Getting ready for dorm life

WYNNEWOOD, Pa. - August 11, 2011

You'll be more independent but living in less space, probably with one or more strangers. It's as much a part of your education as any class.

So how do you learn about this new life? First, of course, is orientation, when you get to campus, live in a dorm, and maybe pick your roommate. Between then and move-in day, you have a lot to prepare.

We visited the Bed Bath & Beyond store in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania for some pointers. This chain caters to college students this time of year.

Each store has an information center where you can get a handout sheet specifying what each school expects you to bring, what's banned in dorms, and what's recommended but not essential.

Most colleges have twin beds which are five inches longer than standard, so you'll need special sheets.

Some beds are elevated enough that you can slide some sort of storage unit underneath...a good idea since rooms generally offer little or no storage space beyond, say, one dresser and maybe a closet.

Some dorm beds are built high enough to accommodate this. If yours is not, a store can sell you simple devices to raise the bed higher in safety.

You can buy hangers which chain together so you put three or more outfits in the space of one. And there are inexpensive cardboard modules which collapse for easy transport then set up in minutes to hold items neatly in a corner of a room.

College policies vary widely on personal appliances. If your dormitory has an in-room kitchen, you may be allowed to being in a small microwave or a toaster oven. If not, even a coffee maker may be ruled a fire hazard and therefore not allowed.

Check your school's policy or that in-store information sheet. If a coffee maker is permitted, note that more and more students are choosing the single cup brewers which force hot water through a module of coffee, cocoa or tea. This gives you maximum variety in one easy-to-maintain appliance.

Microwaves and toaster ovens are inexpensive enough nowadays that you might be able to buy both for under $100. But do talk with your roommate before buying anything, because you don't want to end up with multiples of things.

You might even think about sharing one iron if you're allowed to have that. Likewise, don't be spending much money on appliances if you're subscribing to a meal plan. When in doubt, ask your roommate, ask school officials, talk to parents and friends.

If you're going out-of-town, your local Bed Bath & Beyond can help you find a store near school and even give you driving directions. You might even be able to get a hold of their sheet on your school before you go.

For more information, visit their corporate website Bed Bath & Beyond.

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