MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As college freshmen prepare for their first semester, many are turning to friends and relatives for help.
“My mom and godmother were throwing me a trunk party and people fill the stuff up in your trunk when you go away; it’s like a baby shower for college,” said Florida International University student Ahbria Marshall.
“They were like, ‘People will come and won’t know what to get you, so get stuff for your room.’ ”
Marshall turned to a college gift registry at Bed Bath and Beyond to tell friends and relatives what she needed.
“I got bath essentials for my bathroom and bedroom, comforters, pillows.”
The items she received helped offset some of the costs for her family.
“After you spend so much money going to college and fees you have to pay before financial aid kicks in, you have no money left to buy the things you need to stay on campus or supplies so I feel like it was definitely needed.”
Within just the past few years, college gift registries have started to become an option at many stores. Target launched a college gift registry for students in 2014.
“Thousands of college-bound students have registered since the registry launched in early June,” said Meghan Cushing with Target.
The company’s website states: Once reserved for the soon-to-be-married and soon-to-be-parents, college-bound students can now use Target’s college registry to score everything from futons and flip flops to extra-long twin sheets and stylish storage solutions.
So far, Target’s five most popular items students are adding to their college gift registry are mattress pads, shower caddies, hangers, storage containers, and a closet organizers. They range from just under $10 to just more than $20.
Costs that many students say really add up.
Americans will spend $4.7 billion on gifts for graduates in 2014, according to the National Retail Federation.
Target and Bed Bath and Beyond aren’t alone in providing college gift registries. The Container Store also has an option of setting up a college gift registry and is popular with students who need dorm room storage options.
Registering has become easier than ever too with websites such as dormco.com offering gift registries only for college. The website myregistry.com offers the option of combining registries from several stores into one easier-to-manage spot.
While another college supply website, dormsmart.com, does not offer a specific college registry, spokesperson Christi Leslie said it is clear students have responded to the idea of asking others for assistance before the first semester begins through a Universal Gift Registry.
“For sales that result from a Universal Gift Registry Service, the most popular items we sell are dorm room tool kits, bedding, dishes, laundry backpacks, shower bags, and college trunks,” Leslie told CBSMiami.com’s Bay Scroggins. “We have noticed a growing trend where grandparents use a gift registry to help buy their college-bound grandchild dorm room supplies versus giving them cash for graduation.”
Leslie hopes students will use the registries as a way to get help with purchasing items they need, and not a way to beg.
“At no time should a student expect a gift nor should a friend or family member feel obligated to give a gift. It is enough to just celebrate the occasion together,” she said.
Critics of college gift registries agree.
“This is not proper etiquette; this is not on your family and friends to help you get set up. It’s not appropriate,” said Lizzie Post, a co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th edition. “Going to college, while it is a momentous event and a big part of your life, it is not the same kind of event and it is not polite to just simply send out a link in a blast of emails to say, ‘I’m registering for college.’ ”
Post added that showers for weddings and babies are not the same as graduation parties.
“You are not obligated to get someone a gift when you go to their graduation party. It’s not mandatory, and that’s what I think is different. A shower is about giving gifts and gifts are expected.”
She said it is okay for a grandparent or friend to ask if there is something a college-bound student needs, and while Post is not a fan of college gift registries, she told CBSMiami.com she does like Marshall’s family’s idea because it is “gift-focused”. “I really like the idea of a trunk party, but I feel until graduation or college registries are the norm, I would not do a registry for it,” explained Post.
In the future, Post believes a college gift registry will likely become mainstream.
“We’re a consumer society and this will come and this will probably be the norm.”
Retailers seem to know that and are jumping on board.
Marshall was able to use the money she would have spent on her supplies for her books and tuition.
If anyone is considering a college gift registry, she recommends only asking for help with specific items needed for a successful first year and not just ‘stuff’ you want. She agreed, once classes begin, it’s time to close the registry and be self-reliant.
“I didn’t maintain it after I went to college,” said Marshall. “I went out and bought the rest of the list with my money, but they did a good job of getting everything I wanted.”
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