Packing, moving tips that will help freshmen settle into dorm life

Dorm life can work a little more smoothly by planning ahead for essentials. File photo

I am sure it has been a scene repeated recently at stores everywhere: the annual trip with parents to outfit a dorm room.

The lists from department and specialty stores cover all the basic necessities for dorm life but beyond the obvious bed and bath basics, what are the items that 2017 freshmen can’t live without?

Roopa Bhandarkar, mother of Andy Kamath, a recently graduated senior from Providence High School, shared: “In my case, I’m glad it’s just a couple of suitcases, since he is taking his first semester abroad, as a freshman, in Greece with the Northeastern University International (N.U.IN) program. He doesn’t leave until September, so I get an additional month with him and I don’t have to any dorm shopping now – but I know it will be overwhelming when I will be doing this in December.”

Based on advice from other families who have been through this ritual, here are some gotta-have-’em items:

Electronics – Bring power strips, surge protectors, extension cords, headphones, flash drives, laptop sleeves and docking stations. There are now portable Bluetooth speakers and cooling pads for Mac and PC Notebooks. Most students either share a printer with their roommate or have a printing account that provides them with enough copies for the year.

Organizers – Buy bed lifts that attach to the legs of the bed raising it just 5”, enough for under-bed storage boxes. There are a variety of new storage carts on wheels that makes it easier to move them into the dorm and then offers flexibility to redecorate the room as needed. Hanging shelf organizers in the closet for shoes and sweaters minimizes clutter. Over-the-door hooks and decorative wall hooks are a great way to clean up a room really fast. Other fun items include a bedside caddy where students can keep a drink, their headphones, tissues and desk organizers for all their school supplies. Other must have items are hangers, a tool kit, light bulbs, a step stool, non-damaging mounts to put items on the walls, extra batteries, a tension rod and curtains for closets without doors, a shower-tote bucket, under-bed storage containers, wastebasket, bag clips, back rest, a folding chair and maybe even a sleeping bag for visiting friends.

Security – Stay safe. Since so many students wander around their floors and frequently don’t lock or close their doors, having a mini-safe to store valuables such as a passport, extra spending money, etc., is a smart idea. A night-light and a flashlight with extra batteries will come in handy, too.

Health and cleanliness – Don’t forget medications, and make arrangements to transfer prescriptions to a pharmacy near the dorm. Other must-haves include vitamins, ear plugs, a handheld vacuum, stain remover, air fresheners, wipes, hand sanitizer, first aid supplies, sewing kit and a small broom/dustpan.

Move-in tips:

Bring a dolly – Buy or borrow a semi-professional moving dolly and you will sweat less, earn kudos from strangers and quickly become the dorm hero when you loan it out.

Don’t forget the tools –  Bring a screwdriver kit, duct tape and sticky tape that won’t ruin the walls for posters, etc.

Here’s what happened to me:

I hope your shopping and packing experience goes better than mine.

My son just didn’t care. He said, “No, I don’t need that. No, I don’t want that, (repeat) (repeat). Can we go now (repeat)?” I would hardly call my daughter a shopping maven, and she tired long before I did, but her familiar refrain went something like this: “I don’t need anything new.” “I can just use what I already have.” “My roommate is already bringing that.”

I was crushed. I had saved every coupon for months. This was the trip I never had when I went away to college. I thought this could be the dorm room I always dreamed of. Clearly I was wrong. I had wanted our trip to be a bonding experience where we visualized the room together, got some good buys, laughed and treated ourselves to an ice cream afterward. Instead, it was but a brief detour on a regular day of errands, and the coupons went back into the drawer.

I think the disinterested attitude each of my kids displayed is one of the ways teenagers communicate with their parents that it’s time to start letting go. It is all about understanding and managing expectations.


Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions;