August 2016 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

Motivation & Study Tips for College!

Definitely the biggest wake-up call for me in college was that simply paying attention, taking notes and completing assignments no longer translated into a perfect GPA. In high school, I had taken a large amount of AP classes and getting A's was a standard I held to myself as mandatory. I still had plenty of a social life and extracurricular activities, but to me simply being organized and doing what was asked of me always managed to be enough to get the grades I wanted. 

Heads up: this is not the case in college. Give that a moment to sink in...This doesn't mean that you can't do exceptionally well in college...but here is what I learned after receiving my first mid-term grades in college: Just because something worked in high school, does not mean it will work for you in college

You are in a completely different environment personally and as a student. Grades are based on different things (you may notice a decline in homework and a heavier weight on exams, projects and papers) and sometimes the grading scales are fairly disproportionate, depending on the course. 

It's important to start your semester off right with a strategy of how you're going to approach studying, which is why I've created this list of tips and advice I learned for how to set up the strongest plan and avoid falling into a hole academically.

1. Find Your Ideal Study Spot - The obvious choice might seem like your desk in your bedroom or the library, but be warned...I spent the majority of my freshman year using the library as a social hour. The main floor was a great space to grab tables with your friends, but I probably could have saved myself several hours a week if I had forced myself to relocate to one of the "quiet" floors where I could buckle down, focus, and see friends later. Make sure to pick one where you can genuinely focus, and save the socializing for your free time!

2. Note-Taking Strategies Will Change - Simply writing down every single thing you hear will be both a) nearly impossible, and b) not entirely effective. Strategies will definitely vary depending on the class/professor, but using a one-size-fits-all approach to how you take notes is a mistake. For example...if you're in a huge lecture class with a professor that uploads powerpoints or lectures online beforehand, download the slides before class and take notes on the "notes" tab. This way, you're only writing what isn't on the slides, and you'll pay better attention (plus save yourself some serious hand cramping). Figure out the best way to minimize your time spent furiously scribbling things down, and maximizes your ability to genuinely listen - it's a lot more important than it was in high school!

*Pro Tip - college professors have a tendency to say things in class you could never hear or find in any textbook, powerpoint slide, or lecture note. Probably in part to combat students that skip classes...and these side comments seem to always make it into the exam*

3. Plan Ahead...Very Ahead - One perk of college is it tends to eliminate the surprise element of big assignments. At the end of your first week, take note of all big exams, projects, papers and assignments for the entire semester. These are usually all listed out in the syllabus. The very important second step to this strategy: Go back through your agenda/planner, and write down *reminder* notes about those big dates 1-2 weeks in advance, depending on how much prep time you will need.

So many times in college I would have written down the exam on day one, but not seen it until I flipped to my planner on a Monday morning and realizing that the exam was that coming Wednesday. Giving yourself pre-emptive heads up notifications will spare you from any shocking and scary approaching deadlines!

4. College is a different kind of learning - I absolutely perfected the strategy of highlight + write down + make flashcards + memorize + exam in high school. It was down to a science for me, and it frankly wasn't a very effective method of maintaining information. As you go through college, more and more of your classes and exams will focus more on "the big picture" or the overarching concept behind the lecture or class topic. Simply memorizing vocabulary words or facts from a textbook will not always apply to what questions you find on the're in the world of higher education, and being able to do things like apply a concept to a question and demonstrate/create an example is something that is expected of you now. Keep this in mind as you're attending classes, and if you think a concept is unclear, speak up or go to office hours now!

5. Take Breaks of All Kinds - You will definitely hit days where you have hours upon hours of continual homework and studying. The key to surviving these and retaining new information is taking mental breaks. If you have a long night ahead, set your phone to notify you ever 45 minutes to stand up, stretch, get a drink and maybe chat with friends. Come back 10-15 minutes later feeling refreshed and hit the books again! You might get stressed that you are "wasting time", but in the long run you'll be much more productive and effective.

It's also important to take breaks from any sort of distractions when you are trying to keep your eyes on the books. I didn't start utilizing "Do Not Disturb" mode on my phone until senior year, and I really wished I had. If you seriously can't go a few hours without knowing whether your best friend or "that guy" texted you, you can always change the settings to only allow certain people's messages through. I promise everyone else will still be there when you're done (or on your next 15 minute break!)

