There Are No College Credits Earned for Decorating

Seen all over the internet, but are they still friends?

Maybe it’s a cultural thing.  Maybe it’s just a Southern thing: proper manners, sir, ma’am, hospitality etiquette, but this trend of over the top decorating dorm rooms that are more luxurious than their bedrooms at home is, quite simply, ridiculous — especially for freshmen.

College is about getting an education.  A degree.  It means going to classes, taking notes and tests, studying, researching and writing papers.  Some students even work in addition to classes to pay the tuition for that degree.

That said, just how much time will be spent in that little room?  And they are little. While class schedules may vary, are they really going to head back to their dorm between classes?  Most likely once they’re up for the day and head out to class, they don’t return until around dinner time, same as working adults.

Let’s do a reality checklist for spending obscene amounts of money transforming a bare room into imitating a luxury suite at a five-star hotel:

Semesters are 4 months long (approximately).

How many college graduates can say they had one roommate for all 4 years of college? How many couldn’t live with a particular roommate for even one semester?

Unless your child is going to college with someone they already know and have made arrangements to room together, most freshmen are just thrown together based on a very vague checklist.  Some will become lifelong friends, others definitely not.

There will be 8 moves (in and out) over 4 years for all that crap, more if they keep changing rooms/roommates.

The college dropout rate is highest for freshmen.  Some decide college isn’t for them. Some transfer.  Some just flunk.

Unless their parents have downsized or decided to repurpose their bedroom, they still have a room to come home to for semester and summer breaks, which will be needed to store all that additional crap over the summer.

Adding in Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, spring break, (and perhaps a winter break), they will use that dorm room for less than 8 months total.

Some dorms have built-in closets, dressers and vanities which will affect decorating.

Universities charge for dorm damages – every year.  The rooms need to be left in the same condition found upon arrival.  It’s short-term, temporary rental space.

Lastly, why would you presume that you/your child’s decorating taste would be exactly like someone else’s to create a ‘cohesive design’?  I knew two guys at college who literally put tape down the center of the room to delineate your side vs. mine.  As you may guess, they didn’t room together all 4 years.

Of more importance:  Has your child received all vaccinations?  An outbreak of measles or chicken pox will spread faster than wildfire (as do colds and stomach bugs).

As reported in 2014, the market for all the crap being sold — and marketed specifically — for dorm living reached $48 billion.  (It’s beyond that now.)  The same article cited baby boomers as the ones shelling out all this money for their children’s comfort at college.  The Boomer Generation?  Wrong.  The Boomer Generation now have grandchildren.  They do not have children they are sending off to college for the first time since their own college days more than several decades ago.  This over the top nonsense started years after their children finished college.

Now for the reality checklist of all the crap:

Vacuums?  Seriously?  If they don’t vacuum at home, they certainly won’t do it at college. Vomit, beer and wine stains cannot be vacuumed.  Disgusting, but true.  In my day, if we needed a vacuum, we got the key to the maid’s closet and borrowed the university’s for the occasional use. The rooms didn’t come carpeted but you could bring an area or throw rug.  Pack some Resolve and Febreeze instead.

Dishes?  No need.  You ‘borrow’ from the dining hall at the beginning of the year and return at the end.  They always had a bin at the end of the year for returns: ‘no questions asked’.

Pots/pans?  Have they ever cooked for themselves before college?  What are they going to be cooking?  And where?  The room will not come with a stove/oven.  There might be space on top of a desk or fridge for a microwave.  Pots/pans will be useless in microwave. We used to have a common area with a 4 burner stove top and sink next to it.  The stove was mostly used to make popcorn (pre-microwave oven years), toaster ovens for everything else.  And don’t forget: dining hall.  Probably more than one eatery as the days of ‘college swill’ are long gone and colleges provide choices for every ethnic and religious dietary regimen there is.  Parents are paying mega bucks for meal plans that are well-rounded meals as opposed to junk food.

Fridge?  While some universities provide them in every room (not in my day), it isn’t always necessary for every student.  For one thing, they won’t be cooking full meals — any meal.  And those 4’x2’ items don’t hold much: quart of milk, juice, six-pack of can soda/beer, a couple of yogurt containers, and what, one ice-cube tray?  They won’t have time to cook nor go grocery shopping every day.  The fridges are useful for some snacks — and definitely not ice cream (no room — we had to eat the entire box of ice cream pops at one sitting).  We would occasionally borrow space from our friends across the hall or two rooms down.  Ditto for the toaster oven.  It’s what friends are for, part of the social experience of living on campus.  Again, dining hall, where they will learn how to ‘appropriate’ certain food items for snack time and why you‘re shelling out big bucks for meal plans so that they aren‘t subsisting on coffee and popcorn.

