College Dorm Tips for Parents and Students
As a college junior, I've moved into the dorm a few times already, but I can still remember beginning as a freshman and having no idea what to expect. With that in mind, I've created this basic guide for parents and students.
1. Buy before.
If you don't already know, check with the college to see what will be provided and what you need to get on your own. For example, when sharing a bathroom with a few people, cleaning supplies and other necessities might not be provided, but if there is a community bathroom for half of the population of the floor, you probably won't have to buy anything. The Residence Hall office should know this information.
Bedding is another important area to take care of before the actual move in. Though it's tempting to have the room look like it came out of a magazine, bed sheets that match the curtains that match the shower curtain that matches the bathroom rug that matches the towels that match the pajama pants (you get the point) is NOT important. Not only is the room going to get messed up once your kids get settled, but they're stuff will only match their half of the room, since their roommate is bound to have some other color scheme in mind.
Encourage your teen to talk to their roommate to see what they are bringing. Make a list of the things you've purchased, and have it handy for when they are ready to make the call. That way, you'll be sure you have everything you need between the two of them. (And save receipts to everything you purchase, because you very well may be returning stuff.)
2. Pack in advance.
Be completely packed at least two to three days before moving in. It's no fun and highly stressful to be running around the night before, trying to locate important things they'll need the next day. If you pack with enough time in advance, you'll still have time to buy the things you forgot.
While you're packing, put the things that will be together in the same room in the same box. This makes life a lot easier when the daunting task of unpacking comes along. And you can pack your teen's stuff in items that they're going to use at school anyway. No one wants to be running around trying to throw out 25 cardboard boxes, so pack in plastic containers that can slide under the bed. Plastic bags are another helpful packing item, since they can be saved to use as garbage bags later on.
3. Move in comfort.
Remember that you will most likely be moving in and unpacking in mid-August – and it's going to be hot. Chances are, your teen's dorm is not going to have air-conditioning, so pack accordingly. You don't want to be walking up four flights of stairs in 90-degree weather in anything but sneakers.
Prepare you teen ahead of time for unpacking, which is possibly worse than carrying all those boxes. Remind him or her not to get stressed out about making sure everything is in its proper spot on Day 1. She might end up moving around the furniture anyway, depending on what items her roommate brings.
And no matter how anxious your teen is to be on his own, make sure you don't leave until you know if you need to bring anything home. Chances are, your teen is not going to have enough room for some of the things you brought. The dorm room may not even be as big as his bedroom at home.
These are a few items I wouldn't have thought to pack, but they have definitely come in handy over time:
- Tools. Besides traditional tools like a hammer, screwdrivers are good for putting together fans, lamps and other things, and pliers were useful for adjusting the heater.
- Beach Towel. Just because your teen doesn't expect to use the school's pool doesn't mean she won't want to sit outside. Beach towels are perfect, and since laundry isn't a top priority for many college students, your child won't be wasting a regular towel.
- Potholders. Your teen will eventually try to cook in the microwave when he's sick of eating the school's food. Prepare him for hot containers.
- Duct tape. It works wonders to stick posters up. If the windows have a draft in the winter, your teen can duct tape them closed. It keeps out the cold air – and any whistling sounds. (And if you don't use it for any of that, your teen can always duct tape someone's door closed as a prank. After all, part of college is fun – even if your teen won't tell you and you won't admit it.)