Questions about furnishing a dorm room

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Jenny, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    My niece is going to college next year, and thus is in midst of the excitement of visiting schools, doing applications etc. For Christmas, we'd like to get her something in anticipation of college life, like a small fridge for her dorm room.

    Questions for those with recent experience in this kind of thing - will she be allowed to have a fridge? What about other appliances like a microwave, toaster oven or kettle? Are there issues with power supply or fire hazard?

    This is the one I'm thinking of - GE 4.0 Cu. Ft. Compact Refrigerator
  2. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

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    You are a generous aunt. :)

    A lot of schools rent fridges to students through the bookstore or some vendor they contract with. That's preferable to lugging it in the car back and forth. As for microwaves and other heated items, a lot of schools don't allow them in rooms b/c of the fire risk. My college didn't, but I remember some students brought their own and put them in the kitchenette on the floor - dorms at my college had kitchenette's on each floor, but not every school does. And there is always the risk that an appliance could be damaged by random users.

    Since your niece doesn't know where she's going, maybe you could get her something she would definitely be able to use....like a bulletin or dry erase board or a desk lamp?
  3. Karina1974

    Karina1974 Well-Known Member

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    It all depends upon what the college allows, and you won't know that until she decides what college she is going to amongst the ones she gets accepted to. They usually send out some sort of handbook with the rules and guidelines of student life in that dorm, suggestions on what to bring, and they should have a list of things that are NOT allowed.

    The school I went to, for example, banned halogen lamps because they are a fire hazard. They also didn't not allow microwaves or toasters, because we already had a kitchenette, as a well as a fully-staffed cafeteria. They DID allow refrigerators, the small cube ones.
  4. Christina

    Christina Well-Known Member

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    Maybe you could give her a "gift certificate" that she can redeem with you once she is ready to go off to school, or shortly after she gets there. I know when I went to college, I thought I needed X, Y and Z, and really needed D, E and Y.
  5. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    Thanks for the input so far. She's a really good kid, so we don't mind spending a few dollars. I don't really want to do a gift certificate for something to "redeem" later or IKEA or something; I'd rather have the impact of the actual gift. She's excited about college, so I'd like to encourage that momentum by making it somewhat real with her first dorm room item, and in some ways her first grown up/live on her own item. As you can see, I'd also like to be first :lol:

    Perhaps if we keep the receipt and she leaves it boxed up, we could return it if she finds out later it's not allowed. Even if there's a shared kitchen, I think it's always nice to have your own, no? I recall a friend who shared a rented house with three other students during college, and the landlord had actually put 3 extra full size fridges in the kitchen to avoid issues!

    Other thoughts welcome - it's been many years since I was in college, and both my husband and I lived at home during our college years, so this is all new to us.
  6. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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  7. Jenya

    Jenya Well-Known Member

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    My roommate and I had a microwave and toaster oven in our dorm room, despite the fact that they were technically not allowed. :shuffle: We also each had a fridge, which came in handy. I think even if there is one in a shared area, your niece would probably appreciate having her own. My school didn't rent refrigerators or other appliances, but the fridge I used was also used by my brother and is currently being used by my cousin, so I think it was a good investment. :)
  8. skatingfan5

    skatingfan5 Well-Known Member

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    Jenny: I can tell that you are really excited for your niece, but as others have said, it might be better to wait until she knows where she will be going -- and what sort of living accomodations she will have. Some colleges require freshmen to live in university-approve housing (mine alma mater still does), but this doesn't always mean a dorm. After my freshman year I lived on campus in a building which had suites for every 4 students -- two bedrooms, a living area, a full kitchen, and bath. There was no need for a mini-fridge there, whereas the room I had the previous year was just 12 x 12 feet and barely had room for the two twin beds (with storage drawers beneath) and two desks w/ chairs which were its only furnishings. I forgot, there were two small wall-hung bookshelves over each desk. I don't think there would have been room for even the smallest dorm fridge!

