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LA Expert's Tips For Dorm Shopping

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It's that time of year when new college students experience a major transitional point in their lives -- moving away from home for the first time. The dorm life is a great way for new college students to segue into adulthood. It provides students with a valuable glimpse at what it means to be on their own in a supportive environment. It also helps them prioritize between luxuries and essentials given the limited space of most college dorm rooms.

As the Assistant Director of Student Life & Development at CSULB, Caitlin Roberts works with fraternities and sororities to develop educational programs that have now been modeled by other campuses. One of the many events that Roberts helps organize includes Dorm Move-In Day when members of the Greek student organizations come together to help new college students move into their dorm rooms while also sharing their own personal stories and helpful tips about dorm life at CSULB. Roberts shares some of these tips below.

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Figure out your budget.

Shopping for dorm essentials doesn't have to cost you a fortune, especially when basic essential furniture is already provided for you. Every budget varies from student to student and can range anywhere from $100 to $500. "Some students bring whatever they already have and don't need to purchase anything new, while others like to go all out and get all new stuff," says the student life director. Once you have a budget to work with, it will be easier to prioritize which dorm essentials are must-haves or nice-to-haves.

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Invest in a foam topper, or mattress pad, for comfortable sleeping. 

"Comfortable bedding and pillows are an absolute must," says Roberts. The mattress you'll be sleeping on in the dorms may not be the best so a foam topper, or at least something similar, is a definite dorm-shopping essential. Your back will thank you for it later. Target and Walmart are great places to find a foam topper, especially since they each have a special section catered exclusively to dorm living.

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Maximize your storage space with bed risers and organization bins.

Roberts believes it's important for students to remember that less is better. "Students will have a very small space, and will be sharing that space with at least one other person," she says. Storage bins that fit right underneath your bed is one of the best ways to get the most out of your limited dorm space. Roberts recommends taking summer clothes at the beginning of the year and switching them out as the weather becomes cooler. If you try to take everything you want on move-in day, there is a very good chance that it all won't fit. Stick to the basics and simply add as the semester goes on,

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Buy or rent a mini fridge and microwave combination.

While the dining halls may supply students with an overabundance in foods contributing to the old adage of the "freshman 15," students may want to invest in a mini fridge and microwave in case they are hungry and the dining halls are closed. According to Roberts, these items can be rented through most residential life offices. Stock your fridge with plenty of water to stay hydrated and healthy snacks like fruits and veggies to balance out your college diet.

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Get a laptop and a desk lamp.

Roberts final tips for dorm shopping is to get a laptop. While most college campuses do have computer labs for student use, Roberts describes that laptops are pretty much a necessity for any college student. She recommends getting one with a built-in camera so it is easier to stay in touch with family and friends during the school year, especially if your family and friends live out of state. While you're at it, you may also want get a desk lamp for those late nights working on a class project or assignment.

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Niki Payne is a freelance writer covering all things Entertainment in Los Angeles. Her work can be found on

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