Sending a child off to college can be a challenge. There’s the emotional one and then there’s the financial challenge. While I can’t help you out with how you’re going to cope, because quite frankly I did it poorly, BrylaneHome has asked me to help you out by letting you in on what  dorm essentials and college apartment must-haves your college bound student truly needs as he/she begins life on campus.

Dorm Essentials and College Apartments: What They Really Need adFirst, most universities require undergrads to live on campus. What’s necessary in a dorm is completely different that what he/she will need in a campus apartment. I’ll start with the items that carry over from one to the other because those are the items you’re going to want to spend a little bit more on to make sure they’re sturdy enough to last four years of college (assuming your student makes it all four years, but that’s a story for another day).

Most college dorm ideas center around decor with cuteness overkill. I found that in the athletic dorms, where my son lived (though he was not an athlete), function won out over design. Maybe it’s because majority of the dorm was occupied by guys,  but many of the girls’ rooms were similar, so I’m focusing on the practical dorm ideas.

What your College Student Needs – From Dorm to Apartment

College Dorm Essentials

With rare exceptions, dorm rooms are TINY like the one’s my son lived in (see the diagram below). There’s little room for more than the college-issued furniture and most don’t allow attaching anything to the walls. That can make storage tricky. The firs rule is leave it at home. Students should only take what they absolutely MUST have and everything should serve at least two functions. That goes for clothes too – if you can’t wear it multiple ways, leave in the closet at home.

My Son's College Dorm Room  Dimensions -

Photo Credit: housing.wsu.edu

These are the items that can be enjoyed in most any dorm room and that will move to a college apartment easily.

College Dorm Essentials:

College Dorm Essentials
  • Over the Door Shoe Storage – Over the door hangers are life saver in even the smallest dorm. This one holds shoes, but the come in all kinds of other configurations for the items your student has the most of. Jewelry more of a storage problem? Use an over-the-door jewelry organizer.
  • Scarf /Accessories Hangers – Does your student have more accessories than she knows what to do with? This will keep them tidy and store them in the least amount of space possible.
  • Space Saver Hangers with Cedar Scent – The dorms my son lived in were ANCIENT and they smelled like it. A closet freshener would have been helpful. These store close vertically AND keep moths at bay.
  • Cotton Jersey Knit Sheets – Most dorms have long beds and finding XL twin sheets can be an expensive proposition. Plus, most students are only housed in dorms for 2 years and then it’s time to outfit them with their own bed. You have two choices – buy the xl twin or buy a double/full or queen  size set and tell your child to tuck in the fitted sheet. Trust me, their bed will be made only on the days you come to visit! Also, don’t bother buying more than 2 sets. Getting your student to change and wash them will be a once or twice yearly thing (or maybe it’s because I have boys?). Cotton Jersey Knit were my choice because my son’s college started in 100 degree weather, went through months of zero temps, and then back up to 80 degrees in time for the end of the year. Cotton Jersey Knit works all year round.
  • Mattress Pad – Do you know how many students have slept on that bed! Far more than were assigned to it I assure you. Like the sheets, go larger and tuck it in.
  • Blankets – here again, 2-3 lightweight ones will go a lot further than one heavy one. There’s no where to store a heavy blanket, they’re harder to wash, and they’re too hot.  Go with double/full and tell your child to make the bed with them on it first if it’s hot and they don’t need the extras. Or fold them up at the end of the bed.
  • Oversized Bath Sheets – Co-ed bathrooms! Need I say more? A larger towel may just keep your student covered up as he makes he was back from the shower. At least we hope so! I suggest 5 because they’ll all end up in a pile on the floor of the dorm, but at least there will be enough to get him through the week.
  • Comfortable Computer Chair – Your student will be spending a lot of time in from of her desk so a supportive and comfortable chair is a must. Sure, many of those hours will be gaming, but when she finally decides to do her homework, you want to be sure she can complete it in comfort. There are several different styles, with and without arms, and fabrics. A mesh office chair is lightweight, breathable, but doen’t offer much padding. If you know your child will need the ultimate in comfort, go for a deluxe padded office chair. Be sure to select the chair that’s the right size for your child. Brylane makes extra wide office chairs for larger people, but you don’t have to be overweight to enjoy the extra space they allow you.

