What Is It like to Go off to College and Live off Campus?

Updated on August 18, 2013
M.C. asks from Ann Arbor, MI
24 answers

This past week my daughter informed me that she is going off to college. Originally, the entire family thought that my daughter would be living at home, working in town, and attending a local college, but she went ahead and decided to move away. I am excited and proud of her because she has worked hard, saved her money, and is making her dream come true. In the meantime, my ex and I are running around like crazy to furnish the necessities that she will need for her new apartment as she is moving in a few days. My daughter on the other hand, is just as clueless as we are about what to bring.

She will be sharing an apartment with another girl. My daughter does not know this girl, but has spoken to her on the phone. She was paired up with her through the school somehow. The girl is also a few years older than my daughter and has lived in this apartment by herself for the past few years.

We have bought tons of stuff even though the roommate said that she would share her things with my daughter. We feel that it's wrong for our daughter to move into an apartment with basically nothing and live off her roommate. We think that my daughter should have her own stuff should the situation not work out between them. I don't know. Are we being overzealous in furnishing everything i.e. couches, kitchen utensils, bath stuff, toiletries, food, misc. items. By the looks of things, we are definitely going to have to get a big U-Haul!:-)

If you have been in this type of situation either as the student or parent, I'd like to hear from you. Neither my ex nor I ever went away to school or moved into an apartment with a roommate, so we need advice:)

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

I have stopped buying stuff. I am keeping all the receipts. Once we get up there, we will see what she needs and doesn't need. I have not had a good nights sleep since she told me that she was moving away for school. I have been obsessing non-stop, crying, and I am still in shock over all of this. I know that this should be a happy time and maybe it would've been if I really believed that she was moving. I figured it wouldn't happen--silly me. I am proud of her and want her to have a great start.

Thanks to you all. These are regular apts. that are leased to students. That's what is offered in that part of MI.

Featured Answers



answers from New York on

Couch? Are you kidding. The other girl has lived there. Maybe get there a day early, see what is needed and then go out any buy it.m why haul a bunch of stuff that you will probably need to bring home.

5 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Austin on

I can see bringing the necessities, but is it necessary to have 2 couches, 2 sets of plates, 2 sets of utensils?

You may be seriously overcrowding the situation.

Most likely she would need her own bed.

You really need to find out what major furniture the apartment has before you go out and try to furnish it sight unseen.

Also, there are a lot of "private dormitory/apartment" type of things where they already are furnished.... if she was paired up through the school, she may be in one of these type of apartments. If so, all she needs are basic personal items.

And..... unless it is a LONG distance away from your home, can't you go back once you see what she needs? Also, you can do a lot of shopping once you get to her new city.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Stop!!! When my daughter lived at college for a couple years the roommates always coordinated everything needed for the apartment and then figured out who was bring what. Either return or store everything so she'll have it once she's out of school and getting her first place.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Roanoke on

You need to stop buying things right this minute. Perhaps return a lot of it. The girls need to talk and find out what IS needed based on what the apartment looks like already. There is absolutely no need to have doubles of anything.

"Roommates" operate under the assumption that they will be sharing things. They can get needed items as they go, and they both will be contributing to the apartment by cleaning up after themselves and keeping the place tidy.

Plus, part of the fun of being a college student is having makeshift items and figuring out how many uses you can have for stuff. Gotta be frugal at that age. It wouldn't be as fun to have parents buy furnishings as if they're moving to an empty house. Let her take some responsibility and figure things out.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Work with what is already there. If you haven't seen the apartment, you may be filling it up with duplicates. And college kids can use stuff from yard sales and resale shops - they don't need everything brand new. Cheap apartments are typically small with little cabinet and counter space - so all those beautiful things are going to clutter up the space. If you haven't unpacked all that stuff you've bought, you might want to consider keeping the receipts and returning some things. A lot of apartments don't have great lighting, so I would take a desk lamp or size up the situation when you get there and then plan on going out to the local Target for additions. She probably needs a bookshelf but see what's there. It is WAY more important for her to have "study" necessities than a full living room and kitchen. Resist any remaining urges to give her a "shower" and focus on the work at hand, which is studying.

