Getting ready to send your kids to college

Feb 17, 2010 at 3:29 p.m. ET

To help you deal with the practical packing as well as the drama-filled goodbyes, we've put together a guide to get you and your college-bound kid through this exciting and trying period.

College girl moving into dorm

Dorm and college essentials

In 1001 Things College Students Need to Know, author Harry Harrison advises new college students to buy books before exams start; know that the worst reason to choose a school is because your high-school flame is going there; and remember that the first semester is the hardest. Here's some additional advice and tips:

  • Bring your laptop.
  • Send in your dorm reservation as soon as you get accepted. On-campus housing fills up quickly.
  • Living in the dorm is the easiest way to make friends, feel connected to the school and avoid flunking out.
  • All clothes, pillows, quilts, towels, medicine, grooming aids, hair products, blankets, sheets, radio, computer, TV shoes and minibar have to fit into a space the size of a MINI Cooper (the size of a typical dorm room).
  • The most important shower accessory is a pair of Crocs or flip-flops. What's living on those floors can stop an army.

Real moms' advice

After sending three kids off to college (Baylor University, West Texas A&M, and University of Houston) Lisa Sirmons-Edwards of Deer Park, Texas, says these items should be on every college kid's must-have list.

Car accessories. If your student will be taking her car with her, think about what she will need for the car: A gas card (credit card just for gas) and an AAA card (or something similar.) If she has car trouble or locks herself out, you won't be able to help if you are hundreds of miles away.

A fan and space heater. Many dorm rooms are too hot or too cold. A fan comes in handy during the late fall months, and a small space heater (if it's allowed) can make a cold room more comfortable in the winter.

Febreze! College kids are notoriously messy. They will leave dirty laundry and leftover snacks in their rooms until the very last minute. Febreze can be a lifesaver!

A mini-fridge and microwave. (Again, check with the college's housing staff to make sure they are allowed). It isn't always convenient to run to the cafes, and having his own food and quick snacks available can make those late-night study sessions so much more fun.

Up next: Handling the emotional details

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