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College dorm shopping

Categories: Organization, Productivity


My daughter recently graduated from high school, and, like many new grads, she’s off to college in the fall. (Eek! I will have a kid in college in just a few short weeks. OK, it’s 11 short weeks, but still…college!)

Since this is our oldest, we’ve been busy trying to learn about everything and prepare for what lies ahead. While the preparation is ultimately her responsibility, we still have lots of things to learn as parents. So far, the biggest lesson for us has been that our own college experiences aren’t really applicable to anything.

I spent a little time shaking my theoretical stick at what goes into college admissions and preparations these days, but even though I work at a college, I’ve come to learn that many things are just different for today’s students even when something was “good enough for me”.

Most things are done online, social media is key to getting information and finding roommates, and it doesn’t always have to be a “rite of passage” as a freshman to live with a stranger in a cinder block room the size of a postage stamp with a communal bathroom down the hall.  Also? The washing machines will text you when the cycle is done. (I know!)

However, one thing that remains constant is that there’s always going to be a list of “what to bring”.

More experienced college parents will probably chuckle at my freshman parent ways, but in the interest of avoiding a 4-digit Target bill in a strange city after forking over tuition and such, I have been trying to plan ahead a little by attempting to make a thorough list and buying and/or gathering things as I go.

I understand that students don’t need most of the stuff they bring, you have to carry it and there’s not much room. But, as far as I can tell, there are some start-up things they need, and I’ve been doing my best to get some things in order.

Even though we weren’t sure where she’d be going to school, I actually started purchasing things at Christmas, since getting “college stuff” was exciting.  Two birds, one stone, if you will. I started with items such as a small tool set, a hand vacuum, one of those pop-up laundry hampers and an array of no-damage sticky hook and squares, all things that can be used in any housing situation.

Since then, I’ve divided the list into different sections and am trying to tackle one division at a time. For example, I started with, “Study/Desk” earlier this year and I gradually acquired a box of items such as: a desk lamp, tape, tape dispenser, stapler, staples, a good pencil sharpener, some decent scissors, a ruler, a pencil holder, blank CDs, flash drives etc. While none of those items are especially glamorous, they’re needed, the cost can add up and I don’t want her to strip our desk at home of them.

Other areas I’ve worked on recently are “Medicine and First Aid”, “Clothing” (iron, small ironing board, hangers, stain release, detergent, etc.) “Storage”, “Cleaning” and “Repair”. She’ll be in a suite with a partial kitchen, so I’ve gotten just a few items classified as “Eat/Kitchen”.

The haul is accumulating in the dining room, and while the results aren’t especially attractive right now, I hope my attempts at shopping will prove useful and get her off to a good start:

Of course, she gets to shop for the fun stuff like bedding and decorations and I’ve had to remind her that this stuff is a one-time purchase for us and not to expect this every year!

How about you? Do you have any hints for college dorm shopping or just getting ready for college in general?

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3 comments so far...

  • As far as the bedding is concerned, a lot of dorm beds require the extra long fitted sheets. Instead of searching for them (for my first college kid, we ended up getting them online), just buy the cotton jersey “T Shirt” sheets at Target or Walmart. They stretch nicely over the mattress and can be used later on a regular size twin bed.

    Ann from St. Peter MN  |  June 12th, 2012 at 8:22 am

  • I went to school at an old university in Virginia in 1976, translation: hazy, hot, and humid. And, A/C? There was a run on every store in town for box fans. My get-rich quick scheme was to someday have the capital to buy 500 box fans and show up at the dorms on moving day and make a million bucks. Life went on, as life does, and my dream became making sure there was milk in the fridge for my kids.

    Where my first guy went to school, there was one dorm with A/C which you could luck into, or you could petition to use a window A/C unit if you had allergies or asthma. Where my second guy went, all the dorms had A/C. I worry about where he will get the inspiration for his life’s dreams.

    amy324  |  June 13th, 2012 at 2:17 am

  • Congrats on all that you’ve accomplished so far. Our oldest has decided to work full time and attend a local college which means she will be living at home for a little while longer. However, my middle girl has no intentions of staying home and, if I get started now, I should be ready to tackle a couple of to do lists. She graduates in 2014 ;) Thanks for the tips and good luck!

    Liz  |  June 14th, 2012 at 8:34 am