Freshman 15: Tips for Managing Your Workload

One of the biggest changes from high school to college was the lack of day-to-day structure. In high school I woke up in the morning, went to school and then to my extra circulars. In the evening, I completed my homework or studied for the next day's tests, and went to bed knowing that tomorrow would look nearly the same. I treated my first semester of college a similar way: I went to classes during the day and did any schoolwork at night. I touched on this in this post, but I didn't immediately anticipate that I needed to adapt my own schedule and I had far too many late nights since I waited until the evening to start on my homework.

sweatshirt (c/o) | backpack (c/o)

During second semester, I overhauled my routine to help me be more productive in the day. Changing my approach to productivity also helped me stay on top of my schoolwork better, which was key for finding a balance between school and a social life. It is very easy to let freshman year get away from you and have your social life dominate your time. But, freshman year sets the precedent for the rest of your time in college and staying on top of schoolwork is one of the best ways to ensure your freshman year goes well. While it took a little bit of learning and adjustment, here are some of the ways I was able to have a successful and productive school year:

Find a Study Spot (or three!)
Having a few spots where you like to study is key. For me, this is a place that is preferably quiet, open late and where I won't be distracted too easily. It took me a little time to figure out which spots I liked best and I am always looking and still finding new places. I think it's really important to find a few places on campus where you can maximize productivity. I also know I like to change my study spots throughout the day. Usually during the day or between classes I would spend time studying at Starbucks but would switch to the library after dinner. Having a few spots where I knew I could be productive helped kickstart my study sessions and multiple locations prevented it from getting monotonous.

Schedule Your Day
As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest adjustments coming to college for me was the lack of structure in my day. In college, sure I have classes every day, but my classes change depending on the day of the week. I have meetings that vary and my to-do list changes on a day-to-day basis. This was a difficult transition, but I found scheduling out my days hour-by-hour the night before helped me see where I needed to be when and allowed me to find time to knock tasks off my to-do list in between events. Since my days in high school almost always looked the same there was never the need for this type of scheduling, but my college days are much more productive because of it. I switched out my tried and true Lilly Pulitzer agenda for a Day Designer due to its more detailed layout. This may be a little more detailed than what everyone needs, but regardless of your scheduling preferences I highly recommend utilizing an agenda of some sort to map out your days and weeks to ensure no assignment or commitment is forgotten.

Don't Procrastinate
So much easier said than done. Because I did not have each class every day of the week, it was easy to say, "Oh, I still have [this much time] to get it done." This mindset can really come back to bite you. I had so much more free time in college because I was not in school for eight hours each day. But, this time still needed to be put toward schoolwork. I wrote about this in an earlier post, but I eventually learned that using this free time to study or work on assignments was a much better lifestyle than relaxing all day, leaving schoolwork to the evening and then going to bed late. By staying on top of assignments, not only do you allow yourself more time to work on and review your work, but you can enjoy free time without the impending stress of needing to get something done.

Plan Ahead
This goes along with not procrastinating, but planning ahead is key for managing multiple classes, organizations and a social life. If I knew I had a date party on Thursday, I would make sure to get any assignments due Friday done prior to Thursday or before I went out. The last thing I wanted to do was complete an assignment when I got home, and I wouldn't sacrifice my schoolwork for going out. In order to have a good balance between school and social life, planning ahead is key. Both were important parts of my freshman year, so this required me to plan ahead during the week to ensure I allotted time for both.

Incorporate Breaks and Time with Friends
Some of my favorite memories from my freshman year include heading to Wendy's at 11 p.m. with friends for frosties and fries or going to our favorite ice cream shop after dinner. These much needed study breaks and social time did not last too long and allowed me to fill up on both food and time with my friends. While it is obviously important to not take too many study breaks, these short outings were a welcome break from the library. Spending long, consecutive amounts of time can be difficult for maintaining focus and productivity. Don't be afraid to say yes to these spontaneous trips, but also make sure they aren't too frequent.

Do you have recommendations on staying on top of school work?



Freshman 15: DIY Dorm Headboard

One item that helped make my room feel more like home was adding a headboard to my bed frame. Instead of just a mattress and decorative pillows sitting against a wall, the headboard made it look much more like a bed and completed the look.

While there are plenty of options out there to purchase a headboard, I decided to make my own. And much to my surprise, it was relatively easy! While it definitely takes some time, this was a great summer project to work on prior to heading to school.

My mom and I watched several videos on the best way to assemble a DIY headboard. We incorporated techniques from a variety of suggestions. I was so happy with the final product and was thrilled it stayed together the whole year. If you choose to make your own headboard too, below I've shared a step-by-step guide for building my headboard. 

