Shopping for Back-to-School – College Style


Contributed by Terrie James/CEA-Staff Chair Hempstead County

Fast Facts:

  • Coordinate with your roommate on what each of you plan to bring
  • Storage space is limited in dorms, so only bring necessary items
  • Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive, so you will need to shop around
  • Add pops of color through comforter sets and artwork


Many parents will be sending their first child off to college this fall. This can be a very exciting time for both parent and child. Most first time college students will have participated in orientation and have seen where their student will be living the next few years. The typical dorm room is small, cramped, and basic and doesn’t fit within the pages of the latest Southern Living home décor section. So, how can you transform this basic space into something that will be comfortable and feel a little more like home?

For most students, the dorm room will be home sweet home for at least nine months of the year. It will be a place to study and to kick back with friends. It should be a place where you can express yourself, shout your style, and parade your pizzazz—without breaking campus rules or your budget!

The first thing you should do is visit with your roommate and coordinate what each of you is planning to take. There is nothing worse than having two refrigerators but no TV or, worse still, two of everything!

While it is fun to plan, shop, and pack new college gear, don’t kid yourself. There will be only so much space in your dorm room and in most dorms, there is practically no storage space.

There are some simple things you can do and some necessary items you will want to consider as you head off to shop the next few weeks for back to school supplies for your college student. College packing lists can be found online through several sites. Most colleges will even have a suggested packing list. Determine what your individual needs are and be sure to pack those items. Remember, you can pick up items later when you come home.

But how can you transform a typical dorm room into something that will feel a little more like home?

Decorate with Style & Comfort in Mind

Keep in mind that your dorm room doesn’t have to be expensive. Shop around for the best bargain. Many stores will be running sales on these items in the next few weeks.

  • Add a little color with sheets, comforter, throw pillow and towels. Dorm room curtains are notoriously ugly, so replace with inexpensive curtains or add color with a valance. A couple of plants can also add a little color.
  • A mattress topper or pad can really improve the comfort of a dorm bed. They are fluffy and comfy and available in either feathers or fiberfill.
  • Large body pillows are great for sleeping, but can also be used to turn a dorm bed into a “sofa” or for extra floor lounging.
  • A big rug can soften the look and feel of hard institutional flooring and make it more inviting to lounge or exercise on the floor. A 5 x 8-foot rug should be big enough. If possible, measure the space to get the right size.  Be sure to get a small sweeper to vacuum periodically.
  • Good lighting at your desk, by a chair, or near your bed can make it easier to read and work.
  • A comfortable place to sit is a must for studying, lounging, or talking on the phone.
  • Use artwork, such as posters, photos, pennants, etc., to reinforce your room theme or highlight your special interests.
  • Closet storage accessories, such as peg racks, over-the-door shoe racks, belt and tie holders, and hanging shelves, can help organize your clothes and accessories to keep them off the floor, chairs, or your roommate’s bed!
  • Plastic totes are made to organize and carry just about everything. Buy inexpensive, brightly-colored, handled totes in several sizes. A big one on the floor of your closet can be used to collect laundry and use another to hold bathroom supplies. Simply grab and go!
  • A large bulletin board is essential for notes, photos, schedules, and assignments. It can help you get organized, show off mementos, and serve as a message center.
  • Filing space is another must have to organize completed schoolwork, insurance papers, and much more. Consider a locking file box for important papers such as bank account numbers, selective service papers, health/immunization records, etc. especially if you are more than two hours from home.

You can make your dorm room comfortable and cozy without spending a fortune. By making it your “own,” you’ll love living there!

Article by Jean Ince/News Release Terrie James

For more information on important papers to keep, setting up a filing system, or other consumer information, contact the Hempstead County Extension Service, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture at 870-777-5771 or visit our office located on the first floor of the courthouse.

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