shelving in the bathroom (that is if you have your own bathroom), so that you can store more items.  By maximizing storage space, you can limit the clutter and mess you would have to deal with if you didn’t have a place to put everything.

Another suggestion Sandy has for students is multi-purposing furniture; she explains that you can turn kitchen tables into desks and coffee tables into storage.  If you have the opportunity to bring items like this, it is a great way to make your dorm room more like home and much more functional.

Alger also suggests bringing only the essentials with you.  Sandy says she lives by the saying, “Less is more,” and urges students to keep it “simple and inexpensive . . . think out of the box.”  She suggests browsing IKEA, and even thrift stores, for pieces and inspiration; photos, magazine prints and even your own artwork can serve as accents and make your room a little bit more “homey.”

However, the most important piece of advice Sandy gives to students is to be themselves when it comes to design.  “Have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.”  When it comes to making the space your own, you want to be able to express yourself and feel comfortable where you are; you want to be able to feel like you live there, and that this is a place (no matter how small) that you can call your home.


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