    ETA: Milanessa, there is no way that fridge/microwave combo would have fit into my dorm room -- unless it were in the closet and then there would have been no room for clothes or anything else! :lol: My old dorm is still in use on campus and, in fact, is one of the "newer" ones even though it was built nearly 50 years ago. :shuffle:
  9. Karina1974

    Karina1974 Well-Known Member

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    You'd have been in deep shit if anything had happened. My college had a no-tolerance policy on the "Do Not Bring" list. They had the right to enter anyone's room at any time for anything. There were a couple thefts during the time I was there; they made everyone leave the dorm while they searched everyone's rooms. Anything else they found in a student's room that didn't belong there was equally fair game for disciplinary action.
  10. lmarie086

    lmarie086 Well-Known Member

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    As Debbie S said, you are a generous aunt. :)

    Most of the schools I toured showed dorms with mini-fridge and microwaves. I don't think you can go wrong with either of those, but as others said it does depend where she's looking. I do know that it also depends on the type of room you're in-I transferred sophomore year, and at my old school my suite allowed a mini-fridge, microwave and a toaster oven (my roommates and I had all three). But at the school I'm at now, I was placed in a suite with a kitchenette that prohibited anything more than a fridge and microwave. Of course, there are ways to have more if you just know where to hide them (not that I'm advising this lol, but as a former RA I know the best hiding spots :lol). But a fridge should be fine in a traditional freshman dorm.
  11. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    How about buying her sheets, comforter, pillows and towels? She will absolutely need those things no matter where she goes and what the campus housing is like and they are just as much "grown up on your own" items.
  12. Spareoom

    Spareoom Well-Known Member

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    Retail worker here; just thought I'd mention that most stores have a limit on when things can be returned, even with receipt/unopened. I know that for Target, the limit is 90 days, and some places are shorter; I don't think much are a lot longer than that. Something you'd buy now would probably have the returning rights expire by March so you'd want to keep that in mind. :)
  13. skatingfan5

    skatingfan5 Well-Known Member

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    That is a great idea -- especially if Jenny knows her niece's color/design preferences. And it is an area where good quality is very much appreciated (at least by me -- I love nice "linens").
  14. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

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    My godmother bought me a luggage set for high school graduation - I used that set until 2 years ago when I got a new one :) I agree with others that a dorm fridge, while awesome, might be a premature gift at xmas (before she knows her plans), but luggage should come in handy anytime.

    I do understand wanting to get her something specific about the college experience, and something that's adult and hers. Other items I can think of are tapestries (do teh kids still use those? :slinkaway ) or other art for dorm walls, perhaps a nicer or more compact stereo system/iPod speaker set, some sort of camping cookware (very helpful for the dorms), hot pot/teamaker, or other decorations that fit her personality. Perhaps a set of towels in her favorite color, and a shower kit? with shower shoes?

    The gift I got for my oldest niece when she went to college was a gift certificate to her school's campus store - but again, I had to know where she was going before I bought it for her.

    You are being a very nice and generous auntie :)
  15. Garden Kitty

    Garden Kitty Tranquillo

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    I just got my niece a personal Keurig for her dorm. they don't allow microwaves or coffee pots, but they do allow "pod" coffee brewers. But as people commented, it depends on the dorm.

    Also, if the school rents a refrigerator, that may be better than owning one you have to store each summer.
  16. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    I've lived in three different university residences, and each had their own rules about what was and wasn't allowed. And then there is the interpretation and application of the rules, which IME tended to vary in strictness depending on what other activities the residents of a particular room got up to :)

    Re the fridge, in one of the dorms I lived in, the university had an exclusive contract with an appliance rental place, and the only fridges you could have (they were those little bar-size fridges, like a minibar fridge in a hotel room) were rentals from that company. So even if she is allowed a fridge, it may not be just any fridge.

