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  1. #1
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    Questions about furnishing a dorm room

    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. #2

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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. #3
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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.

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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.
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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

    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.

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    I don't think you can go wrong with a refrigerator - can't imagine any college would prohibit that.

    A combo fridge and microwave is also a good idea but not knowing if the microwave is allowed is a problem.

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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. 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.

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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! 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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenya View Post
    My roommate and I had a microwave and toaster oven in our dorm room, despite the fact that they were technically not allowed.
    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.

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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.

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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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenny View Post
    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!
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    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.
    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. #14
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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? ) 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
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  15. #15
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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.
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  16. #16
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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.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    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.
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spareoom View Post
    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.
    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

    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.

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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."

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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. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by nerdycool View Post
    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."
    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 ).

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