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Off to College Checklist

Posted Jul 15 2012 9:00am
Guest post by Amy Moczynski

As you will soon find out, getting your college acceptance letter is just the beginning of your college experience. Beyond buying a brand-new wardrobe and figuring out which of your classmates will be joining you at your new school, you’ve got some big changes on the way. One of the biggest of those changes is living on your own for the first time.

Choosing where to live your first year of college (and beyond) can be a challenge. Whether you decide on moving into an apartment or staying in a campus dorm, there are a few things that you’ll need to bring along to make it feel like home. It can be tempting to wait until you move to your new college town before you buy some of the essentials, but save yourself the mad rush of pre-dorm shopping and get organized now. Here are a few of the essentials that you’ll need no matter where you’re moving.

Dorm Living
The dorm room will definitely be one of the biggest adjustments you’ll make in your college transition. You’re probably used to having a lot of space to call your own, but in a student dorm you’ll be living in a small shared space. On top of getting used to living in close quarters with a new person, dorm life will bring some other new experiences, such as shared bathrooms and showers. It may sound like an overwhelming change, but with the right preparation you’ll give dorm living an A+.

Here's a college dorm checklist
Bathroom Gear: No matter how many people you have on your floor, the communal bathroom will take some getting used to. Most dorms will not have private showers, and you definitely won’t have full bathroom cabinets to store your stuff. Do yourself a favor and invest in a shower caddy and shower shoes. The caddy will make it easy to carry all your bathroom needs to and from your room. And let’s face it, you definitely don’t want to walk around barefoot in a bathroom that dozens of your floormates use each day.

Linens and things: It’s a rare bed size outside of summer camps and dorms, but you’ll probably need Twin XL sheets for your bed. Buy at least two sets of sheets so you can swap out dirty sheets to bring home to your parents’ house for laundry day. You might sleep at odd hours once you get to school, but remember that sleep is one-third of your life. Don’t skimp on your sheets, and make sure to get comfortable pillows and blankets to keep you from missing your bed at home too much. You’ll also want a full set of towels and washcloths to go along with your shower shoes. A large hamper or laundry bag will make your trips to the laundry room much easier, so be sure to buy at least one.

Storage: In your dorm room, space is going to be at a premium, so you’ll definitely want to invest in some additional storage containers for your closet, desk and under the bed. You’ll most likely be able to loft your bed, so be sure to raise your bed if you’re looking for extra space. The easiest way to maximize your storage is to only bring what you need. It can be hard to narrow it down, but only bring clothes that you actually wear and don’t let your mom fill your room up with things you don’t need.

Appliances: Your school may have some limitations on what electronics are allowed in your dorm room, but for the most part you can have all the comforts of home. If your dorm or common room doesn’t have one, you’ll definitely want a microwave to share with your roommate. Rather than bringing a large TV or other large electronics, see how you can use your computer or laptop to meet your entertainment needs. If you need to watch a big game, your common room will usually have a large TV to use. Before you move in, make sure to check with your roommate before bringing items like a mini-fridge or coffee maker. If you work together, you can split the essentials. Last, but not least, don’t forget an alarm clock. You’ll have a hard enough time making it to early classes, so don’t give yourself any excuses.

Food: You almost certainly have dining halls on campus, but it’s a good idea to stock up on some essential, nonperishable items just in case. You don’t need to hoard food and protect it from dormmates like a wilderness survivalist, but canned soup, microwaveable foods and snacks will make all-nighters much easier. If you plan on cooking, remember to bring your own cookware, utensils and plates necessary.

Roommate: If you haven’t done it already, make a call to your roommate to introduce yourself and plan out your room. Having a roommate for the first time can be a daunting proposition, and it’s a big part of the college experience. Talk to your roommate and get a sense of what you can both bring to the room, and how you’ll live together.

Other Essentials: Wait until you’re sure you’ll be staying in your classes to buy all your textbooks. Textbooks are one of the biggest expenses you’ll have, so only buy the essentials until you know you’ll actually need everything on the syllabus. Given the size of your dorm, you want as little clutter as possible. Most importantly, bring a touch of home with you, like pictures or posters. As different as it is, the dorm is your home away from home for at least the next year -- so make yourself at home!

Choosing an Apartment
Let’s face it: dorm life just isn’t for everyone. Though it can be one of the most interesting aspects of college, dorms just can’t beat out an apartment for comfort and privacy. If you are set on skipping the dorm into an apartment, you’re going to need roommates and an apartment. Look online to see what apartments are available near your school and figure out what sort of place you’re looking for. For example, 407apartments.com lets you search for according to floor plan, size or distance from your school. Once you and your roommates have found a place to live, step two is to figure out what you all will bring to the table. After all, you don’t want to have four tables and no TV.

New Apartment Essentials

Furniture: You can probably snag a bed from your parents, but you and your roommates need to fill the rest of the apartment. Some college apartments offer furniture packages for bedrooms, living rooms or both. Others will require you to bring the essentials: bed, a desk (for studying, remember?), a chair, a dresser, and a TV stand or night stand. In the living room, collaborate with your roommates to arrange a TV, coffee table, dinner table and couches to make sure you’re living in comfort.

Bathroom: Just like in your dorm, you’ll want some shower organizers to keep your toiletries and towels separate from your roommate’s. It will be much less chaotic than a dorm, but chances are good that you’ll still have to share a bathroom with at least one person.

Kitchen: Your apartment should come equipped with a full kitchen and a microwave, but you’ll need to bring minor appliances like a toaster, trashcan and a coffee maker. Other than that, you’ll mostly just need cookware, utensils and flatware. Chances are pretty good that you can bum some extra plates and cups off your parents, who have almost certainly built up quite a supply over the years. Finally, make sure you have a fire extinguisher and a smoke alarm to keep you safe from your roommate’s cooking.

Other Essentials: Now that you’re on your own, you’ll probably become well acquainted with cleaning supplies. Stock up on bathroom cleaner, laundry detergent and kitchen cleaning supplies. While having your own place might sound like a license to do whatever you want, it’s also a license to be creative with your living space. Decorate your new apartment to be the perfect place for you.

Those are just a few of the basic ways to ease into a new living situation. Remember to bring along anything that is essential to your daily life, like medical supplies or a few favorite books. Moving into your first new place -- whether it’s a dorm or an apartment -- will be a big change, but with the right attitude and a few personal touches, it will feel like home in no time.
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