However, you may already have done that. And everything you are buying, you will have to haul into that apartment on the same day that every other student is moving in, so the elevators, stairwells, and parking spaces will be filled up.

She doesn't need beautifully matching curtains and bedding. She needs a bed, a dresser, hangers, a laundry basket, perhaps some under-bed storage for out-of-season clothes (unless she is living close enough that you can take more stuff later.) Places like Bed, Bath and Beyond and even the department stores in a college town sell risers to put under the bed - 4 "feet" that lift the bed up about 4-6 inches to increase storage underneath.

Leave her winter things for a weekend visit or the Thanksgiving break. She can come home with all her lightweight things and go back with all her heavy things. Make sure she has a jacket and a couple of sweatshirts, an umbrella for getting to class in the rain, and a good backpack. Unless it gets freezing where she is going, she doesn't need her parka until after Thanksgiving. She needs sheets and towels so she can change things without doing laundry all the time. She can buy supplies like laundry detergent when she gets there - no point in you buying them and hauling them. She can go out and do her own grocery shopping, unless you are putting her on a meal plan (which A LOT of college kids do because they don't have time to cook).

It makes more sense to talk to the roommate about what is needed (not that you are the cash cow for the roommate),

She needs a computer for class, and a good power cord and a surge protector/power strip for charging up her stuff.

Make sure your daughter already knows how to cook and do laundry. If she can't cook, all those utensils will mean nothing. If she doesn't cook, get her something for small portions, like a "cooking for 1" cookbook. Teach her to make a pot of rice and eat it over several days. Buy her a set of leftover containers if the roommate doesn't have them. Figure out if the girls plan to eat together or just do their own thing (usually it's the latter). So your daughter can make salads with some chicken on them, eat healthy wrap sandwiches, and make omelets. They are fast, they use up whatever she has, and don't require precise ingredients.

Teach her not to shop much in the college bookstores - toiletries and snacks are expensive. Same with eating in the college snack bar. Either get her a meal plan (doesn't have to be 3 meals a day) if she's not coming back to the apartment for lunch because it's too far or she doesn't have enough of a break. The workload is usually such that kids go to the library or one of the many study lounges on campuses. So they need to eat on campus and they are unlikely to take a lunchbox from home! If you don't want your "extras" bill on her student ID/credit card to be ridiculous, you need to make a plan so she isn't eating out with every meal.

She's bitten off a lot here - going away, and living on her own. She needs to integrate with other students, find social and study groups, and that means working with kids in her classes. Her roommate may not turn into her best friend, so focus less on the apartment and more on surviving on the campus which is where she will spend a lot of time.

Let me know if you need any more info.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It's a kind of thing you figure out as you go. My son lived with his roommate for a couple yrs. they shared a lot. The other guy had dishes and silverware, my son took a dining table we had. The other guy had the futon for a couch. It just settles out when the dust clears. But his girlfriend lived with three other girls and it was hard to find room in the kitchen because they had multiples of everything.

Go slow. Better to have the money for stuff you can buy when you get there. Less is more.

We had a lot of make do stuff. We had a drafting table for his desk because it folded up. We took only the bed frame and box spring and mattress of his Xlong twin bed. The dinning table had a glass top with a rattan bottom that just came into two pieces. We spent significantly less time moving in and out than his room mate and never brought a Uhaul. It fit in our van and son's car. They had heavy bedroom furniture. Portability is a virtue.

Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Are these "apartments" university apartments, in which the students can then live in or rent?
Or is this an apartment that the roommate, attained herself and has a lease on etc.?

The SCHOOL, rather many Universities, DO pair up, roommates.
This is typical. The SCHOOL probably paired her with an "older" or upper-classmate, so that it is a sort of "mentor."

Now, SINCE this is the other woman's apartment, you can't just get things for it without your daughter AND the Roommate, deciding. And it is the Roommate's apartment.
Your daughter is not "living off of" the Roommate... ie: they BOTH will be, most likely sharing things. Typical. And/or sharing in the costs too and the decorations of the apartment.
BUT, your daughter's realm, would be her OWN PERSONAL sleeping space. If she has her own room.
What is the configuration of that apartment???
She can't just go and put things/furniture in it, without consulting, WITH the Roommate. What an invasion.
It is THEIR apartment, not yours.

