What should I put in my daughter's going-off-to-college survival kit
August 13, 2013 7:58 AM   Subscribe

My daughter leaves for college in a couple of weeks. This MeFi post reminded me that I need to follow through on my plan to give her a survial kit. What should go in it in addition to condoms and lube?

As far as I know, my 18-year-old daughter has not had sex yet. She's going off to college this fall, and I have to assume the issue will come up eventually. I remember how embarrassing it was for me as a young male to buy rubbers back in the day. I want her to be prepared despite advance plans on her part of her partner's. In this spirit, what other similar items might be good to give her along with condoms?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (72 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

I would think that your daughter would be more embarrassed by you giving her condoms than finding them on her own. Why not just give her a list of Planned Parenthood/other family planning organizations in her area.

Failing that if you really feel a need to supply your daughter with condoms and lube have her mother or other female relative provide that.
posted by dfriedman at 8:01 AM on August 13, 2013 [14 favorites]

Dominos gift cards, Individually wrapped packages of Oreos and a Visa pre-paid card with $100 for emergencies.

Leave the condoms and lube to Planned Parenthood.

Seriously, the campus health center will have what she needs, when she needs it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:02 AM on August 13, 2013 [11 favorites]

I'm cringing involuntarily right now at the idea of my parents giving me condoms and lube, and I'm almost 30. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. There are plenty of places to get condoms on a college campus. Getting them from your dad would be mortifying.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:03 AM on August 13, 2013 [22 favorites]

2nding Ruthless Bunny.

If she's going to be living in a dorm, get her some good earplugs and an eye shade. Lack of sleep was maybe the single biggest threat to my health that I faced my first year of college, and a lot of it was due to the constant coming and going at all hours of my roommate and neighbors.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:04 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

The answer to the question, what should I send to a kid in college is always printer ink. It is not related to sex but it is important.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:04 AM on August 13, 2013 [16 favorites]

Rolls of quarters for the laundry machines. Excedrin, Tylenol, maybe Motrin in little bottles.
posted by killdevil at 8:04 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Send her off with a heartfelt letter about how much you love, admire, and believe in her. Add a framed family photo and a couple of rolls of quarters. Skip the sex stuff, it's not appropriate. Colleges these days have free condoms available. Also online shopping is easy and discreet. Let her be an adult and procure these things on her own.
posted by bonheur at 8:05 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, condoms will be very available and probably handed out by a bunch of organizations throughout orientation.

Gift cards for food is a great idea

Stuff I woudn't have thought to bring, but my smart mom did:
A basic sewing kit with lots of different colors of threads
A pot, set of silverware, bowl, plate
posted by goggie at 8:05 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

The laundry machines may all be hooked up to campus payment cards now! Check on that before bothering with quarters.

When I went off to college twentyish years ago, the one thing that I really needed that I didn't have was a water gun.
posted by telophase at 8:06 AM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

If she's going to be living in a dorm, get her some good earplugs and an eye shade

And a small bedside fan for white noise.
posted by jgirl at 8:08 AM on August 13, 2013 [7 favorites]

Gift cards for Starbucks or somewhere of that ilk - whatever is on/near campus. Not just one big one - several that she can dip into from time to time (also less horror if she loses one with a lot of money on it). A copy of her favourite cheer her up movie if she's not already bringing it with her - she'll need it at some crisis point. A card for one 'Dad, help get me out of this mess without lecturing me' call that she can use.

Condoms are pretty available these days on most campuses - they have in them in bowls in various places so you don't even need to look people in the eye as you scoop them up.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:11 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Have you already been making condoms available? If so, sure. If not, well, maybe, though seriously condoms are everywhere on a campus. Do not give your daughter lube.

A sewing kit, including small scissors, is really useful. Gift cards to places she shops -- also to amazon -- would be nice. Some treat she really likes. Duct tape.
posted by jeather at 8:14 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Medicine kit. Get some bandages, ibuprofen, anti-upset stomach meds, benadryl, etc. That type of thing you need right away and it's a pain to go get it if you are sick.
posted by demiurge at 8:14 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Tools. A simple toolkit containing a smaller hammer, assorted screwdrivers, a pliers, a stanley knife, and a tape measure. Handy to have when you need them, small enough that they're not taking up lots of room.
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:14 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Seconding that you should leave the condoms out. Honestly if your college age child is going to be sexually active but is unable, for whatever reason, to get their own contraceptives then treating the symptoms by giving them a gross (no pun intended) of Trojans is buying you very little in the long haul.

That said, I'd say an electric teakettle (which may still be against dorm regs but hotplates are 100% against them) for tea/ramen noodles, sleep mask, ear plugs, shower shoes, B-6/12 vitamins, and some hot cocoa would be nice additions to this kit. Along with what others have said above.

