How college registries can help you get ready for college

Two friends moving into college

Yes, there is such a thing as college registries

Last year was one of the busiest years of my life. Why, you ask? Well, it was the year I got married—and everyone knows that planning a wedding can be stressful. There are so many details to set up in a short amount of time, and it can be very expensive. 

Going through the process of planning my wedding got me thinking about all of the high school students who are gearing up to go to college. There’s so much to prepare for that big transition from living at home with your parents to living in a dorm or apartment on your own. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what you’ll need and how much everything will cost. All this while you’re also just trying to enjoy your last summer at home. 

I wondered, if there are registries for weddings and baby showers, are there ones specifically for going off to college too? You bet! Once I started doing a little Googling, I found tons of college registries available online on Amazon, Target, and more! 

Now that you know college registries exist, here are a few tips to setting yourself up for success before you decide to make your own. 

Figure out what you'll need

Although it may seem a little foreign knowing what to put on your list, have no fear! There are many college registry lists that have been created to help you get started, like this one: 

Popular items for college

  • Bedding (twin XL sheets, comforters, pillows)
  • Towels
  • Shower caddies
  • Toiletries
  • Laundry essentials (hampers, detergent, & dryer sheets)
  • Décor for room and wall
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Silverware or plastic cutlery
  • Paper plates
  • Desk lamp
  • Storage bins (preferably ones that fit under your bed)
  • School supplies (notebooks, backpack, pens, pencils)
  • First-aid kit
  • Cleaning supplies (wipes, duster, rubber gloves, paper towels, vacuum)
  • Trash can & trash bags
  • Gift cards
  • Extension cords & surge protectors
  • Fan
  • Backpack or laptop tote bag

When it comes to selecting the items on your college registry, it’s important to find a good mix of low, medium, and higher priced items. Depending on the variety of items on your list, it’s good to give family and friends options as they may want to contribute different amounts. Make sure you have at least a couple of items in different price ranges. For my bridal shower registry, I had gifts grouped in categories under $50, gifts between $50-$100, and a few listed in the $100+ range. Noise cancelling headphones or even a laptop (if you don’t already have one) are some of the more expensive items you could add to your list. Also, make sure to check out your school’s dorm shopping list to see what items you are and are not allowed to bring. For example, your school might not allow certain electrical items like microwaves or mini fridges, so be sure to do your research beforehand. Check out this “what to bring” list from West Chester University of Pennsylvania as an example.

Connect with your roomie on who’s bringing what

If you have a random roommate, it’s definitely a good idea to connect before you move in, so you go over some basic topics and get a taste of who you’re going to be living with for the next semester or year. Set up a call or meet to discuss who is bringing what so you don’t have doubles of everything. Of course, you’ll want your own storage and personal items to bring to school, but if there are bigger items that you can share, why not save some space in that tiny dorm room! For example, if your roomie is planning on bringing a mini fridge, an ironing board, or a mirror that hangs on the door, these are probably items you only need one of.

Give yourself enough time

Don’t wait until the last minute to set up your registry. As soon as you know the details of your move-in day, you should start putting your list together. Many stores like Target quickly sell out of their dorm room essentials in August, so give people enough time to purchase the gifts.

Make your registry shareable

Be sure to set your list privacy setting as public when you are finished creating it. This makes it easy to share with friends, family, and on social media. Depending on the website you’re using, once gifts are purchased, they will show up as purchased and usually there is an option for people to write who it’s from. 

Remember to say thank you

You’ll also want to make sure to keep track of who bought you what—most registries already do this for you, which is very helpful. Once you receive the gift, you should send your gifter an actual thank you note in the mail. They took the time to get something for you, so take the time to properly thank them. 

Alternatives to college registries

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of making a college registry and asking other people to buy items, reach out to those around you who were recently in college. Do you have older siblings who recently graduated? Neighbors from your hometown or family friends who just got out of school? Reach out to see if they have anything they no longer need. Also, Facebook Marketplace or the Nextdoor App are great resources for finding used furniture, storage, and more. NOTE: If you’re using one of these options, remember to be wary of scammers. Never give anyone your personal information (like your credit card details or phone number) and read up on how to avoid being scammed.

Another way to save money before school could be to set up a fundraiser like a GoFundMe to give you a little kickstart. If you end up going this route or receiving cash funds from your registry, try to deposit at least half of the money you receive in a goal-based savings account or high yield savings account so it doesn’t just disappear over time from your checking account. That way, your money will grow with interest and you can start to get in the habit of saving early on. 

You're ready to get started

I know the process of getting ready for college can be overwhelming, but you’ve already done the hard part of getting into school. Now all you need to do is make sure you have what you need for your living arrangements, and you’ll be off to a great start!

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