1. Cut the shape.
For my headboard, I used two layers of heavy cardboard from a furniture box. Looking back, I would recommend using a half inch piece of plywood instead as it would hold staples better. I chose the cardboard to reduce the weight for transporting it to school. However, the cardboard did not hold the staples as well as plywood, and the wood would make the assembly process easier. I also glued two yardsticks vertically to the back to give it extra support due to its height. 

My headboard was 40 inches wide and 43 inches tall. There were a few elements I kept in mind when deciding on the dimensions of my headboard. First, I looked up the measurements for the bedframe of my dorm bed. I wanted it to be as wide as my bed and knew it would sit on the bedframe behind my mattress. I also wanted it to be tall enough that my monogram would sit above my pillows. I then needed to consider its size to be sure it fit in the back of my car for transporting to school. At each stage of construction, I placed it in the car to check its size. 

While some headboards are clean rectangles, I knew I wanted to add a little more shape to mine. So, I decided to add the cut outs on the top corners. I measured to draw 3 inches off of the top and side corners. I used a bowl to trace the same shape on each side and create a smooth edge. When I cut the entire shape of the headboard out of the cardboard, I made little tweaks on these corners to make them as symmetrical as possible. It's important to have a good shape here, but don't spend too much time on perfecting the edges – it will be covered with the padding and loses some of the smooth edge.

2. Cover with padding.  
I wanted to be able to lean up against my headboard and for it to be comfortable. So, I chose to cover my headboard with padding. Foam padding sold at the fabric store is expensive. I purchased a less expensive mattress pad for a California King mattress and cut the foam mattress topper into two pieces. I placed the flat side of one piece of the topper on the cardboard and stapled it with a staple gun to the cardboard. Then I placed the second piece of the mattress topper flat side out and stapled it to the cardboard. I wrapped both pieces of foam around the back and stretched and stapled it down.

It's important the foam is wrapped as tightly as possible so that it is smooth on the front. I highly recommend laying the foam padding on the ground, placing the cardboard on top and lining the cardboard up so that you can ensure the padding will wrap around symmetrically. This step requires a lot of staples, but it's important that this layer sticks prior to adding any fabric on top of it. I may have added more than necessary, but I never had any problems with the padding coming apart, so it paid off in the long run!

In the online tutorials that I reviewed, others did not wrap the foam around to the back and instead added a layer of batting to create rounded edges. This would have provided more definition to the curves, but I personally liked the additional thickness that the foam provided.

3. Cover the padding with fabric.
I then placed fabric over the foam. I purchased duck cloth from the upholstery section of the fabric store. This was a heavier fabric that could stand up to day-to-day wear. I wanted to add a little personalization to my headboard, so prior to assembling the headboard I had the fabric monogrammed. I went to a local commercial embroidery company because the size of the monogram was 10 inches.  

It is important to have two people for this part. One person should be in charge of lining up the fabric and holding it in place, while the other staples the fabric to the back of the board. I carefully lined up the monogram, held the board upright and put in a few staples to hold the fabric in place. Then I turned the board over (facing down) to fully secure the fabric. My mom pulled the fabric very tight while keeping it lined up and I stapled the fabric in place on the back. If I thought I had used a lot of staples in the previous step, this one required even more. I wanted to make sure the assembly would not come apart in transporting it to Tuscaloosa or even after I had moved in to my room. Once I had the front fabric secure, I glued a few pieces of scrap fabric to cover the back, making sure none of the staples remained visible.

4. Get ready to transport.
Once I finished the headboard, I covered it in plastic furniture wrap so that it would not get dirty when I was moving it into my dorm. This also helped prevent anything from scratching or cutting the fabric during the moving process!

I loved how it turned out. It provided a pop of color against the beige walls, and the double layer of foam provided plenty of cushion, making it soft to lean against when I studied or sat up in bed.

Are you making your own headboard for your dorm? Have you made a headboard in the past and have any recommendations? I'd love to hear!


P.S. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to help!


Summer Sweater

sweater (sold out, but love the tassels on this similar top) | jeans | earrings | shoes

While this weekend is hot and humid, last weekend was a rather cool weekend in Chicago. It was completely pleasant during the day, but by the evening it was pretty chilly and had me wanting to throw on the nearest sweater I could find. I think it can sometimes be a challenge to dress for these sorts of days in the summer — I want be in bright summer colors, but also want to stay warm!

Last Friday my mom and I went to Lincoln Park for dinner. Looking like the evening temperatures would be in the sixties, I wore a light pink sweater with white jeans to try to keep a bright look but still be comfortable in the cooling temperatures. We had dinner at Santa Monica Summer House which has a fun, summery and open air vibe. Eating in the main dining room (appropriately called The Vitamin D Room), the bright, tropical atmosphere helped to distract from the cooling temperatures just outside the door. The sweater was the perfect weight for walking around Lincoln Park after dinner when it dropped into the high fifties. We even popped into the new Lincoln Park Serena & Lily store – so cute!