And YES, your daughter will have her own things. HER bedroom/sleeping things and bathroom personal items etc.
DO NOT overload her, with furniture. Otherwise, IF SHE does want to move out or get a different place, then she will have less things to tote out of there. THINK. Practical.

YOU are not, furnishing the apartment. The woman has been living there for the past few years. It is not yours.
OR, the apartment already comes furnished as is, especially IF it is a University apartment.
When I went away... to college, the University had apartment complexes for the students. AND these apartments, WERE furnished. And the inhabitants... DID NOT HAVE TO FURNISH IT. I lived in one of those apartments, and I nor my parents, furnished it.
ALL I did was, bring MY personal items. Sheets, bathroom stuff, bedding, and kitchen stuff was shared between me and my Roommate. Food too. Was shared. Me AND my Roommate, went grocery shopping! Just like grown ups.
That is how it is in college.
Your daughter AND her Roommate, WILL decide on their own, their own routines.

You do NOT NEED a "big U-Haul."

Just be glad... that your daughter's school, DOES pair up its students with a Roommate who is also a student at the same school. Otherwise, your daughter would have to find one all by herself.

Please: DO NOT MOVE furniture, into that apartment. Nor anything big.
It is already furnished.
WHY on earth, does there need to be 2 of everything?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

she should talk to the girl she is rooming with. if the other girl has had this apartrment for several years chances are it is already furnished and your daughter will need only her own bedroom stuff and maybe some dishes and s small fridge for her room. my son did this at carthage college. he roomed in the dorm for the first 2 years. then an apartment with a 5 other guys. it was a 3 bedroom house with 3 more bedrooms in the basement. they split all utilitiy bills and the rent 6 ways. each had there own food in the fridge and had small fridges in there rooms for pop and snacks.

and yes it will be a complete waste of money to purchase "everything" if it is already there as there will be no space for your daughters stuff. check with the roommate first. sounds like your daughter is just moving in after someone else moved out. she should help provide toilet paper, paper towels kleenex, cleaning supplies and food after speaking to the room mate it can be decided who is bringing what. and I have been through this several times as I have had 3 graduate from college

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Yes, you are being a little over-zealous. My daughter moved out and in with roommates she didn't know last year, and she brought a bed, dresser, desk, a few dishes, a little tool kit, and a few misc. other things that I can't recall right now.

Once we got to town and set her up, we went to Ikea and Target and bought a few other items it was apparent she would need.

Once she gets there, she will find out what she needs. Until then, you don't need big ticket items like couches.

She will obviously need her own food and toiletries, but my daughter and her roomies share kitchen utensils and certain other items.

Have fun!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

You need to visit the apartment before you go crazy. If she'll have her own bedroom, find out how big it is and then she can decide what furniture to bring. Then let her just have some of the money you are thinking about randomly spending on furnishings right now to use to fill in any "gaps" she finds in the furnishings or in the kitchen dishes, utensils, etc. That way she can also buy things locally as she needs them rather than renting a huge truck to haul things that are likely unnecessary.

She will want to discuss how they are going to handle the kitchen. Are they buying food together and splitting the cost? Or are they buying separate food and keeping it labeled or in their own areas (cupboards, frig shelf)? She should also make sure she and her roommate make decisions about household chores and how they will split the tasks. Nothing ruins a roommate situation faster than 1 person feeling like they are doing all the work.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I would have her bring personal items like toiletries that only she is going to use, her own food, laundry soap,and stuff for her own bedroom, like bedding and shelving. She should also have her own computer or laptop if she needs one. Maybe a TV that she can keep in her room for own use. As far as other furniture and small appliances, if the other girl already has them and is willing to share, there's no reason to have 2 couches, 2 tables, 2 toaster ovens, 2 sets of kitchen utensils, etc. Like others have said, you don't want to bring a bunch of large items and find out they are not going to fit. You can offer cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and paper towels that again, both of them will be using.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Why would you buy couches? Where is she going to put all this stuff if the apartment is already furnished?
When I first moved out on my own all I had was a bed and a dresser, and of course my clothing and personal items. My roommate and I got kitchen stuff from family members and thrift stores. We didn't need much more than a few dishes and pots and pans.
I suggest your daughter actually go SEE the place and sit down and talk with her new roommate about what's needed and expected before she shows up with a truck full of stuff.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Yes, you are being overzealous. They don't need two of everything. Your daughter shouldn't move in with "basically nothing," but there is a huge range between "all" and "nothing."

