Holly Duttera is a mother of five sending her second child off to college this week.
Although she previously experienced a sendoff with her oldest son -- four years ago, to be exact -- preparing her 18-year-old daughter for school wasn't much easier.
"For Amber we have a better clue," Duttera said. "But four years -- you can't remember all the little details."
What to buy? What to bring? What to do? All these questions can be daunting for parents sending their children away to school.
Duttera's first time was exactly that.
"It was by the seat of your pants," she said about her son Jared moving to The University of Toledo campus. "We didn't have a clue what to take."
It took multiple loads and trips to the school before her son was finally situated with everything he needed.
Amber Duttera, who will be attending Bowling Green State University, said visiting her brother while he was at college helped with her own search for college supplies. She was able to use his experiences and incorporate them into her own.
"There's no way I can bring all my clothes," Amber said.
The tiny spaces known as dorm rooms have transformed through the years from just a small room equipped with a twin-sized bed, closet and desk into a student's personal sanctuary away from home.
"It's their sense of place," Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg said.
Students and parents are spending top dollar to makeover dorm rooms these days. The "hot" items or must-haves this year include electronics (TVs and computers) and room decorations (bedding and decorative pillows.)
According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers spent $3.8 billion on electronics or computer-related equipment during last year's back-to-school shopping period. More than $7 billion was spent on clothing and accessories, about $3 billion was spent on shoes and $2.9 billion was spent on school supplies.
With limited space students share with a roommate or two, innovative storage units are a must to keep a tight living situation from becoming too stuffy. Wal-Mart offers a storage ottoman that doubles as storage and an extra seat.
"It is something we've been very proud of this season," Lundberg said.
Amber's bedding, storage containers, filing cabinets and other items sit waiting by the Duttera's front door, ready to be loaded into the car.
Among the things she's bringing to school are a complete set of bedding, a mini-fridge and a TV.
Holly Duttera, who helped her daughter shop for all these items, said she was able to find most of the dorm room essentials in the area. The only setback she encountered was with the bedding. She had to travel to Cleveland to get Amber her unique-sized bedding.
"You can't just do regular bedding," said her mother, referring to the extra-long beds provided by the college.
The Internet has made it much easier for college students to shop. Many stores are developing separate back-to-school categories on their Web sites for easier navigation. A link on Wal-Mart's Web site connects students to all items the store sells for college students. The link, walmart.com/backtocollege, features furniture, appliances, decorations and bed and bath items.
New this year to Wal-Mart is an option called "site to store." Students can browse the store's Web site and have a items shipped free of charge to the store closest to their school for pickup.
It's all about making it more convenient for the students, Lundberg said.
Target also is making college shopping a bit easier for students and parents. The company sent out fliers last month dedicated to back-to-college time. The brochure was waiting for Holly Duttera and her daughter after they returned home from traveling last month.
"It gave you a heads up," Holly Duttera said.
Target stores are now stocking their shelves with items in bright colors and bold prints.
"As the dorm environment continues to evolve, students are taking the opportunity to personalize their space," Target spokesman Joshua Thomas said.
Students and parents can check out the store's stock at target.com.
Target offers several pre-packaged "gifts" that provide students with all the essentials they need during their first year away from home. The dorm starter kit and the first apartment kit supplies students with all the kitchenware they need in one box.
Amber, who will be interning at the college newspaper as she pursues her photojournalism degree, said she believes she is prepared for school. But she is feeling a bit nervous about her academics.
"I'm afraid I won't do as well as I want to," she said. "I set really high standards for myself."
But her mother believes otherwise.
"She might be slightly nervous, but I think she's ready."