Perhaps a swiss army knife as well....
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:14 AM on August 13, 2013

In my son's kit last year we included medicines he may need (Aleve, Benedryl, Cough and Cold, Immodium), basic tools (hammer, screw driver, hanging stuff), basic sewing stuff (thread, pins, safety pins, iron on fabric tape for hems, scissors), emergency chocolate and mints, walmart/target gift card, fast food gift cards, duck tape, travel size toiletries for road trips, deck of cards, flashlight, extra batteries (all sizes).

Every college we visited either had laundry included in tuition or use of a swipe card - no quarters these days. I agree skip the sex stuff, easily available from less embarassing sources.
posted by maxg94 at 8:16 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

If her university is anything like mine was, she can probably get a better deal on condoms than you can. Mine sold 100 name-brand condoms for $13.

If she's living in a dorm, consider getting her some earplugs. I like these.

I wouldn't get her a fan for white-noise if she'll be sharing a room with somebody. They might not appreciate it.
posted by Precision at 8:23 AM on August 13, 2013

Among the best advice you can get is to imagine her roommate going through everything you send her to college with. TRY NOT TO BE EMBARRASSING. No sexy stuff. It's bad enough imagining your parents having had sex, let alone knowing they have thought about you having sex.

I would make sure she had phone credit to call home. Something decent to play music on. Some good earphones. An empty perspex frame so she can find a poster to put in it when she gets there. Very basic crockery/cutlery for two. Crappy coffee mugs for four. The contents of a full washkit, including headache pills and silicon earplugs. Individual laundry doses. Printer ink. Think expensive, almost discretionary stuff that she may skimp on and which doesn't take up much space.

Also: a post-dated check for small $x every month with the explicit verbal instruction to do something fun with it. An up front check for the first round of groceries and any essentials. Don't bring them. Let her go choose and be an adult. If she misspends it that's her issue.

For the rest, I wouldn't bother. Sewing kits, tool kits etc are really useful but if they don't get used in the first term they'll be loaned out or lost. You also don't want to be the person who arrives at college and needs seven trips to and from the car to haul your stuff in.

Finally - I'm unfamiliar with how things play in the US but if she needs official documents to open new bank accounts or prove her age, address or whatnot then give her photocopies of those.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:23 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Duct tape, bandaids (variety pack), neosporin/cortisone, decent sunscreen. Do not buy lube-- for one thing everyone's tastes are different for another, she will not find it helpful and possibly creepy. If you want, you could get her a gift card to Walgreens or CVS to cover those or any other medical emergency. The college students I know always put off getting OTC medication and braces or whatnot unless they're really sick because they're relatively expensive if you're 18. My parents used to buy me packs of real sudafed (I miss those pre-meth days) and 500-count bottles of ibuprofen from Costco and that was a LIFESAVER.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:28 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think people are being a little tough on you about the condoms. Sure, include a box. Skip the lube, though; that might be too much.

Dorm life might have changed a bit in the past 20 years but here's a list of things I wish I'd had my freshman year:

An extra set of extra long twin bed sheets
An extra long mattress cloth pad because lots of 18 year olds have slept on the mattress she'll be using.
A laundry bag
laundry detergent
An electrical hot pot to boil water for above Ramen.
pain killers (advil, tylenol, etc)
a good first aid kit
shower shoes
The name and number of a local taxi company
gift cards for pizza and a good grocery store or target
gas station gift cards if she's taking a car
Does Red Box have a gift card option? Or maybe a netflix account?
Printer ink is a good idea
a coffee pot? coffee?
Those lysol wipes to make cleaning easy and painless.

That's all I can think of for now. Good Luck to you both. The first year away from home can be hard. The best thing you can give her is your support. Let her tell you about it all and listen without judging when she calls home.
posted by dchrssyr at 8:28 AM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think your heart is in the right place, but I suggest you fill this kit with:
  • things that are helpful for studying (cozy sweater, a few mugs and some tea/coffee/cocoa, maybe some high-quality notebooks that are nice to write in, some good pens, etc.)
  • maybe some tickets to local museums or other fun stuff near her campus
  • useful things like killdevil's suggestion of quarters, a first aid kit, etc.
  • relaxing things, like a nice pillow and/or nice new sheets, maybe with a lavender-filled eye mask
  • fun stuff for her dorm room (a poster she'd like, a cool lamp)
Then, think about the sex ed she's gotten so far. Are you concerned that she doesn't know the basics? Are you concerned that she doesn't have healthy relationship skills? Have you or another adult talked to her about the importance of consent, and emphasized that nothing (drinking, being alone with someone, etc.) can obviate the need for it? Basically, what's motivating your impulse to send her off with condoms and lube?

