Seven things college freshmen don’t need — and ten they do

Seven things college freshmen don’t need — and ten they do

This article originally appeared on NerdWalletThose ubiquitous checklists of “dorm room essentials” for college freshmen are filled with items that will be ditched by the end of first semester.

Some parents “go to the store and grab a list like they did when their kids were in elementary and high school and just go straight down the list,” says Lisa Heffernan, mother of three sons and a college-shopping veteran. Or they buy things they only wish their students will use (looking at you, cleaning products).

You can safely skip about 70% of things on those lists, estimates Asha Dornfest, the author of Parent Hacks and mother of a rising college sophomore who’s home for the summer.

What Not to Buy or Bring

Freshmen really need just two things, says Heffernan, co-founder of the blog Grown and Flown: a good mattress topper and a laptop.

Here are seven items you can skip:

  • Printer. Don’t waste desk space or, worse, store it under the bed; printers are plentiful on campus.
  • TV. Students may watch on laptops or on TVs in common areas or in someone else’s room. Bonus: Your teen gets out and meets others.
  • Speakers. Small spaces don’t require powerful speakers; earphones may be a good idea and respectful of roommates.
  • Car. Some colleges bar freshmen from having cars on campus or limit their parking. You also may save on insurance by keeping the car at home.
  • Luggage. If you bring it, you must store it. Heffernan suggests collapsible blue Ikea storage bags with zippers.
  • Toiletries to last until May. Bulk buying may save money, but you need storage space.
  • Duplicates of anything provided by the college, such as a lamp, wastebasket, desk chair or dresser.

Items left behind when students pack for the summer are telling. Luke Jones, director of housing and residence life at Boise State University, sees unopened food — a lot of ramen and candy — and stuffed animals and mirrors.

Jones says many students regret bringing high school T-shirts and memorabilia and some of their clothes (dorm closets typically are tiny).

What Can You Buy, Then?

Before you shop, find out what the college forbids (candles, space heaters, electric blankets and halogen lights are common). Have your student check with assigned roommates about appliances (who’s bringing a fridge or microwave?) and color scheme if they want to set one. Know the dimensions of the room and the size of the bed. And most of all, know your budget. Not everything has to be brand new.

Ten things — besides the all-important mattress topper and laptop — that many students consider dorm room essentials include:

  • One or two fitted sheets in the correct bed size, plus pillowcases. Heffernan says most students don’t use top sheets.
  • Comforter or duvet with washable cover.
  • Towels in a distinctive pattern or light enough for labeling with laundry marker, plus shower sandals.
  • Power cord with surge protector and USB ports.
  • Basic first aid kit.
  • Easy-to-use storage. If it’s a lot of work to get something out, your student won’t, Heffernan says.
  • Cleaning wipes. Students might not touch products that require multiple steps, but they might use wipes, according to Heffernan.
  • Reading pillow with back support for studying in bed.
  • Area rug. Floors are often hard and cold.
  • Comfort items. Dornfest says it could be a blanket or a picture of the dog — something from home that will make the space a bit more personal.

Afraid you’ll forget something important? You might, Heffernan says. But chances are, you or your student can order it online and get it delivered. Consider doing this with some items simply to avoid the hassle of bringing them yourself, and remember that “dorm necessities” often go on sale once school starts.

Do a Reality Check

If you or your student still want to replicate the rooms you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest, think about how the room will actually be used.

Once your son or daughter moves in, the room will never look like that again. Opt for sturdy items and be realistic. Will throw pillows make the place look more homey and inviting, or will they be tossed on the floor until parents’ weekend?

Dornfest, a co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, offers a compelling reason not to make things too comfortable. “A freshman needs to be encouraged to get out of the dorm room,” she says. “Anything that pulls you into campus life can be good.”

She’s not advocating a monk-like environment, but rather one that encourages breaking out of routines. College should be a time to try new things and meet people from different backgrounds. Dornfest advises making the bed as comfortable as possible and keeping a few reminders of home. The ideal dorm room is more launch pad than cocoon.

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The article 7 Things College Freshmen Don’t Need — and 10 They Do originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Joe
Joe
1 year ago

The mattress topper is a good idea. I never had one, but now that I think about it… ewww…

Do you really “need” these?
Cleaning wipes, first aid, storage boxes, reading pillow, area rugs???
Put these in the not needed list.

dh
dh
1 year ago

Of course, one of the things college freshmen don’t need is … college. Hehe, I’m just being a little sassy, but I have been reading some interesting articles lately from James Altucher about this:

https://jamesaltucher.com/blog/dont-send-kids-college/

https://jamesaltucher.com/blog/10-jobs-that-pay/

Just some interesting — and highly dissenting — thoughts to consider as we approach fall, similar in tone to some of JD’s articles (and links) against home ownership.

