When moving into a campus dorm room for the first time, preparation is key. Yet new college students and their parents often mistake preparedness for a kitchen-sink approach to furnishing.
In a tight, shared space like a dorm room, there's a fine line between being comfortable and being overburdened by useless stuff. And the list of what's needed (or desired) is always changing: Advances in consumer technology often make electronics obsolete, and a university's must-have list can vary each semester.
One easy way to avoid a claustrophobic living experience is to coordinate before move-in day with your roommates. Few dorm rooms require more than one mini-fridge or microwave, for instance. Doubling up on smaller items, such as full-length mirrors and bulletin boards, can cause needless clutter and take up valuable wall space.
In size and aesthetic, many unfurnished freshman dorm rooms have more in common with a janitor's closet than a bedroom. But if you must buy a tapestry and a floor rug, it's wise to wait until arriving on campus before deciding. Rearranging beds and desks to maximize space is a game of inches, and there's nothing quite so disappointing as dragging across the country an extra-large rug that can't even fit on the floor.
Once room measurements are taken and furniture is placed, search the local area to find whatever else you need.
"We call it 'the Target run' here in Minnesota," said Sue Luse, an educational consultant and founder of College Expert. "Almost every college is somewhat close to something: a Wal-Mart, a Target that you can go to."
While some purchases can be delayed, many should be avoided altogether. CNBC spoke with college experts, current undergraduate students and volunteers with end-of-semester donation programs to find out what common dorm room purchases just aren't worth the space.