You have a few weeks before she leaves for school, so I suggest you talk to her--not about the logistics of getting condoms, but about her general hopes and expectations for college. See if there's a good moment to bring up things you experienced in college relationships (including friendships, crushes, as well as dating relationships), or things you hope she'll get to experience, or concerns you have. It may make sense to take an approach that says, "I believe in you, and I'm proud of you, and it's also scary to think I have to let go. You get to make your own decisions now, and I think you'll make good ones, but I hope you know you can always talk to me if you need me."
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:29 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

No condoms, no lube. They will be everywhere on campus for free if she needs them, and her dad giving them to her will skeeve her out like crazy.

Thinking back to the things my parents got me:

* Basic OTC medicine
* quarters for laundry
* Some means of air-drying clothing (collapsible drying rack, some kind of suction-cup-attached clothesline, etc.)
* pens
* A couple of USB drives to go with her computer
* gift cards to Starbucks and Target
* some gift card to whatever foofy ice cream/candy/chocolate/etc. establishment would be nearby
* Sewing kit
* kitchen supplies as appropriate (check whether you can cook in her dorm - not all dorms will let you)
* an electric kettle and boxes of whatever tea/hot cocoa/instant soup she likes

And finally:

* A box set of either the complete works of her favorite band or the complete series for her favorite show.*

* After a month of watching my mother buy me practical things, my father finally got me the Eric Clapton box set - I wasn't an especially enormous Eric Clapton fan, but I still appreciated it because it sent the message that "yeah, you're going away and need practical things, but good Christ you also need to live it up a little".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:29 AM on August 13, 2013

If people see a girl with condoms in her room, that screams "HAVE SEX WITH ME RIGHT NOW!" You know, unless she has a boyfriend.

Do you really want to set her up for that?

Gift cards for food are good because they have to use it on food.

Check the campus print abilities. Mine you got something like 500 pages a semester of black & white stuff. So didn't need a printer if you trusted yourself getting things done early enough.

Same with laundry. Mine was free, the year before they had hotel room key cards. No quarters needed.

But seriously, don't send her with condoms.
posted by theichibun at 8:31 AM on August 13, 2013

If there are important dates she needs to keep track of that you've always kept track of for her, create a Google calendar (or similar) that you can share access to with birthdays of relatives, doctor appointments already made, etc on it so she can easily have access to them.
posted by skittlekicks at 8:33 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

The most useful thing in my going-away-to-college kit: Nail clippers. I still have mine, years later.
posted by xil at 8:34 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Condoms are pretty easy to find. How about an appointment with her gyn to discuss the birth control of her choice?
posted by florencetnoa at 8:42 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you ask a mod to post it in the thread for you, and you feel comfortable sharing exactly where she is going to college (or at least what city/town/neighborhood), I bet MeFites could suggest really great local coffee/decor/clothing/food shops to give her gift cards to. It's one thing to get a Starbucks giftcard, but it's another to get one from a really cool local joint.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:46 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

If people see a girl with condoms in her room, that screams "HAVE SEX WITH ME RIGHT NOW!" You know, unless she has a boyfriend.

Okay, I will just say that this has not at all been my experience at all and this is not a great reason for any student to have decent protection available to them at all times. OP, just make sure that your daughter knows she can always ask for help being safe, whatever help that might be.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:47 AM on August 13, 2013 [21 favorites]

If people see a girl with condoms in her room, that screams "HAVE SEX WITH ME RIGHT NOW!" You know, unless she has a boyfriend.

I do not know if you are joking but this is not true and it's an odd thing to say in the context of this thread.

I would also suggest no condoms. And definitely no lube. I would suggest: microwave popcorn, a few gift cards, highlighter pens, a good surge protector, packets of laundry soap and other good laundry gear, sewing kit, lots of any OTC medicine that she takes (esp if she takes anything expensive like allergy meds), library card at her local library, a nice bathrobe or something to wear from the shower to her room if it's that sort of setup, maybe a nice houseplant, photos of the family and/or the family pets and/or some nice memory stuff from high school, fuzzy slippers/socks, in-room coffee maker and coffee if those are allowed and she's a coffee drinker.

I do appreciate that you want to be helpful re:condoms, but college is really the one place where condoms are reliably available and very low cost or (usually) free, so I wouldn't worry too much. Toss in a few if you have a general first aid kit (which is a good idea actually) but otherwise I'd really downplay that aspect.
posted by jessamyn at 8:48 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I didn't need 90% of the crap my parents packed me off with in 2002. All of the stuff they tell dorm kids to get can be acquired if/ when she needs it, and if she doesnt wind up needing it it's just a pain the ass to schlep. Encourage minimalism and DO NOT SEND LUBE.
posted by bleep at 8:48 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Also for me prepping for the dorm was a lot of fun and made me feel grown up. Let her take the lead on this.
posted by bleep at 8:50 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

A credit card off your account with a low-ish limit and EMERGENCY USE ONLY written neatly on the front in a sharpie.

