You’ve received bundles of them in the mail: 40+ item shopping lists from stores telling you what to buy your kids for college. Before my freshman year, I made these lists into my back-to-school bibles, religiously checking each item off at the expense of my parents’ wallets. Now as a recent college graduate, I can attest that I barely used some of those items and returned home my senior year with less than half of them.
Before setting off to the store with your college-bound kid, throw the pre-determined lists away and make your own. Discuss with your child the essentials you both think will be necessary investments for dorm life. With college tuition, food plans, and textbooks, these next four years are going to be expensive enough without having to buy miscellaneous pieces like a soap holder, fuzzy rug, and computer chair. These are items that your son and daughter will be able to live without no matter what the pre-made lists say. As a recent college graduate, I give you a smaller list of essentials that are vital to your child’s success on the university level:
1. Versatile Laptop
The most expensive item on the list is also the most imperative. No matter what your son or daughter is going to study, they will spend night after night researching, writing, and connecting with others. Buying a laptop over a desktop is more useful because your busy student will be able to study anywhere, whether it’s a sunny fall day beneath a tree or furiously typing away at the library. The versatile laptop is also a great way to stay connected with your child through a quick email or through Skype.
2. Trusty Planner
My planner was my best friend because it helped me keep track of everything in my crazy college life. From large projects to mini papers, extracurricular activities to birthdays, my planner let me know where I needed to be and what needed to be done. The best planners provide a monthly calendar as well as a day-to-day scheduler, and have a place for notes so your student can write down to-do lists that come to mind.
3. Comfortable Mattress Cover
There’s nothing better than coming home after a long day at the library to the most comfortable bed (bed away from home, that is) ever. If there’s one bedding essential to invest in, it’s a foam mattress that adds an extra layer of padding to that board-stiff dorm mattress. The most productive mornings and meaningful classes start with a good night of sleep.
4. Reliable Cell Phone Plan
You want to stay connected with your son or daughter while they’re away at school, and although they might not always give off the vibe, they want to hear from you! This is the biggest adjustment of their young lives, and having you to ask for advice and someone to vent to makes college stress that much easier to handle. I loved it when I could simply text my mom a question while she was in a meeting. A reliable cell phone plan for the family keeps you just a phone call or text away.
5. No-Fail Alarm Clock
Despite what your kids think, a cell phone alarm clock is not the most dependable option. I encountered numerous times during my four years where my cell phone randomly shut off in the middle of the night or the beeping sound was smothered under my pillow. The best way to make sure they’re up in time for classes is to do it the old-fashioned way. That way, you’re least likely to worry about your son or daughter snoozing through their classes.
6. Large Laundry Basket
Every year, this was the one item I inevitably had to replace. My collapsible laundry basket also doubled as a suitcase on visits home and a moving box on the last day of school. And like every college student, I usually waited until the basket was bursting at the seams to wash my clothes. Dragging my heavy bundle of clothes down the stairs always left it scuffed and torn. Make sure their laundry basket is durable and oversized, but don’t waste your money on an expensive one.
7. Multiple Towels and Sheets
Make sure you’re sending your child to school with at least three bath towels and a couple of pairs of sheets. It’s hard to make time for laundry when a washer and dryer isn’t right down the hall, because doing so becomes less a chore and more of an event (especially with dozens of other kids waiting for the same machine). Having a couple extra towels always made me happy on days I couldn’t make laundry my first priority, and storing an extra pair of sheets made it easier to follow my mom’s hygiene tips to change my sheets every two weeks.
8. Cleaning Supplies
Maybe it’s the roommate’s shoes or the takeout in the trash. Whatever it is, stuffy dorm rooms are a breeding ground for interesting smells and unavoidable germs. Make sure the closet is stocked with air freshener, hand sanitizer, and Clorox wipes for easy cleaning. A vacuum is an easy way to keep tidy, too, but check with your child’s residence hall first to see if a community vacuum is offered, which I always used instead of buying my own.
9. Storage Bins
Your child has more stuff than the tiny dorm closet offers room for, so utilizing storage bins gives them more space, less clutter. I always had a couple of different sized bins under my bed and in my closet storing everything from art supplies to shoes. On school breaks, I used my largest bin to transport my seasonal clothing and accessories which freed up space and helped me stay organized.
10. Meaningful Stuff
While you don’t need to spend a fortune on posters and artwork, make sure they have a couple of bulletin boards and picture frames to remember where they came from and what they’re passionate about. Chances are, your son or daughter will get home sick, and having these mementos on his or her desk will help. These are great conversation starters with new friends and the perfect reminders of home.
About the Author
Molly Borter is a recent grad from DePauw University, and now works as a writer from Indianapolis specializing in men’s diabetic socks. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family, making frequent visits to her alma mater, and tracking the latest fall fashion trends in men’s and women’s socks.
Image: graur razvan ionut