Kid Heading off to College Question

Updated on March 20, 2013
M.T. asks from Stormville, NY
19 answers

Hi moms and dads. My oldest will be graduating from high school this June. For those of you who have sent a kid off to college, what items that were not on the typical "what to bring to college" list did your kiddult need? I don't mean the extra long sheets and the quick dry towels, I mean the things that you got the "emergency" text/email about, that you had to package up and send them, that you didn't know to send them with. I want her to be as well prepared as possible! :) Thanks for any input!

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answers from St. Louis on

for both sexes, I make a common sense kit:

stapler, staples, thumbtacks
glue, tape, duct tape, sticky putty
pens, pencils, erasers, sharpener, Sharpie
notepaper, envelopes, stamps
nail/fastener kit, small hammer, screwdriver, wrench
extension cord
toothpicks, floss, extra toothbrush & paste
Tylenol, Motrin, & Tums
Solo cups, small plates, napkins, & plastic utensils
a variety of batteries, flashlight, wooden matches, 12pk of votives
basic 1st aid kit

This kit varies from year to year, by the sex, + by my mood. But I always stick in a pack of Lifesavers & 2 they always have some sense & don't feel like they're drowning. :) Oh, & I give this as their H.S. graduation gift in a Rubbermaid tub which will fit under a bed.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

It seems that all they ever needed was money-set up an account so that you can continuously feed a stream of money into it.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

Money, so that they can go to a store and get what they need. Truly, it's part of growing up to provide for yourself. I didn't buy or pack anything for either of the two kids that I sent off to college (boy & girl), they took care of their needs on their own.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Kiddult - that's funny! Thanks for that!

A safe is a great thing to have. She can store her passport and her checkbook in it, as well as bank statements and insurance cards, and her laptop (make sure that it's deep enough to hold the laptop.)

If she is going to sing in choir, find out what they wear to sing. My son had to scramble to buy black pants. Thankfully we had already bought him a tuxedo for his first prom, so he had that to sing in for special choir events. (Buying instead of renting a tux was really smart for us! He has even used it in theatre...)

I will tell you that I made the mistake of buying the sheets and bedding from a company that works with a lot of colleges - they have online and magazines full of dorm room stuff to sell. Some of it was okay, but some was just not good quality. And the real mistake was the sheets. They were supposed to be long enough, but they weren't. Thankfully, I was with him for a few days and helped organize his room and saw the problem with it. I went to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought them, and they fit. So buy your daughter's sheets there.

Another thing that I realized right away was that my son would have been miserable if I hadn't bought him an egg shell topper for his mattress. The mattress is SO uncomfortable - the egg shell topper makes it bearable. (Btw, those sheets I was talking about were too small BEFORE the topper...) I wrote the company and fussed about it - they need to fix that problem.

The only other thing I can think of is organization help - a hanging thing for shoes, decorative bins that hold computer stuff like cords and thumbdrives. Also some thank you notes and stamps, and business envelopes.

It's a fun time right now and quite the whirlwind! Make sure she writes thank you notes after receiving each gift, M.. My son was really good about it, typing a draft FIRST on the computer, and then copying it by hand on the note. I think he realized how much easier it was to stay on top of it by the third week after he had sent out the graduation announcements - if he had waited, he would have had so many to write piled up on him. But I gave an extra incentive - I withheld the checks until the thank you note was mailed. (That's the mean mommy in me.) All in all, he only put off writing the last one, and I think that it was because he was just tired of writing them, and it was at Christmas time after he started college.

Have a wonderful time!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My oldest is finishing up his second year!
Actually, the online lists are pretty good, and pretty thorough.
The only thing that didn't apply was bringing lots of quarters, for laundry. His school's laundry room only takes these special reloadable debit type cards.
He also REALLY liked having a nice robe, and slippers. It makes going back and forth to the communal showers that much easier and more comfortable.
A small, cheap photo album with pictures of family, friends and pets (my son told me later he really liked having this.)
Plenty of pens, pencils, highlighters, paper and post its.
A GOOD QUALITY LAPTOP (that was his HS graduation gift, and my daughter will get the same.)
I also got him max packs of toiletries, you know, bulk pack deodorant, toothpaste, razor blades, shampoo, that kind of stuff, and it lasted a good long time. Girls will also need tampons/pads, too, obviously, and cosmetics if she uses them.
I still send him care packages, with things like chips, candy, jerky, trail mix, nuts and gum, in addition to extra toiletries (I stock up when there are sales, especially at Target.) And he still appreciates it as much now as he did as a freshman :-)
Oh, and a winter coat, if she's going someplace that's cold, boots, gloves and a hat!
ETA: also chapstick, sunscreen and advil/motrin, very important!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Well, this may not fall into the category of things you can pack up and send them, but I found this was essential:

1. Before they leave for college, teach them how to locate all the serial numbers, model numbers, etc., of all their "stuff" (iPads, laptops, computers, cell phones, iPods, electronics, musical instruments, bikes, etc) and record those somewhere. My son took photos of his serial numbers and emailed them to me, and I keep a copy with our documents (in a small safe). Teach them that when they get a new electronic item they must inform you of the serial number and other info. I have yet to hear of a college kid that hasn't had something lost, stolen, or just dropped and broken.

2. Teach them about property insurance (renter's insurance, or your homeowner's insurance). Make sure they know the insurance company's contact info, and what is insured and what is not. You should review that kind of thing yourself, with your insurance company. Make sure their expensive stuff is insured, and if they add something to their inventory, how to inform you and the insurance company. Tell your insurance company about the location of anything you own (like if your student is taking your laptop or computer) and inform them of your student's address. They should know how to talk with the insurance company and should make some of these calls themselves.

3. If they'll be driving, make sure they know who your (or their) auto insurance company is, where the policy info is in the car, who to call in case of an accident, what immediate steps to take at the scene of the accident, etc.

4. Do you have roadside assistance through your cell phone carrier or AAA or anything, for getting locked out or having a flat tire, etc? Make sure your college kid knows the rules of the program, who to call, etc.

5. Before they leave, photocopy everything they have in the form of ID (student ID, driver's license, credit cards, library cards, store cards, membership cards, etc) and keep a copy in a secure place.

6. If they'll be driving, consider an emergency bag in the trunk of the car. I don't mean jumper cables. I packed a large (2.5 gallon) ziplock bag with a pair of warm gloves, a wool hat, a flashlight and batteries, those hand warmers you can get at camping stores, socks, a notebook and pencil, and some food items like granola bars, dried fruits, etc. This bag was only to be opened in the event of breaking down or running out of gas or getting stranded.

7. Have a linked bank account. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to figure out how to mail emergency money or get to Western Union, etc. Being able to hop online and transfer that $20 for emergency gas money from your account to theirs is so helpful. And you can monitor (if you both decide this is important) where the money goes. If they ask for money for gas or food, and the linked account shows that they blew all their money at the shoe store or on iTunes, you will be able to take appropriate action. Even if your student is careful with spending and the monitoring is not necessary, being able to transfer quick funds in the event of an emergency is nice.

8. If they have something other than a pay as you go phone or any cheap phone, consider the replacement or accident insurance through your cell phone carrier.

9. If your student will be doing any traveling (spring breaks, or school trips, going to visit a roommate's family over a holiday, or study programs) and will be taking their debit card, teach them to notify the bank about any extended trips (time or distance). Banks these days often freeze your account if they notice unusual activity. I was in line at Target with my son buying him bedding, printer paper, and cleaning supplies for his college experience when the cashier informed me that my card was declined. I called the bank and they told me they noticed that my card was being used in an unusual location (12 hours away from my home). Of course it was all straightened out immediately, but now we know if we're flying somewhere or traveling somewhere to let the bank know where to expect our cards to be used. Also teach your student that if their debit or credit card is lost, to call the bank the second they realize it. That means they have to know the name of bank.

10. I sent my son with a thin accordion-type folder, labeled, so he could store his paperwork. Make pockets for credit card statements, receipts for big purchases, school records, health records etc. I know a lot of stuff is online these days, but still you're bound to get the occasional paper statement, or bill, or warranty, or instructions, and having a place to put it already helps keep things organized.