6. Exam Schedules Don't Have to be Fair - No matter who you ask in college, everyone seems to agree that regardless of your course schedule or time of year, you will somehow constantly manage to have multiple exams + projects due in the exact same week. This is not exclusive to midterms and finals. The general rotation of college classes stays on a very consistent and aligned pattern...this is why step number 3 is so important! Plan ahead and spread everything out, or get excited to experience your first all-nighter...

7. Do Your Research - Going into a classroom with a new professor can be really intimidating, especially when you have no idea what to expect. Every school has those "horror" professors you'll hear stories about and warnings to websites like Rate My Professors can be a life-saver. There is a certain level of bias, but sometimes you can find great tips like where the teacher tends to pull exams questions from, or the fact that they love to give you hundreds of short answer questions. It never hurts to check!

The most important thing to keep in mind is the importance of finding balance. College is designed to ensure you can have a life outside of your classes (especially if you're smart about scheduling classes), and if you dedicate a small amount of time to each thing that's important to you every day, you really can make it all work. You can study, complete assignments, get some exercise, enjoy a good Netflix binge, have a relationship, join an organization, and still have time for the most coveted thing of all in college...excessive hours of sleep.

It also doesn't hurt to have some adorable and useful school supplies to keep you organized and motivated for when you hit the books!

What were your favorite tricks and tips for managing time and balancing schoolwork in college? 

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Summer Styles On MAJOR Sale!

Even though September is practically here, this has been an unseasonably unreasonably warm summer, and I have a sinking feeling that the heat is not ready to leave anytime soon. The good news is, most stores have officially put their summer styles on sale! 

Normally, I'm hesitant to spend too much time browsing the end-of-season sale racks unless there is a major/high-price item or style I can't normally shell out the cash for, but with summer still looming on ahead of us, I've had my eye on a few things!

Here are some of my favorite on-sale finds to help you squeeze in a few more weekends of off-the-shoulder tops, white jeans, and seersucker tanks!

Summer Sale Tops

Summer Sale Shoes & Accessories

Summer Sale Dresses, Rompers + Bottoms

Soak in those sun rays while you still can, and happy shopping!

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Classic Crossbody Bags Under $150!

With all of these busy weekends I've been having lately, my crossbody purses have been getting as much use as they did back in college! Which, sadly, is the last time I ever purchased a new one, and let's just say they're a little bit worse for wear...

There's definitely nothing wrong with classics, and I've certainly collected my fair share of those over the years, but even classics have their limits and I think 4 years of college (some even dating back to high school) has taken its toll on my go-to grabs for weekends and quick outings. 

I do typically like my crossbody bags to be in neutral tones because I feel like the outfits I generally style them with tend to speak for themselves and don't need the bag for anything more than utility...that being said, most of these below come in wide varieties of bright and exciting colors, too!

One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight

You can also shop these picks below!

PS - Some of these are on major sale, especially this one, this one and this one which are all 50% off - so don't hesitate! These are the perfect staple items for fall!

What are your favorite go-to crossbodys for quick outings, weekend nights and hands-free fun?!

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NEW Arrivals Added to the Lilly Pulitzer After-Party Sale!

In case you hadn't already heard...the Lilly Pulitzer after-party sale is here! The sale began yesterday, and I'm sure if you've shopped the sale before you were all-too-familiar with the virtual line, the frustration of items being snapped up within seconds, and not being able to find things in your size! Even though summer is coming to an end, there is still plenty of time for some summer fashion.

All of that aside, this is a seriously amazing sale - and Lilly Pulitzer only goes on sale twice a year! Some dresses ranging in prices from $200+ are marked all the way down to $70 or less right now! If you were one of many people who didn't quite love what you found yesterday or were disappointed by items being scooped already - don't worry! They added a TON of new items for the sale today, and there is no virtual line to get on the site! 

Hurry and grab them before it's too late! I've rounded up some of my favorites in every category (from the new arrivals) to give you a better shot of getting them before they're gone!

I was definitely the most excited about this one and this one! I've been loving them all year long, and now they are so affordable!

This super soft scoop-neck tank is only $14!!

Have you gotten any amazing finds so far in the sale this year? Is there anything you've been eyeing forever that's been added to the sale?!

Happy shopping!

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The Ultimate College Q&A - Everything You Want to Know Before Freshman Year Begins!

By far the biggest questions I ever get from readers are about college, whether they are about to start their freshman year (lucky!) or are headed towards the finish line of senior year. Being the youngest sibling in my family, you would think I would have had a lot of people to ask about college, but in reality I was the only girl with a huge age gap from my older brothers, so there were a lot of things that I had absolutely no one to ask. I would have given anything to chat with a girl near my age who understood and could answer honestly!

