A Parent’s Guide to Smart Dorm Shopping
12 Dorm Shopping Tips for Parents
1. Start Dorm Shopping Early
No matter when your college student will be heading off to school, you’ll want to start the process of dorm room shopping as early as possible. Before you set foot in a store or start browsing online, sit down with your student and make a list of all the things you know they’ll need in their dorm. Consider their personal preferences and needs as well as factors like climate and regulations that are unique to the school they’ll be attending. After you’ve made your list, it’s a good idea to start shopping as soon as possible to avoid the rush and make sure stores don’t run out of the things your student needs.
2. Differentiate Between Needs and Wants
Your student may be a bit ambitious about what they want to bring with them to college. While some things on their list may be practical in a new dorm, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in buying or upgrading plenty of things that aren’t as important. Before you go shopping, take some time to figure out which items on your list are necessities for the upcoming school year and which ones are more of a luxury. Of course, we aren’t saying that you should say no to anything that isn’t absolutely essential as you shop with your student, but knowing what is and isn’t vital for your college student’s upcoming semester can help you trim down your budget and shorten the time it takes to get your shopping done.
3. Focus on the Basics
If you’re having a hard time figuring out what your student is going to need during the coming year at college, try to focus on the basics. Concentrate on the simple elements that make up a dorm space. Think about things like the bed, the desk, dining, and bathroom needs. Look for comforters, duvet covers, or bed-in-a-bag sets that’ll keep your student warm during the fall and winter months. Look for basic desk supplies like writing utensils and notebooks, and if your student won’t have immediate access to a fridge or microwave, you might consider investing in these appliances to make mealtime easier. Once you have the most important things covered, you can look into any of the extra things your budget will allow.
4. Know the Dorm Layout
If you already know the dorm your college student is moving into, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the layout and amenities. While every dorm will provide a space for your student to sleep, they vary widely when it comes to things like access to kitchens, private bathrooms, and other daily necessities. Before you make your list or set out to your favorite stores, figure out what is and isn’t going provided by the dorm, as well as what is and what isn’t permitted. It’s also useful to know the dimensions of the space and what furniture will already be included, especially if they’ll expect students to bring their own desk, chairs, or even bed.
5. Recognize that Less is More
It’s easy to buy a lot when you and your college student are excited for their new dorm, but keep in mind that over the course of their time in college they’ll be moving quite a bit and accumulating new things as they go. Although you may find your parenting instincts encourage you to go a little overboard while you’re shopping, a less-is-more mentality will help keep things in check. Dorms are small, shared spaces that can quickly become crowded and cluttered, so it’s important to exercise careful judgement as you shop.
6. Opt for Higher Quality Items
We can’t stress this one enough. While your student may head off to college with some of your older housewares, it’s important to look for quality when purchasing new items. Your college student will likely be moving a lot during their years in college, and there’s a good chance that their finances will be tight. Buying higher quality items that won’t need to be replaced soon — like bedding and small appliances — will help them avoid unnecessary stress in the long run.
7. Look for Easy Organization
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that your college student’s life is going to be busy. With everything from homework and extracurricular activities to dating and going to parties, college students’ lives are packed so full that there’s not always much time left for important things like organization. You can help your student keep their dorm neat and well organized by investing in convenient and intuitive organization solutions. Closet organizers are great for things like shoes, jackets, and hats, while a compartmentalized laundry hamper makes it easy to separate lights and darks to make laundering a breeze.
8. Think Multifunction
Following the less-is-more trend, multifunctional appliances and decor are a welcome addition to any dorm room. Ideal for capitalizing on limited space, there are a wide range of multifunctional elements for any dorm need or decor scheme. Consider simple appliances like single-serve coffee makers that can also be used to heat up water for instant soups or tea, or choose wall-mounted mirrors that feature a hidden cabinet for valuables or medicines.
9. Make Sure It Can Be Moved
It can be frustrating when you’ve spent good money to provide your college student with great furniture or decor that ends up getting left behind when they move. One of the best pieces of advice we can give to avoid this scenario is to make sure that everything you buy for your student’s dorm is easy to move and take with them. Avoid buying large furniture or bulky storage solutions, and make sure essentials like bedding can fit neatly into a case or bag when the time comes to move it.
10. Don’t Try to Tackle It All at Once
Whether you’re excited to go dorm shopping with your student or not, it’s tempting to try and get all the necessary dorm shopping done at once. While you might think this approach will keep you on track and focused, the reality is that feeling rushed while dorm shopping can lead to more impulse purchases and less carefully thought out selections. We encourage you to browse a few different stores on a few different days to make sure you can think through everything on your list without the pressure of an immediate deadline.
11. Buy Toiletries and Supplies After They Move In
There are definitely some things you’ll want to pick up in your hometown before you move your college student into their new dorm, but it’s a good idea to leave cleaning supplies and toiletries until after they’ve moved in. Not only does this save you any spills or mess in the bags they’re taking to school, but it’s a good idea to see what condition the dorm is in before you buy the necessary supplies to clean the place up.
12. Be Open to Future Needs
Perhaps the best advice we can give to any parent shopping for their college student’s dorm is to remember that this probably won’t be the last time you go dorm shopping. As your student goes through their time in college, there’s a good chance their dorm room needs will change. They may need different bedding or storage to accommodate different spaces, and there’s a chance that some of their appliances may go on the fritz, which means you may also be in the market for a new microwave or coffee maker as well. Be patient with your college student as their needs change, and recognize that while college is a wonderful time, unexpected things like this can be pretty stressful.
More Ways to Shop
- Dorm Guides