Smart Tips to Get Your Teen Ready for College

Getting your teen ready to send off to college can be emotionally overwhelming—for both of you. Mighty Mommy has some smart tips to help you ease your teenager (and yourself) into college life.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #338

Early August is a sign that we’re halfway through our summer (sorry!) and if you have a student who is heading to college like I do, it’s show time! This is the time when we need to get organized and shop for dorm essentials, start packing, and above all make sure our babies (we were just changing their diapers, weren’t we?) are equipped with the proper life skills to make it on their own in college. 

No need to panic! Mighty Mommy has some smart and helpful tips that will help you get your teen (and yourself) ready to start a college journey, which will hopefully be one of the best rides of his or her life!

Shopping for Dorm Essentials

With every new dorm comes a shopping spree. However, you really must keep in mind that your college student (unless living in a luxurious arrangement, rather a 12 x 12 dorm room) will have limited space for his/her things. That said, there are some items that can make your child’s new living arrangements a bit more practical and comfy.  Here are some essentials that are well worth the investment when shopping for the dorm. Remember, some of the bigger items might be able to be co-purchased with a dorm-mate or rented at the college itself.

  • Small Refrigerator and Microwave
  • Storage items: Under the bed totes, colorful milk crates, and clear plastic bins will provide helpful storage for tight spaces
  • Power Strip: For all those electronics that will accompany them to school
  • Laundry Supplies: Including, detergent, a laundry basket, quarters, and stain stick
  • Bedding: A Bed-in-a-bag set works well for college kids and don’t forget a mattress cover. An extra set of sheets is also a good idea and of course his/her favorite pillow
  • Bath Bin: A bath caddy stocked with shampoo, body and hand soap, and lotion are always a must. While we’re on the subject, extra towels, flip flops or wet shoes (dorm showers can be icky)
  • First Aid Kid: Band-aids, antibiotic cream, motrin, cold medicine, cough drops, antacids, diarrhea meds, tampons and maxi-pads, gauze
  • Night Lights

For a great dorm item check list, you can check out Bed, Bath and Beyond for their Campus Checklist.


Some kids want to leave home with everything but the kitchen sink packed up to go to college and others take the “less is more” approach and figure they can wing it until they get a sense of what their dorm life is going to feel like before they move too much stuff from home. Knowing that most dorm space is usually a bit cramped you’ll want to check your college website for a list of necessary items to bring or call the housing office for specifics. 

One important thing to note is that valuables, such as iPads, laptops and other electronics, should have the capability to be safely locked so bringing a small safe or unit that has a locking capability is a smart bet.

Clothing is a major piece of the packing puzzle.  Keep seasonal clothing in mind when packing and because closet space is usually at a premium, help your student pack reasonably when it comes to their wardrobe.  In other words, they don't need to bring everything they own, only their favorite pieces and depending on the state--appropriate outerwear.

Once you have an idea of what your student will be packing, set aside a couple of hours each day at least two weeks before the departure date so you won’t be scrambling all day and night before it’s time to load the car and head to campus.

Medications and Health Care

Be sure that all medications, both over the counter and prescription, are filled so they can be ready to be packed. It’s a good idea to have your teen get a physical with his or her pediatrician or physician prior to leaving.  This way, you can be sure that all vaccinations are updated and any other medical conditions can be checked out and taken care of in advance.  And don't forget those pearly whites—a dental check-up should also be scheduled before moving day.


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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