    How about combining some of the suggestions here, and getting her something like a set of linens (which I agree is an excellent gift for a dorm, and probably won't be forbidden) with a gift card tucked inside? Target would be good, as is Bed Bath and Beyond and Container Store.
  17. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    Good idea - except I think she'd actually like to pick things like that out herself. Her mom has always allowed her to choose the decor of her bedroom and most of her clothes, and she's always enjoyed it. But let me think about that one - maybe I can get her something really nice and grown up.

    genevieve's luggage idea is a good one too, especially as she'll be far from two homes (father and mother are long divorced) and her pals will be at different schools as well.

    Very good point. She mentioned the schools she's interested in, but I can't recall which were hers and which were her two besties, so maybe I'll just check them all and see if there's info on their websites. She did mention one place had a pod of 4 rooms with a shared common area as some have mentioned, but again I think having your own is still good. Think about what it's like to share a fridge at the office - I can only imagine it with a bunch of college kids :scream:

    And yeah, my niece is a great kid. Hubby and I don't have children, so my sister's two kids are all we have. She has really enjoyed high school - lots of friends, lots of boyfriends, participates in school programs, got a job at McDonald's in the spring (and intends to get a recommendation at the local McDonald's wherever she ends up, and work back home during holidays), and all the while gets good marks too. We are very proud of her, and hope she has a really positive college experience.
  18. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

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    Re: sheets. Some schools have extra long twin beds, and some have just regular size twin beds. So this would also fall under the category of "wait to see where she's going."
  19. Wiery

    Wiery Well-Known Member

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    I was going to suggest a case of beer and a box of condoms, but since you are her aunt, something more circumspect might be better...

    A printer is also a good gift if she doesn't already have one.

    If the bathrooms are down the hall, a nice robe and flip flops are wonderful to have.
  20. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    The vast majority have extra long.

    Towels and wash cloths, a robe, slippers, shower shoes, a decent blanket, comforter, throw pillows...definite needs and no restrictions on them. My nephew lived in a dorm for boarding school the last year and a half (until he decided not to do his homework and they decided not to keep him around if he was going to fail...but totally different story) and also wanted coffee mug--ceramic and travel, aluminum water bottle, throw blankets (a fleece one with a Beatles logo was a huge hit last Christmas), and a good reading desk lamp (not for use for homework apparently :rolleyes:).
  21. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    Although she's a good Canadian girl, her taste runs more to fruity coolers than beer :lol:

    As for the condoms, if she's anything like her mother at that age, she's well acquainted with the concept. ;)

    Another good idea - if I did go that route, I'd get a gift card for the local Staples for the inevitable costly ink refills.

    I like this idea too, maybe with a cute tote to take her toiletries with her? This might be a good gift when it's time to actually go off to college, will keep in mind.

    Everyone's being so very helpful - thank you so much!
  22. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

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    Yes, well, everyone's college is different, and I'm sure she weighed whatever possibilities there were with hers. I'm sure she is already aware of whether or not she would have been in 'deep shit.'


    Anyway, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a fridge and I have never heard of a dorm in a college that didn't allow them. A mini-fridge can be a lifesaver sometimes. I think she (and her parents!) would be very grateful. I agree that a printer is also a really, really good idea, and a microwave. As others have said, though, I wouldn't get the microwave outright as it may not be allowed.
  23. Christina

    Christina Well-Known Member

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    I'll second the Keurig idea as long as you include the My K Cup so she can use her own coffee, and maybe a gift certificate for some more cups.

    The linens are a really good idea as well - neutral and fluffy towels are great to have, along with a bath sheet.
  24. acraven

    acraven Active Member

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    An additional concern about buying a refrigerator now for potential use in a dorm next fall: Much of the warranty would run out before initial use.

    Do colleges no longer supply linens? When I was in school 1969-1972, my university (large state school) provided fresh linens every week. We could have used our own, but that would have meant more laundry for us to do.

