It happens every year: As the college drop-off day approaches, first-time parents of future freshmen make the big trek to Bed Bath & Beyond, indiscriminately buying most items off the convenient checklist the mega-retailer places in their willing hands the moment they walk through the door. The problem is, a quick scan of the online checklist reveals that BB&B has deemed no less than 114 items to be college “essentials”—like the old school-supply list on steroids—and that’s without including textbooks, pens, notebooks, or that little college-name sticker everyone places in the back windshields of their cars. Take it from two recent college grads: half of what you buy from that list will return to you in the exact same color-coded, name-taped, neatly packed condition you shipped them off in. We’ll clue you in to what college freshmen can leave in their high-school lockers—and what they really can’t live without.
A pop-up hamper? Very useful. A fan? Practically a necessity. Bed Bath & Beyond has these five items on its list—now make sure they’re on yours.
1. Plush Bedding: Start with an egg-crate pad, then layer on a mattress pad, and, finally, add a pair of jersey sheets and pillowcases—amazingly comfortable for even the harshest of dormitory beds, and available in every color under the sun.
2. Surge Protectors/Extension Cords: The average dorm room is not equipped for the plethora of plugged-in items your frosh will bring—computers, stereos, iPods, cellphones, televisions, mini-fridges, etc.—so he had better bring reinforcements.
3. A Shower Caddy: Imagine your budding scholar trying to carry soap, shampoo, conditioner, razors, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a towel wrapped modestly around his waist without one.
4. An Alarm Clock: If you’re sending your frosh to a private college, you’re spending approximately $2,000 per class; the least he can do is wake up in time to go.
5. Stick-On Hooks: A little plastic swoop goes a long way. Your grad might be used to the McMansion-sized closet in your house, but once transplanted to the dorm, he’ll be pacing the floors looking for a clear spot to drop that wet towel.
An inflatable bed? It’ll stay deflated. A cap organizer? They’ll stay disorganized. These might be on the Bed Bath & Beyond list, but—trust us—you can take them off yours.
1. A Paper Shredder: If he’s got evidence that he cheated on that ethics exam, we’re sure he’ll find ways to dispose of the evidence on his own, using nature’s paper shredder (a.k.a. his hands).
2. An Iron/Ironing Board: It’s a nice thought but, realistically, your co-ed won’t have time to do laundry, let alone press pants. A gift certificate (or just cold, hard cash) for the local dry cleaner is a much better investment; it just might get used.
3. A Coffee Maker: Many schools don’t even allow students to have coffee makers (or George Foreman grills, hot pots, popcorn makers, or toasters, for that matter). Instead, see if the school offers “MicroFridge” (a refrigerator/microwave combo that meets dorm safety regulations) rentals; lucky for you (and whoever’s packing the car), it can be returned at the end of the year. Did we mention it also makes instant coffee?
4. Snack Tables, TV Stands, or Any Other Additional Furniture: With the size of a dorm room averaging a whopping 125 square feet, there’s barely enough room for your kid, let alone space for anything extra.
5. A Scale: Undergrads already spend enough time obsessing about weight (Google “Ways to Avoid the Freshman 15,” and you’ll get over a million hits), so they don’t need a scale around to perpetuate it.
It may be impossible to believe but, even with a list as never-ending as Dr. Zhivago, Bed Bath & Beyond has omitted some of the items no freshman should do without. We’ll implore them to add these items to their list, but just make sure you’ve got them down.
1. Yaffa Blocks: Sure, the name is silly and the aesthetics are questionable, but these geometrically uniform storage crates come in handy when you need to, you know, find a place to actually put all the stuff you bought at Bed Bath & Beyond.
2. Ramen Noodles: Yes, one package has seven grams of fat, 188 calories, and 861 milligrams of sodium—but it’s still healthier than some of the stuff in the cafeteria.
3. Flip-flops: The signature footwear for college students; they’ll wear them just about everywhere. Insider tip: A pair from Old Navy ($3.50; 2 for $5) is perfect for the grungy communal showers.
4. Dropps Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent Packets: Face it. With the way freshmen let their laundry pile up, there’s no way they can carry a bursting hamper and a Costco-sized bucket o’ detergent to the laundry room at the same time. These single-use detergent packets are easy to carry in a pocket, and there’s no messing up the measurement amounts for novice launderers.
5. A Corkscrew: Whether you like it or not, chances are your budding scholar will use this 10 times more than the other “necessities” you purchased.
// Marisa Iallonardo and Marisa LaScala