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The summer before freshman year of college is beyond nerve-racking. It’s hard to feel fully prepared—or packed. Shopping can consume multiple summer weekends, unless you do some serious one-stop shopping. Pro tip: At your local Bed Bath and Beyond, you and your teen can get a detailed college packing list and scan any item in the store that you’re considering.

On move in day, the store (choose one near their school) will place scanned items in bins, which you can then go through and purchase what you still need. Not only is this efficient and organized, but you won’t have to drive a long way with a packed car.

If you’re wondering what’s missing from your college packing list, here are a few items that came in handy for me.


For anyone who has the top bunk, a clip-on nightstand can help keep it clean and organized. Plus, you won’t have to climb down the ladder to get to your desk. My roommate didn’t have this, so she’d always fall asleep with her laptop and chips in her bed.


I used a rolling cart to organize my toiletries and hygiene products. If your teen doesn’t have a private bathroom, use this to organize school supplies, extra clothes, makeup or shoes.


I remember my mom telling me these were unnecessary. Well…I proved her wrong (for once), because buying three of these saved me a ton of wardrobe space.


I’m not a chef by any means, but having a few microwave-safe bowls is a lifesaver. Everyone on my floor would ask to borrow my forks and plates. Bring basics like ramen or mac and cheese to get your teen through the semester.


Although cleaning usually isn’t a teen’s top priority, a tidy room is a comfortable one. If you give your teen some antibacterial wipes, they’ll be able to clean most messes. Don’t overwhelm them with cleaning supplies, but just basics for everyday spills and dust like a broom and small vacuum. Nothing’s worse than a stinky, dirty dorm.


You never know when your teen will decide to go on a quick road trip with friends or head home for the weekend. That’s why it’s important to have a small suitcase or duffel bag at the ready. A lot of people keep big suitcases on hand, but it’s important to have travel bags for shorter, impromptu trips.


Personally, I love using my scooter around campus because it makes going to class more fun. If you’re at a big school, I suggest getting some form of transportation because it allows you to wrap up last-minute homework before class and still be on time. On a big campus, students might have to schedule 20 minutes to walk to class. Some wheels can save a lot of time.


I go to school in San Diego, so bathing suits are a must. However, some of my friends go to school in cold places and still need a bathing suit at least once or twice a year. Pack one just in case—even if your teen insists they don’t need it.


Bring one or two “fancy” outfits just in case there’s a formal event, banquet or academic award ceremony in your teen’s future. It’s better to be prepared than have to buy an appropriate dress or suit the day of. Don’t forget nice shoes!


If your teen has one or two lying around from past years, bring them. College campuses always have a lot going on around Halloween, so it’s important to be prepared. Since Halloween is around midterms, this will keep your student from spending precious study time thinking about a costume.

Most importantly, don’t forget to remind your kids to keep their things organized. A cluttered space keeps students from flourishing. Running through your college packing list is scary, but it lays the foundation for a comfortable and productive freshman year.

—Lexi Caruso is a sophomore journalism major with an emphasis in media studies at San Diego State University. She graduated Trumball High School in Connecticut before moving more than 2,800 miles away for college.

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