For example, there are times she won't have any cash and may want to get a cab home from a strange place.
posted by nickrussell at 8:51 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

A torchiere lamp with the brightest bulb you can find.
posted by brujita at 8:53 AM on August 13, 2013

If people see a girl with condoms in her room, that screams "HAVE SEX WITH ME RIGHT NOW!" You know, unless she has a boyfriend.

Cripes. I would recommend sending her with the knowledge that she is not inviting sexual assault by having protection handy.

Also, an air freshener. Some dorm rooms smell... not so fresh.
posted by annekate at 8:54 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would avoid junk food and fast food-related gifts - trust me, she'll be buying a LOT of that already. No need to encourage it further.

If she has a full-sized fridge, a frozen container of her favourite freezable meal for when she's homesick (mini fridges will ruin it, don't bother). Otherwise (or additionally), homemade cookies, if someone in your house can bake.

Gift cards for things like coffee, groceries, bookstores

Strongly seconding the electric kettle and tea idea - awesome.

A comprehensive first aid/"sick kit", maybe just with a few of everything - bandaids, cold medicine, lozenges, benadryl, chicken soup packets, painkillers, etc etc etc. This stuff is only a few dollars each but it can add up quickly for a college student, plus it sucks to go get it all when you're sick.

Earplugs (optional but might be a lifesaver if she has a loud roommate unexpectedly).

Basic cooking/preparing tools, even if she doesn't have a fridge and stove - cutting board, decent knife and a way to keep it sharp, measuring cup, etc.

Long-distance phone card, assuming you're far away and she doesn't have a plan. Optional, if any of you hate the phone.

Most importantly, the knowledge that she can come to you with any problem or concern and won't get judged for it.
posted by randomnity at 8:59 AM on August 13, 2013

Oh - and of course she can take the lead on this, but if she wants to, don't talk her out of taking her favorite teddy bear/stuffed puppy/blankie/whatever that she's had since she was five.

(Looks at 41-year-old Snoopy fondly)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:06 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

For some reason, giving my child lube would feel awkward. I gave my son condoms. I talked to him very frankly about sex, on a number of occasions. I encourage you to give your daughter condoms, lube, and to talk to her about using them. She isn't going to put them where everyone will see them. Her roommate may end up swiping one, and that's a good thing, too. Most college campuses have a health service, and they will have free condoms.

So many great ideas in this thread. Get envelopes, address them to you, and stamp them. Ask her to send occasional real mail - it feels so nice to get. Do the same for her. Everybody loves getting mail. Sending her gift cards and treats every month would be really great.
posted by theora55 at 9:12 AM on August 13, 2013

If you're sending snacky things, I like these boxes by GoPicnic. They're shelf stable, reasonably healthy, and they taste good. You can buy them on Amazon, too.

I don't agree that you should not send condoms. I bought my son his first box of condoms (a sampler) when he was about 14, not because he was in immediate need, but because I wanted him to get used to their presence as an everyday object. I wanted him to learn at his own pace what they look like, how to use them, etc. Also, that they are available all over the place on college campuses doesn't mean that a particular young adult will avail herself of them, if she's the shy type. It really can't hurt.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:15 AM on August 13, 2013

Her problem at college is going to be "where can I go that I will not be given free condoms."

What I would suggest is getting her an appointment with a gynecologist. I had my first-ever gyn appointment shortly before leaving for college, because my mom (with whom I have never and will never ever discuss sex) said, "you should probably get checked out for ovarian cysts since they run in the family." She's an adult, and any questions she has are going to be much better and much less awkwardly addressed by a professional.

Do not give your kid lube. Condoms maybe. But lube is...no. God, I would have died.
posted by phunniemee at 9:19 AM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

OK, obviously I typed that out way too quickly and didn't explain my reasoning. It happens, I already know I need to work on that.

I'm basing this off of what I saw/heard first hand when I was in college. Granted, that was something like 5-8 years ago so times may have changed. I sure hope so.

I was involved in a group that helped people move in at the start of the semester. Every single girl that had visible condoms/protection when we moved in was talked about as being easy. As someone who really wanted to have sex with people. And she was a target.

Now, this doesn't mean she was a target for rape or anything. But what it did mean was that more than her fair share of people were trying to get into her pants. Which, I probably should have said before, is not something she should have had to put up with at all.

