Tips and Tricks for Getting Your Child Ready for College

Lee Woodruff has advice for parents on what to buy for college kids' dorm rooms.

Aug. 17, 2009— -- As summer draws to a close, many parents are facing the tough task of outfitting a college-bound teen for dorm life for the first time.

"Good Morning America" life and family contributor Lee Woodruff and her husband, ABC's Bob Woodruff, are among them.

The couple is sending their oldest child, Mack, off to college in just a few weeks, and Lee Woodruff has advice on how to prepare any freshman for his or her first home away from home.

To find out what Mack would need for his dorm room and how he would fare living on his own, Bob and Lee did some reconnaissance. They dropped by the camp where Mack is working as a counselor this summer to get a sneak peek at what his future dorm room could look like.

Lee said the experience was "a little frightening."

The dormitory smelled like "the combination of an armpit and one giant sneaker," and her son's room was no better, with clothes piled on the floor "just like his closet at home."

After her eye-opening look into her son's housekeeping habits, Lee Woodruff hit the stores to shop for supplies.

Confronting aisles full of power switches, computer locks, room deodorizers, sticky tack, shaving cream, comforters and much, much more can be overwhelming.

Choosing an air freshener "really shouldn't be that hard of a decision but when you're sending your kid off to college for the very first time, I want to get everything right," she said. "I'm over thinking it."

Fellow parents had lots of great advice for Woodruff on how to simplify the process on her blog. She discovered that today's freshmen can learn about their new roommates' likes and dislikes before they even get to the dorm by connecting on Facebook. What kids lose in that moment of surprise that their parents had when walking into the dorm room that first day, they can gain in some valuable information, like what kind of supplies and furniture each person is bringing.

Parents also warned her that there's a difference between packing girls and boys off to school. The girls tend to bring decorations or accents like area rugs to make the room cozy, and they often bring too much stuff. Boys present just the opposite challenge.

Keep reading for Woodruff's shopping list and top tips.

Must-Haves for Every College Freshman

Small Refrigerator and Microwave:

If your child sleeps through breakfast or needs a snack, he or she can have it right in the dorm room.

Power Strip:

Kids arrive with a lot of electronics, from phones to iPods to laptops. No dorm room will have enough outlets to keep up with the demand.

Laundry Detergent and Quarters:

Woodruff says her son brought his laundry home from camp three times this summer. The first time she did it, the second time she taught him how, and the third time he did it on his own. And she'll be sending him off to school well stocked with quarters and detergent.


When buying bedding, Woodruff says to be sure to buy extra-long sheets because college beds are longer than the average twin -- to accommodate the taller kids. One mom told Woodruff on her blog to get a long mattress pad for the bed because that was one area that she really wanted her son to be comfortable. And of course, you'll need a comforter and a pillow, too.

Storage Bins:

And for under-the-bed, remember that most dorm rooms are small and storage-deprived. Under-the-bed storage boxes will give students a little more room in what would otherwise be wasted space.

Shower Caddy:

Woodruff says to pack the shower caddy with shampoo, soap and most definitely flip flops. Do you see your kid scouring the shower floor? Or even worse, imagine that he or she is using a shared bathroom or shower. Don't think about it -- just get them the flip flops.

First Aid Kid:

Woodruff bought the most basic, pre-packaged first aid kit from a big box store. This is in addition to whatever medications your kid has to take. These kits have Band-Aids, Neosporin and other basics. Anything more serious requires a trip to the infirmary.

Stick-On Night Light:

This was another big tip from parents on Woodruff's blog. Parents might remember how annoying it was when we were sleeping in a dorm room and a roommate came in late and turned on the light. Stick-on lights are battery-operated and stick on the wall, just like one of those closet lights that many of us have.

A Piece of Home:

Call it a loving memory of his family or a way to keep him in line. Whether he wants it or not, Woodruff's son is getting a framed picture of his family.

Shopping, Shipping and Styling Tips

Bed, Bath and Beyond has a service called "pack & hold," kind of like a registry for college. You go to the store near your home or online, order all the stuff you need, and Bed Bath & Beyond will pack it and hold it, shipping it on the date you choose so that it will be there when your kid moves in.

Where to Shop, Save and Avoid Shipping Costs:

The following stores are great places to start your shopping. Some offer free shipping or checklists for college students.

Bed, Bath and Beyond:

If you shop in a store, they will let you pick up your stuff at a different store near your school with no shipping costs. Many moms told Woodruff about how convenient this is. (But if you shop online, there may be no way around shipping costs.)


Some items can be purchased online or in-store and picked up at local store to save shipping costs.


Some items can be purchased online or in-store and picked up at local store to save shipping costs.


J.C. Penney's:

J.C. Penney's offers a collection of gear for your dorm. Currently they are offering a promotion with free shipping on Web site purchases, through Aug. 20.

Home Goods:

Deep discounts on designer products like sheet sets.

Design Your Own Dorm Room

Go here and pick the layout that matches your new dorm room (if you know the layout), and then you can click and drag dorm gear into a 3-D model. You can even collaborate on line with your roommate. And if you like, you can order stuff directly from this Web site to be delivered to your dorm.

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