    Some things that were popular when I was in school, though again they would be specific to the dorm:

    - covered foam pad for window seat, and back rest
    - beads to hang in interior doorway
    - throw rug (we had vinyl tile floors, no carpeting)
  25. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

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    even when I went to college 20 years ago the school did not provide linens. The idea of that is both :eek: and :lol:
  26. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    I think some of you are missing a key point here. I want to give her an impressive gift now before anyone else thinks of starting on college stuff. :lol:

    But seriously, lots of really good food for thought here, and do keep it coming because some of this might end up being next year's Christmas gifts when she's been there a couple of months. From friends' kids' experiences, that first semester can be the hardest emotionally, so maybe that's the time to give her the more homey stuff. For now, I think the cool grown up stuff is perhaps the thing. Plus it's more *impressive.* ;)
  27. skatingfan5

    skatingfan5 Well-Known Member

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    You had a window seat?!?! :eek:
    You had an interior doorway? Not to mention the linen service. I wuz robbed! :wuzrobbed
    My freshman dorm room did have the tile floor. :lol:
  28. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    The most practical thing I'd want is a good mattress pad. There's no amount of cleaning or sanitization that would make me want to bunk down on a mattress previously used by college kids :scream:
  29. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    Yeah...no linens 20 years ago and not now either, per my seniors the last few years talking about buying stuff. And I doubt that beads are a hot item these days.

    We had a window seat in our dorm room my senior year. Only room on the entire campus that had one. Also the largest double room on campus. Given the very uniform institutional type dorms most campuses build, I highly doubt there are many window seats. Our dorm building was an oddity built in the Depression. The newer buildings on campus were much more sterile.
  30. ballettmaus

    ballettmaus Well-Known Member

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    I know the fridge seems to be out now but Jenny, you said you wanted to give an actual give that sort of makes an impact and increases her anticipation, so if you give something that she needs to keep in the box and might have to be changed, wouldn't that put a damper on her anticipation? I know it would on mine because it would be a "maybe" gift that may end up being another one, so it's not really mine yet.

    As far as the printer is concerned, that was a very good idea! I spent the past six months in the US without a printer at first since I wasn't sure whether I'd be back for good after six months and whether or not my parents would be able to move to the US permanently. I don't print much in comparison to a student but one of the first things I got myself once my parents got their permanent resident card was, in fact, a printer.
  31. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    They weren't allowed in my dorms, and in many dorms I've been to fridges wouldn't have even fit because of lack of space (yes, even the small fridges).

    IME, the best time to purchase non-essential dorm items like that is just after the student has moved into the dorm. Then you know exactly how much space there is, what the other roommate wants or doesn't want, what's provided, what's prohibited, etc. Dorm shopping just after moving can be quite the fun experience.

    For Xmas, I would think something like a computer and printer would be better. Those are expensive, but absolutely essential for college. So there would be the big present dynamic, but no worries about it not possibly being used.

    Finally, just to put it in perspective, dorm fridges cost all of $50, so they really aren't a big deal. Ditto with microwaves. Computers on the other hand...
  32. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    Mini fridges actually run from around $90 to $200 at Best Buy and Target online depending on size and quality.

    Printers...I'm not sure about. A lot of students will submit assignments online in college now (usually to a database that checks for plagiarism) and may not need to print all that often. Someone in traditional college here could maybe speak to how big the need is for printing on campus these days.

    Depending on her intended major an ereader may be a good purchase. As a history major in grad school, most of my books are available as ebooks for a much lower price...but I can't afford an ereader. If she is going to be doing humanities that may be helpful. Other fields, not so much.

    A laptop is a definite need--but that's some serious money!
  33. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    Just to add to this excellent idea, a basket or carry bag to bring along soap, shampoo, towels, etc. is also a great thing to have in such situations.
  34. mkats

    mkats New Member

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    Jenny, you're a very sweet aunt!

    Re: Printer - my campus had free printing up to some outrageous number of pages that nobody ever fully used up, so she might not actually need one. Again, depends on where she goes.

    In my experience, things were about 50/50 as far as electronic/paper submission. I definitely had one day where I printed out the paper, ran out the door late, and the day was so blustery that the paper blew right out of my hand. I didn't have time to go back and print another copy so I was literally running people down, pushing them out of my way, chasing this sheet of paper down the quad, yelling obscenities at my own stupidity, until it landed and got wedged in a bike rack :lol: Prof was kind enough not to comment on the mud on it.

