Experienced parents share their best suggestions.

I conducted an unscientific survey of a bunch of friends, basically whoever is in my email address book and had sent a kid to college. I asked their thoughts on the essential items to pack for freshman year other than what I mentioned in my previous post. Here’s their advice.

Check the college’s website or call to see what’s supplied first Standard issue is an extra-long twin bed, desk with a chair, and a dresser. A friend said her daughter’s school gave students a garbage can, lamp and wall mirror. Our daughter’s room came with a small microwave and refrigerator combo.

umbrellaUmbrella Two is even better because one will be left behind somewhere. All college students do a lot more walking outside than they’ve been used to, and sometimes it’s going to rain.

Chargers, cords, earbuds, memory sticks, etc. Just like their parents, kids remember the electronics, but not always the power sources and accessories.

Flashlight with extra batteries In case of a power outage

Small emergency kit Stuff happens.

Power strip For all those electronics because there are few outlets in the standard dorm room. Someone mentioned there are new power strips that can be twisted around furniture.

Laptop lock Tethers the laptop to the desk or another stationary object so it doesn’t get swiped when your student leaves the room and forgets to lock the door.

Stackable bins Great for clothing, toiletries, food, etc. They sometimes fit in the closet or can be stored and stacked in a corner of the room.

microwavePlastic mattress cover Prevents bed bugs. Also helpful for kids with dust allergies—keeps the mites away. A protective pillow cover is probably a good idea, too.

Refrigerator, small microwave, coffeemaker Check what the school allows and supplies. The first two are essential, the third is nice to have.

Appropriate clothing If the first snow normally hits before Halloween, then pack the winter boots. If it usually rains several times a week, a waterproof jacket needs to go along. Students going to college far away from home won’t be able to pop in any weekend they choose to swap out clothes, so advanced planning matters.

snack foodsSnack foods Include favorites in single serving packages because open bags of food lead to bugs. Granola bars, chips, cookie packs, dried fruit, nuts, cereal cups, juice boxes/pouches and water bottles can easily be thrown into a backpack, too. Of course, check whether a roommate has any serious food allergies before you pack. Things like mac ‘n cheese and soups come in easy microwaveable containers, but don’t bring too many because you want your kid to use the dining hall.

Buy toiletries, etc. during sales at home Helpful when there’s no discount department store near your teen’s college, as one friend found.

Medical insurance card Or a copy of the card as well as the prescription and dental cards. A friend said she went to the local pharmacy and had her daughter’s information put into the system at the start.

Debit Card You don’t really want your teen carrying a lot of cash on them, do you?

Linens package through school All the parents who bought one say they threw everything out by the end of the year. They suggested buying decent sheet sets and towels when they’re on sale at Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and the like.

Mace on keychain, especially for the girls This one’s new to me, but it may make your student feel safer.

Packing suggestions Large garbage bags for clothes take up less room than suitcases.

Divide bins beforehand into linens, toiletries and paper/cleaning products/utensils, etc.

Shop online and pick up bulky items at a store near campus to save space in the car and on shipping costs.

Or, as one friend suggested, just bring your credit card. Check out the room for size and layout, see what the roommate has brought along, then go out and buy what your teen needs to make the place livable.

Students and recent grads share their packing suggestions in my next post.

Share your suggestions on packing for freshman year in the comments section below.