1. A decent mattress.
Forget the memory foam topper, feather bed and bed bug protector. Face it, no matter how many bedding enhancers you invest in, that saggy, smelly dorm cot will just never be comfortable. Instead, just spring for a brand new mattress, which will cost $89 compared to the $400+ needed to alter the yucky one in the dorm. But remember to get Twin XL. Even though kids manage to fit into normal-sized beds at home, the colleges have conspired with BB & B to scare you about the dire consequences of too-short sheets and force you to purchase all new bedding.
2. A pitch pipe
A capella competition is so fierce these days that your son or daughter will want to practice on the way to class.
3. Unlimited text plan
If your child has been sending 10,000 a day, he or she will now send 20,000. If you have a girl, you will be the lucky recipient. If you have a boy, look forward to one-word responses to your cheery questions, such as Yaaa.
4. Parking Permit
Much cheaper than a car. Can be bartered for free rides from all the students who have brought vehicles to campus but have nowhere to park.
5. Settlers of Catan
College students spend so much time playing this board game (a Germanic combination of Monopoly and Risk, but with sheep) that you will wish they would go back to playing video games.
6. "Find my iPhone" App
The most essential possession of them all. Just be sure that your kids know not to harrass the residents if the phone is located in a crack house.
7. Hot Pink Hair Dye
College students like to show their individuality, by going for the ombre-all-over/look... like everybody else.
8. Fake ID
Although highly fraudulent, it's at the top of most students' checklist, even above the shower caddy.
9. This phone number
To deal with the consequences of #8, the phone number of a local attorney.
10. A subscription to the Wall Street Journal
So students can keep track of all their high school friends who have dropped out of college after receiving seed money from angel investors.
Follow J.D. Rothman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/neurotic_parent