Saturday, August 01, 2009

6 Things to Do Before You Shop and Pack for College

NOTE FROM SUSAN: Today’s back-to-school column was written by Marie Carr, author of Sending Your Child to College. As always, she has some very valuable tips to help you and your child be prepared for college.

6 Things to Do Before You Shop and Pack for College
by Marie Carr

It’s that time of year again, when students are starting to pack their belonging and either head back to college or, for many, to go to college for the first time. Before you shop and pack, below are six tips to help save time and money.

1. Talk with your roommate. Dorm rooms are small, space is extremely limited, and some residence halls do not have any additional storage space other than closets within the rooms. Before you run to the store to purchase and pack the refrigerator, carpet, TV or stereo, TALK with your new college roommate. Don’t duplicate items that can be shared. If in doubt, it is best to bring only what you need and to postpone purchases or rental of any shared items until you arrive.

2. Check the dimensions of your dorm room bed. Most have extended length mattresses, and standard size bedding does not fit them. Some private dorms even offer full size beds. Usually each person has 3-4 dresser drawers and a reasonable size closet. You may want to raise the bed and utilize the space underneath for additional storage. You can purchase plastic bed lifters from many stores. I recommend metal rack risers available online from

3. Check the list of items not allowed in dorm housing. In many instances, the only model of microwave allowed in dormitory housing will be microfridges, a combination of refrigerator and microwave in one appliance. Microfridges can usually be rented through college and university vending services for a nominal yearly rental. Any rental should be arranged now so that the appliance is delivered when school starts.

4. Remember to be green, and to reuse and recycle. Our present economy presents the perfect excuse to rummage through the house and opt for gently used items that will be eco-friendly and less expensive than new. Consider some unmatched plates, glasses and silverware for dorm use, stacked plastic crates as a bookcase, and tins and boxes as storage for small items. Create a special box, tin or basket where a student will always put keys, wallets, sunglasses, glasses and other essential items for daily use.

5. Make sure your possessions are covered by some insurance policy. Today’s students own more expensive items than we did when we went to college. Computers, camera equipment, cell phones, TVs, stereos, sports equipment, musical instruments, and books are all subject to loss due to theft, fire, smoke, breakage and water damage (usually caused by sprinkler systems). In most instances, neither the landlord nor university will assume any legal responsibility for the safety of personal property on its premises or within its buildings. Plan to call your insurance agent and give your homeowner’s policy a review. Ask if a child’s possessions will be covered while away at college, what deductibles the policy has, and if there are any additional costs. Often, cameras and laptops will require an additional insurance rider.

Another option is “renter’s insurance.” Renter’s insurance may be secured in your child’s name, usually for a very nominal cost, and will cover those items your home insurance will not. Colleges and universities often have recommendations for insurers that offer low cost policies specifically for students. Note that many insurance policies consider children living off campus as no longer part of a household and therefore will not insure any of their possessions.

6. Take an inventory. Make a record along with photographs or a video of the higher priced items that will be going to college. Include purchase receipts along with the model and serial numbers and any warranty information. This could help in recovering stolen or damaged property.

Marie Carr has sent three daughters off to college, been a member of three college parent councils and has written Sending Your Child to College (, which has won numerous awards and recognitions, including the 2009 Best Product Award Winner from PTPA Media and an iParenting Media Award.


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