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It’s around this time of year that I start receiving requests for my “Ultimate College Packing List.” ´╗┐Making lists helps me prioritize and bring order to my projects and so ten years ago when my first born was headed off to college, I began a list on my computer of the many things my artistic, right-brained child would need for life in a college dormitory. After asking advice from friends with older children and checking lists given out by stores, I compiled this Ultimate College Packing List, which I’ll refer to as the List in this post. A few years later I revised it for my second child, and then again for my third child. With the changes and updates throughout the years, the List is now in its eighth version.

Word eventually got around that I had a college packing list and for ten years now I’ve mailed it or emailed it to friends, friends of friends, family, friends of family, and so on. It has been circulated way beyond my local area and I’m always amazed when people I don’t know mention my List! For example, I was in a store one day last year and the clerk asked my name and when I mentioned my name, another customer exclaimed, “Are you the Linnell of The Ultimate College Packing List?” When I said I was, she thanked me for the list and told me the story of how she came about receiving it! Yet another reminder of what a small world it is!

The List is pretty comprehensive and maybe a bit outdated with today’s technological advances, but my suggestion, as stated at the top of the List, is to use it as a springboard or a starting point. Personalize it for your child; delete items you know your child won’t use and add items as you are reminded of things your child will need. Some of the items on the List will seem far-fetched and unnecessary, but it is, after all, the “ultimate” packing list. I’ve heard back from moms who didn’t think their child would need a particular item only to find out he/she actually needed it and had to go out and buy it. And as thorough as I’ve tried to be, I’m sure there are more things that could be included in the List. For the most part, there’s a reasonable explanation for almost everything on the List. I should also preface this introduction to the List by saying that my children went to colleges six to eight hours away from home and did not have cars in college. Some of the items listed were based on availability – like needing medications in the middle of the night or being hungry while studying. So depending on whether or not your child has a car and depending on what his proximity to supplies is, this list could be easily adapted.

Another suggestion related to the List is that it’s a financial drain to buy everything on this list, so look around the house for extras such as desk supplies, cleaning & kitchen supplies, and things like pillows and desk lights. Ask friends whose children have finished their freshman year in college to save their bed lifters, shower totes and such. Save coupons from stores like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Shop throughout the entire summer and look for bargains on these items. Designate a room or part of the house to deposit your finds and purchases. It’s a lot of stuff to organize! Check with your student’s college housing department to find out specifics on what is allowed and what is provided.

Needless to say, my kids were the most prepared kids in their dormitories, and continued to be so in their college apartments. Stay tuned – my Apartment Inventory List (a good one for students moving into their first apartments) will be posted sometime this summer!

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College Care Packages

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When I was a freshman in college I received a care package from an out of state cousin. It was the first care package I’d ever received and, although I don’t really remember the contents of the package, other than dried prunes, it taught me about how simple gestures can mean so much. One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes sums it up, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I have never forgotten how my cousin’s thoughtful gesture lifted my spirits. One of my nieces has been away at college for about a month now and homesickness can set in at about this time, so I’m putting together a care package for her. In a U.S. Postal Service flat rate box you can cram as much as you want as long as the box does not exceed 70 pounds. The post office will give you the boxes free, you fill them, and then pay the flat rate for them to be shipped. They come in four sizes and the rates vary from approximately $5.00 to $14.00. Delivery time is usually about two days. It’s better to mail these packages at the beginning of the week, so that they arrive midweek and do not sit in the college mail room over the weekend.

Here’s a list of ideas to include in college care packages:
Sundries
scented face mask
nail polish
lip balm
hand lotion
shower gel
hand sanitizer
ear plugs
cute Bandaids

Food
pretzels
granola bars
microwave popcorn
microwavable cakes like Betty Crocker’s Warm Delights
cookies – homemade or store bought
dried fruit
beef jerky
instant oatmeal
ramen
Easy Mac
Rice Krispies Treats
candy
tea bags
hot cocoa packages
beverage pouches for water bottles such as Crystal Lite On The Go

Miscellaneous
magazines
seasonal decorations
water bottle
bubbles
DVDs
CDs
stress toy
Chlorox wipes
Shout wipes
Post-its
USB flash drive
pens
gift cards
quarters for laundry (if they’re not using laundry cards)
Frisbee
mini football

I’d love to learn what favorite items you include in college care packages!

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