You can ignore those glossy shelter magazines with the fabulous dormitory layouts, plush couches, stacked lofts and framed prints hanging on the walls when it comes to outfitting the college dorm.  Dorm rooms look nothing like that. Your teen's home away from home will likely be a shared 10x10 cell crammed with extra-long twin size beds, chests of drawers, desks and wardrobes. Extra furniture? That’s funny. And no one’s allowed to pound nails into walls. Most dorms have extra-long twin beds, so you probably will need extra-long twin sheets, pillows, a cozy duvet or blankets, and a foam pad to soften the industrial-strength mattress. It's mainly the fitted sheet that needs to be extra-long. The top sheet can be regular length, and you may not even need one if your child uses a duvet with machine-washable cover.  Save a few dollars by using a regular length foam or egg crate pad - it will be a few inches short, but once the sheets are on, your kid won't even notice. In our wildest parental fantasies, children do laundry. They will change he sheets at least once if you include a second set in the real world.

Outfitting the college dorm room

Some kids can set the alarm on their smartphone, bounce out of bed and head for that 8 a.m. class.  But a kid who had to be cajoled, threatened and dragged out of bed in high school, you might want to consider a more, er, authoritative clock solution in case ou have a freshman Rip Van Winkle. A little clock that catapults itself off the nightstand and scampers, madly beeping, under the bed, or one whose bed-shaking capabilities would register on the Richter scale. Your child will need several bath towels and flip flops for the shower, plus soap, shampoo and toiletries. It's nice to have a large plastic basket to tote it all, but check the bathroom storage situation first. Some dorm bathrooms have individual cubbies or lockers, and the size can range from exceptionally narrow to spacious. Your teen will need detergent, fabric softener  and a jar of quarters, unless his college uses debit cards in the laundromat ... plus, a rudimentary understanding of how a washing machine works and what happens when red T-shirts are washed with white underwear. (Although Shout Color Catchers actually work. Mostly. What he probably won't need is a printer. Some schools want papers turned in electronically, typically through web sites such as, which check for plagiarism. Every school offers printing privileges through the library. A mini-fridge, microwave (if allowed), electric fan (for dorms without air conditioning), television and DVD player are considered dorm room essentials. Not essential: a landline and answering machine. But make sure your child checks the dorm rules first. Some older dorms don't allow microwaves, for example. Urge him to discuss who’s bringing what with his roommate, and seriously consider renting, rather than buying the mini-fridge.