College Apartment Essentials

College Apartment Essentials

These are items which most colleges don’t allow or would never fit into most dorm rooms. If your student’s room is large enough to accommodate them, then go for it! They’get more use out of them and they’ll carry these on to their first “real” apartment (unless they move home and then you get dibs!). But if they’re like most colleges, you’ll be adding to your child’s new home everything for the kitchen and living room.

They’ll be bringing everything from their dorm, so the new items will include a bed and couch and of course their clothes. Everything else you’ll need to provide. Here are my suggestions for their new college apartment:

  • Storage Ottoman – This is one of my must-have pieces. It works as a coffee table, a bench at the end of a bed, and so much more. Store bulky items out of site or every clothes.
  • Dishware & Silverware – purchase something sturdy and with at least 4 place settings. What survives can go on to their post-college apartment.
  • Non-Stick Griddle – there’s not much that can’t be heated or cooked in this griddle. But the best part is that it could save you and apartment deposit! Using it for cooking instead of the apartments stove means less cleaning when it comes time to move out (I’m the mom of two boys, trust me you’ll cringe when you see their college apartment). Or if they’re in a hot location without air conditioning as my son was, with days over 100 degrees quite often, they can even cook out on the deck with this and not heat up the house.
  • Toaster Oven with Double Burners – most college dorms don’t allow heating devices so I’m putting this into the apartment category. Like the unit above, the chief purpose is to keep your student from destroying the appliances installed in their kitchen and to heat up all those bean burritos he’ll survive on while away from home.
  • Vertical Oven – Your student live on frozen pizzas? Many do. This is a tabletop oven that takes up very little vertical space but can cook two pizzas at a time.
  •  3-in-1 Hand Blender – this is an inexpensive option for your student – whip up pancakes, boxed muffins, and more.
  • Kitchen Towels & Dish Cloths – yes, once in a while they’ll finally have to do the dishes because they’ve run out of clean everything. These are also useful in mopping up spills.
  • Kitchen Table & Chairs – now that I think about it, I wonder what my son did with his? Some how they didn’t make it back from college, like a lot of his furniture. He gave away most of it to the roommate left behind. This is pretty common, so don’t buy anything you won’t regret your student giving away, or give strict orders that it comes home when he does.
  • 4-Drawer Storage Wardrobe – this is too large for most dorm rooms, but the perfect size to fit inside the most college apartment closets. When you’re sharing a small apartment with several other students, finding a place for YOUR stuff becomes a priority. Need even more space? Get the 6-drawer storage wardrobe. Or, need to go vertical? Go with the 5-tier shelf with drawers.
  • 9-Shelf Open Organizer – If you’re sharing a bathroom, sometimes you need a little extra storage. This can also work just inside the front door for storing shoes and athletic equipment.

What Your College Student Doesn’t Need But Probably Wants

  • Smoothie Express Lifestyle Blender – this may seem like a luxury, but if you have a student athlete who uses protein shakes, this could end up saving money.  Powered protein is cheaper than pre-made protein drinks, but blending them is a nightmare – it’s tough to get the powder incorporated into the milk or water. Your student could blend her own instead of buying premixed drinks. Not into protein? Is she spending a fortune on blended coffee drinks? This would allow her to maker her own which means she”ll be saving money, which we all know means mom and dad are saving money!
  •  Milk Shake Maker – This would be a luxury item for any student apartment, but to encourage the sharing of usual college beverages might be a good thing!
  • 3 Cup Food Processor – Students are getting wiser about nutrition. If your student is one of those, this will help chop veggies for omelets, pizza topping, and more.

Well, that’s pretty much it. The list of what I bought and he never used is probably longer. That includes a extra sheets and blankets, a desk lamp, shower tote, and a vacuum (though his girlfriend did a time or two when she came over). He also didn’t use any of the framed art, or any decorative items for that matter. But then his apartment was HORRENDOUS and decorated with old pizza boxes. But he survived, he graduated, and all is well.

What’s your must-have item for college?

This conversation about the college dorm essentials as well as college apartment necessities was sponsored by BrylaneHome. I received a promotional item to that me; however, all opinions are my own.