Dorm room 101
Experts offer tips for freshmen, parents preparing for move-in day

Getting the kids ready to go back to school is no easy task, but preparing a first-year college student to move into a dorm is almost as hard as getting into college.

There are many little things to pack that will help on move-in day, from disinfecting wipes - dorms may not be up to par with Mom's standards - to extra extension cords, paper towels, trash bags and duct tape. And all college students will tell you, don't forget the all-important shower caddy, to tote shampoo, toothpaste and other necessities.

Ralphel Smith, assistant director for residence life at the University of Georgia, said the one thing students should be aware of before move-in day is that they are going to be living with people who are all different from them.

"They want it to be a home away from home, but it's very different," Smith said. "You share a dorm about one-third the size of your bedroom at home, and you are sharing a bathroom with up to 35 different people."

Rachel Babin, a sophomore at UGA and a Lawrenceville native, knows just how tough it is trying to get settled in a new dorm room.

"My mom and my dad helped me move in on move-in day. It took us about six hours to move everything in the dorm, to set up our lofts and futons and to get organized."

To create more space, Babin and her roommate both lofted their beds. Then, they lifted their futon with wood extenders and put storage containers underneath. Babin also placed stackable plastic drawers under one loft for clothes, stackable shelves and a hanging shoe rack in her closet, and bought shelves for her desk.

Even though rooms will be shared with many people, it is possible for college students to create a "homey" atmosphere by personalizing their space with accent pieces, including area rugs, decorative pillows and throws, said Sonya Cosentini, a T.J. Maxx spokeswoman.

Bed-in-a-bag sets are an easy way for students to bring everything they need to the dorm room, plus they make it easy for roommates to get a matching set, Cosentini said.

Most dorms only have garish overhead lighting, so Cosentini suggests using desk lights, decorative lamps and reading lights to tone down the jail-cell effect.

Roommates might want to make a joint purchase, such as a futon, to make the room more inviting, Smith said.

"You're creating more than just a bedroom but a living environment to invite friends in to sit and stay awhile," he said.

SideBar: The Essentials

Ready to move into a college dorm for the first time? Make sure you've got everything you need. Some crucial odds-and-ends that can easily be overlooked:

' A can opener.

' An alarm clock.

' Your own shower curtain - if you're lucky enough to have a private bath.

' Shower shoes - if you're not so lucky.

' Removable poster putty or Velcro strips with an adhesive back. Make sure that whatever you're using to hang posters and prints complies with building regulations; remember that most schools ban anything that will stick permanently or damage the walls.

' A talk with your new roommates. The only thing worse than forgetting something is ending up with two (or three or four) of it taking up valuable space.

Source: The Associated Press