 I have this sweater in both pink and in white and navy stripes and have found that they are increasingly my go-tos for spring and summer. Easily worn with jeans for a casual look or with my Lilly travel pants for a work look, it's lightweight and can always be accessorized. With its soft and comfortable fabric, I almost wish I had picked it up in a few more colors, too!

What's your favorite sweater for the summertime?



Freshman 15: What's in My Backpack

In high school, I knew exactly what I needed each day. My classes were the same. I usually came home at the same time each day. So, it was easy to pack my bag knowing that tomorrow would likely follow the same schedule. Once I got to college, I had different classes and activities depending on the day of the week and thus made more decisions about how I would spend the day (i.e. would I go home or to the library after dinner?). In turn, what I carried in my backpack changed on a daily basis. 

This year, I left my room prior to my first class of the day and usually would not return until later that night. I did most of my studying at the library and would often go there or to Starbucks between classes and after dinner. Because I was spending such a significant part of my day away from my room, I needed to be smart in packing my backpack to ensure I would have everything I may need for the day. 

My biggest tip for packing your backpack is to do so the night before and think about your day ahead. What's on the schedule? Do I have chapter or a meeting I will need to pack an outfit for? What will I study when I go to the library? Will I have time to run back to my room before [insert event]? Thinking ahead can be a huge help in ensuring that you are prepared and won't forget anything on your schedule.

There are some staples that I carried in high school that I continue to carry now. But, I did make some accommodations for longer days outside of my dorm room. While of course everyone has their own necessities, here are the items I kept in my backpack at all times:

Laptop: Easily my most used item in my backpack! I used it in almost every class, and I never left my room without it.

Agenda: My day-to-day schedule always looked different. Between classes, meetings and to-do lists, I always had my agenda with me to ensure I was in the right place at the right time and was not forgetting any assignments or other tasks.

Pencil pouch: I usually kept a plethora of pens and pencils along with a few highlighters in my pencil pouch. Whether I was writing notes in class or annotating in the library, it was great to have this on hand at all times.

Notebooks, folders, etc.: Some like to just take notes on their laptop, but I am a big fan of handwritten notes. I usually had a notebook and folder for each class and would switch out which I carried depending on my classes that day. I would recommend thinking ahead and if you plan to spend time studying away from your room, be sure to pack any study materials for other classes you might need.

Water bottle: Staying hydrated at all times is important, and especially in the Alabama heat! I used my Swell bottle and always filled it up before meals or at other locations on campus. 

Umbrella: Weather in Alabama can be unpredictable and truly changes on a day-to-day basis. I kept an umbrella in one of the side pockets of my backpack at all times. It's lightweight, and you never know when it might choose to downpour! 

Snack: During second semester, you could almost always find me in the business library until the late hours of the night. I liked to keep a granola bar or some Gold Fish in my backpack as a late night snack so I didn't have to leave and interrupt my studying simply because I was hungry.

Sweatshirt/sweater: The Alabama heat is intense, but so is the air conditioning indoors! I often would go from sweating to shivering, so keeping a something I could pull on was a must.

Smaller necessities: Post-It notes, phone and computer chargers, headphones, lip balm and sunglasses were all items I kept on hand in the smaller pockets of my bag.

I found spending a few minutes preparing for the next day saved me stress from not having what I needed and lots of extra steps for running back to my room for things I had forgotten.

What are your backpack necessities?



My Essential Summer Dress

dress (similar) | earrings | Jack Rogers | sunglasses (similar)

I live in dresses during the summer. There is something just so easy about only worrying about one item of clothing to complete a look and the comfort of cotton dresses. Not only do they keep me cool in the summer heat, but it's easy to throw a light knit cardigan over it for the cooler evenings.

For the past few summers, my go-to dress has been the Lilly Pulitzer Sleeveless Essie Dress. I now shamelessly own this dress in three different prints, and it is by far my most worn style. It's perfect for running errands, paired with a sweater for work or worn with wedges to summer graduation parties. I always throw at least one dress in when traveling because they are so comfortable all day long, and the bright prints are fun to wear throughout the spring and summer.

While this dress is a print from last year, I am currently eyeing it in this year's print Multi Salt in the Air and think it might end up in my collection soon!

Do you have a go-to summer dress?



Freshman 15: Making a Dorm Room Homey

If you’re headed to college this fall, you may be beginning to look at more bedding than you thought possible, trying to create a color scheme and planning your home away from home for next year. I had so much fun planning my dorm room, and making my room feel like home was one aspect that helped make my transition to college smooth. 

