Going away to college adds an entirely new level to back-to-school shopping. You now have an entire dorm room to supply, but this is no time to be discouraged -- it's a time for excitement!
When supplying your dorm room, it's important for you to stay organized and plan ahead. Here's how to make sure you get all of the supplies you need.
Know your dorm room. While room size varies from school to school, it's pretty safe to say your space is going to be smaller than it needs to be to fit two people and all of their stuff. Before you buy anything, get the best possible sense for how much space you'll have.
- If it's feasible, save your larger purchases until you've actually seen your room and can take some measurements.
- Make your college dorm room checklist.
- Laundry supplies - Choose your dirty clothes storage method with portability in mind. You may have to drag your laundry across the dorm to get to the laundry room. Don't forget to bring along a roll of quarters, so you're not scrounging for change when it's time to put your wet clothes in the dryer.
- Bedding - Most dorm room beds use a special extra-long twin mattress. You can either buy the extra-long sheets made especially for these beds, or buy some mattress straps to help keep your bed together.
- Clothing - How much clothing you need to bring depends on how often you're going home and how often you plan on doing laundry. If you're attending school far from home and won't return until Thanksgiving, then you're going to need to pack for any weather you might encounter from September to November, which can vary greatly depending on the local climate. Don't underestimate the value of having enough clothes so you can make fewer trips to the laundry room. Buying an extra six-pack of socks means being able to put off laundry six more days.
- Computer and printer - Find out if your school has any minimum requirements for computing power or a preference between desktops and laptops. Don't forget to also bring along any necessary cables, power strips and extension cords.
- School supplies - These are part of your dorm room essentials. Of course, you're going to need the usual pens and notebooks, but you're also going to need all those little things your parents probably had sitting around the house like paper clips and a stapler. Study aids like highlighters and index cards will be increasingly important as you navigate the new world of college.
- Entertainment - It isn't all about studying; you need to add some accessories. Think about what you need to help you get through the semester. You probably don't want to bring along your entire CD or DVD collection, but you should definitely select some favorites. Most college dorms offer cable television service, so you may want to take advantage of it. In addition to relaxation, video game consoles can also provide great social opportunities.
- Personal touches - Make sure to include some items that will allow you to personalize your living space. These decorations can be just for fun, show off your personality or remind you of home. If you're not sure what you should add to your room to show that personality, many campuses have poster and dorm-room decoration sales at the beginning of the semester, which should give you lots of ideas.
- Furniture - Most rooms come with beds, desks and chairs. The most common furniture additions students make are extra chairs, lamps and a futon or similar seating area.
- Appliances - Most dorm rooms aren't complete without a refrigerator or microwave for late-night snacks and days when the cafeteria just isn't cutting it. When shopping for appliances, keep in mind that regulations may allow microwaves but typically prohibit any other type of cooking appliances like toasters.
- Kitchen supplies - A few dorms offer kitchen areas, either attached to individual rooms or in a communal area on each floor. If you dorm does offer kitchens, then the usual regulations against heating appliances don't apply, and you may want a toaster to brown your morning bagel, or a toaster oven for small amounts of baking and broiling. Kitchen essentials include a can opener, at least one pot and one frying pan, plates, cups, bowls, silverware, a mixing bowl, cooking and serving spoons, and measuring cups and spoons.
Other supplies will vary depending on your personal needs. If you love tea, then you'll probably want a kettle, while those who love to bake need cookie sheets and muffin tins. Some stores offer complete "kitchen in a box" kits with everything you need to stock a new kitchen, so you may want to consider purchasing one of those selections. You will have to be creative when cooking food because you may not have that much space to prepare the meal. Look for smaller kitchen supplies when possible.
- Coordinate with your roommate. You don't need two refrigerators and microwaves. Likewise, if you bring a futon, and your roommate brings an old loveseat, good luck fitting them both in your tiny room.
- Check the sales. Back-to-school products are a big business, so you can usually find great deals and convenient displays of needed products in late July and early August.
- Ask around. Put out the word to friends and family that you're stocking a dorm room. You never know what treasures may be hiding in basements and garages.
- Keep it in mind. Keep an eye out for things you might need throughout the summer, so your shopping list won't be quite so overwhelming when it's time to get ready for school.
This list of supplies will hopefully help you remember all of the essentials for your next semester. And remember, as you're preparing, keep an eye out for ideas for decorating!