I think your standard about what to provide should be, "What would a reasonable person have a problem sharing?" Most people wouldn't care if their roommate used their toaster, for example. Your daughter should provide everything that she needs for her own personal sleeping and hygiene (e.g., soap, toothpaste, shampoo, towels, toiletries, bedding). She should also have her own computer. I'd say wait until she moves in and see what they need before you buy the kitchen stuff. It doesn't make sense to haul food out there. Surely they have grocery stores nearby.

If, for some reason, it doesn't work out and your daughter needs to find a new situation, then you buy the stuff she needs then. But they definitely do not need two couches.

Also, I think your daughter needs to have a conversation early on with her roommate about how costs for things like food are going to be shared. Do they each buy their own food? Or will they alternate the grocery shopping? Put money in a shared fund that's used for the apartment's food and other shared costs, like utilities? Having conversations like that early on will help avoid future conflicts where one roommate feels they are being taken advantage of by the other.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Is she moving in to an apartment or a dorm room. Usually Freshmen live in dorms on campus, except at certain universities that are in big cities live George Washington U.

You don't say how far she is moving. My advice is to wait until you move her there to buy the big stuff. Things like Craigslist Free section, IKEA, yard sales, freecycle.org are all helpful.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I hope you didn't buy a couch yet because if you haven't seen the apartment it might not fit! But you are definitely on the right track. Not because she will basically live off of her roomate, but having had roomates (yes during college-I did have a past) they are not always there, they find a mate who lives somewhere else, they run out of money, they aren't as kind in person as they appeared over the phone etc. etc. It's called covering your you know what. Anyway, from the sound of it, your daughter is awesome which makes you an awesome parent and I wish you all luck!!! Hope it isn't too far away so you can visit!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Congratulations to your daughter!

I would wait to get there to decide what you think she will needs.
They will not need 2 microwaves, 8 sets of towels, etc.. Most kids do not even own TV's anymore. they use their laptops.

In most college towns there are Targets, etc.. to shop for these things, heck check on craigslist. I have been selling things these last 2 weeks to the college kids around here. They are getting some fantastic quality furnishings.

If the roommate is correct your daughter could save a lot of money and in the future purchase some things she can share with the roommate.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

You're definitely right in furnishing bath stuff, toiletries, food, and some kitchen utensils, but you may want to.wait until she moves in to get bigger stuff. She should sit down with her roommate and see what is still needed or what can be added. You don't want to go too overboard or the roommate might feel like she is being overtaken. I lived in an apartment in college where the complex matched roommates up. I was in a 4 bedroom with another girl and the complex placed 2 more girls in with us. The 2 girls showed up with absolutely everything and suddenly my roommate and I had no room for OUR stuff and we'd been living there for several months! We felt it was very rude of them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

My mom bought me almost nothing. You need a mattress, sheets and bedspread. You need a lamp. You will need a bit of cookware for the kitchen. I had to get my own from a thrift shop. Actually, throughout college, grad school, and my entire 20s I got stuff from a local thrift shop for almost nothing...or from Salvation Army. We got some free old furniture people were throwing out. I can't believe you are buying all that stuff! Is this normal now-a-days?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

when my son got a roommate and apartment while he was in college, they collaborated on what was needed. the roomie had living room and dining room furniture, so my kid didn't look for that. we helped him put together kitchenware supplies (which gathered dust since neither of the goofs ever cooked<G>.)
i mean, why buy stuff they don't need just to make it even?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

What a shock to your parenting system! We have known our dgtr was leaving for a while, and we still panic shopped! Get up there and see what she will need, good job keeping the receipts and try not to show her any signs of visible stress.

I was actually considering writing a post about how I wasn't feeling the weepy sad feeling I truly anticipated feeling after moving my dgtr into her dorm today. I've had my crying jags here and there during the packing (and spending) process, that's for sure! But, leaving campus today it was a quick hug and goodbye, no tears from either of us. (full disclosure, I am going back next week for sorority bid day, so it was just a good bye for now).