Dorm rooms by design are generic, allowing them to be transformed with each new resident into a unique and personal space. As I planned my space I did my best to make my dorm feel like a cozy corner that I would look forward to coming home to rather than simply a plain cube that I only used to sleep and hold all my belongings. Decorating the room to reflect my bright style made me love the space that much more.  

As you plan for your new room, keep in mind that you have to work with the furniture the university provides and that the small space will likely serve multiple functions. Here are a few elements that really helped me transition the beige cube into my colorful home. 

Consider the focal point.
Dorm rooms are small and the largest element in the room will be your bed. So, it is likely to be the first thing most people see (including you!). It deserves some attention. Selecting bedding you love will be a welcome site even if you do not make your bed daily. I knew I wanted a white comforter with accent pillows in hot pink, Caribbean blue and seafoam green. I worked with this color scheme throughout the room and stuck with it. While I do admit the number of throw pillows I laid on my bed may be a bit excessive for some, I never got tired of seeing them when I walked through the door. Who doesn't love getting into bed with a plethora of pillows? They added so much color to the room and were comfortable to lay back on while taking a quick break or nap.

I also added a headboard, which completed the look of the bed and made it feel more like an actual bed than a mattress laying on a bed frame. I matched the fabric of the headboard to the hot pink in my accent pillows. In the next few weeks, I will share a post on how I made my upholstered headboard. If you are not interested in making a headboard, several companies sell them. I also had a headboard pillow from Leigh Deux, which was so comfortable and added even more color. I loved that I could move it with me, too. If I was sitting on the floor working with friends I could put it against the wall and have a comfortable back rest. 

 desk hutch | memo board (c/o) | Evelyn Henson print (similar) | bracelet holder

Gamma Phi banner | rug | ottoman | pineapple lamp (similar)

Make sure the space functions.
How your room will function will be equally important to how it looks. As I planned my room, I mentally created stations for designated activities. Having specific places where I did each part of my routine was key to making the room feel like a home rather than just a place I kept all my belongings. I had a place to sleep and relax, a place to study and a place to get ready. These "stations" helped my room feel organized and make sure that everything had a spot.

Having a specific space for everything helped me avoid clutter. I was fortunate to have enough room to add a 3’-by-3’ storage cubby organizer. I used the cubbies to hold clothes as well as makeup and hair supplies. Keeping all the extra items inside a cubby made it possible to have less out and therefore made the room feel less crowded. I also added a desk hutch which gave me both utility space and display space. I was able to raise my bed and hide lots of storage underneath including the university-provided dresser. I then added 3 curtain panels which covered the storage, but provided easy access. As you plan your room, definitely think about the best way to use the available space and how to cover storage in order to create the illusion of more space.

 curtains | picture frames | cork board (similar)

Do not forget the details!
As you plan your room, think about specific details that will help make the space feel more comfortable. For instance, start with the floor. I added a white shaggy rug that made a big difference in the room. Not only did it take up a huge amount of floor space and cover up the neutral brown carpet, but it added a cozy and warm flooring when I walked in or sat on the ground.

Next consider your walls. Each school will have rules about how you adhere items to the wall. Nails and push pins are probably out unless there is a cork strip. Just check with your schools housing website. I had great success with Command strips. I personalized my walls by adding framed photos and prints. For me, using white frames helped make the space feel more like my room at home and provided some consistency so the display did not feel too busy. Other items to consider are cork boards and memo boards where you can change your displays easily and often. I also had colorful canvases in one area to help brighten up a corner of the room.

As you are thinking about your walls, do not forget a mirror. I had an inexpensive full length mirror near my closet and another smaller mirror near my makeup station. 

You will most likely have a large window and may want to consider adding a room darkening curtain. I had pretty solid blinds on my window, so I just added a white sheer curtain to soften the look.

Last but not least, the only light in your room is likely to be on the ceiling. The final touch that I felt converted my dorm to a room was the lamps I added to my bedside table and desk. The overhead lighting was harsh, so turning on the lamps and opening the blinds during the daytime was much more pleasant. While at night I would turn on the overhead light when studying, other times I kept it off and just left on my lamps. Having the alternative to the bright, fluorescent light was a welcome change that kept my room from feeling almost like a classroom or other public building. 

While all these items weren't necessary in the functionality of my dorm room, I do feel like they helped take my space from feeling like an institutional dorm to a homey room. I definitely will be using the "stations" set up next year in my room since that was a key element in the room’s organization. Having such a welcoming place to call my "home away from home" not only provided the comfort I needed to fuel up for the next day, but was the perfect balance of relaxation and practicality. 

I hope you have lot of fun planning your dorm room! Do you have any tips for making a dorm room feel like home?


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