How Interior Design Eases the Transition to Student Life

Tailoring your off-campus apartment design to the unique needs of incoming students helps ensure they are entering an environment that allows them to learn and grow. With each academic year that passes, a new wave of students come to experience the thrill of college life. But what the students of yesteryear required from their housing units isn’t necessarily what your new students will need to foster an effective learning environment.

Students entering the 2021 – 2022 academic year have faced many unique challenges that housing developments must consider. By incorporating strategic changes to your property’s interior design, you can provide your students with the surroundings they need to thrive in academia.

What Challenges Do Students Face in 2021?

During a year that turned many long-held institutions and traditions flatly on their head, college campuses were among the hardest hit. The COVID-19 pandemic completely transformed the way students learn and interact with one another overnight. As a result, high school graduates entering college for the first time face distinct challenges that freshmen from years past did not.


One of the biggest challenges that students faced during the pandemic was disparity in internet connectivity. Many schools transitioned to online “distance learning” in an effort to keep students educated despite the outbreak. However, this move to online learning failed account for the fact that some students did not have access to a strong internet connection. In some cases, students were unable to attend class altogether, causing their grades to slip. 

Especially as the trend to offer more online and hybrid learning opportunities continues, student housing properties will need to ensure that both their in-unit and amenity spaces are well-connected to keep students on-track for academic success.


Because of the move to online learning, many students reported feeling socially isolated. Depression and anxiety were at an all-time high among these age groups, and studies showed how students craved either a hybrid learning or in-person experience. While it may not be possible to hold classes 100% in-person for some universities, it’s important for student housing centers to consider how they can promote connection to community while keeping students safe and healthy.


Since students are forced to live and learn in the same environment (at home or in their off-campus apartment), this can lead to quick burnout. Lack of motivation and exhaustion from online learning are common side effects seen among incoming 2021 freshmen. These students require a clear separation from their studies and their personal lives in order to thrive academically.

How Can Interior Design Help Ease the Transition?

Perhaps one of the most impactful changes that student housing properties can make is to their interior design. In fact, each of the challenges discussed above can be made easier by incorporating strategic changes to your student housing design.

Study Pods & Private Study Areas

In recent history, interior design trends showed a preference for Starbucks-style open workspaces for students to gather and collaborate. However, post-pandemic students will require more privacy so they can focus on their studies and feel more productive. Incorporating study pods and more private study areas is a great way to overcome the academic challenges students face in online learning. These “pods” should prioritize comfort and strong internet connectivity, providing students with a powerful yet peaceful study space.

Community Spaces

While privacy is important as these students require a place where they can focus and catch up academically, it’s also imperative that they have places where they can work together. Consider incorporating intimate yet flexible community spaces in your student housing design where students can interact one-on-one. Providing small-scale community spaces will help students overcome feelings of isolation while still adhering to Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines around social distancing. Making a space flexible and multi-use gives operators the ability to use the space in different ways as the needs of their residents change.

Work & Play

One of the biggest interior design changes that student housing properties should make is finding ways to clearly define which areas are for work and which are for play. Especially with increased reports of academic burnout due to at-home learning, helping students separate their studies from their personal lives through strategic design will go a long way in propelling their academic success.

SouthPark Interiors for Your Student Housing Design

Student housing apartments seeking to revamp their interior design ahead of the 2021 – 2022 academic year will benefit from working with a team of skilled professionals. At SouthPark Interiors, our designers have helped transform off-campus properties throughout the United States for nearly 20 years. We understand the unique challenges that incoming freshmen and new students face, and we have the interior design expertise to help you provide a space for your students to grow and thrive. Start strategically designing your student housing projects today by scheduling a consultation with our interior design team!