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Back to school is big job when a child leaves for college

A laptop is almost a must have at college these days.
A laptop is almost a must have at college these days.

Working Mom previously wrote an article about what to buy for high school graduation gifts and at the time indicated that most of the ideas came from creating a packing list when her daughter went to college.

All Working Moms know when the calendar page turns to August it is time to start thinking of back to school. So, as promised earlier here are a few tips along with the list needed to get your student off to college.

First, find out what is available in the community where your son or daughter is going to school, then find out what items are suggested by the folks at Residence Life at your child's university and last, but definitely not least, learn what is forbidden in the dorm or on the campus where your college freshman will be heading.

The main thing you have to remember is that whether your child is moving across town to go to UW-Madison or Edgewood, elsewhere in the state or halfway across the country, there are many items they will no longer be able to just use the ones in your house while at school. Examples would include a small fan for the dorm, over-the-counter medicines and printer paper.

Finally, do not take anything for granted. When Elizabeth went to school, she was only going to be gone a few weeks until her first weekend home. Thinking the weather would stay warm until then, she packed mostly shorts, t-shirts and sandals. The weather turned cold and rainy about her third day there! The lesson? Pack a few items for a change in the weather.

While lengthy, this list is certainly not definitive and will need tweaking depending on your student's gender, interests and personal habits. The hope is that it will give you a good starting point.

Apparel – if your student has packed for vacation then they know the basics. However, a couple of reminders are to pack extra shoes, a swim suit and long sleeves and pants in case we get an early autumn..

Bedding – most dorm beds are extended length twins.

  • egg crate
  • mattress pad
  • sheets
  • blankets
  • pillows
  • flashlight

Dorm Room

  • fridge
  • micro
  • robe
  • fan
  • chair or bean bag
  • stuffed animals
  • TV- DVD-game system
  • cable
  • ether net
  • extension cords
  • posters
  • power adapters
  • pictures
  • batteries
  • sticky stuff to hang posters
  • cell phone and charger
  • alarm clock
  • iPod dock/iPod
  • small tool kit
  • plants
  • wastebasket
  • dry erase board for door
  • fly swatter
  • push tacks
  • water filter-pitcher
  • dishes and a few utensils
  • food
  • Storage items such as folding canvas bins, three drawers on wheels, etc.
  • Decorations – window clings are great – take little space and can be applied on mirror and window to create festive mood!

Laundry, etc.

  • Spray on wrinkle releaser
  • Sewing kit
  • rolls of quarters or points
  • febreze
  • laundry basket
  • laundry detergent/dryer sheets/stain stick
  • laundry bag
  • hangers


  • camera
  • board games
  • sports stuff (tennis racket&balls/softball& glove/frisbee/basketball)
  • DVDs
  • favorite books
  • stamps and envelopes

Personal Needs

  • first aid kit
  • sunscreen
  • bug spray
  • shampoo/conditioner/other hair products/hair dryer/curling iron
  • shower caddy
  • facial cleanser, etc
  • make up
  • shower shoes
  • towels
  • lotion
  • vitamins
  • cold medicine
  • allergy medicine
  • flu medicine
  • cotton balls/q tips/container for them
  • nail polish& remover
  • finger and toe nail clippers/nail files
  • kleenex

Study needs – as with apparel, this list is not meant to be all inclusive, but rather to suggest a few must haves and items that could otherwise be overlooked!

  • laptop and charger and lock (padlock/bike lock)
  • post-it notes
  • any favorite reference books
  • Notes/reference materials from High School classes
  • stapler/staples/remover
  • scissors
  • paper clips and other binder clips
  • binders
  • index cards
  • highlighters


  • BJR 4 years ago

    Wow! It's almost everything BUT the kitchen sink. What a great guide...thanks! I never woulda thought of some of these things on my own.

  • Jill 4 years ago

    Fabulous tips Lori!

  • Lori 4 years ago

    Thanks, Jillie and BJR! I appreciate your taking the time to read and your positive feedback.
    One thing, I didn't note was that some items, such as microwave, fridge, TV and electronics systems, can usually be split up between roommates with a little coordination ahead of time!

  • BJR 4 years ago

    Hey, Lori - that's a great idea! Thanks for adding that tip.

  • Pat 4 years ago

    Great artical. This will help many with their college bound kids. Very organized. Thanks

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