The Ultimate Guide to First-year Living at the University of Michigan

Residence Hall Essentials and Advice for a Great First Year

By Annabelle Marenghi July 19, 2023
The Ultimate Guide to First-Year Living at the University of Michigan

Congratulations on your acceptance to the University of Michigan! There are so many things to be excited for as you prepare for your first year at U-M. You’ve likely already read many lists on residence hall essentials, academic tips, and general advice for first-years – I know I did too, before beginning my college experience at U-M. However, there were still a number of things that I didn’t see on any lists prior to arriving at U-M, things that I certainly wish I had known. So, I’ve compiled all of my best advice and living tips that I am hoping you haven’t already seen on another list. I have tried to share a curated list of lesser-known residence hall essentials and insider tips to help you navigate your first year at U-M. From maximizing space to making your residence hall feel cozy and welcoming, I want to ensure you have all the tools and knowledge to thrive in your new home away from home.

The following is my guide to first-year residence hall life at the University of Michigan:

Power strips.

  • The typical room in a residence hall only has a few outlets, often in difficult spots behind beds or desks. Having a power strip, as well as a number of extension cords, will allow you to plug in as many lamps, lights, and devices to charge as you need.

Vacuum-sealed clothing bags.

  • These can be a great help whenever you need to condense your things for travel, particularly if you are an out-of-state student and will be flying more frequently. Additionally, for the changing seasons in Michigan, it is helpful to be able to compress your summer clothes down to store away once the weather grows colder, and then vice-versa with your bulkier winter clothing once the weather warms up again. Residence hall life is all about saving space wherever you can!

If you wear jewelry, a jewelry organizer.

  • There are plenty of styles of jewelry organizers that work well in a residence hall. However, I would specifically recommend one that can travel well and fit easily on any surface – the simpler the better. My first-year roommate had a great jewelry organizer, a wide flat box with a glass top, divided by square cubbies to sort earrings, necklaces, rings, etc. I loved hers so much that I later bought an identical one of my own. It has proved fantastic for organizing, and easiest to travel with, as it just slides into a box or suitcase.

Mat by your door.

  • As a Californian coming to Michigan, I was not prepared for walks to and from class in the rain, snow, and slush. Of course, it is up to personal preference, but if damp carpets bother you, having a mat by your door is a game changer for cleaning off shoes and keeping your room clean whenever you have friends over. Plus, it’s an opportunity for a bit of personality – choose a mat with a fun message or decoration!

Room spray/fresh plants.

  • While candles are not allowed in residence halls, a light room spray or fresh flowers can be a great touch for a small room! Some sort of subtle, herbal air scent will freshen up your residence hall room and make it cozy and inviting. Obviously, make sure it’s a scent both you and your roommate(s) are happy with, and be sure to open your window regularly for fresh air and circulation.

Phone wallet.

  • This was, hands-down, the best purchase I made during my first year of college. A phone wallet that attaches to the back of your phone makes residence hall life far more convenient. Since U-M buildings often require swiping your student Mcard for access, as well as residence hall buildings and bathrooms that require your key card, having these accessible on the back of my phone constantly saved me time and effort. You’ll want to keep both of those cards on you at all times, and a phone wallet makes that particularly easy. My friends and I were particularly big fans of the inexpensive phone wallets sold at the M Den – they come in a number of colors, all stamped with the Michigan M!

This is by no means a full summary of residence hall essentials – rather, I’ve sought to include the items that you’re less likely to see on another list. These all have served me well through my first year, and I hope the same for you! As you prepare for your first year at the University of Michigan, it's important to have the right residence hall essentials and insider knowledge to make the most of your experience. By maximizing space and prioritizing comfort, you'll be well-equipped to navigate your college journey. The U-M family is so excited to have you, and I hope that your first year is filled with growth, discovery, and unforgettable moments. Go Blue!

Annabelle Marenghi

Annabelle Marenghi is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Arts, and Sciences, pursuing a major in English and a minor in entrepreneurship. She is from San Diego, California. At school, Annabelle is involved in her sorority and several of the outdoors clubs at the University of Michigan. She loves to travel, and is planning to study abroad for the 2023-2024 academic year. In her free time, you can find Annabelle surfing, cooking, or hiking with her dog.