Now, a fair number of these girl's roommates weren't fans either. They'd gone from super protected suburbia to OHMYGODSOMEONEISHAVINGSEXINMYROOM!!11!!! You can imagine the horror of 17-18 year old innocent saving herself for marriage Suzie when she's suddenly living with someone who doesn't share the same values as her.

Just to clarify. I in no way meant to say that your daughter would be a target for rape. What I did mean to say is that people don't bring condoms to college and plan to not use them.

you have to remember, she'll be living with 18-20 year old dumbasses. I'd see them and not bat an eye, as would anyone here. But when you have 18 year old males around condom=she'll have sex with them.

It's not right, it shouldn't be that way, but that's the way people reacted when I saw it.
posted by theichibun at 9:22 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

A hotpot/electric kettle and a toaster oven were absolutely essential for me as a student. A cheap rice cooker is great too. She should have a small fridge. Coffee-maker possibly, if that's her taste.

A tour of the town off-campus is a great idea too. Transit maps, bus tickets, a bike if she wants one.
posted by bonehead at 9:26 AM on August 13, 2013

I think the condom and lube thing has probably been fully addressed.



Things to hang pictures with, either the blue-tack stuff or the 3M magic release hanger thingies.

A desk lamp.

Sturdy laptop case.

Sturdy book bag or messenger bag or what have you.

Mini-fridge if acceptable in the dorm.

Microwave if acceptable in the dorm.



Printer ink

Duct tape
posted by craven_morhead at 9:50 AM on August 13, 2013

Rolls and rolls and rolls of quarters for laundry.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:52 AM on August 13, 2013

I'm a 37 year old woman and if at any point in my entire life my dad bought me lube, I would never talk to him again. That's fucked up. You aren't in charge of managing any part of your daughter's sexuality.
posted by peep at 9:57 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

The single best thing I brought with me to college was an electric teakettle.
posted by coppermoss at 9:57 AM on August 13, 2013

You're going to give your daughter condoms and lube? I don't know how much you talk about these sorts of things with her, but she might find it embarrassing and she might take it as pressure that there is an expectation that she do have sex while at college. She may not want to have sex yet.

How about instead you just talk to her? Be a parent. Tell her she needs to use protection if she does have sex. Tell her how much it would ruin her life if she doesn't have sex without a condom because she gets caught up in the moment. Tell her if she needs to go on birth control she can. Do not give her a going-away box with condoms and lube inside. That is straight-up weird.

I find it funny how many people don't understand this question. OP, if you want to "give" her something, give her a book that talks about safe sex and the consequences of STDs and unwanted pregnancy. I can't recommend any specific books, but I am sure Google or AskMeFi would have some ideas.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:04 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just to emphasize again: quarters are now useless for laundry at most colleges. Basically everywhere uses rechargable cards these days.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:04 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

What I did mean to say is that people don't bring condoms to college and plan to not use them.

This is also not necessarily true, and not helpful to the OP or their daughter. This may be the prevailing attitude at some schools, but is neither accurate nor universal. Agreed, though, with the overall consensus that she will have no trouble finding condoms.

Does she have a bathrobe and flipflops? Not everyone uses them, but they can be great for walking to and from shared bathrooms. You might also consider including a subscription to a monthly snack box or something like that, so the care package lasts throughout the year.
posted by dizziest at 10:05 AM on August 13, 2013

- My dorm was always freezing. A nice warm blanket and some fuzzy socks would probably be appreciated!
- Little box of office supplies, household stuff, sewing stuff, Command Adhesive and hooks
- Small toolbox (compact but not too dinky) and also a set of mini-screwdrivers for her computer
- OTC meds like Tylenol, Pepto, etc.
- If she has a laptop, a second charger is a lifesaver. Keep one plugged in at home and one in your backpack.

Also agree that you don't need to give her, um, supplies, but if she hasn't been to the gyno this is a good time for her to get her first pap and such. And maybe sit down and have a frank discussion with her to make sure she understands how to protect herself.
posted by radioamy at 10:06 AM on August 13, 2013

A mini photo book filled with pictures of her family and friends. It's sentimental, and she'll probably never admit it, but she'll miss you. It's nice to have a physical book to flip through.

Things to personalize the dorm room. A string of lights. Glow in the dark stars for the ceiling. Prints of art by her favorite artist or posters from her favorite movie. Some of those velcro 3M command strips for hanging stuff on the walls.

A reading light that she can clip onto her bed for late night studying. Small-space organizational stuff -- like one of those plastic drawer organizers and maybe some under-the-bed storage boxes.
posted by Ostara at 10:47 AM on August 13, 2013

How about some books on relationships? Attached, He's just not that into you, The gift of fear...
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:50 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely set her up with a gyn appointment rather than the whole condoms/lube thing. That's just... no on so many levels.

