By Andrea Ditter-Middleton
The days of living in cramped college dorms are dwindling. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that an overwhelming majority of undergraduate students choose to live off-campus. On average, 50 percent of all undergrads live in off-campus, non-familial student housing, 37 percent live with family, and a mere 13 percent live in dorms.
At the same time, a 2013 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that more than 70 percent of Americans enroll in four- year colleges, but only 53 percent actually graduate from two-year and four-year colleges combined. There are a variety of reasons for these numbers, but more and more research is pointing toward sub-par living conditions and housing insecurity as chief factors that lead to mental health issues and decisions to drop out of school.
College success is important, and students clearly need more support to make that happen. Creating a safe, comfortable environment at home is a good place to start.
The Connection Between Home and Mental Health
It’s important to pay attention to the type of student housing chosen as well as the conditions inside the home. The impact of these choices could be as important to modern college students’ long-term success as choosing the right major and working with good professors. A 2010 study published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology directly correlated the state of the home, both the amount of mess inside it and its overall state of repair, to a sense of wellbeing, and wellbeing is directly related to stress.
Melissa Carlo, MPH, is the Director of TRiO, a federally-funded program supporting low-income, first-generation, learning disabled students at SUNY Dutchess Community College in New York. She explains, “When students are stressed, for whatever reason, the source of the stress becomes their primary focus, and all other things — especially their studies — take a backseat.” Regardless of whether stress is real or contrived, she emphasizes that managing it through self-care and comfort is important when it comes to academic success, and that starts with a stable, comfortable home.
Ways College Students Can Make Smart Choices at Home
Keeping your mental health and wellbeing in mind when setting up off-campus housing can pay huge dividends. Most college students struggle to save money wherever possible, but Carlo cautions against going to extremes, especially when it comes to foundational needs, such as shelter. “You cannot build yourself up — through education or anything else — if you start with an unstable foundation.”
Setting up your home for success needs to be part of this foundation. When it comes to furniture, it’s important to think of your academic needs and select practical pieces, such as a large, functional student desk that fits in an area with good natural lighting during the day and soft artificial lighting at night. It’s equally important to consider self-care and comfort, adding in homey elements like a cozy sofa or lounge seating for common areas and a large and comfortable bed for getting a good night’s sleep.
Choose quality furniture and add necessary elements like lamps and side tables to stabilize that foundation. By creating a sense of completeness, student housing starts to feel like home. You then need to maintain a sense of order to avoid messes and disrepair that could distract you from your studies.
Smart Decisions for Smart Students
For most people, college is not a time of abundance, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a time of suffering. Carlo, who has served as both a college administrator and counselor for well over a decade, has noticed a number of patterns among students who ultimately graduate and those who drop out. She says, “Self-care matters. Students need to both recognize and accept the tools they need for success. This includes everything from reaching out to a counselor to taking time to decompress at home so they minimize stress.”
Take advantage of the services and furniture packages offered by CORT Furniture Rental to quickly and easily set up an off-campus living space that provides all the comforts of home. After placing your order, CORT takes care of everything, including delivery and setup. Create a strong foundation at home to lay the foundation for your future academic success.