Wesley
Wesley
1 year ago
Reply to  dh

Those articles were interesting. Thanks for sharing. The things I always circle back to are stem fields. 3 out of those 4 areas require a college degree, and that’s highly unlikely to change in the future. The only exception is in tech, and even there (my chosen field), a college degree is preferable for most jobs. I liked James’s top 10 list, but many of those jobs have “owner”, “chief” or “manager” in their title. Those jobs are tough to come by, and take years to obtain. Good jobs, but definitely the highest end in their respective fields. Most firemen… Read more »

dh
dh
1 year ago
Reply to  Wesley

If he’s got enough brainpower to become an engineer of some sort, then he certainly has enough brainpower to start a small business, which is what I did in 1997. Actually, I bought an existing business with money that I could have otherwise used for college. Then I grew that existing business. And I’m not the brightest guy (could *never* be an engineer). But everything worked out, and I bought a second small business 4 years ago. Just google businesses for sale in your area, and you’ll find all kinds of interesting stuff, some of which will be quite inexpensive.… Read more »

Katelyn
Katelyn
1 year ago
Reply to  dh

As an engineer with an entrepreneurial inclination, I have to disagree. Owning/running a business requires distinctly different skills than an entry level engineer would encounter. Namely things like leadership, networking, salesmanship, more of the emotional intelligence side of things. Engineering disciplines draw more on skills like problem solving and optimization. Now I’m not saying that an engineer can’t have both a high IQ and emotional intelligence, but I wouldn’t consider engineering and business ownership to be interchangeable/equivalent options. Wesley – I agree that STEM is one of the areas where I still believe a degree is important. Granted, I graduated… Read more »

dh
dh
1 year ago
Reply to  Katelyn

Katelyn, most businesses that simply generate a nice middle-class income don’t require much more than simply showing up and doing the work. It’s helpful to have a good CPA (or mentor) that you can ask technical questions to about taxes and write-offs and such, but most middle-class type businesses (which are most businesses) aren’t that complicated: we make sandwiches and sell them to the public for a profit, or we hang up window treatments for people who don’t want to do it for themselves, or we install grab bars for old folks, or we clean your carpet, or we put… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago
Reply to  Katelyn

Ok dh, but you realize a boring and unsexy business can’t be for everyone, right? Per your own description—it’s boring! And unsexy! It takes a certain personality type to handle such profitable drudgery in the long run. Money is great, but it’s not the key to a happy and fulfilling life. By the PERMA model, we get that from meaning, engagement, achievement, relationships, positive emotions… different people get those things from different types of work. Buying an existing business is definitely a great idea for those looking for moneymaking opportunities, but they have to fit the profile of that kind… Read more »

dh
dh
1 year ago
Reply to  Katelyn

Great points, El Nerdo.

One thing I forgot to mention about buying an existing business is the *mentorship* that comes from the previous owner. The previous owner will show you the ropes, teach you the paperwork or computer system, train you, etc. This training and such is usually baked into the deal, plus from my experience, previous owners are usually cool about talking on the phone with you whenever questions come up — even long after you’ve bought the business! This makes things way easier than starting a business from scratch.

Papa Foxtrot
Papa Foxtrot
1 year ago

I was an ambassador when I was in college and helped freshmen move in. I constantly made the dad joke that “there is a difference between having a walk-in closet and living in a walk-in closet.” I see students go to college with too many things from three seasons worth of clothes to a 72 inch HD TV (it was not a flat screen).

https://forgeyourwealth.com
https://forgeyourwealth.com/2019/05/05/budget-for-college-limit-the-cost-of-you-education/

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago

Not just for college—similar principles apply to any sort of clutter reduction program, especially for apartment dwellers in urban environments, in which a walkable city with transit options is (or should be) your grownup campus, offering endless enrichment opportunities..

Rural and suburban dwellings are a different story with their storage & TV requirements, which are due to their long distances from everywhere, & required driving for everything, which—better make that Costco trip count, and get that TV going in every room, because there’s nobody outside, and nothing else to look at. xD

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