Heading off to college is an unforgettable experience. There are so many things to focus on – and the dorm room is right at the top of the list! Parents of recent high school graduates: you’ll be surprised how soon the fall semester creeps up on you. Before you know it, you’ll be helping your kid set up her dorm room. And if you’ve got a returning college student, you undoubtedly learned a few lessons last year, and can help your student make some key changes to his dorm room. With summer here, now’s a great time to get started planning the best dorm room ever!

The number one challenge with dorm rooms is their size.  There’s not enough room, so keeping clutter to a minimum is absolutely mandatory! Invest in organization – wall shelves, bins, baskets and under-bed storage are great ideas for dorm storage. Keep an eye out for pieces that do double duty — like a storage basket for shampoos and toiletries they can carry to the bathroom, and then stash in the closet during the day. A wall-mounted magazine rack is a great way to keep textbooks and school assignments off the desk or floor. And free-standing drawer units are always welcome – for some reason there are never enough drawers in dorm rooms.

The right sized bedding is key! Most dorm beds are XL Twin, so make sure your sheets and comforter are sized to fit.  You may wish to get your student an XL Twin featherbed or memory foam mattress pad to compensate for a less-than-perfect mattress.

Is there anything you can do to make a dorm room seem less, well, dorm-like? In a word: color! Bring a little color in with your bedding, storage pieces, or wall art. Add an area rug to brighten up a chilly linoleum floor. And even if the window has blinds, consider adding simple window panels to bring in more color and warmth.

Finally, while college is the time to turn over a new leaf, make new friends and try new experiences, you can encourage your student to keep a few ties to home and display them in her dorm room. A couple of framed pictures of siblings or the family pet are perfect dorm décor. Add a favorite toss pillow from your living room or a table lamp or desk lamp from the past to bring a sentimental touch to his or her new environment.

Setting up the dorm room is exciting, but it can also be stressful. Don’t save all your shopping ’til the last minute, when you’re stressing out and competing with all those other frantic freshmen and their parents. Get started now so you’ll be ready to go in September!