With that being said, I've compiled a list of all of the questions I receive from my readers about college, freshman year, Greek Life, debunking myths, what to name it, I've answered it! More importantly, I wanted to answer the tough questions, or the ones that sometimes girls might feel to awkward or shy to ask someone, even if they do have a big sister or friend they could reach out to. My goal was to be as honest as possible, and leave no topics off-limits! 

If you still have questions you don't see on this list, please don't hesitate to email me! (You can find all of my contact information on the right side of this page, or right here!) This is definitely a longer post, so I've also sorted questions by category, so if there is one section in particular that doesn't apply to you, you can skip right over it...or, you can more easily find the sections you do want to read! Everything included are real questions I've received from readers, so I really hope that they are helpful, but of course every campus is different!

General Questions - Classes, Books, & What (Not) to Bring:

1. What's the best place to get affordable textbooks, either to rent or buy?
Your campus book-store is always a fine place to search, but I ended up saving hundreds upon hundreds of dollars by renting as many textbooks as possible, and often Amazon Textbook Rental was by far the best place to search! 

2. I want to get to know my professors, but I feel like just showing up to office hours and introducing myself is awkward. Do you have any suggestions on how get to know them better?
It can definitely be intimidating to show up to a professor's office hours...but it is also something that every upperclassman says they wish they had done sooner in their college career. If you don't feel comfortable wandering in for the sole reason of saying hello, just wait until the first homework assignment or project, and bring a couple of questions as an ice-breaker! They host office hours for a reason, and there were multiple times in college that my grade was swayed or improved because a professor had seen how much work I'd put in by coming for extra help! (*cough* statistics *cough*).

3. Do I need to bring some nice & formal dresses to school, or is that impractical?
This depends on your definition of "formal"...I can't think of any situation or reason why you would need a gown or prom dress at college - leave those at home!! However, occasionally you may be invited to a date party or formal with a Fraternity or other organization, and having 1-2 of these nicer dresses on hand can be useful. Or you can hold off and wait for one of those events to arise, and use it as an excuse to go shopping/search online so you know it's event appropriate!

4. Do I need one set of sheets, or two?
Definitely two! One could be dirty, in the laundry, etc. No matter the reason, two is absolutely a good idea. 

5. I've heard that you should bring a weekender bag in case you go on a weekend trip somewhere with friends. Do I really need this, and for what?!
Absolutely bring a weekend-size travel bag (you can shop a few of my favorites here, hereand here...and a few more below!) College is filled with spontaneous weekend trips, whether it's to go home for a weekend if you live nearby, to a friend's nearby lake house or family home, a fraternity formal or sorority weekend getaway/ never know what may pop up, and I used mine constantly throughout school. *Bonus - you can fill the bag as extra storage when you aren't using it!*

8. What clothes do you really need, and what are the items that you think you need, but should be left at home?
As a notorious over-packer, this is a tougher question for me. I've listed out my favorite "preppy" essentials for college here, but these are definitely not "must-haves". It all depends on the weather and region your school is located in, but my advice is that it's typically best to bring a few of your lighter fall items when you head to school in the fall, and leave your winter stuff to be sent up later by your parents when you start to need them. Leave the formal dresses, costumes, and expensive or sentimental jewelry at home. 

9. Everyone says "don't bring t-shirts" because you'll receive so many the first few weeks of school. If my school doesn't rush first semester, will I really get that many t-shirts?
Truthfully, probably not. If you are planning on joining Greek Life, it is true that you are due for an excessive amount of shirts showing off your new letters. If you're at a school like Miami or Indiana University, you won't receive these until you go through recruitment in the spring, so with the exception of any "school spirit" t-shirts you purchase yourself, you won't get very many given to you. I would say it's nice to have a few favorites for when you're lounging around your dorm room!

Greek Life - Sorority & Fraternity Myths, What to Wear to Parties, and How to Dress Up for Themes:

1. I know that some Greek Life parties are themed, and have been told that I should bring "costume-type outfits" for those. Do I really need to bring that, and how often do these parties really happen? 
Themed parties are so much fun, and (depending on the school) I would say they are fairly common, but certainly not every single party. Usually themed parties are during official, planned socials between 2 or 4 Greek Chapters, and they can be literally anything. No amount of preparation or pre-packing could possibly get you ready for these parties, so definitely leave the costumes at home. You will have a blast heading to your local Thrift Shop or Walmart to craft up an outfit once you know what the theme is, and extra costumes will just take up valuable storage space. Some of my favorite Pinterest boards for theme-party outfit ideas are here, here, herehere, and here!

