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Back to School Main Freshman 15 Must-Haves for College

Freshman 15 Must-Haves for College

Packing for freshman year can be overwhelming for parents and students!

“The biggest challenge is that there is just so much stuff to buy,” says Annalise Marcus, a Ridgewood, NJ, mother of three, two of whom are in college. “From bedding and towels to school supplies and dorm room decorating — plus packing all the clothes. You feel like it is a huge amount of stuff to assemble. But at the same time, as a parent, you don’t want to go overboard with spending. You want to make appropriate choices.”

After 13 years of grade school, you’re familiar with all the school supplies your college student needs, from pens and pencils to staplers and scissors. But what about all the other items that will create a home away from home and keep your child organized and on task when you are not there to? To deal with it all, Marcus suggests making lists — lots of lists. “We began the process early in the summer so we had plenty of time to think about what was needed and what my child really wanted,” she says.

To help you out with your own soon-to-be freshman, here’s our list of 15 must-haves for college:

  1. Area Rug:

    “Dorm room floors tend to be concrete or another very hard, cold surface,” says Darlene Molnar, a Washington, D.C.-based specialist in interior decoration, space planning, interior styling and product design. “Look for rug options that have something in common with you and your roommate — a texture you both love or a pattern that works with both your styles.”

  2. Bedding & Towels:

    Bring favorite sheets and blankets from home to stave off homesickness or buy brand new towels and bedding to start fresh. Be sure to check dimensions. Some dorm rooms have extra-long beds that require special sheets. Pick up a set of risers in your favorite color, too, to add a colorful accent and ensure there’s plenty of room below the bed for additional storage.

  3. Chargers & Charging Stations:

    Never be without a charger! “Keep one set up in your dorm room/apartment and keep one in your laptop bag,” suggests Scott Shutter, senior manager of product marketing for AMD in Austin, TX. “You’ll be happy you made the investment when you always have a charger while you’re out and don’t need to climb under the desk to plug in when you get home.” Charging stations make sense for multiple devices and portable chargers are great, too.

  4. Coffee & Essentials:

    Students don’t always feel like running out for a beverage, so pack a few key items like a Keurig® or another coffeemaker, or a SodaStream® for carbonated drinks. Don’t overlook the functionality of an electric kettle that rapidly heats water. “I love to drink tea and make quick meals such as ramen or Easy Mac,” says Lydia Talen, a junior anthropology major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Having a water heater is very helpful.”

  5. Data Storage:

    External data storage “is essential when it comes to backing up important files or bringing them on the go,” says Brian Kearney, a PR major at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. Choose a flash drive to make large files portable and an external drive or cloud storage to keep at the dorm. “There's nothing worse than writing a 10-page paper and having your computer crash the day before it's due. Trust me.”

  6. Desk & Floor Lamps:

    For desk lighting, choose an LED lamp that’s adjustable so the light can get right where it’s needed. Select a dimmable floor lamp to brighten up the room and allow just enough light to avoid bothering sleeping roommates.

  7. Additional Seating:

    Standard-issue dorm room furniture consists of a bed, desk and chair. You’ll need extra seating for all your new friends or your late-night study group. Bean bags, futons or folding chairs are fun, useful and won’t take up a ton of room when not in use. You should also consider upgrading your desk chair. Investing in a good task chair can increase comfort and productivity,” says Malandra Gibson, interior design department chair, Sullivan College of Technology and Design in Louisville, KY. “Choose one that offers good lumbar support for your lower back, has adjustable armrests and seat-height adjustability. Many chairs offer tilt options for leaning back, which can be good for long study sessions.”

  8. Heater & Fan:

    It can be hard to find a temperature two people agree on, not to mention the lack of control over heating and cooling in a dorm room. Personal heaters and fans keep each roommate comfortable.

  9. Laptop or Tablet:

    Most colleges require students to bring their own computers to campus. Check with the admissions department for the specific requirements. Consider a 2-in-1 device for maximum functionality. “With full keyboard capabilities, these devices excel at quick and efficient data entry, while switching to a light and portable tablet mode for use in classrooms where table space can be a luxury or for when the school day is done,” says Peter K. Han, Microsoft® vice president of U.S. OEM.

  10. Bulletin Board:

    It may seem outmoded with text messaging, but having a message board on your door makes it easy to post “Do Not Disturb” or “BRB” messages.

  11. Mini Fridge & Microwave:

    Some dorms provide these kitchen appliances and others prohibit them. Check before you buy!

  12. Organizers & Storage:

    In the tiny confines of a dorm room, organization is everything. Desktop, drawer and laundry organizers are crucial, “but I would also suggest getting a hanging closet organizer for shoes and other small items,” says Caroline Merten, a Chicago-based 2013 graduate of the University of Missouri. “You’ll appreciate it later when you don’t have to rummage through a cluttered closet while rushing to get to class.”

  13. Shower Tote:

    Keep your shampoo, soap, toothpaste and other items together in a brightly colored caddy. Use permanent markers or paint pens to personalize it.

  14. Surge Protectors, Power Strips & Extension Cords:

    Especially in older dorms, outlets can be few and far between. Pack a few of these items to power and protect your gear.

  15. Wall Art:

    Dorm walls are boring. Bring a collection of wall art, like posters, paintings and photos of friends and family. “Graphic decals are removable so you can change them around as often as you desire,” adds trend watcher Janet McKean of LOST & FOUND in Hillsborough, NC.

Use this take on the freshman 15 to make sure you’ve picked up the must-haves for college before it’s time to start packing for freshman year.

Margot Carmichael Lester is co-author of The Real Life Guide to Life After College, and owner of The Word Factory in Carrboro, NC. She frequently teaches resume- and cover letter-writing to college students. She's a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go, Heels!). Follow Margot on Google+.

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