It is still the middle of summer, but it is not too early to begin thinking about the start of the new school year - especially if it will be the first time away from home or in a dorm.
"It's such an exciting time. It's the first time a student will be living on his own, away from home," said Olescia Hanson, spokeswoman for The Container Store.
Living in a dorm room also is the "first time a student gets to build his or her own space ... In the past, they had mom and dad's help," added Jessica Joyce, spokeswoman for Bed Bath & Beyond.
Joyce said the first place to start is with the bedding, because the bed will be the room's focal point and helps set the style for the entire room.
"Students want to make their spaces unique, a representation of who they are and what they like. A simple way to show off personal tastes is choosing a bedding scheme that sets their space apart," said Ralph Snyder, home design director for Kohl's Department Stores.
A mattress topper and pad will add extra comfort, while a mattress protector is essential because the bed will most likely be college issued and will have been used multiple times, she said.
A large body pillow also is a good idea, as it adds protection against cold concrete or block walls that are often found in dorm rooms, according to the experts at Tuesday Morning.
And don't forget the space under the bed. With bed risers and storage boxes, students can take advantage of space that often goes unused.
"Look for every inch of available space," Hanson said. "Think creatively - under the bed, on the walls, over the door. There are lots of things you can leave out and no one knows what's inside."
Since the room will be bare when you walk into it, Joyce said you also want to think about wall art, wall decals and a rug to warm the space and keep it from being too institutional.
"It should look like a cohesive unit but not be too matchy matchy so it doesn't look like your mom did your shopping for you," Joyce said.
The walls also are an ideal place to find extra storage space, said Hanson.
"Look to them to store more than just posters," she said.
Although there are often regulations that prohibit using nails or drilling into the walls or door, Hanson said there are alternatives such as 3M Command hooks and over-the-door hooks and bags.
"A shoe bag over the door can hold a hair brush, games, CDs ... you can also put dry goods or snacks in the different pockets. A lot of shoe bags come with 12 to 24 pockets and you can store a flashlight, jewelry, accessories or a hat and gloves in the wintertime for quick access," she said.
Walls and doors are among six basic areas that college students need to address when outfitting their spaces, according to The Container Store. The store also singles out the closet, desk, laundry, bath and storage.
Among the considerations in creating the dorm room basic six were the facts that college students will be living in a shared space and most likely will move several times during the course of their educations.
"So our solutions speak to those areas," Hanson said. "We developed solutions that will last with them, are sustainable, flexible and also speak to their personalities."
Starting with the closet, Hanson said there are plenty of ways to maximize what is typically a small space. She recommends using a double hanging rod.
"It gives you an additional place to hang shirts or pants or skirts."
Joyce said using slim-line hangers also will help make the most of the limited space.
And depending on how much vertical space there is, you can always add an additional shelf or use storage containers for extra linens or supplies, Hanson said.
An extra shelf or two can be placed over the bed as well.
There also are decorative storage cubes that can double as seating or a side table, as well as foldable storage cubes that come in "fun, decorative patterns that complement a room's décor. ... They fold flat when they are not in use, and you also can move with them. Use them for packing," Hanson said.
Not only is space at a premium, so are electrical outlets.
Joyce recommends students get the Pivot Power surge protector, which provides six outlets in one flexible strip.
Other must-haves she recommends are small electrical appliances such as a coffee maker, alarm clock, hair dryer and shaver.
"Extra lighting is essential, both floor and table lamps," Joyce said. "Some schools do provide lighting, but you want to study in a bright, well-lit space."
Hanson said students shouldn't forget that they will be living in a shared space. Aside from creating their own, personal and comfortable haven, they need to consider how they'll be able to access shower and laundry facilities.
"Whether you'll be sharing a bath area with just a few people or half a floor, you don't want to get stuck with a wet towel ," she said.
Hanson recommends using a hook to hang the towel, as well as one for a robe. Toiletries can be transported in a shower caddy with drain holes.
As for laundry, a portable hamper keeps dirty clothes from piling up in a corner.
"Our Crunch Can hamper comes in a lot of different colors and folds flat when not it use. It also can be used when moving or after college," Hanson said. "A lot of these solutions will help you transition into a new space, your first place after college."
Thinking about how you will use your purchases after school is an important part of the equation, according to Snyder.
"When moving into an off-campus apartment, students will most likely need to build an entire kitchen, which can be expensive. Build a list of the essentials, like a microwave, coffee maker, prep utensils, et cetera, that you know you will use every day and purchase those first. You can slowly buy extras a little at a time as you need," he said.
To help college students prepare for their moves, The Container Store is hosting a special College Night Event from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sunday. Open only to college students and their parents, the event will feature music and snacks, along with experts to help people select what they need to outfit their dorm rooms based on where they will be attending school .
Bed Bath & Beyond has a Campus & Beyond University Shopping Guide Checklist available in the stores.