2. Where can I find some cute and affordable shoes to wear out to Fraternities, bars and parties without fear of ruining them?! 
This was the never-ending question in college, and I certainly buried a few pairs of favorite shoes lost to the party-world...sad days, indeed. You definitely don't want to invest in expensive shoes that you would worry about ruining, (or if you do, be cautious about when you take them out!). My favorite places for affordable and cute shoes are definitely Target (they have amazing wedges that I replace year after year...these are my favorites), H&M, occasionally Nordstrom Rack, and Tobi.

3. I've heard rumors that Fraternities will turn girls away from parties if they aren't "pretty enough" or aren't in a "good enough" this true, and is it something I should worry about? 
This is a loaded question, and one with a lot of myth, so I'm going to answer it in two parts...I won't pretend either that most myths aren't born from some level of truth. I never once experience or heard of this happening to anyone in my years of college. As far as I have ever known, fraternities don't typically "turn away girls". If there is an "open party" at a fraternity house, the general consensus is 'the more the merrier' when it comes to women hoping to attend. You have every right to be there as anyone else! 

As far as being turned away based on what sorority you are in...this is again something I never experienced, because with open parties, again, fraternities tend to be fairly inclusive. The only time I could think of someone not being welcome to a party is if it is an official "social" or "pair" between that fraternity and another sorority...those are financed with chapter funds, and are for members of those organizations only. I will admit, however, that there are definitely times where certain chapters tend to hang out with other chapters more often than others...but this varies greatly at every school, and doesn't necessarily have anything to do with "social rank". Be proud of whatever organization you choose to take part in, and never let something like a party make you doubt yourself, your chapter, or your self-worth!

4. My college doesn't have Greek Life Recruitment until second semester. What is the best way to make new friends in the meantime?
This was a huge fear for me as I started freshman year, particularly because I was in the honors dorm and worried that I wouldn't be able to relate to people in my dorm. There are hundreds of ways to make friends in college, and all the way through my senior year I continued to befriend people who had nothing to do with my Greek affiliation or even Greek Life at all. Classes are a great way to start - something as simple as commiserating with the person next to you during a particularly boring lecture, or putting yourself out there by joining a fall Intramural league or low time-commitment club. 

My biggest regret is not reaching out more to girls in my dorm. I was friends with my roommate, and entered college with a sophomore boyfriend, so it was all too easy for me to ignore and avoid a lot of my dorm-mates, and I missed out on countless friendships. You will run into these girls in the bathroom, in the common rooms, and just walking to class. Don't be afraid to ask "what building are you walking to" or something as simple as "where are you from?" No one else has friends yet, either!

5. I'm worried about balancing my classes, Greek Life, and a social do I manage everything at once, and what if I can't make it to certain chapter events or parties?
Your sorority is there to work with you as a student, not against you. It shouldn't be something that is interfering with your grades, studies, or stressing you out. Balance and time management is definitely key, but if you find that you are struggling, you shouldn't be afraid to sit out on a party or social event to catch up on homework or get some much-needed zzz's. Utilizing the older girls in your sorority can actually help your studies, because there is a good chance someone else has the same major as you and has some great advice or tips! Most chapters also have things like study tables where you can spend time with your sisters and hit the books...or just grab some girls and make a study date together! You're all students first, and I promise your chapter wants you to do well in your classes, too!

6. I'm really worried that I won't get into a sorority, or won't get into one that I wanted. What do I do if that happens??
Everyone feels this way about recruitment, and it's a perfectly normal fear to have...every school is different in terms of your likelihood to get a bid (some southern schools have massive recruitments and there simply aren't enough spots, whereas schools like Miami until very recently guaranteed you a big as long as you followed the rules of scoring). There is no way to predict what will happen in recruitment, but my best advice is to be your best and true self. Sororities can tell if you are being fake or not yourself, and it won't work in your favor. As always, avoid the off-limit topics like fraternities, boys, parties/drinking, money, politics...and definitely don't talk about other chapters! 

You may get one that isn't your top choice, or even your second choice...but that's okay. In truth, this happened to plenty of my friends, and it turned out that they were right where they needed to be...they just had to have an open mind to embrace it and give it a try. No one is going to force you to initiate, but you've waited this long and gone through the recruitment process, so it can't hurt to stick it out for a while and see if there's something you're missing! (Let's be honest, a handful of short and scripted conversations can only give you so much of a realistic glimpse into what a chapter is really like!) These tips are an amazing list of what to do if you aren't completely over the moon about your chapter placement, too!

