shopping for college

Shopping for College Necessities

Who has the best advice when it comes to shopping for college? Experienced parents! The following tips were gleaned from one of our local Facebook mom groups. Their discussion about those college necessities was very helpful. (We’ve added some Amazon links for a couple in case that is helpful. We are an Amazon Affiliate and receive compensation from Amazon.)

No guarantees everything you’ll need is on this list, or that you will need everything! Just some suggestions from the moms.

  • fan (for not only cooling but also for white noise) – One of our followers recommended this one.
  • small rugs (floor gets cold, and gritty unless you have a vacuum)
  • Clorox wipes to fight the Petri dish that is living in a dorm!
  • small tub to do our dishes in (also useful for storing them) – This one has a drain in the bottom.
  • dish rags/towels
  • coffee maker (Keurig style) & mugs
  • memory or foam mattress pad (a good one! Not the egg carton kind. Here’s one on Amazon.)
  • stamps (we’re not convinced this shouldn’t go on the “don’t bother with” list)
  • can opener (winner for most borrowed item)
  • shower caddy if they don’t have personal bathrooms – This mesh one has pockets!
  • door stopper (Keeping your dorm room open helps you to meet people although this happens less frequently then when we went to school.)
  • 3M hooks for hanging pictures and the super large ones for towels
  • small vacuum (dorm will have one you can borrow if cleanliness is not a huge deal) – Example of one if weekly sweeping is important to your student.
  • small pullout couch from IKEA was a top purchase (Great for hanging out and a best friend visit!)
  • bath towels (and more bath towels)
  • footlocker for under bed (can use a pad lock on one for valuables)
  • extra storage (especially under the bed)
  • bed risers
  • hooks that went over the top of the door
  • thin space-saving hangers (probably won’t need too many!)
  • school apparel
  • extra pillows
  • throw blanket
  • duct tape!
  • laundry bag or basket
  • plates, silverware, bowls (disposable or not) – Basic plastic ones can work.
  • medication
  • trash can
  • thermometer (doesn’t have to be fancy!) & first aid kit
  • surge protector
  • extension cord
  • face masks (good to have a box of disposable ones on hand just in case)

It’s all about the money.

“Debit card, money for pizza, money for Starbucks, money for snacks, money for fast food…and then some extra money!”

Far from home?

“Because we fly our son to school, I pre-ordered most of the stuff for the dorm at Target, and then picked it up at the one closest to his campus. Doing this, we only had to take his clothes (using the SW free 2 bags for each of us).”

“Unless you know exactly what the room will look like, you might want to wait to buy the storage containers, rugs, extension cords, tv, fan, etc. until you have moved your child in. We have found those decisions to be based on room size and arrangement and would get those items when we picked up our Target pre-order.”

Several votes for minimal packing

“I went to school in Boston. Move in/move out on most campuses is challenging due to city parking. Take as little as you can with you and buy the rest when you arrive or have it shipped.”

“With Amazon, it is so easy to have stuff shipped quickly so you don’t need to have everything that first day.”

“I wouldn’t buy any storage containers until you get to the school. Take a tape measure with you and measure out underneath the bed and at the top of the closet and then head to Walmart or Target to pick up the right sizes you will need so you will not be buying different containers that don’t work as well.”

School sheets?

Some dispute about the value of this…”My daughter’s college offered a catalog of bedding and bath w xl twin things. She got 24 pieces for 200 bucks.” Another mom said…”We ordered the linens through the school and I would not recommend it. Although it was very convenient, the quality is poor.”

Clever ideas and good tips

  • My roommates and I each picked different colored towels.
  • Blackout curtains – best were the cheap “room essentials ” at Target, used 3m command hooks to hang the rod.
  • Three drawer Rubbermaid – kept food items in one drawer; toiletries for the year in the other; laundry, batteries, etc. in bottom.
  • I sent my daughter off with her own tool kit – screw drivers, pliers, measuring tape, etc. She used it (and loaned it out) more often than I ever expected.
  • Buy XL twin bed sheets off season because sometimes they are hard to find as it gets toward end of summer.
  • Most dorm rooms have a microwave and small fridge so check before buying these items.
  • Split the purchases with roommates – especially larger dollar items – one person buys the rug, the other buys the coffee maker.
  • Anything that helps with organization and time management is key. Freshmen often have trouble knowing how to be organized in the college environment of no daily homework. A big desk planner might help. Have them write out the whole syllabus for the semester.
  • Take hand tools for move-in to adjust dorm bed height.
  • If you’re thinking about one of those bed storage caddies, be aware there are different styles available. Some Velcro to the bed rail. Others tuck under the mattress. Be sure to check the caddy will fit your bed.

For those colds and boo-boos:

“I filled a container with cold medicine, Advil, Band-Aids, cough syrup, cough drops, antibiotic ointment, ice bag, tissues, extra toothpaste and toothbrush, cotton balls, tums, thermometer, etc. It proved invaluable at times, no-one wants to go out when they feel awful and this also saved $$. I would check it every year and update/replenish.”

Boys vs. Girls:

“With us having a boy and a girl both in college, it is a night and day difference on what they used. They packed the same except my son was not picky about his bedding, towels or decorative things. When he finished his freshman year he only used 1 set of sheets, 1 towel, never used his plate or silverware. Never needed all the school supplies that I insisted on. Didn’t need the 3 bottles of laundry detergent or stain remover. Never used the iron. What they both needed more of were command hooks and fans. They both wish they didn’t pack as much. My kids said they didn’t need extra sheets because they washed them and put them on the same day. I wonder how often my son washed his, lol.”

Care package fun!

“For some real fun, get your student’s friends’ moms together and assemble “care packages”. Have each mom bring a few small items (lightweight) for each student, AND write each student a personal note to put in the package. This is the most special and valued item! In our case there were seven girls, so we each brought three or four things (times seven) such as microwave popcorn, nail polish, hand sanitizer, post-it notes, facial mask, cute pencil, colorful socks, etc. Each mom is responsible to mail her own student’s box. Our girls LOVED it! Moms did, too!”

Ways to save money:

  • Amazon Prime Student is free for 6-months and is half-price the full price after the introductory period. Save on textbooks too.
  • Take advantage of coupons throughout the year
  • Special registries (like Target, Container Store, etc.) will give you coupons after you sign up on their website
  • Set a limit your willing to spend on bedding-it’s easy to get crazy!
  • Walked through Ikea with my son (about to graduate college) and couldn’t help thinking “we should have stopped here for college stuff!” (ie: $.99 toilet brush)
  • Room safe-especially if your student has medication that might be stolen
  • Insurance – Some moms recommended coverage for laptop and other devices. Be careful to weigh: cost of the premium, amount of the deductible, types of coverage, and life span of your device.

Don’t bother with:

  • Printer: Work is often turned in online and some colleges provide “free” or low-cost printing at various place around campus like dorms and the library.
  • Bike: Unless you are SURE your student will use it
  • First-time moms with a kid heading off to college…read this “Top 12 Dorm Shopping Mistakes” from Grown and Flown

Well, hopefully this helps, and your car doesn’t end up looking like this:


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