The basics for freshman year.

I asked my daughter, a rising college senior (no, I can’t believe it), what clothes first-year students need to bring to campus in the fall. Read on for her suggestions. 

By T.K. Brady

Adjusting to dorm life is a major part of freshman year. Closets are smaller, space is shared and washing machines eat socks. When it comes to your child’s wardrobe, there will be plenty of confusion and compromising on everyone’s part in order to pack the car and new closet efficiently. Here are some tips for helping your student make it through mid-semester break without too many trips to the laundry room.

Bring a fleece jacket While the August heat won’t warrant any kind of outerwear, the September and October weather will. A light fleece jacket—North Face, L.L. Bean or Lands’ End—should do the trick. There’s no need for a huge winter jacket yet or even winter hats and gloves. Save these for your Family Weekend visit, when your child has settled in and has a better idea what he or she has room for.

Rain boots These are generally a staple among college girls and probably the most practical thing your daughter will own during her college career. I wear mine all year long and consider them something I can’t live without. From experience, be prepared to spend some money on these waterproof wonders. Hunter brand boots are worth every penny, but if your daughter is shopping on a budget also consider Chooka brand.

No more than three pairs of sweatpants One of my biggest pet peeves in college is students wearing sweatpants or pajamas to class. Unless students have an 8 A.M. class, professors aren’t the biggest fans either. When I dress for class, I pay better attention and actually focus on the work I’m doing. By only bringing three pairs of sweats, your child doesn’t have the option to bum their way through the day, every day.


Hoodies are helpful This lazy-day staple is completely necessary in college. However, too many hoodies can lead to inefficient closet organization. Hoodies are bulky and generally take up too much space. I suggest trying to limit your child to three (four max) to leave room for other tops in their closet.

Shorts-to-pants ratio Your child will most likely start school in August, in ridiculously hot weather, and take plenty of walks across the quad. This warm weather will last at least three weeks before cooler temperatures arrive.

Consider how often your child wears shorts during the summer and fall months: everyday, sometimes, never? My brother wears shorts until the snow falls, but I prefer to alternate jeans and shorts during warmer months. This shorts-to-pants ratio should be left to your child’s discretion. However, limit him or her to no more than five pairs of each or you’re sure to see a mountain of laundry waiting for mom’s next visit.

Victoria's Secret Black Friday at Westfield Sa...

It’s what’s underneath I think someone’s underwear drawer says a lot about them—especially for girls. Think about the last time your daughter took a trip to Victoria’s Secret, or your son picked up a package of Hanes or Jockeys, then decide how much new underwear he or she needs. The more the better, trust me.

Anything with holes or stains (gross, but true) should be left at home. Bras that don’t fit should be tossed in favor of something flattering (your daughter should have three essentials: a t-shirt bra, a push-up bra and a strapless bra).

Expect the unexpected One thing I’ve learned about college closets is that they all have a lot less space than you need or want. Your child will bring something they never wear, learn that Sunday is laundry day and forget their favorite t-shirt at home. But it’s all part of the college experience; so don’t sweat the small stuff, know that garbage bags are more space-efficient than suitcases and let your child over pack (just a little bit).