5. My school doesn't have sorority I missing out on the big sorority experience of living with all of my sisters?
I had to include this one because it was one of my biggest concerns as I approached freshman year at Miami. Instead of houses, we have sorority suites on one big "sorority quad", with a designated space for each chapter. The sophomores would live in one long corridor together in the dorms, and could use the chapter room for hanging out, studying, cooking, or meetings. I was super apprehensive about this, because I had always dreamed of the big beautiful houses I saw in movies...and then reality hit me! I could not have afforded to live in a sorority house all four years! The chapter dues at my school were so much over $1000 cheaper...and we were still spending a ton of time together! We had less rules, less cleaning responsibility (thank you, dorm life), and we still had a space to call our own.

6. The hook-up culture on campus seems like it has been pretty out of control in recent years, according to the media. Is it really like it seems, and is that the only thing guys are interested in - or can you find guys who are interested in relationships, too?
This one is a super loaded question...and extremely difficult to answer. I can't attest to how this has changed on college campuses in recent years vs. ten or twenty years ago, but I will say I don't feel like I was surprised by the ways that relationships between guys and girls unfolded in college. I think everyone has their own approach to this, and if a relationship is what you are looking for, you can definitely find that (I did meet Dalton in college, after all!) Stick to your personal values and stay true to yourself, never do something you're uncomfortable with, and spend your time with people you trust!

7. HELP - What do I wear during recruitment?!
This definitely varies depending on your campus, and if you have recruitment in the Fall or Spring. Luckily, most recruitments have finally caught up with the times, and will have Pinterest Boards and guides with outfit suggestions. You will also have a Greek Guide who can answer all of your fashion questions and give you a good tip of what you need to wear...she is an active Sorority member too, so she knows what she's talking about! Look on the Greek Life page of your school's website and see if they have a list or description of outfits there! (Here is an example of Miami's Recruitment Pinterest Board!)

PS - If you're unsure about whether or not Greek Life is for you, you should read this!

Roommate Questions - Who to Live With, How to Get Along, and What to do if You Don't Become Best Friends:

1. I decided to do a random roommate through the school...what if we don't have anything in common or get along?
This is always a big concern for people who have never met their roommate...and understandably so! The good news is, with Facebook and Instagram, you can luckily usually get a pretty good sense of what they will be like beforehand! This is also a great way to get in touch, introduce yourself, and start getting excited for the year! College is a great learning experience for how to deal with people and personalities who might be different than you are used to...and yes, there is a chance you really may not like them! My best advice here is to be as up-front and honest as possible. If you are light sleeper, let them know on day one! If one of you has an issue with certain activities such as drinking, don't be afraid to speak up or ask them about it. Knowing where each other stands is the best way to avoid conflicts down the road.

2. I have little or no experience being around alcohol or people drinking...and I'm worried that my roommate or dorm friends might be really involved in that. How should I handle it?
Everyone has their own preference, and I won't pretend drinking doesn't exist in college...if it's something you aren't personally interested in, you will still be able to find people who aren't either! There are so many other activities on campuses that don't revolve around partying or bars, and the other people who attend those events typically feel the same way that you do, so don't worry about finding people who choose not to partake!

3. How to tell the warning signs of dangerous alcohol use.
This isn't something that was specifically asked by a reader...but it's incredibly important, and you would be amazed at how many people genuinely have no idea what to do in this situation! No one wants to be the girl that gets her friend or roommate in trouble with the school or police, especially if your school has strict policies against it. I had my own experience with a friend who was in legitimate danger due to alcohol use, and we delayed getting help for almost two hours because we didn't want to get her in trouble! She ended up needing medical attention, and had a concussion on top of everything else...letting her "sleep it off" could have killed her. If a friend is unresponsive, vomiting, or are displaying scary signs such as eyes rolling back in their head, you need to get an RA or get them to the nearest doctor or hospital immediately. Yes - there is a chance they may get in trouble...but their life is more important. And fortunately, most campuses are adopting amnesty programs that are meant to keep everyone out of trouble so no one ever fears getting medical help when its needed!

