What do I need to know before I start shopping for college?

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Answered by: Samantha, An Expert in the Preparing for College Category
Shopping for college for the first time can be tricky, especially because there are so many other exciting changes happening during this transition into adulthood. But hopefully with my advice, you will have the tips you need to make sure that the essential parts of dorm living are covered before you even unload the car. This is not an all-inclusive list of every item you will need for college, but rather just a few helpful tips that will get you started on the right track.

Tip #1: Linens. When deciding on what bedding and towels to buy for your dorm space, you or your child will undoubtedly want to personalize as much as possible. However, there are other factors to be considered besides what looks the coolest.

Most likely, you or your child will be living with one or more roommates in the first year of college, so it is smart to consider buying items that are distinct looking so that you don't lose track of them. For instance, buying a patterned or brightly colored towel rather than a neutral or common colored one will lessen the likelihood of you or your roommates confusing your towel with someone else's. Trust me, when you're living a in a dorm, germs spread around like wildfire, and there is nothing more disgusting than sharing dead skin cells with some Joe Shmoe that lives down the hall.

The same goes for bed sheets - To avoid having your sheets mixed up with someone else's in the laundry room (accidentally or not), it is a good idea to buy sheets that have an uncommon color or pattern. And as an added piece of advice, if you are looking for the softest sheets possible, "Jersey Cotton" sheets are incredibly comfortable and come in a variety of colors and patterns as well. As for comforters, white and black both tend to show stains easily, and while those cotton comforters might be easier to clean, they often leave you cold in the winter. My recommendation is to buy a nice comforter that has a removable cover, making the washing process easier and also allowing you to change up your style at any time by buying a new cover without having to pay the high price of getting a new comforter altogether.

Tip #2: Medicine. As I mentioned earlier, there is almost no easier place to get sick than in the dormitories of a college. Therefore, it would be smart to prepare a medicine box or bag ahead of time for when that sick day finally does come. If there is any part of the college shopping process that I would recommend being superfluous with, this is it. Make sure you prepare yourself or your child with everything from bandages, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic ointment to vitamins, flu medicine, and tea, because often when an accident or illness happens in college, there are various inconveniences such as weather or distance that make going to the store a complete hassle. Additionally, being the one student on the floor with cough drops is ironically a great way to make or impress friends.

Tip #3: Dishware. If you get the luxury of having a kitchen in your dorm area, you will undoubtedly want to buy dishware for yourself and possibly for others. My recommendation is to be a minimalist and buy only one of each dish for just yourself. By buying only one large plate, small plate, bowl, cup, and mug for yourself, you avoid the risk of having others use and then chip or break your dishes, as well as the frustration of seeing your dishes used and left dirty in the sink (trust me, this will happen). Furthermore, while I hope you have consulted your roommates or housemates ahead of time to make sure no one buys too many of the same things (such as silverware or a microwave), it will be a courtesy to others to have your items only take up a small amount of space in the common area.

Tip #4: Registry. Bed Bath and Beyond offers a college registry that makes shopping for college both easy and fun, allowing you to scan away in your hometown and pick everything up at a store near your college destination. So if you can find a Bed Bath and Beyond near your college, using their registry option is also a great way to avoid buying unnecessary items for your dorm room. For example, you may buy a full-length mirror for yourself and get to your dorm only to find that your closet door has a mirror already attached to it. Or perhaps you bought yourself or your child a pair of slippers or a floor rug so that you won't have to feel the cold linoleum on your feet in the morning, and when you arrive, your dorm room is already carpeted. By registering your items from home, you can get a good look at your dorm room before you purchase anything from the store and adjust your list accordingly.

This completes my advice on how to go about shopping for college. Again, this is not a comprehensive list of everything you will need to buy for your dorm room, but just a few tips on how to approach this upcoming living situation. Remember to consult your roommates if possible before you hit up the stores, and last but not least, have fun with it! You are entering a new and exciting phase of your life so don't hesitate to buy those couple of items that might make you feel more at home, whether it be an accent pillow for your bed or wall-mounted picture frames so that you can keep your hometown near and dear. Overall I hope you have found these tips helpful, now get out there and start shopping!

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