If leaving home for the first time is not stressful enough, going off to college or university essentially requires you to buy a new life. There’s only so much you can bring from home, and chances are no matter what you do, you will forget something.
Its normal to be stressed about dorms, but the more you can minimize this anxiety, the better. Having moved three siblings and myself into college before, I can say with full confidence that the way you go about shopping matters.
Find out what your school provides early
In a dorm, your school will most likely provide your bed, dresser, and desk, but be sure to research whether they provide closets vs. wardrobes, trash cans, rental mini-fridge’s and microwaves, etc. This will vary from school to school and can usually be found from a quick google search. It might not seem like a lot, but what they offer can make a pretty large difference in budgeting for money and space. Its also worth noting if you can find the exact measurements of your dorm, take advantage.
don’t miss out
Keep track of what’s been bought
This probably sounds like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to show up on move in day with way too much or not enough or something. Its easy to lose track about things like, what roommate is bringing the fridge or microwave, if you bought too much decor and need new command hooks, and if you need extra storage. If you’ve got divorced parents like I do, you can also run into the awkward situation of two well meaning gifts leaving you with one too many shower caddy’s.
Check these out
Get in (constant) contact with your roommate
This ties to my previous point, but the more you can split purchases up with your roommate, the better. If you don’t want to feel like you’re constantly bothering them with texts while shopping, consider making a google doc or spreadsheet you can both access and add to so you can stay organized. There’s a lot of things you should be talking about with your roommate before making purchases. Are you going to match decor? Is one of you trying to big a huge piece of furniture like a futon that the other should know about? Do you need a specific kind of curtain because one of you is a super light or super sound sleeper?
Take your time to make the most of it
My freshman dorm was approximately three steps wide, so almost everything in my space had to work for multiple things. I’m not going to say you should not bring any nicknacks because if you’re a bit of a maximalist like me and they bring you joy, do it– but you should be prepared to make the most of your space. With that said, even if you’re shopping last minute, you don’t have to settle for something just because it is functional. Chances are your dorm won’t be finished immediately after you move in, especially if you plan on going greek. Don’t be afraid of taking your time to find something that works for you AND looks nice.
Don’t fall for pink tax
Dorm shopping season can have some seriously good sales on decor, but companies will also up-charge you for buying an item that looks super girly, when the exact same item in black or some other color socialized to be “boyish” is way cheeper. One of my favorite hacks is getting cheeper items and spray painting them to be the finish I want. This can save you a lot of money and make it so a lot of your fixtures match.
for your consideration
Spread it out
This is contingent on location, of course, but if you can avoid having to do all your shopping the day you move in, please do. Not only is this less of a hit financially, (think layaway!) but you’re also less likely to forget a lot of things if you’re shopping over a long period of time. One of the best parts about doing this is you have the opportunity to wash things like your new bedding so that is one less thing to worry about on move in day.
Just ship it
Especially during the pandemic, its way more convenient to have items shipped directly to your dorm so you don’t have to go out in person or lose car space on the drive. If you’re coming from far away and your school does not let you ship packages prior to move in, many stores will let you order online and pick up your items in store so you just have to retrieve them, rather than running around trying to shop for everything when you get to school.
Don’t forget school supplies
I know this sounds stupid, but you’d be surprised how many kids show up to college with a car full of decor and no pencils, only to have to blow $500 on overpriced school supplies in the school bookstore. Don’t be that guy. You’re at college to have fun, but you’re also there to learn, and you need to be prepared to hit the ground running as soon as classes start. It is not as exciting, but it is just as necessary as everything else.