11. If your student takes any prescription medications, they should have a printed list of the names (so many take prescriptions and just know that they take the little round pill in the morning and the orange square thing with meals, etc. I'm not talking about being irresponsible and taking pills they shouldn't, but legitimate prescriptions: the names can be difficult to remember), and they should know which pharmacy prescribes them. If your student is going far away, it's helpful to know which pharmacies are in the town where the college is, like a national chain pharmacy (CVS, or Target, etc) and have the prescriptions filled at the chain in your location. That way, if they run out of their medication or lose the bottle, they can go to the local chain near their school and get help.

Knowledge about all these things will alleviate a lot of headaches, in college and beyond.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Honestly you shouldn't listen to any answers. What my child asked to have sent is not going to be the same as yours, she isn't your child.

What I can tell you is that list they have a Bed Bath and Beyond and stores like that, ignore them too. When my oldest went away to college we went down that list. Some actually remained in the packaging. Some was broken from being crammed in some corner. Some stuff we assume is with Hoffa because no one can tell me where it disappeared to.

When my daughter went away to college we took the list and then questioned, have you ever had the need for this, do you see the need for this. Not one thing that was eliminated from that list was ever requested.

I didn't list anything from my son because he went to a college only an hour away so he would just pick up what he needed when he came home begging for money.
Okay after reading some the other answers some of them are good.

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answers from Washington DC on

Well, it varies a little per kid, but school supplies, some basic household supplies (find out what's provided and what's not allowed - SD can't have a toaster, but her roommate brought a mini fridge), some laundry supplies, some nonperishable groceries for midnight snacks, and some first aid supplies/basic OTC meds.

For one week, have your son write down the things that he uses that belong to the house (like towels, dish soap, OTC meds) to get an idea of whether or not he needs TUMS or just aspirin.

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answers from Austin on

How far away will she be going?

Our daughter was more than 2000 miles away. It would have taken us at least a full day to get to her in case of emergency. It also would have cost a lot of money for any last minute travel. So we always tried to have money set aside for this.

We were fortunate to have an acquaintance in the area. And then we had some family of friends up there also. We had not met these people, but they had been given a heads up, she would be there and her name, college, and all of our contact info. That was a tremendous help to us.

This also meant our daughter did not have any of the correct clothing. We live where usually you may need a jacket in the morning, but can be in shorts in the afternoon. She was going to need clothing we were not familiar with. And so she asked for "Lands End" gift cards. She had her college friends advise her once the weather began to change.

We also were not able to ship everything up to her, so we had people give her gift cards to the stores close by.. Target, JC Penneys, Whole Foods, Bed Bath and Beyond. When we went on her college visit, we made lists of the stores, and businesses close by.. Drug store, cleaners, etc..

We made sure to get her laptop insured.. At first we sent her with a lock for her laptop. But she soon learned her dorm/House was very safe. She also knew to NEVER leave her door unlocked. No matter how safe her house was.

We did purchase for her a combination fire safe box. Because your child will need her important papers. Social security card, a real copy of her Birth certificate and extra cash.. They are heavy, so have her purchase it up at school. We purchased it at Target.

Our daughters college has storage for their things over the summer to be stored in the basement. So we purchase the large Rubbermaide Tubs at the beginning of the school year and put her name on them.. and placed them in the basement, so she would not have to purchase them during finals. We placed a sharpie and tape in the boxes also.

They usually use their ID's for the washers and dryers in the dorms. So look into it and see if she will need quarters or just keep putting money on their ID cards.

Our daughter took rice maker. I think it was the one Odd item she had to have. It worked great for her. She found her electric tea kettle also very handy.

A piggy bank is handy, something that will not break..
I did put together our version of a First aide kit.
Bandaides, Neosporen, Chamomile Tea for cramps, Mint tea for upset tummies, Tylenol, Midol, Cough medicine, Maalox..Thermometer..

When you send her care packages. Tampons are always welcome. Chocolates, socks, her favorite cereal, her favorite cookies, fruit baskets, her favorite snacks.

This is an exciting time for all of you. The good news is in this day and age, she can get anything she needs from the internet... and you are a call or click away..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I had one go off 4 yrs ago and ask a similar question.

The things I had to send we're pretty specific to our situation.

