Packing for College in the Fall

Recent high school graduates hardly had time to hang up their commencement gowns and frame their diplomas before having to think seriously about the transition to life at a college or university. With that in mind, the Moorestown High School Counseling Department held its annual College Transition Night program in June. The featured speakers this year were Jan Friedman-Krupnick, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Rider University, and Lisa Walko, School Nurse at Moorestown High School. A frequent speaker in past years has been Francine Block, an independent consultant with American College Counseling Services in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The tips and suggestions offered here represent the combined experience and expertise of these regional experts on the school-to-college transition. This is the first in a three part series on preparing for the transition to college life. Subsequent articles will focus first on finances at college and then on the emotional issues associated with the process of “Letting Go.”

One of the first tips experts advise parents to do is to “Let the students do the packing.” They know what they will wear and what they will not. However, parents may think of considerations that students will not. For example, if headed north to college, students should pack a heavier jacket and some light sweaters even though it might be 95 degrees on move-in day at the dorm. October mornings may be chilly in New England and the upper Midwest, while snow might come early in Syracuse and Ithaca. Many students count on the trip home at Thanksgiving to pick up warmer clothes for winter. If Thanksgiving will be the first trip home, students headed north may want to pack early for cooler weather.

Think about sending two laundry bags in different colors with the student. We know, you are thinking one bag is for colors and the other for whites and lights, right? Wrong. One bag will be for dirty clothes and the other for clean. It is widely rumored that some college students don’t fold their clothes after returning from the laundry. Don’t forget clothes hangers for the dormitory closet. Many colleges do not supply them.

Be sure to send along several rolls of quarters for doing laundry. Some colleges are now set up to allow students to swipe their ID cards to use the washers and dryers. Speaking of laundry, August is a good time to provide the soon-to-be college freshman with some on-the-job training in the use of the washer and dryer at home. Students can learn how to use a stain stick and other special techniques. Remember to send a clothing marker along to college, as jeans and sweats all look alike in the laundramat.

Send along plastic organizing boxes for dormitory closets. One can be used for paper goods, another for a mini-pharmacy (band-aids, mouthwash, cold medicines, and aspirin), and so on. Be sure to label sheets and towels with the student’s name. If possible, get the measurements of dormitory beds in advance, as some colleges have extra-long beds. Some stores sell blocks for raising dormitory beds up for additional storage underneath. Use garbage bags rather than boxes for some of the off-season clothing storage. A lot more can be packed in them and they are more easily compressed into tight spaces. Send both a small and medium suitcase (collapsible, if possible) for weekends and road trips.

Stay away from halogen pole lights for dorm rooms. These are known fire hazards when t-shirts or towels are thrown across them. Call and ask…For example, will there be an overhead light in the room? What about towel racks, mirrors, and bulletin boards. One or two surge protectors with multiple electric outlets may prove helpful. Sometimes the wall outlets are inaccessible behind dorm room furniture.

Parents who plan to attend Parents’ Weekend and who will need reservations in a hotel near the college, should make them now. Hotel rooms fill quickly for special events such as home athletic activities, Home Coming, and Parents’ Weekends. Families with small cars who will need extra room for move-in weekend sometimes consider renting a trailer. If a trailer is a necessity for you, reservations should be made immediately. It may already be too late. Trailers are in high demand during the month of August. Act soon! Looking ahead to the sophomore year, it may be more efficient to simply rent a storage unit near the college for the summer of 2009.

Congratulations to our recent high school graduates and best wishes for lots of success in college. Watch for the next article, which will address some of the personal finance considerations to be addressed as future freshmen prepare to make the transition to college life.