TV?  Seriously?  A) They can stream on their laptops.  B) TVs can usually be found in common areas.  C) They have no time between classes, studying, work, papers, socializing, sports, etc.  D) 500 stations of crap.  E) snow days will only occur for blizzards (and hopefully no one will be over zealous plowing and hit a gas line forcing evacs).  Then there are pool/ping pong tables, foosball, arcade games, probably a rec center…

Desk and chair?  Already provided.  No need to buy one.  No room for additional furniture, although floor pillows come in handy.  There will be lounge areas with couches and easy chairs and tables.

Closet/Dresser?  Already provided.  They only need clothes for one semester at a time. Did you forget there are semester breaks to swap out clothes seasonally?  They will need to arrange the room space for bikes, skis, other sports equipment, musical instruments, art supplies.  Besides, more clothes = more laundry.  They will not be allotting much time to do laundry.

Coffee maker?  No need for anything fancy, if at all.  Space is at a premium.  How much coffee do they currently drink?  And when?  They can boil water in a microwave or hot pot and do with instant coffee.  It won‘t kill them, since there will doubtfully be a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts on campus.  There will probably be more than one coffee ‘kiosk’ of some kind around campus on their way to class.  If there will be a stove available to them, they can be taught to make coffee the old-fashioned way: percolator. (for those late night study sessions)

Tchotchkes?  Useless clutter.

Decorative pillows?  Will only get thrown on the floor.  One backrest pillow is more useful.

Extra blankets?  The building should have heat so there is no need for more than a comforter.  A micro fleece throw could come in handy for outdoor sporting events, picnics and beach outings if they don’t want to drag the comforter around.

Stuffed animals?  Oh, grow up.

First aid kit?  Should not have to bring your own.  Every floor of every dorm when I went to college had one.  Every building on campus had one.  And we had an infirmary staffed by licensed doctors and nurses to treat most ailments.  Teenagers should not be attempting medical treatment on their own.

And what’s with the private bathrooms?  Do you really think your daughter or more importantly, your son, knows how to properly clean one?  A little swish every once in a while does not do the trick.  Best to live in a dorm with a community bathroom for which the university has a staff that cleans and disinfects every day.  Same for showers.  We did have shower curtains and if we ran out of soap or shampoo there was usually someone else in the room who would toss you something over the walls, (toothpaste in the bathroom) because dorm living is a social experience.  Besides, we had no time to clean bathrooms.

There’s no reason to spend $1000 on dorm decorating when most of what is needed they already have and can bring from home.  Most of the ‘fashions’ — and I use the term loosely — will be out of style by the time they finish college, if not before and will be utterly useless to them upon graduation — especially electronic gadgets.  Their tastes will change as they mature.  The XL twin sized linens will never be used again.  For all the wear and tear of dorm living, it’s best to shop garage sales and find some graduating seniors.  A moving van should never be necessary.

There is no shame in being practical and having basics:

Milk crates now come in an array of colors, not just green and can be used for storage and seating.

Pillowcases work just fine as laundry bags.  Easy to cart to laundry room and home and can be easily hung on a hook or thrown at the bottom of the closet or under the bed. No one wants to see a hamper of dirty clothes.

A plastic paint bucket from the Dollar Store makes easy carrying of toiletries to shower/restroom — or to hold any cleaning supplies.

A lamp for soft lighting from home that fits on a desk is a good idea since fluorescent lights 24/7 is murder on the eyes, and there will be times when one is ready to sleep and the other not.

A thermos is useful not only for outings, but for 3 hour studio and lab classes that provide 10 minute breaks which won’t be long enough to run out for coffee/tea/cup of soup.

A pocketknife that fits on a keychain is invaluable for life, since it includes scissors, nail file, corkscrew and bottle opener.  So is a travel sized sewing kit.

A written journal is superior to tweets to document the college years.  Not everything is on the ‘net, nor should it be.  Keep a scrapbook too.

What every checklist hawked by retailers and colleges forget: extra shoelaces.

The only new items I set off to college with were a comforter and a backrest pillow which my mom bought, and a set of four mugs that I bought. Total cost: less than $50.  Everything else I already had or found in my parents’ house — including the coffee pot.

My decorating theme: I’m here to get a college degree and my money needs to be spent on books and other class supplies.

I got a job to pay for the nights out at the pub.

Semesters are only 4 months long.

Care packages from home are always welcome.

My roomie’s mom always sent the best packages.

I don’t know which sib absconded with the back pillow.  (My mother used it for years.)  The comforter I pitched just recently after years of being used as a beach blanket, then a trunk liner for all those plant and mulch hauls. I still have one mug left.





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