What I appreciated when I went to college:

- Starbucks/Dominos/other gift cards, a bunch of small amounts rather than one large one.
- Mini sewing kit
- Mini tool kit
- First aid kit with OTC meds
- an emergency credit card (although this depends on how financially responsibly your kid is; I was, even at that age.)
posted by Tamanna at 10:55 AM on August 13, 2013

For the record, not all colleges hand out condoms and lube. Mine didn't; it was religiously affiliated. It might be worth it to check that the college she's going to does make this stuff available to students. Regardless, you don't want to give them to her, but asking her if she wants to go to the gyno before school starts isn't a bad idea.
posted by jenlovesponies at 10:57 AM on August 13, 2013

You mentioned a "survival kit," which I see more as a box that your daughter will stick under her bed and refer to later. Hopefully, if she uses them, she has things like a coffee pot* already.

It's been said, but no quarters, we don't need them anymore.

This is a list of things I wish I kept in a survival kit under my bed:

- cash
- a fold-up umbrella
- the OTC med stuff people mentioned above.
- extra tampons
- package of underwear
- extra cutlery (fork, knife, spoon)
- flashlight and batteries
- command hooks

The condoms have been discussed, but honestly, if you want to promote a healthy relationship, including an extra toothbrush, guy's deodorant, extra towel, large flip-flops, and some cheap shampoo will do it, and will be more subtle. Finding condoms on campus is easy. Finding an extra towel and shampoo and shower shoes because you and your boyfriend both need to shower and you only have one bottle of shampoo and one towel and a pair of shower shoes five inches too small is not as easy.

*Coffee pots are not allowed in my dorm because they are open coil.
posted by obviousresistance at 10:58 AM on August 13, 2013

What I did mean to say is that people don't bring condoms to college and plan to not use them.

I think this actually raises a really, really important point: our society is unfair to women, and it's not just predatory men who perpetuate the unfairness--plenty of well-intended, ordinary people, men and women alike, unthinkingly (and uncritically) carry with them expectations and assumptions about how women "should" be, and make judgments of women based on how well or poorly their choices and appearances match those expectations. Her roommate could have a background that leads her to believe that a woman who has her own condoms is some kind of slut, or is at least sexually active or actively planning to be.

So, I don't think this should really impact what you pack for her, but I think that it should impact how you talk to her in the next few weeks. Since you're concerned about making sure she's prepared for safer sex, it would be smart to make sure you've spoken to her about the jarring ways otherwise nice people, men and women, can subtly (or overtly) promote sexist ideas about relationships, unhealthy choices, and rape culture.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:05 AM on August 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Nthing earplugs a zillion times, and a sleep mask! A gift cash and/or phone card because she will need it, trust me. Tampons or napkins, whatever she uses. A sleep pillow stuffed with lavender. Her teddy bear or whatever lovey, if she forgot to take it in the frenzy of packing for school.

A lovely note tucked into a nice envelope (maybe with some cash?) telling her how much you love her and how proud you are of her as she takes the next step into adult life.
posted by Lynsey at 11:17 AM on August 13, 2013

A lot of great ideas here. Most colleges will have a list of things that will be necessary/useful for dorm life, so that would be a great place to check. It will also list items that are banned. (toasters, etc.)

If you do want to go with giving her protection, I think a variety pack of both condoms and lube might be OK, depending on your relationship. A selection seems less invasive than specific items. Lube samples, condom samples at Babeland, but I'm sure you could find them other places too.
posted by annsunny at 11:26 AM on August 13, 2013

As compelling an argument as 'people will think bad/wrong thoughts about you if you are a woman with condoms in 2013' is, and as likely as it is that condoms will be available in bowls around her campus, and as possible as it is that your specific child will be skeeved out by receiving contraception from her father, I would still suggest that it would be a good idea to make sure someone gives her condoms to bring with her.

a) it is possible that she would be too shy to take even freely available condoms, or that she would refrain from taking them because -
b) people have been known to think along the lines of 'I don't need these, I'll never have a chance to use them' or similar.
c) people have been known to not let the lack of a handy condom stop them from sex that would benefit from one, just this once, just for a second, whatever. Having them (hidden, seekrit, not publicly visible for slut shaming wtf) in a drawer might come in handy for unpredicted/unpremeditated sex.

Better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them, and this is something that you don't need until you need, and then it's (often perceived as) too late.