Showing her readiness to be independent is simply a sign of a job well done! Congratulations and wear good shoes on moving day!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Well, it's basically like any living situation. Your daughter needs to talk to her roommate. Figure out things like who pays rent, how, when, what utilities she will need to be responsible for, etc. Please resist the urge to navigate this for her. Your daughter needs to work it out with her roommate everything from if she's a morning person and the roommate is not to guests and noise.

You are being overzealous if the roommate has most of it and is willing to share. There's no reason to have 2 microwaves or 2 coffee pots or 2 couches that won't fit. Personal items, YES. But furniture? Maybe not needed.

ETA: If you are a wreck, potentially the best thing you can do is find a hobby. Yes, it's a transition. Yes, I did shed a tear or two. But this is her life and yours is not over because she is moving to the next stage. It should be no shock that your daughter is going to college.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

What is she going to do with furniture if the apartments already furnished?

Put it in the walkway? You really do need to listen to the roommate. If there's no room for the stuff it's a waste of money.

She needs her own toiletries. She needs her own towels, food, maybe even a microwave in her room, she could even have a small counter top fridge. But seriously, where do you expect to put furniture!

Ask the roommate to send some pics of the whole apartment to your phone. Say it's so you can get an idea of where she'll be living. You may see a pig pen and you may see an obsessive compulsive person that will be impossible to live with. You'll also be able to see what she's saying is true and if there is room for anything you're spending money on.

If you don't want to spend a ton of money on stuff that will sit in Walmart sacks in your daughter's room because there is no place in the kitchen to put it then you might want to consider giving her a food option at the food center. I got one for a student that lived off campus and it worked really well. No dishes needed other than Styrofoam bowls and cups along with a box of mixed plastic utensils for cereal and milk or other drinks.

Another option is to give her a weekly allowance for food. I'd say factor in the cost of living in that town and how much she will eat at home then give her a bit extra. If you give her a specific amount each week she can budget for that and count on it.

When I lived on campus in an apartment I had a roommate, the beds and everything were furnished so all she had to do was bring her own personal stuff. That's all. She kept her laundry soap, hamper, everything in her own room so I hardly saw anything that wasn't mine at all. She kept her hair dryer and curling iron in her room when she wasn't in the bathroom, etc...I saw nothing of hers in the house anywhere.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I did both. Living on campus was hard. You are thrown with 3 other people in your living space that you have never met before "move in" day.

While I did enjoy both (liked the proximity of being on-campus), I loved living off campus in an apartment.

I would not bring furntiture as it is most likely already furnished by the girl that is currently living there. She probably already has utensils, bath mats etc.

Instead, I would send your daughter w/things like:
-her own bath towels
-sm sewing kit including safety pins
-her own food including bottled water
-a few of her own dishes (1 sm pot, 1 large saucepan, few mugs, few
drinking glasses, 4 bowls, 4 plates etc.
-bath stuff for sure! Shampoo, soap, lotion etc.
-Once she moves in, she can always tell you (I need this or that)
-be sure she has her own sheets, blankets, bed pillow, pillow cases to
start out with
-laundry detergent
-agan once she gets there, you can ask her if she needs a lamp for her room, a desk for her room, etc.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I haven't read any other replies, so my apologies if I am repeating anything.

Did you have your daughter check with the roommate to see if there is even room for the items you are having her bring? A couch is a really big item, so if there already is one there's a good chance there won't be room. Kitchen utensils are also something that doesn't need to be duplicated, unless your daughter is particular about her utensils (for example, I will only use wooden spoons or silicon spatulas for cooking veggies, and silicon or metal for meat). Pots and pans take up tons of cabinet space, so unless the roommate has Teflon and your daughter doesn't like the chemicals in it, I'd not bring more pots and pans.

When I moved away to school I lived with 3 of my friends from high school. We coordinated what we needed for our 2 bedroom dorm room. I had a futon, mini fridge and tv, so I brought those. One friend brought throw pillows and blankets for our futon; another brought bulletin boards and closet organizers; and the final friend brought organizers for our food and bathroom. If later down the road you find that she needs more items, ship her something from Target or Bed Bath & Beyond.

2 moms found this helpful
For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions