A list of must-haves from your neighbors who have sent boys and girls to college.
When my daughter went to Louisville, we learned the hard way that you should purchase a cheap safe: they are $30-$60. Too large to walk away without being noticed, but not too big to store easily under a bed or a desk. They are great for gift cards, drivers license, credit cards, expensive sunglasses, nicer jewelry, car keys, etc. — just about anything that is smaller and you don’t want to walk off. Not all college students know their roommates, and even if you think you do, you really don’t!
Sending boys off to school is probably a lot easier than girls. I don’t know for sure, since I have three sons, but I would imagine so. When it came time to pack them up, and move them to college, I focused on three things: comfort, health and practicality.
Comfort included a memory foam bed topper, a favorite blanket from home, and all their favorite snacks. Comfort often comes in the form of food for my guys.
Health items were a well-stocked medicine box with instructions, because they couldn’t be bothered with reading dosage info on the cough medicine; their health insurance card; and shower shoes. Not much has changed through the years in those shared showers in boys’ college dorms, so a trusty pair of flip flops is a great way to avoid athletes’ foot.
Practicality covered things such as a microwave, a few dishes, cups and utensils, a can opener, washing machine detergent pods (again, they couldn’t be bothered with measuring laundry soap) and a gas card for those weekend trips back home for mom to do their laundry. On second thought, forget about the laundry pods.
When my daughter Bless went to Ole Miss, it was our first experience sending a child off to college. We were emotional, excited and apprehensive! One great idea I had was a care package, just in case my child got sick away from home for the first time without her momma. I used a decorative box and filled it with her favorite soups, like chicken noodle soup, chicken and rice, chicken and stars, saltine crackers, a microwaveable bowl, vitamin C, Halls menthol cough drops, cold meds, ibuprofen, and anything I could think of that I would give her if she had been home. Sure enough, within two weeks, everyone was sick. She became the hero of the hall!
I could not think of material things that I should have gotten for my children, but what I did try to leave my children with when I dropped them off was the knowledge that:
- They were loved and I was so very proud of them for working hard and making it to college. I was proud that they wanted to go, and have goals for their lives.
- I trusted them and was confident in them. They were good kids.
- I would be praying for them, and God loves them.
On a side note, I thought it was important for them to know they would be missed, and, yes, I would cry, but I wanted them to know I had goals and plans for myself, too. As they would press into their futures, I would, too.
My kids were extremely easy to send off, and really didn’t require much, thankfully. Joey was thankful for his sewing kit, and used it to help out a few classmates. Jonathan found that it was very easy to leave interior lights on in his car and kill his battery, so a battery charger for the car is a must. Command Strips can be used to hang anything.
- Comfy toppers for the mattress.
- A headboard for the bed
- A trunk for storage, with a cushioned seat for extra seating.
To me, a college dorm room is cold and sterile. I wanted my daughter’s room to be a comfortable, homey place, especially the bed. I couldn’t stand the thought of her sleeping on a dorm room mattress!
So, two of the top things I’m glad I sent her to college with are extra mattress toppers and a fun headboard. Everyone knows to send a plastic mattress cover, and even a cloth one. I also got a memory foam topper. The cloth topper also had some cushioning in it. This made for a very plush and comfy place to sleep! We also made a custom headboard. It was quite simple to do. We googled the height and width of a raised college dorm bed. Then, we cut a rectangle of plywood as the base of the headboard and added 2 x 4s as the legs. I covered the plywood with several layers of soft cotton batting and then added a fun fabric. This made my daughter’s dorm room bed look like a real bed! Lastly, I’m glad I sent a wooden trunk that we gave a makeover. We added a thick cushion, covered, again, with fun fabric. This piece gave her extra storage, plus it gave additional seating in her dorm.
Both of my girls went to college their first year without vehicles. One went to the University of Georgia and the other went to Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. I was sure to pack them a shoebox full of medications they would need if they got sick with a cold, stomach bug, etc. Sudafed, Ibuprofen, Nyquil, cortisone … anything they would find in a home’s medicine cabinet that would make them more comfortable if they couldn’t get to a store. They both called me at some point late at night saying they felt awful, and I was glad I could tell them to just take some of the cold medicine I packed. I also included basic cleaning supplies, like Clorox wipes, in case they occasionally attempted to make their living area clean.
A fan is a must, especially in the UGA old school dorms. I suggest a floor fan and a clip-on fan for their bed. A sound machine would’ve been helpful, and an eye mask, when the roommate was on a different schedule.
Most of the dorms now have separate rooms, and students have a lot more privacy than when my kids went 3-4 short years ago. They both shared a single room with a roommate, which ended up being great experiences.
My advice is to make the dorm rooms as comfortable as possible with rugs (that definitely will get thrown out at the end of the year) and soft lighting, because they will get homesick, even if they are just an hour away, and you want them to be as comfortable as possible. Make their rooms welcoming, but know that you may never see some of that stuff again, so don’t invest too much.