Moving your child into his or her freshman dorm is highly emotional. Fortunately there is so much organization and shopping to be done that you might not shed a tear until after you have waved goodbye. My daughter and I spent hours researching dorm decor and fussing over what to bring last year, and like most families, relied heavily on Bed Bath & Beyond. Oh, how we wish Pinterest was in business a year ago, because there are many wonderful boards featuring dorm decor, now.
But bedding and drawer organization is only half the story. We wrote up this short list for friends who are going through this milestone event for the first time; we hope it will help you, too.
What’s to love about Bed, Bath & Beyond: Schools do provide requirements and restrictions for their dorms, and will let you know the specs for your exact dorm room. Read these rules carefully — especially regarding electronic restrictions and the length of dorm beds (which will affect your sheet purchases). All these specs will also be listed at Bed Bath and Beyond, which provides a must-use service where you can shop either online or at your local store and retrieve the items at the BB&B near campus. This is a fun experience because kids get to swipe a sensor over whatever items tickle their fancy. In our experience, BB&B is great for bedding, mirrors and storage solutions – but try to resist the popcorn makers and cappuccino makers they try to sell you, because space in the dorm will be at a premium. Look at your child’s room before you swipe your credit card!
TOP TEN FRESHMAN DORM TIPS
1/ A coat rack holds backpacks, bathrobes and (wet) coats.
2/ Collapsible luggage is easier to store under a bed than a stiff, boxy suitcase (and can be used as extra storage).
3/ Regarding towels, two or three sets is fine (boys use less… just sayin!).
4/ A large Pottery-Barn bulletin board solves the all important wall-space décor problems — photographs of home and high school life seem to be the most popular way that kids decorate their rooms.
5/ A rug ties everything together but can be expensive and hard to find/transport – on some campuses, local rug shops sell pre-cut remnants off a truck on move-in day for a song.
6/ An electric Kettle, storage containers and cups/plates/forks and spoons are great. Also, a mini-tool kit with screwdriver, hammer, and tape! You WILL need a mini-frig (don’t rent, buying is more affordable) and a fan is a must for non-A/C equipped dorms.
7/ College is about hanging out — so, it’s great to have pillows or poufs or chairs for friends to sit on when they visit. We also signed up for a Hulu Plus account, and my daughter was lucky in that her roommate brought a television. The girls didn’t watch it as much as their male friends played video games and/or watched sports on television but they did use their computers to rent movies and had “Movie Nights” in their room for all the kids on their hall.
8/ East coasters joke that they can spot a CA kid a mile away — they’re the ones wearing flip flops in the rainstorm. We found that a good pea coat solves in-between weather issues until the cold sets in. Hold off investing in the winter coat until you son or daughter gets to campus and sees what other kids have purchased.
9/ Skype is the answer to most problems during the first semester — the face-to-face experience is wonderful! My husband and son and I gathered around the computer on Sunday nights and would just stare at our daughter, just grinning! Get an account and get your child to teach you how to do it before they go.
10/ My daughter didn’t relax about the dorm until she could imagine where she would be sleeping… the color scheme and pattern of the comforter took on all the anxiety associated with the move away from home. It’s difficult to imagine what life will be like in a new place, and bed can represent the one safe place. Luckily, we found an incredibly nice sheet set at 70% off at the end of the summer, and she swears she’ll use it for the rest of her life. A Queen sized comforter is preferable because it hangs down to cover up whatever is under the bed (storage drawers are KEY, but luggage can hold extra towels/sheets).
Bonus/ Christmas lights and other fun décor are greats item for a mid-semester care package. (Schools sell care-packages but many parents prefer to pack their own – especially during freshman year – as a way to bridge the gap across the miles).
Living in her dorm for the first semester taught my daughter to live more simply. She loved ‘knowing where everything was’ at all times and surprised us by coming home for semester break and accomplishing a massive clean-out of her childhood bedroom — throwing things out like a mad woman – so her life at home would be as streamlined as life at college.
Hey, she liked doing laundry, too. Turns out they really do learn stuff at school.
PHOTO CREDIT: Warren Heath