4. The Do's & Don't of Sharing Clothes with your Roommate:
If you're lucky, you and your friends or roommates might be able to share clothes, shoes and accessories. This was such a fun part of college for me because I never had sisters! After two years, I definitely had learned my lesson about which friends will take care of your precious belongings, and how to take care of others' as well. Never lend out something incredibly valuable, expensive, or sentimental. No one will judge you for it, and its not worth the risk. If you borrow something, be sure to return it immediately after (no more than 24 hours!). Always double check their preference on caring for the item...some people are very particular about how something is washed or laundered, and want to do it themselves. Other people might consider it respectful of you to wash the item before returning, but always be sure to check and ask!

5. My roommate and I have completely different schedules. How do I handle getting ready while she is sleeping, or vice versa? I don't want to be inconsiderate, but I also need to get ready efficiently before class!
If you have a super early morning class, try to be courteous and do the majority of your morning routine in the bathroom, or ask your roommate to do the same if she is the early riser! Sleep is sacred in college, and doing whatever you can to eliminate any unnecessary noise or disruptions for each other is definitely the right way to approach it. However, be sure to also be understanding that this is a shared space and everyone will need to be getting ready at some point! This is where things like your own individual desk lamp and a great pair of headphones are key!

I hope this guide was helpful, and again - if there were any questions you want to hear more about or didn't have answered on this guide, please feel free to email me (contact information is on the right panel of this page) or comment below and I will promise to answer as quickly as possible!

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On My Wish List Lately...

For the entire month of August and September, I've put myself on a complete spending freeze to try and work on my savings and save up for some upcoming vacations! This means no home decor, fashion, or unnecessary meals at restaurants or bars until after September. So far, it has been surprisingly easy! Obviously there are times where grabbing a quick meal while I'm on the go is easier, but I've been working really hard to plan ahead so I don't run into a tricky situation. The no shopping is a bummer, but not the end of the world!

In the meantime, I've been doing my fair share of window shopping and "browser" shopping, compiling a wish list of fall fashion I'm loving, home decor pieces I'm hoping will go on sale soon, and random little things in between. Here is what's been on my wish list lately!

Shop everything (in order) below, except #3 which you can find right here!

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How to Master Your College Beauty Routine!

I've never really considered myself as a person who has a "beauty routine", considering I didn't even learn how to do more makeup than eyeliner + mascara until my senior year of college! (No, seriously...) Despite my minimalist approach, there were definitely some adjustments that had to be made once I arrived at Miami as a bright-eyed freshman. 

First and foremost, you no longer have your own private space to do your makeup, shower, and general hygiene activities (or maybe you're already used to sharing with a sibling, but probably not with 10-30 other girls!) This means that you'll need to decide which parts of your regimen you want to do in your room with a private mirror + better lighting (such as makeup), and which aspects are easier in the larger bathroom where you have more space.

Everyone has their own personal preference, and it likely won't take you long to figure out on your own what works best for you...but there are definitely some tips + products that will help make the transition much smoother, and help you get from your bed to the classroom as quickly as possible (meaning you can justify hitting snooze just one more time each morning!)

For the Shower...

There are a lot of different options out there for shower caddies, totes and storage, but I learned this lesson the hard definitely want something that will hang on a hook of some kind. Setting the big plastic bins like these on the floor of the shower not only gets everything soaking wet, but personally it kinda grossed me out...not to mention it takes up some much-needed floor space in your dorm room. You're better off buying a tote or hanging organizer, and a few hooks like these to keep your towel, products, and robe all in one (dry) place!

PS - I was initially against the idea of a robe, but immediately asked my parents to send me one about a week after arriving to school so I could wear it while I dried my hair in the main was too small of a space for such a loud and heat-producing activity in the dorm room!

For Your Makeup...

Desk space is definitely limited in the dorm (and in my opinion, taken for granted). You want this to be a multi-use space, which means keeping things organized and out of the way whenever they aren't being used. Having cute and convenient travel cases and storage bags for all of your makeup + beauty supplies will let you use your desk for actual studying when you need...and transform into a vanity when it's time to primp! I also highly recommend finding a small (preferably cordless) makeup mirror to stow away, because the lighting in dorm bathrooms is not flattering. A makeup mirror with it's own light also comes in handy if your roommate gets to sleep in later than you!

If you're lucky enough to have some extra space for a storage cart or set of drawers (I did - as long as I didn't mind blocking off a small part of my closet) it can make a huge difference for makeup, extra school supplies, additional sheets + towels, etc.

If You Have a Private Bathroom...

Colleges are seriously stepping up their game these days with renovated dorms including en-suite bathrooms or semi-private bathrooms that you share with one other dorm room (major jealousy!). It all varies depending on the school, but this could mean you need to bring a few additional bathroom supplies, especially if you're living off-campus somewhere. It might be a few more items to remember, but at least it's a personalized space!

