Many college students living in dorms try to bring all the comforts of home, including mini-refrigerators, microwaves, hotpots, toaster-ovens, coffee makers, blenders, TV's, game systems... basically every modern appliance, convenience, and entertainment gadget that can be carried in one trip.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately, from a parental point of view), many dorms have rules, guidelines or outright restrictions about such things. It's very important for new students to check first before purchasing and bringing many of these items!
Consequently, you won't find these items on this list. But again, I was also going for the things you normally wouldn't think of yourself. And I have to admit that I was also thinking a little parentally in my choices.
Some lucky freshmen go to schools like USC or ASU, where you never need to worry about keeping warm. Everyone else needs a jacket, or jackets, suitable to all the conditions they might encounter during the school year. Three-in-one jacket systems offer a lot of versatility for the price. The water -resistant outer shell and the warm inner liner can be worn separately or together for multiple conditions. Once again, think of this item as an investment. You get what you pay for, blah, blah...
A really good bike is another example of an item where investing in quality pays off... until you take it to school and it gets turned into a twisted heap of scrap metal by the first passing drunk. Leave your prized road or mountain bike at home and find an older mountain bike at a garage sale. Throw on some fenders and some narrower road tires to make it more campus friendly, then stop worrying so much.
Where's a knife, or screwdriver, or a pair of pliers when you need one? When you're home, they're usually just out in the garage. In the dorm, they're usually... at home in the garage. Give your freshman a pocket tool kit. When they come home for Thanksgiving, they'll tell you how many times it's been borrowed.
Accidents happen at college, too. Prepare your freshman for life's little boo-boos with a nice little compact personal first-aid kit. You can assemble your own by borrowing a few items from the family's home first-aid kit (there's one in your bathroom, isn't there?) and putting them in a heavy duty 1 gallon zipper lock food bag, or you can buy a pre-assembled kit at - you guessed it - outdoor outfitters! I really like the packs put together by Adventure Medical Kits.
Remember those first few days of the fall semester and those last few days of the spring semester, when it was so hot that you couldn't concentrate on studying? Unless your freshman is going to be living in an air-conditioned dorm, a small fan will make those sultry late study sessions almost bearable. Some of the new vertical mini-tower fans even include electronic controls with auto shut-off. Not bad for under $20!