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A parent's guide to everything your college student will need this year

Don't forget the face masks.
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Preparing for the college drop-off feels very different this year.

Uncertainty related to the coronavirus pandemic — from how long students will actually stay to what their dorm and campus life will look like — has parents navigating all kinds of decisions, precautions and emotions.

That said, there’s still shopping to be done. With both of my kids heading to out-of-state universities this month, my list is impacted by having a freshman living in a dorm while my senior will be in an apartment. There are plenty of great checklists for what students need, but here are 12 must-have essentials this parent thinks are worth considering.

1. United by Blue Face Mask

There’s a raging debate on the parents’ Facebook page at my son’s university about how many masks to send with kids as they head to campus. Since reusable cloth masks should be washed between uses, some parents are sending anywhere from a week to a month’s worth. (Let’s be honest, how often do college kids do laundry?) These one-size-fits-most masks by United By Blue are made of hemp, organic cotton and recycled polyester. They're designed to have a comfortable fit and come in packs of three for $20 or 10 for $50.

2. Fanatics Face Coverings

If there is a 2020 way to show school spirit, this is it. These masks are made of 100% polyester and are machine-washable. Better yet, they're available in a variety of university logos and a two-pack is just under $20.

3. Healthify Disposable Three-Layer Face Mask

I’m sending each of my kids with a box of disposable masks too. It'll be good for them to have a stash in their dorm rooms for visitors or to use when their cloth ones aren’t clean. These are $20 for a pack of 50 and have some rave reviews on Amazon.

4. Femometor Non-Contact Forehead Thermometer

In these pandemic times, a forehead thermometer should be part of every college kid’s first aid kit. This one, for $39, is currently an Amazon bestseller with over 300 verified five-star reviews.

5. Blue Light Glasses by Pixel Eyewear

With so many colleges now offering online courses, students will be spending even more time in front of their screens this year. Blue light glasses are a must for reducing eye strain and headaches. We love the well-made and stylish variety from Pixel Eyewear, which range from $75 to $95.

6. My Hydro by Hydro Flask

A water bottle is the one accessory that both of my kids carry with them wherever they go and it’s hard to beat the quality and durability of the Hydro Flask. With the My Hydro line, you can customize everything from cap size to the color and strap.

7. Chic Geeks Laptop Cover

If your kid is taking a Macbook to school, it’s wise to invest in a sturdy, protective cover. You can’t beat the array of unique colors and designs from Chic Geeks.

8. Peach Skin Sheets

These sheets (1,500 thread count) are incredibly soft! They are hypoallergenic, come in a dorm-friendly Twin XL size (as well as standard bed sizes) and have 18-inch deep pockets, making them great for fitting over all the layers you can put on dorm beds.

9. Sneaker Lab Shoe Wipes

Keeping white sneakers pristine takes some serious upkeep — but these handy, environmentally-friendly wipes make it easy. We love that they come in individual packets that are easy to stash in the pocket of a backpack.

10. All-in-one Toolkit

This handheld kit features 23 tools and retails for less than $30. Talk about compact and efficient!

11. Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker

The slim size of the K-Mini — less than 5-inches wide — makes it perfect for apartment or dorm living.

12. Ikea Storage Bag

College move-in day is hectic and with COVID-19 making elevators tricky to use, expect to be lugging things up stairwells. These bags store all of the essentials and can easily be stored flat and under a bed when not in use.

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