    I don't think anyone else has mentioned this, but my campus had no air conditioning in the freshman dorms. It got up to 105 degrees in the summer - NOT fun. The first thing we bought after we saw the room was the biggest window box fan we could find - hell, the university even printed out sheets telling you which fans to buy and where :rofl: Then again, I just remembered you're in Canada, so YMMV. :)
  35. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    You can spend a lot on a fridge to be sure, but here's a brand new Hello Kitty fridge from Walmart for $59.00

    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Hello-Kitty-Mini-Fridge/16541093
    I work in a traditional university, and you're right that a lot of submissions are online nowadays. But not all profs allow this, so printers can be useful. Also printers provided by the university aren't usually available for use 24/7, so if a student needs to print something off in the middle of the night, they will often need their own printer. Plus a lot of readings can be downloaded, and students often like to have hard copies of required readings to mark and such.

    So in general I think having a printer is very helpful.
    Yes, absolutely. There's no single item more necessary for a college student than this!
  36. ballettmaus

    ballettmaus Well-Known Member

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    But printing from your room is SO much more convenient.
    The cost for printing at Fed Ex is so ridiculously low and I passed one each day, twice. I still got my own printer. It's just one of those things, I guess... Besides, if you get a nice one with scanner and copy function... Depending on the quality it might also last beyond college.
  37. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

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    The best kind of printer for a student is one that copies/faxes/prints, which seems to be most of them these days, by the way. I use my copier as much as the printer. Saves a lot of time.
    PeterG and (deleted member) like this.
  38. Prancer

    Prancer The "specialness" that is Staff Member

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    All of the dorms where I am already have those in every room and students are not allowed to replace them (they aren't all that great; when the microwave runs, the refrigerator doesn't).

    Dorms are really hard to predict. A hot pot is a good idea, but it's not exactly an exciting thing to open on Christmas. Neither are most of the other things I can think of that would probably go anywhere--collapsible laundry hampers, nice shower caddies, many rolls of quarters, underbed storage, etc.

    Most of my students don't have printers, whether they live in dorms or not. If they need to print something, they take a flash drive to a computer lab and print it. But it is more convenient to have a printer in your room, especially if your dorm is a hike from the main campus,

    Flash drives are good stocking stuffers for college students; we have boxes and boxes of lost flash drives in the library :shuffle:.

    She might also like a tablet. A lot of students love their iPads and carry those around to classes instead of laptops. iPads are lot lighter and smaller, and can be used for quick notes, checking the 'net and reading email; of course, they also aren't as useful as laptops and you can't write papers on them. Well, you can, but only technically.

    Christmas is a pretty good time for sales, though, and students usually don't need high-end laptops; they mostly use them for writing papers and surfing the 'net, which don't require a whole lot of computer. If she plans to major in something like art, though :yikes:.

    But some colleges now include computers in their tuition, too.

    Does she like coffee? She might like a good single cup coffeemaker. I sure would have loved one in college. But that also doesn't seem like something she would open and say "Oh, college stuff!"

    Hmmm.
  39. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    They must have bought cheap from the lowest bidder. :lol: The ones we had in Air Force dorms and TLFs worked great.
  40. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    Thanks for all the continued ideas!

    For computers etc I'm pretty sure she's got all the latest, and that has traditionally been something her father provides so I'm staying away from anything like that.

    I really like the shower caddy idea - perhaps filled with nice products, plus a bathrobe and flip flops, etc - this to me seems ideal as an "off you go" gift next summer, when she's starting to gather stuff and will likely just pack up what she already has around, so something new and suited to shared bathrooms would be welcome. I do have to remember that her mother lived in both residences and off campus during her university years, so at some point she is likely going to start gathering this stuff too though - perhaps at that point I will coordinate with her.

    Will think further on the fridge - not quite ready to let that idea go yet! The model I was thinking of (linked earlier) is about $225, so although compact has more space than a lot of models I've seen that are more like mini bars in hotels.