Packing for College

As my niece prepares to move into her freshman dorm at a North Carolina university this week, I thought it would be good to share with you a list of items commonly forgotten when packing for college. After all, this move is stressful, exhausting, and exciting for both the student and their parents. Although most universities provide an essentials list, there are always a few items that are overlooked.

1. Mattress topper – Most students, especially us girls, are too worried about coordinating bedding with our new roommates to think about comfort. I am here to tell you, the mattresses in most dorm rooms are NOT comfortable. It’s very important to take some type of foam or quilted topper to slide between the mattress and your sheet. Thickness and style play a major role in the cost of mattress toppers, with prices ranging from around $20 to $99. It’s really your preference. Do remember that most beds in dorm rooms serve a dual purpose as a couch. Make sure you invest in a topper that will last at least a year.

2. Quarters – Most children grow up with the luxury of a washer and dryer in their home, and a large portion of those children usually aren’t responsible for doing their own laundry in those homes, so the thought of having to pay to use the machines is new to them. Although most parents remember to pack a laundry basket and detergent for their kids, I suggest sending a few dollars worth of quarters as well. Campus laundromats should have change machines located in them so students can exchange their bills for coins, but keep in mind that those machines can break and/or run out of change. It’s good to have a backup stash of quarters readily available.

3. Rain gear – Even as an adult, I often leave the house without considering the weather. I find myself stuck out in the rain without an umbrella. Don’t let your children end up like this. Be sure they have necessary rain gear as the leave for college. I purchased an adorable, compact umbrella for my niece that fits nicely in most bookbags, messenger bags, or even in a purse! If your child feels that an umbrella is cumbersome, invest in a poncho or hooded, lightweight rain jacket. Depending on the region of the college, you may want to consider packing a pair of rain boots as well.

4. Shower shoes – An inexpensive pair of flip flops work best. These can prevent Athlete’s Foot in the shower and keep those tootsie feeling clean on your child’s walk down the dingy hallway back to their dorm room.

5. First Aid kit – Let’s face it, accidents happen! And no one wants their child to be away from home without a first-aid kit. Especially since it’s impossible to pack that “get-well kiss” from Mom. But you can supply them with things that no college kid thinks of: adhesive bandage, cotton balls, cotton swabs, peroxide, antibiotic ointment, and pain medication. First aid kits are available at most pharmacies and department stores in a prepackaged container. You can also customize your child’s first aid kit by purchasing a plastic container (like a pencil box) to store these items in.

These are just a few items that are often forgotten when packing for college. I suggest spending a few hours a day being aware of what you and your child use often, and make notes several weeks before you actually start packing. It is amazing the things we take for granted because we are already accustomed to them being in our home. Tweezers, surge protectors, and flash drives are examples. I hope that you have found this list useful. Best of luck, freshmen!