Don't forget to check out my other favorite and most popular back-to-school edition posts, too!

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Everything I Wish I'd Known Before Living Off-Campus

Every campus is a little bit different in how they handle living and housing situations, but at Miami you live in the residence halls for your first two years before moving into an off-campus house or apartment with a group of your friends. The second half of college was by far the better part of my experience, and I think that was largely due to the bonds I formed with my housemates and friends once we were really on our own and sharing a living space. 

That being said, it may have been the biggest learning experience I had in college (yes, even more than my studies…sorry Dad!) Despite what an independent adult you may feel like once you move into the dorm for the first time, you are secretly still being pretty well taken care of. Your common areas are still being cleaned by staff, you still have an RA nearby and on-call for emergencies, you’re likely living off of dining hall food and a meal plan, and you’re only genuinely sharing a space with one other person. 

Moving off-campus was a huge wake-up call for most of us for a lot of different reasons, and there were definitely a lot of things that someone had told us prior to moving day. After chatting with a few of my housemates, friends, and younger girls about to embark on their own off-campus living situation for the first time, we’ve compiled a list of all of the advice that we wish we had been told prior to moving off-campus, so hopefully it won’t be as much of a rude awakening for you, too!

1. No one is going to clean up after you anymore. Seems like an obvious point at first, and if you’re an organized person like me, this seems like a moot point. However…putting this into practice is much more challenging than you might think, especially if you’re sharing a house or apartment with several other people. You aren’t the only one making a mess, and every person has a different style and approach to cleaning. Some girls opt for the “leave it in the sink until there is a pile, then tackle it all at once” policy, while other girls are ready to tackle that girl to the ground before she’s even finished using her plate. Obviously there are a lot of variables that tie into this point, but having a pre-planned approach to handling these different personalities and levels of cleanliness makes a huge difference. What worked best for us was a rotating cleaning chart - that way, everyone had one responsibility for the week and it was easy to know who hadn’t done their part!

2. Don’t fall for the trap of expensive and unhealthy foods. Exiting the meal plan/dining halls and being accountable for the first time ever in purchasing, preparing and budgeting out my own meals every week was much harder than I ever expected. It turns out, those unhealthy snacks you love so much actually also cost you a lot more, too! Needless to say, it did not take me long to learn how to fill up a cart with fruits, veggies and inexpensive grains to create a week’s worth of healthy and affordable meals. Be on the lookout for a post detailing the best & healthiest grocery list items, and some recipes to use them with...but in the meantime, this is one of my absolute favorites!

3. Now is not the time to exercise your decorating prowess. While this may contradict everything I typically say about personalizing your own living space, now is not the time to buy those adorable Anthropologie plates you’ve been eying for years, or that incredibly chic Pottery Barn Loveseat. The rule of thumb with home decor in college is to avoid purchasing anything that you would hesitate to throw away or sell for very cheap upon graduation. Save the major purchases and decor decisions for your first post-grad apartment, and stick to garage sales, purchasing from upperclassmen who no longer need gently-used items, and asking family friends if they have anything sitting in their garage/attic they wouldn’t mind finally parting with. 

4. We pay how much for those extra cable channels?! Yep, that’s right - you and your friends, who have likely never paid a utility bill in your life, are now responsible for setting up and paying gas, electric, water, trash, cable & internet. Splitting these costs with friends definitely eases the financial burden, but creates a much larger one in the long run when you have the difficult money conversations with friends. The good news is, this is an incredibly valuable learning experience for the real world (and there’s a good chance your parents will still help you along the way while you sort it out!) The best way to approach this is to try and get ahold of what the bills were monthly for the previous tenant’s (if you can - try asking the landlord!) and deciding on a total estimate for what it will cost for each semester. Divide that among your housemates, and designate one responsible and willing girl to setup the accounts and manage the payments. (Recognize that this is a huge undertaking, and appreciate whoever steps up and handles it for you!) We created a separate checking account where everyone’s funds went into each semester, and paid each bill through that account. Find whatever works best for you, but make sure that you handle this step way in advance of moving in so that you have air conditioning, internet and hot water during that first week!

5. Divide & Conquer - One of the best parts of having multiple roommates is that everything can be divided pretty equally, which can be a huge cost-saver! Make a google document and cover all of the shared living spaces in the house, and everyone can sign up for which items they can easily bring from home or wouldn't mind purchasing for your new place. Plus, it's a great way to keep track of who brought what when move-out day arrives!

