Off to College!

Preparing for this major transition takes careful planning.

By FamilyTime


Graduation may have barely come and gone before it's time to start thinking about the next step: college.

Many graduates commute to a local college, enlist in the military, or start working right away. Others go away to college. If your child falls into this last category, it's not too soon to start planning for the transition.

Major Purchases

The most significant purchase you probably will have to make is a computer. Most kids want a sleek, lightweight model with the latest technology. Before you decide to buy your kid's heart's desire, check with the college website and mailed literature. Colleges know what computers work best with their internal systems and databases and most have specific recommendations about what their students need.

Many colleges work with computer companies so that you can order the right equipment through the college. Doing so often means a discount, although it's a good idea to investigate both the college's offer and others you can find online.

Talk to your insurance agent, too, about theft insurance for the laptop. Colleges are pretty safe places, but stealing is an issue at nearly every one. Buy an inexpensive locking system for the computer that attaches it to a desk. The student will most likely carry his laptop with him when he's attending classes and studying in the library, but when he doesn't have it with him, it should be left secured in a locked dorm room.

Other major purchases may include a microwave, a mini refrigerator, or stereo speakers. It's generally a good idea to check with the college literature and future roommates before deciding if any of these are needed or even advisable.

Clothes and Such

Your college-bound child may not pack until the day before he leaves, but he might want to begin thinking about what to take. The student should bring only those clothes worn in the last year along with any new ones bought for this next phase of life.

Include plenty of underwear, socks, and t-shirts to avoid frequent trips to the laundry room.

Students need bathrobes or some sort of cover-up for trips to the shower, shower shoes (such as "flip flops"), a showering caddy for soap and shampoo, and any other bathing needs.

They should also bring laundry detergent and a working knowledge of how to do their own laundry. Most kids have done laundry before the age of 18, but for any who have not, a few run-throughs at home could mean the difference between pink underwear and not. Colleges rely on swipe cards for most minor financial transactions, which means the days when the washers and dryers need quarters are long gone. 

Of course, depending on how far the college is from home, most kids end up bringing their laundry home. This means you don't have to worry too much about these laundry lessons.

Sheets and Towels
Extra-long single sheets stay in place better on many college beds. As the summer progresses, keep an eye out for sales and buy these when appropriate. Wash new ones before you leave home to eliminate any odor or rough texture from sizing.

Invest in a mattress cover—standard issue mattresses supplied by colleges can be slippery or musty. Your child may not care, but it's still a good idea. If your son or daughter suffers from allergies, buy mattress and pillow covers designed for them. 

Bring two or three large, thick towels, hand towels, and washcloths (if you use them). If new, wash these before leaving home. 

Storage Help
While most dorm rooms provide a closet and dressers, don't expect the copious storage space you are used to at home. Stackable, plastic bins for sweaters, sweats, and jeans are a good investment.

Buy high-capacity hangers that hold more than one pair of pants or skirt at a time. Sturdy, padded hangers are useful for heavy jackets or several shirts.

Pack books and similar items in crates that can double as storage units or stacked shelves.

There may not be much room even for these handy storage units, so consider those that fit under beds. You may be wise to buy bed lifters, which elevate the bed so that it's easy to stow crates and boxes beneath it.

Area rugs, curtains, and framed posters make a dorm room more inviting. Discuss these ideas with your roommate before investing in them.

Study Aids
Bring a good study lamp, as well as one that clips onto the bed. Many colleges forbid halogen lamps and even if they are allowed, remember that they are fire hazards.

Bring a power strip and surge protector for the computer and other plug-ins. Make sure your child has an extra charger for the cell phone.

It's never too soon to start making lists, organizing clothes and other items, and helping your son or daughter make this important transition.