Other than that, I'd second printer ink.
posted by you must supply a verb at 11:56 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get her a Pak - there are 3 sizes with different items, in green and black. It has a tiny amount of EVERYTHING you could need in it... hand sanitizer, lotion, a comb, floss, hairspray, a mirror, clippers, makeup remover, toothbrush & paste, Tide to go mini pen, kleenex, band-aids, etc etc etc plus space for a tampon and 2 empty metal containers for pills or safety pins or what have you (well, 2 in the original size). She can even toss in her ID and other cards and carry it as a mini purse with the chain. I LOVE mine. I customized mine by throwing in a chapstick and refilling it with items (like the makeup remover towelettes and deodorant wipes) from Minimus. (I'm not affiliated with either company, just a superfan who likes to be prepared for anything.)

If she is going to be driving to/from college and taking her car with her, and there are toll roads/turnpikes, buy her an EZ-Pass. It's so much faster and easier than digging for change/credit card (our toll road only takes credit cards, no debit cards) and the tolls are half-price for those who have the EZ-Pass. I know in Indiana you can buy them for $10 at CVS and $8 of that goes to tolls.

You'll have to link it to a (your?) credit/debit card for refilling. (It might be kindest to have it bill yours. Although they say they base refills on your usage, they won't tell you up front how much they're going to take out and when, and she might not be ready to build in a cushion for that kind of thing yet. Then again, good learning opportunity.)
posted by IndigoRain at 12:01 PM on August 13, 2013

I'm with everyone else in suggesting a medicine kit--but I'd also suggest that you do so primarily as a means to make sure that she has a package or two of Plan B. It's expensive (for a broke college student) and, in some areas, can be difficult to get. (Yes, I'm aware that it's not supposed to be anymore, but I've definitely been in drugstores where it's still not on the shelves, so...) It sounds like a weird gift on its own, but tucked in with extra tampons, benadryl, immodium, tylenol, and etc, it seems a lot more normal.

It's pretty easy to find things like birth control, condoms, and lube on a college campus--many have health centers that hand out that sort of thing, even, and, for the most part, exploring sexuality is considered a healthy thing that everyone's doing. It's a lot harder to find support for the oh, shit, I think that I've fucked up part of sexuality.

You could, if you were so inclined, also include a card of emergency numbers in the med kit--24-hour nurse service, suicide helpline, RAINN, local Planned Parenthood, etc.
posted by MeghanC at 12:05 PM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

okay. i was in college from 98-01 so things have changed a lot. i am super jealous that you don't need quarters for laundry any more! i went to a tiny private college that was totally isolated from everything. it was a half an hour drive on the interstate to get to a town with a meijer, target, etc. so my views are skewed that way.

amazon giftcard
tool kit--this will absolutely be useful to someone in your daughter's dorm, if not her
brita pitcher and filters (depending on the type of water pumped in, if she'll be in a suite with a kitchen, etc)
a letter to open on her first night telling her you love her, you're proud of her, etc.
a letter to open when she's feeling homesick telling her whatever, but most of all you love her, etc.
a good backpack or messenger bag or whatever the kids have these days
2-3 sets of bath towels (bath sheets are preferable)
shower shoes (these are absolutely mandatory

also, please, please tell her--even if you're a family that doesn't talk much, or on this level--that if Something Bad Happens, she can call you and you will come and get her without judgement.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:07 PM on August 13, 2013

Don't send her with too much or let her bring everything she owns. Dorm rooms generally are small, with crappy storage, and it was the freshman year mistake to bring way too much stuff.

I graduated in 07, so my advice might be a bit dated, but here you go:

advil, cold medicine, bandaids, hot water bottle or heating pad--you don't know you need it, until you do. Same goes for a multi-tool and a flashlight.

It sounds stupid, but maybe laundry detergent, and if she's got her own bathroom or kitchen, some cleaning supplies. I could only afford Tide when someone else was buying it for me. Oh, and a hamper with wheels on it was the absolute greatest thing for doing laundry I had in college.

My parents bought me a set of plastic shelving from home depot, which was the greatest thing. It was lightweight enough that I could take it apart and move it no problem, sturdy enough to hold everything, and cost something like $50. You don't want to buy something like this without seeing her room first and knowing that it fits.

If you want to give her condoms, give her condoms. Yeah, they're available everywhere on college campuses, but sometimes the free ones are cheap or weird. My college had thousands of a brand called, I kid you not, "Mr. Happy's Hat" which were known for breaking. I think Plan B is also an excellent suggestion.
posted by inertia at 1:37 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

but if she hasn't been to the gyno this is a good time for her to get her first pap and such.

No it isn't. Pap tests aren't recommended until at least age 21 in the US (later in other countries). If either of my parents had tried to give me condoms or set me up for any sort of doctor's appointment when I was going away to college I wouldn't have been embarrassed--I would have been VIOLENTLY ANGRY and I would never, ever forgive them. Boundary violations like this just aren't ok, that's why you're getting so much pushback here. Just...don't you dare.