6. Choose different roommates. In the dorms, if you didn’t absolutely love your roommate, or even if you simply had different agendas for a Friday night, you could walk down the hall and find 20 other people to spend time with. In your house/apartment, you won’t have that never-ending stream of friends to hang out with. Choosing roommates with different interests will be invaluable, because you will likely spend more than 90% of your free time with those girls. Having the friend who loves to go out, the friend who likes to have wine + Bachelorette nights with you, your cooking buddy, and the friend you can always go to for advice all under one roof is the perfect recipe for your #squad to help you handle the stresses of being an upperclassman. 

Like I said - off-campus living was by far the best part of my college experience, and it honestly feels like a completely separate life from my first half of college. There were some definite ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade the bonds I formed with my housemates for anything. 

My house junior and senior year in Oxford!

My crazy, amazing, inspiring best friends and senior year housemates!

How does your college handle campus living? Did you live in just the dorms, or maybe a sorority house? What were your biggest lessons you learned?!

Don't forget to check out my other favorite and most popular back-to-school edition posts, too!

Essentials for a Preppy College Closet

Have You Ordered Your Planner Yet This Year?!

The Ultimate Guide to Bean Boots vs. Hunter Boots

College Studying Tips

Essential Apps for College Students

The Perfect Totes for Class & Campus

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3 Apps to Make Your Wanderlust Dreams Come True!

I’ll be the first one to admit that I am not the world’s happiest traveler. It seems like my list of places I want to travel to grows every time I go online anymore (especially Pinterest and Instagram). It’s just the actual getting there part that I’m not a huge fan of…but it’s a work in progress!

By far the best part of getting older, in my opinion, is that I’m finally given the opportunity (i.e. time and financial ability) to start going to these places and checking things off of my list! That being said, I’m hardly raking in the big bucks (and won’t be any time soon) but that doesn’t mean I can’t still keep exploring the world and chasing my own Wanderlust Dreams!

Luckily for us, we have so many different tools and apps to help us make it happen! With all of this new traveling I’ve been doing, I’ve found a few apps to make saving up and scoring the best deals a lot easier.

1. Hopper - I'll admit it: I discovered this app with a click-bait article on Facebook advertising incredibly low flight fares. Being long-distance, we've been booking a lot of flights lately, and those certainly don't come cheap! However, after checking it out and realizing it's definitely not a scam, I realized just how incredible this app really is. Essentially, this is the ultimate app for telling you exactly when to buy your flight for the lowest price. You input which trips you're considering taking and the dates you want to go, and Hopper will watch your trip for you and send you a notification as prices go up and down...and then tells you when it definitely won't get any lower! I've been doing the math, and so far this app has helped us save over $370!! Definitely worth a download. 

2. Qapital - This is one of my favorite apps on my entire phone, because it has singlehandedly helped me fund FOUR of my most recent trips, while kicking some of my worst habits at the same time (aka Chipotle Sundays...) I've written about this before while sharing my favorite apps for staying organized in 2016, and I couldn't help but bring it up again here because it is just that amazing! The gist of the app is that you can automatically save up for your next trip or weekend getaway by connecting to your bank account and having funds transferred over based on a set of rules you've created for yourself. If you're anything like me, there is a huge gap between things I want to save up for, and my ability to actually remember to transfer funds over every month. There are all kinds of different ways to setup this app, but one example is my favorite: the round-up rule. Anytime you make a purchase that has leftover change, the app will automatically round up and take the difference and deposit it into a special spot reserved for your next trip. It doesn't sound like much...but it certainly proves that small change can make a big difference! You can find a more in-depth breakdown of how the app works here.

3. Air BnB - Definitely not a new app, but I'm constantly amazed at how many people I know that have never used one! I think it comes with a lot of skepticism by people, but I also believe that's only because people don't really understand it! Personally, the idea of sharing a space when I'm on vacation creeps me out...even though I know people who have loved it! We simply search for places that we can have all to ourselves, or that have their own private entrance and amenities. You definitely need to be cautious of reading things like reviews, fine print, and hidden cleaning fees, but everything is right there on the page, so as long as you take your time, this app is amazing! How else could an early 20-something afford a beach-front condo with a balcony in California?! Not on my budget, that's for sure!

I’m already starting to plan for 2017, and I have a few places in mind but I need help deciding! Right now I’m looking at Belize, Seattle, Southern California. Where else should I add to my list?! Any suggestions between the three I’m already considering?

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