What’s up with the obsession around packing for college?  

By Lee Shulman Bierer

Even though their first footstep into a college classroom is more than a month away, rising college freshmen, and many mothers, are already obsessing about what to pack. For most families this is the first tangible step of the “letting go” process. As parents prepare to empty their own nest, the desire to feather their children’s nest can be overpowering. How politically incorrect is it to say that this obsession phenomenon is mostly a female trait? In my personal experience it was the absolute truth; my son had no interest in matching sheets, etc. and started packing at 10pm the night before move-in day. I, on the other hand, would have been thrilled with an opportunity to discuss towel color choice!

De-stress the process

While shopping and packing for college can be a bonding experience, too often it is just the opposite. Reduce the stress by 1) recognizing that having or not having any of these items is not likely to impact your child’s college experience and 2) there are stores where they’re going. Unless your child is headed to Deep Springs College, in the remote desert of California, they will be able to purchase whatever they need.

Colleges and retailers provide packing lists. A great place to start is the Bed Bath and Beyond list that breaks items out into several categories: Sleep, Organize, Wash, Eat, Study and Relax.

Here are a few items that aren’t on all the lists:

  • Roll of quarters – coin-operated laundry machines
  • Laundry – purchase a bulk detergent and label a small container that you refill, as needed, dryer sheets, bleach
  • Basic meds – vitamins, aspirin, cold medicine, throat lozenges
  • Cleaning supplies – hand vacuum, lint brush, air freshener, wipes, all-purpose cleaner, paper towels, sponges, etc.
  • Decorating – floor lamp, poster putty, mounting tape, adhesive hooks, full-length mirror
  • Kitchen items – can opener, plate(s), cup(s), utensils, small salt and pepper containers
  • Shower caddy, robe and shower shoes – hall-bathroom necessities
  • Make mom and dad proud supplies – sewing kit, first aid kit and small tool kit
  • Geek supplies – flash drive(s), laptop lock, power strip with surge protection
  • Hangers – not provided by colleges
  • Keychain – get one with clear plastic sleeve for student id
  • Flashlight/batteries
  • Wastebasket
  • Plastic Storage Containers
  • Umbrella
  • Sports equipment
  • Important numbers – create a file and a hard copy of insurance information, in case of emergency contact, etc.

Essential items for move-in day that you’ll be glad you packed:

  • Dolly – makes transporting multiple boxes a breeze. You will make friends very quickly by loaning it out to other families.
  • Hammer/tools – great for putting bunk beds together, etc.
  • Tarp for items on the car roof – the only thing you know for sure is that if you don’t have it, it will rain.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com

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