I was 17 when I moved far away for college, for what it's worth.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:55 PM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Detergent pods...I wish they'd existed when I was in college.
posted by brujita at 3:08 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

A nice big oversized mug to make ramen in, or for lots of coffee, or cereal.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:15 PM on August 13, 2013

Nthing the earplugs and electric kettle.

Hot water bottle, definitely.

Two "get out of hell free" business cards (quod Google), laminated together, with a $100 bill in the middle, in case of an emergency.

A Leatherman.

And one of those drinking bird toys.
posted by pguertin at 8:34 PM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I went to a university that had a no-free-condoms policy, so I say go for it with the rubbers. I would chime in with everyone about an electric kettle--get her one that has an automatic shut-off and pack some teabags or coffee and a single-cup cone coffeemaker. My roommate and I also loved our toaster--technically contraband but we were never questioned on it!

My parents always sent razorblades with the more traditional care-package stuff when I was in college, and even in my first few years living on my own after school--a 4-pack of Venus refills can be up to $15 and that can be nigh-impossible on a shoestring student budget!
posted by assenav at 11:46 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

The answer to the question, what should I send to a kid in college is always printer ink. It is not related to sex but it is important.

I graduated from college in 2009 and cannot recall anyone having a printer in their room. I would go with the pizza coupons and Oreos over printer ink.

Also I'd skip the condoms. She'll figure that one out on her own.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:54 AM on August 14, 2013

I'm in college right now and tons of people use quarters for laundry. It's either quarters or using the swipe card, which is a pain to refill because you have to use this crappy website that looks like it was designed in the 90s (and probably was). This totally depends on where your daughter will be going to school.

If your daughter's school is near public transit like a subway, get her a preloaded subway card. Depending on the city, transit may be cheaper if you use the card (using a Charlie Card in Boston is cheaper than using a Charlie Ticket, for example).

Emergency money, a medicine kit (including Band-aids), ear plugs (useful for dorm living and/or concert-going), a sleep mask, emergency snacks, index cards, extra printer ink, and extra flip flops (for when your shower flops break) have all been extremely useful. I used my tool kit once, freshman year. I use my multitool and set of mini-screwdrivers a lot more, but I have a part-time job fixing computers, so ymmv. Make sure she has at least one flash drive, and consider getting her an external hard drive so she can frequently back up her computer and avoid losing access to all her work if her computer dies during finals week or some other crucial time. Finals week is one of the busiest times at my school's computer repair facility, because students' computers fail, they didn't back anything up, and they need their paper now! You don't want to be these people.

Please consider sending your daughter mail and/or care packages periodically. I am always jealous of the kids whose parents do this.

posted by topoisomerase at 8:31 AM on August 14, 2013

Re: Printers. Printers can be extremely useful in college. I have a printer and use it all the time. But whether or not to bring a printer is a decision best made by your daughter and not by random Internet strangers. If she doesn't bring a printer, emergency printer ink is obviously not useful. If she does bring a printer, extra paper is great. The campus bookstore and all the other stores near campus will charge a ton for basic school supplies like paper. I can't afford to pay $10 for a single package of printer paper, campus bookstore, sorry.

If your daughter is a nerd and likes pens and stuff, get her a gift card to Jet Pens. Unless she's one of the people who sit in front and "take notes on their laptop" (they're really browsing Facebook or Reddit in class instead), she'll be writing a lot.
posted by topoisomerase at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2013

Ooh, late to the party here but I have to say I totally agree with you must supply a verb that it's better to have condoms and not need them than to need them and not have them.

What if you weren't planning to have sex, but the opportunity presented itself, and then you were all, oh it'll be fine, I'm on the pill...or i just had my period...or I'm sure this guy is totally clean, he said he was a virgin...or who knows what the hell teenagers are thinking, but it's not always what you would like them to be thinking.

Maybe it would be embarrassing, but I'm sure she'll get over it and she might really thank you later. Just sneak them in with the rest of the kit-- you don't have to have a big discussion about it.

A condom in the hand is worth two in the bush! or wait, maybe that's not what I meant to say..?
posted by exceptinsects at 7:59 PM on September 12, 2013

It was a personal rite of passage to get enough awkward courage to walk into a sex shop near my college and buy stuff I was curious about. Now I'm fairly sexually confident and, when socially applicable/okay, I'm THAT person who encourages partner communication and other such healthy sexual practices.

Provide the Planned Parenthood contacts as recommended above, but let her make the jump on her own. It's empowering to discover these things as you go. Also, she always has the internet.
posted by DisreputableDog at 10:54 PM on February 14, 2014

« Older movies where everyone behaves themselves?   |   Found old Palm wireless universal keyboard, do I... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.