Make sure he wares flip flops in the shower. Warts were a problem.
His washers were free. He had a student credit card for emergencies.
He needed an off campus doctor that worked with our insurance.
Had his phone stolen once. Needed a passport and occasional copies of it.
Needed the emergency number for our car insurance to send some one, like AAA.

If I think of something else I'll add it! I'll be looking for your answers as I have a HS senior too!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tyler on

This is a great question! We are preparing for the same move, my daughter is so caught up in choosing matching comforters and decorating her dorm with her roommate, I'm the one worrying about the essentials! I can't wait to see the responses to this thread!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

I was in a suite, 2 rooms, one bathroom, 4 girls. Since we were in that type living, we were responsible for cleaning, so we needed basic cleaning supplies, toilet brush, Comet, 409/Windex, paper towels, etc. Also a shower curtain and a small rug. Basic OTC meds. We had a nurses's office, but you don't want to see the nurse for basic stomach aches and headaches. Shower organizer. Batteries for the TV remote. Flashlight in case there is a power outage. (Yes, we had them, especially during storm season.) You can get most everything at a local store, so load up a gift card for essentials.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Shower shoes for sure - being barefoot in those shared showers is pretty gross

Find out how high the bed is off the ground and maximize the space under the bed. Storage containers for extra linens or bulky sweaters, a shoe rack, etc. If the beds are really low, consider elevating it with cinder blocks.

If she's a light sleeper, earplugs or an eye mask to deal with noise/light from her roommate or general noise from the hall.

Find out which bank(s) are closest to her dorm or easiest to access from campus and open an account there. If you're planning to provide her with money, make it a joint account so you can deposit money from home and she can take it out from school.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

Cash...there were some items (like departmental shirt, sports gear, or publication) that they needed to pay directly to instructor or department head asap in cash (he had credit card and his own debit card but needed cash).

Lockbox, but since it would be something that can be carried, you want like a footlocker w/ lock to keep it in (and be sure it isn't a HUGE amount AND no one knows they have it). We didn't get that call but it is needed.

We also sent a medical kit (Tylenol, Cold Medicine, anti-acid, basic first aid supplies) for those times when the clinic and/or convenience store was closed...saved late trips to local pharmacy for items easy to have on hand.

Dress or suit for more formal events and/or professional networking...don't forget the dress shoes.

Then the standard supplies (sheets, towels, clothes, toiletries, cleaning supplies, snacks...)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Here's a list of dorm room basics -

A cousin of mine sent her daughter off and her daughter called crying, she forgot to take Nutella. So it's one of the first things she includes when she sends off a care package.

I'd say any snack item your oldest likes you send regularly. And gift cards to places they frequent like Starbucks. They'll let you know when they need something ;)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

mine lived in an apartment (and my younger is renting a room in his brother's house) so we never had dorms to deal with. no clue what you need for them specifically.
so in our case it was (and is) occasional visits to costco to restock on paper towels, laundry soap, tp, crackers and so forth. they both left home with plenty of sheets and coffee mugs and kitchen supplies.
funny, two kids in college and yet my 'send them off' experience seems to be so different than most!
:) khairete

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answers from Dallas on

Great question. Our daughter will head off to college in the Fall of 2013.

We thought about renting a smalll storage unit not far from campus for her to keep some things in that she might need but not necessarily need for a dorm room. I don't know. We also want to find a covered parking spot for her car someplace and know we'll be paying for that too.

So far, I believe she'll just need a constant stream on funds for a while until she figures everything out.

You did get some good ideas here, I will certainly save this question to review later as welll.


answers from New York on

All mine lived home while attending college except my youngest daughter. Since her cell phone was the only way to communicate with her I bought a cheap cell phone to send along (bought used off ebay for around $20.00) so she would be able to throw her sim card in and be able to make calls and text. She actually ended up using it a couple times so it worked out well.



answers from Minneapolis on

After having sent three kids through college (May 9th my youngest will be graduating with her BSN - YAY!!) really pare it down. The first we brought way to much stuff. Those rooms are small. By the third we didn't put a whole lot of thought into it. Anything they don't have with they can buy at the college bookstore. We always did a grocery run before leaving them at their room. I remember being very worried with the first, by the third she had made friends within about two seconds and we were basically being asked when we were leaving (lol).

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