DormSmart Living Blog: Advice to Avoid When Shopping for College

June 18, 2015

Advice to Avoid When Shopping for College



Each school year, more articles pop up that give already nervous parents of college bound freshman bad advice when shopping for college dorm room supplies. It’s outrageous. We’ve gone from no advice for parents to a plethora of bad advice. Typically, I find many negative articles are written by individuals who failed to do their homework before shopping and wasted money; or, the article is just a promotional piece for affiliated retailers. Either way, it’s best to avoid advice that encourages parents and students to ignore school policy. It could be a costly shopping mistake if the items you purchase are school contraband or leave your student ill-prepared for college living.

College Shopping Advice Top Ten Offenders List

Top 10 Offenders List of Bad Shopping Advice and Why...

#1  What to Bring Lists are Useless


A school’s what to bring list is important because it provides students with the items they CAN bring into their campus housing, particularly a dorm room, and prevents them from overlooking items that they may find useful at school. At times, these lists do seem like a lot of stuff, but most of it is small and easily stored. Plus, students can coordinate with their roommate on certain items such as a Microfridge, vacuum, or iron to save space. At DormSmart, we always defer to school housing policies and checklists as the Holy Grail even if that means we don’t get the sale. At any rate, the checklist is a good starting point for incoming freshmen.

#2  Dorm Room Size Doesn’t Matter


Wrong. Just keep the size matters philosophy in mind when shopping for a college dorm room because it’s typically a smaller shared space than most students have at home.  Always select compact space saving items or as we say at DormSmart, “Dorm room size. It’s just wise!”

#3 Don’t Bother With Cleaning Supplies


I recently read an article that recommended not sending cleaning supplies to campus with students because they are all pigs.  Seriously, this type of advice is just worrisome. Dorm rooms and residence halls are incubators for germs, so it is best to encourage your student to disinfect their dorm room to avoid illness. Swine flu was a reality my daughter’s freshman year. I personally recommend sending cleaning supplies that are dorm room size and easy to use such as a compact vacuum cleaner, disinfectant spray, and disinfectant wipes. As always, be sure to coordinate with roommates. You only need one vacuum per room.

#4 Forget Raising Your Bed to Create Space


Not necessarily! Just because one parent could not raise their student’s bed and wasted money on bed risers because they failed to check their school’s policy… does not mean that every campus across the US has the same policy. Before shopping, check with your school to get your student’s dorm room dimensions, furniture requirements, and policies.  For example, my eldest daughter attended a university where the student could choose to bring an approved loft bed system or utilize the school’s furniture. It was their choice. However, the school had strict policies on how a student could raise their bed.  My  youngest daughter attended a university where the student must utilize school provided furniture but had a choice whether or not to bunk the beds.  Because it is unsafe to raise a bunked bed and against school policy, my daughter and her roommate chose to debunk their beds so they could raise them safely and create individual living spaces within the same dorm room. They then created under bed storage space using bed risers and a smart storage cart for easy access.  Again, it is important to get the information from your school beforehand and plan accordingly. Believe it or not, there are even a few schools across the US that do not allow bed risers on their campus.

#5 Students Cannot Properly Administer Medications So Don’t Send Them


I recently read an article where a parent recommended restricting over the counter medications because students may not properly administer them. At what point do students learn how to read directions?  Keep in mind that out-of state students may not be able to buy certain over the counter medications with an out of state ID. For this very reason, if your student is out of state, you may need to put together a kit that contains enough medication to see them through cold and flu season. It is also important to note that many students, out of state or in state, wait until they are too sick to shop for medications so plan accordingly. Your student can always call home or visit the campus clinic if they are unsure of what to take or the recommended dosage.

#6 Cheap Stuff Saves Money


Wrong. If it isn’t durable, don’t buy it because moving every year takes its toll. In addition, if your student plans to move into an apartment for year round living after freshman year, it’s smarter to purchase items that are durable and can easily transition from dorm room to apartment living to save time and money.

#7 Students Flying Should Use Store Pickup Services


When I read this one, it just cracked me up. Seriously, a publication recently advised that if your student must travel to campus via airlines, it would be best to utilize the “Click and Pickup” services of certain stores they recommended. My first thought… if they are flying to school, how will they conveniently pick up their off campus purchases? I think it would be smarter to shop beforehand and have those items shipped to campus. Just be sure to check your school’s policies regarding campus deliveries. As for storing items between school years, ask your school about local storage services.

#8 Bring a Really Long Power Strip with Lots of Outlets


Students have lots of electronics such as a phone, Microfridge, lighting, laptop, tablet, or blow dryer… you get the picture, so it is important to have surge protectors with “overload protection” to ensure their safety. Check your school housing policies to ensure you purchase the correct surge protectors when it comes to safely powering up your student’s dorm room. 

#9 Students Don’t  Cook in their Dorm Rooms


While they may not be preparing a 5 course meal, many students do snack in their dorm rooms. For that reason, we recommend a Microfridge that includes a microwave and refrigerator/freezer unit that guards students against circuit overloads and allows them to store and prepare a late night study snack or hot beverage. It’s also helpful when they are too sick to leave their room or on a limited budget and can’t afford to eat out. If your student is a coffee drinker, we recommend a single serve coffeemaker with no warming plate or glass carafe that has automatic shut off. Of course, it is IMPERATIVE that you check your student’s housing policies before purchasing any appliance and coordinate with their roommate. Just remember packing a few microwave reheat safe and BPA free break resistant dishes are a smarter choice over continually purchasing paper products. Two of each is always a nice rule of thumb.

#10 School Supplies are Antiquated


My youngest just graduated this year and is now preparing to attend law school in the fall. Because she is a current student, I ask her and her friends what they think about the school supplies section on our dorm room checklist every season. They said most professors have different rules regarding the use of technology in their classroom; so, at times, handwritten notes may be required. In addition, students may be prohibited from using anything but a standard calculator during test times. Even worse, your student is in big trouble if their system crashes, so keeping  a combination of handwritten and electronic notes may be the smarter choice. It really depends upon your student’s study habits, but school supplies are still a necessity. As for having a small printer in your student’s dorm room, one of my daughters was attacked on campus so I’d prefer she print in her dorm room during those late night study sessions or during times she is too busy to safely travel across campus.


At the end of the day, what you bring to your student’s campus dorm room depends on your school’s policies, the actual dorm room itself, and your student’s needs. Therefore, it is best to set a budget that you feel comfortable with and purchase items that are smart, housing compliant, and will help your student successfully transition to college living.  Don’t worry about what other parents think!

Good luck and live dorm smart!

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