I’m headed off to college in a week and a half, so these past few weekends have been spent scouring stores for the best buys in dorm room necessities and…not-so necessities. Quite the pile has sprung up in the front hallway, and the prospect of leaving is, by shear volume of possessions, becoming a great deal clearer.
But, as fun as this packing process has been and can be for everyone, it must be undertaken with rhyme, reason, and careful planning. Hopefully, these tips will help your or your soon-to-be-college student’s transition be all that much smoother. Good luck!
1. Make a list and check it twice.
When planning and buying the items that will come with you or your student to college, don’t just rely on spur-of-the-moment decisions on what should and shouldn’t go. Before you even consider going to the college aisle of the big box stores, make a thorough list of what items the student needs, what items the student already has, and what the student needs to buy.
In fact, many colleges and universities publish lists like these on their websites or with move-in day materials. Use this list as a baseline: cross out what you might not need and add what you will. If you want your own list, make sure that all the required items of the college’s list are present. That being said…
2. Don’t overdo-it.
Perusing the aisles of [Insert Store Here] with a double-wide cart of dorm room goodies (or doing the same virtually on Amazon et al), it can be all too tempting for a student or their parents to buy an insanely exorbitant amount of stuff - more than could ever hope to fit in a dorm room closet or bureau.
The cause of this is twofold. First, the stuff that might seem necessary, fun, or super cool in the moment may not be so thought of with the benefit of hindsight. Second, in an effort to mentally delay the concept of their child leaving, a parent might try to duplicate home, with all the trappings, at college. A student, of course, might do the same. While the intention surely springs from a place of love, this practice is by no means practical. Dorms are smaller, not to mention shared. That being said…
3. Don’t under-do-it either.
This is different from forgetting things (as in number one). This is the situation where you go so far away from number two that your dorm begins to look less like a room and more like a cell. Like it or not, this is going to be the student’s home more than any other place over the next year and it should feel like it.
Whether this means dressing the room to the nines with bedazzled block letters and sparkling, sequin-spotted photo frames like some dorms I’ve seen, or simply laying out a few pictures and some familiar objects, it’s an invaluable step toward making the drastic transition from high school to college a little easier for all involved. Take some time to pick out a few (preferably small) things that mean a lot to you or your student and find a place for them. These little things can make a big difference on a rainy, homesick day. That being said…
4. Don’t forget the bare necessities.
Focusing on all the fun new things that you get to buy and bring (a shower caddy, dearie me!), it’s no wonder college-supplied move-in lists (including my own) are peppered with warnings of commonly-forgotten, no-brainer items. Pillowcases, for example, or laundry detergent.
Band-aids, Advil, and a sewing kit can fall by the wayside when everyone’s bigger concern is the now-famous “micro-fridge.”
At four in the morning during finals week when your calculator’s batteries die, that Phillips-head screwdriver is going to fall like manna from Heaven on your desk. When a loose button jumps ship of your nicest blouse or button-down the day of an interview, that needle and thread will be heralded as the Greek gods themselves.
5. Choose a style set.
I am not an interior designer, and a college dorm is certainly not the pinnacle of the craft, but when things look alike and, more importantly, seem to belong with each-other, it can make a space cleaner, sleeker, and more comfortable to be in. I’m not saying you have to create an HGTV-style masterpiece, but when your hot pink desk lamp and green camouflage pencil box are at odds with each-other, you’ll know what I mean and you’ll want to make a change.
In today’s world of countless styles, each available online or in-store in all 256 colors, this shouldn’t be too hard.
6. Plan ahead for big-ticket items.
Just as advised in another TeenLife blog post by Suzanne Shaffer, “5 Discussions to Have With Your New College Roommate”, this is an important way to avoid tricky situations. Weeks before move-in day, contact your roommate and decide on who will bring and who will buy large, pricey items like televisions or small appliances like vacuums, irons, or the aforementioned microfridge. If you and your roommate agree they are necessary, plan ahead for how they will physically get into your dorm room and how they will be paid for and shared after the fact.
So, hopefully you will take or have already taken some of these tips to heart and will have the smoothest possible transition to college living. Sure, no list can eliminate the anxiety over a new environment, the homesickness, or the distance itself, but being as prepared as can be in a simple area like possessions themselves can leave extra room to make new friends, have new experiences, and generally eliminate some of that ubiquitous sadness.
See you in class!