University of Virginia

Last Minute Items for College

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The Last Minute List, 2019 Edition

We’ve got a few tips to save you some money and stress before you hit the road for college. We’ve collected these over the years from parent and student suggestions, and we hope they help your family.

Start with the back-up plan. You’ll undoubtedly forget a few things or need something at the last minute – so pull out Google Maps and find the nearest Target, CVS, Bed Bath and Beyond, wherever you like to shop. Just plan on making a shopping run and it will reduce the stress.

Next, get some school-specific advice on important items. Check in with the Dean of Students or Student Housing website to get some great ideas that will work with your particular dorm. Leverage the experience of previous students and their parents to make your life easier. What furniture is in the dorm? What is the clearance under the bed? Some Virginia schools will even rent you a small refrigerator and microwave.

Tip: Check one or two other schools for their lists of what to bring too. Look for the Office of Student Life or Student Housing. Larger schools will be more likely to have lists available to read.

Set up Amazon Prime or Prime Student before you go, and add the new address to your account. You’ll want to check with Student Housing to find the correct delivery address for a student living in the dorms. It can be a relief to know that most anything you find you need can be delivered to your son or daughter in just a couple of days.

Things We Love for Mom and Dad

Check into insurance. Some (not all) homeowner’s policies will cover your student’s possessions at college, but they will also be covered by your policy deductible. If your child is taking anything valuable (like a laptop), it might be worth checking into a separate renter’s insurance policy with lower limits and a lower deductible.

Most colleges offer tuition insuranceConsumer Reports explains what it is and how to decide if it makes sense for you. One thing to note: many policies are sold semester by semester, not for the full year, so be sure you know the full cost. You have to buy the insurance before the semester starts.

Update your auto insurance policy. If your student is taking a car to college, you’ll want to update your policy with that new location. If they are not taking a car, check with your insurer to see if you can save money. Many companies will reduce your rates if your teen is not at home to be driving your car.

If they will be driving, it might make sense to arrange for AAA or some other sort of roadside assistance coverage. Our older children had AAA coverage, and even though it thankfully wasn’t used much, it did come in handy at least twice, and it provided us with some needed peace of mind. Remember, the students with cars are the ones asked to drive on road-trips.

Things We Love for Students

The Bunk Buddy.  (Great for home bunks too for younger siblings.)  A space saving shelf that “hangs” off the side of your bunk rail or bed frame.  Attaches with no tools.  Great for a cell phone or a cup of water.

Long charging cords.  Dorm rooms may or may not have convenient outlet placement.  Six foot charging cords are a great investment, and there are even ten foot versions.  You do have to be careful with off-brand versions not working well, so do your homework before you buy. Bonus: take a power strip or multi-plug adapter too.

Under the bed storage. Parents know how valuable this space can be, but the trick with dorm rooms is that you don’t know the dimensions. See if you can find out from the college or from other students so you can be prepared to take advantage of this key real estate!

Small fan.  One thing that older dorm rooms have in common – you need a fan. There’s no reason to haul around a big box type, this little one can do the trick just fine.

Bluetooth speaker.  If you like music, you might have one of these, but someone in your dorm room needs this speaker!

Mattress Topper.  Yes the beds are probably XL, but there is not a mattress in a college dorm room in America that will not feel better with a foam topper.

Textbooks.  What’s to love about textbooks? Well, if you follow our suggestions, the money you save will buy some of these other essentials.  If you only have time for one site for textbooks, try

Two Ideas that Make Sense

First: don’t take anything to college that would be a disaster if lost. Does your teenager need your house key? Do you have a copy of the items in their wallet?  What would you do if they lost their phone? Are they taking a checkbook?

Second: get your documents in order. For some time now, we’ve been encouraging parents to consider three different legal documents for each of their college-age children. You can read more details here, but the three documents are a power of attorney, a FERPA release, and a HIPAA release.

The power of attorney can be helpful both in the case of an emergency or if you need to conduct local business with your child away. Talk to your attorney about the best way to handle this for your family.

The FERPA release will come from the college, and you will have to do some digging to find it. Colleges don’t mind sending parents an invoice, but forget about other things that you think are important, like grades. It’s not their fault, it’s the law, and the FERPA release can grant you permission (from your child!) to have access to this information.

The HIPAA release is fairly common, and it allows you to get information from any healthcare providers that your student sees. If the college has an infirmary or other provider, you can get the release from them. Otherwise, we suggest a general release that you can send to a provider in the hopes that they will accept it.

August is a busy month – both exciting and stressful. We hope these tips come in handy. If you have any questions about any of these topics, please send us an email.