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Moving Away to College: What You’ll Need

Moving away to college is a huge milestone. The dorm room you’ll be moving into, however – not so huge. Make a packing list beforehand so that you’ll be sure to bring what you need and leave all non-essentials back in the spacious comfort of your parents’ home. The following packing tips will help you get started.

What to Pack

All college dorm rooms are a little different, and your packing checklist will vary accordingly. Prior to your college move, read up on the housing material provided by your school to find out the size of your dorm, the layout, what furniture is supplied and what is and is not permitted. Also consider the climate when packing. You may have a wonderful, expansive bathing suit collection, but if your school is in a cold climate, there’s no need to pack all 32 suits. Be realistic and be sure to include the following items on your college packing list.

  • Reminders of Home: College can be a big adjustment, especially if your school is far from home. Pack pictures of friends and family that can be placed on your desk or hung around your side of the dorm.
  • Space-Saving Organizers: It’s no secret that dorm rooms are small. Organizers that save space are vital. If your bed will be bunked or lofted, consider bunk shelves. These small trays screw onto the railing of your bed and act like an elevated bedside table, perfect for an alarm clock, lamp and other small items. Also bring storage bins and rolling tubs for underneath your bed – this area will prove to be the largest storage space in your new room.
  • Bathroom Necessities: Many dorms have communal bathrooms, so be sure to pack a shower caddy for easy transportation of all your toiletries. Also pack bath towels, shower flip flops and a robe for walking to and from the hallway bathroom.
  • **The Right Bedding: ** Keep in mind that dorm beds are usually longer than a normal twin. Make sure you get dorm-length (extra-long) sheets for your bed. It’s also a great idea to invest in a mattress pad because, depending on the age of the building and the furnishings, you could be inheriting an older mattress.
  • **Weather-Appropriate Gear: ** If you’re living in on-campus housing, especially as a freshman, chances are you won’t have a car with you. This means you’ll be doing a lot of walking, rain or shine. Be sure to pack an umbrella and rain jacket. If you’re likely to see snow come winter, pack a warm winter jacket and snow boots. If you’re attending school in a southern climate, determine ahead of time if your dorm building is air conditioned. If not, be sure to pack a fan.

What to Leave at Home

No one has ever accused a dorm room of being spacious. Be frugal when packing your bags for college and leave the following items at home.

  • Large Furniture: In some cases, leave _all _furniture at home. Most dorm rooms come furnished with all the necessities, with little extra space for much else. Visit your college’s website and look in the on-campus housing section for details on room dimensions and furnishing.
  • Valuables: Your great, great grandmother’s diamond necklace that’s been a family heirloom for years might not appreciate college life as much as you do. Keep any valuables you own in the safety of your parents’ home.
  • Fire Hazards: If it can potentially light the dorm room on fire, leave it at home. Fire hazards include hot plates, candles, incense and any electrical appliance with an exposed heating surface.
  • Illegal Substances and Weapons: This should go without saying, but if it’s illegal or considered a weapon, it shouldn’t be in your dorm room.
  • Out-of-Season Clothing: Closet and storage space is limited in a dorm room, and if it’s August at a southern University, you really don’t need that bulky down jacket taking up precious space. If you can feasibly go home before seasons change – whether your college is a reasonable weekend drive away or it’s your annual Thanksgiving trip home – take a suitcase or two of out-of-season clothing and swap in weather-appropriate attire.

Coordinating with Your Roommate

Prior to moving into the dorms, connect with your roommate via e-mail, telephone or social media sites like Facebook. Discuss what each of you is bringing and which communal items you’ll need. If there are any gaps, agree to split the costs of furniture purchased after you arrive. Shared items can include:

  • Small area rug
  • TV set
  • DVD player
  • Futon
  • Posters, wall art
  • Microwave
  • Refrigerator
  • Curtains/blinds
  • Window fan
  • Floor lamps

It’s important to keep in mind the dimensions and included furnishing of your room before making grand plans to bring your big-screen TV and large futon with you. Also be clear on your school’s policies about bringing appliances such as microwaves and refrigerators. In some cases, they’re allowed, but only in certain dimensions as to comply with energy usage regulations. There are also schools that offer appliance rental programs in which you can pay a small fee for renting a refrigerator for the school year. This is a great option for out-of-state students who don’t want to worry about moving heavy appliances to and from the dorm at the start of each school year.


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