See All Columns
week's question from
David S. in Fresno, CA
I leave for college in a few months, but don’t know what to bring. What should every college student bring with them for academics, social, and dorm life? What does every student kick themselves for forgetting?
A fan, several rolls of quarters, and soft toilet paper!
The items listed above were the most important things every new college student had to bring on move-in day back when I was heading off to college. Now dorms are much nicer and many have air-conditioning so fans and quality toilet paper aren't as necessary anymore. I suggest you find out where the nearest Target or Walmart is located in your college town, and ask mom and dad for a credit card or debit card because you will need it for everything from Pizza to deodorant. And finally, like any good parent would tell you: bring plenty of clean underwear!
Before you reserve the moving van…
Most colleges provide a list of suggested (and prohibited) items – from shower shoes to computers – on their website or by mail for new students. Ask current students – at orientation or other new student events - what items they “can’t live without.” If you plan to live on campus, this is a great topic to kick-off a conversation with your new roommate(s). After all, there probably won’t be room for more than one mini-fridge or other larger items. Finally, while the “creature comforts” will help, college is a time of new beginnings - so bring an open mind and take advantage of every opportunity!
Bring a little bit of home to your dorm.
I reduced my homesickness, and I just moved a few miles away from home, by decorating my dorm room with some of the things from my room back at home. I also brought a family picture, though some of my friends just brought a picture of the one person they miss most. I recommend bringing your blanket from home so your bed looks and feels like home. It’s light and easy to pack. I also try to call home at least once every two days. I call my mom, so she doesn’t call at bad times.
Bring the best you, not the best gadgets
Trends and their corresponding gadgets come and go; therefore, the most important item you should pack as you head off to college is confidence. As college life always brings the unexpected, it will be important for you to face new challenges with confidence in yourself and your value system. It takes confidence to register for exotic or tough courses. It takes confidence to reach out and make new friends. It takes confidence to actively participate in student groups, even if they appeal to your interests. Most of all, it takes confidence to reach your academic, social, and professional potential.
Check in with your roommate ahead of time
Check to see if your college will provide you with the contact information for your roommate. This would enable you both to plan accordingly and more importantly get acquainted before school starts. Also, ask your college if they can provide you with a list of recommended items. If you have special needs/requests e.g. physical disability, check in now with your college to ensure a smoother transition this fall.
College life is all about change
Director of Student Services & University Advisor
There is much talk about the change being felt in 21st Century Learning and much to be said about impending social and academic change as students move from high school to post-secondary education away from home. But these are quite secondary in their effect on your day to day life. In reality, the single most important change you will encounter over the next few months will be the importance of the change in your pocket which will go to feed the relentless demands of laundry and vending machine. You simply can never have enough available change so start saving it now.
Designing your dorm room can be a creative adventure
It’s easy to find lists of what to take to college on websites like College Board or stores like Bed Bath & Beyond. With all the electrical juice needed these days, it’s smart to take power strips, surge protectors and a few extension cords. Great plastic storage containers (Target) can fit right under your bed and work great for organization. The list goes on…music, headphones, flashlight, medical supplies, bathroom and laundry equipment. Roommates often share a TV, refrigerator and/or microwave to keep costs down. Think creative and add some great art to your walls. Enjoy!
Don’t overlook these important items when packing for college
After referring to any dorm requirements sent out by the college and conferring with your prospective roommate, add these overlooked items to your list: duck tape, ziplock bags, all sizes, umbrella, power strip for those areas on campus not wi-fi connected. Most important to bring: an open heart and curious mind for your new adventure!
Don’t worry about forgetting “things”
With the possible exception of your prescriptions, there is almost no possession you won’t be able to live without at college, at least short term. You’ll have a safe place to sleep, plenty of food, and people around you to help with almost anything you can imagine. Many people have lived long and happy lives without ever touching an iPod or sleeping on Egyptian cotton sheets. But do bring an adventuresome spirit, an eagerness to encounter new people and new ideas, a commitment to explore your most strongly held beliefs, a desire to learn what great minds can teach you, and a willingness to cast aside your pre-conceptions of what education means.
Dorm rooms are small, it’s best to keep it simple.
You’ve just gotten a roommate assignment. Are their things you and your roommate can share to help maximize precious dormitory real estate? Since dorms come furnished, and most heat-emitting electrical appliances are against the rules, students commonly find that a small refrigerator is the only shareable add-on allowed. (I recommend that students avoid sharing computers and tech gadgets.) Renting a fridge is often a better option than buying because it’s delivered in the fall and picked up at the end of the year. This is a helpful service, especially if you’re traveling a distance to your college by airplane.
Everyone forgets something and it's an opportunity to borrow from a new friend.
Try not to get overwhelmed by the packing process. Invariably, everyone leaves something behind. Roommates and other new floor mates are usually happy to share what you may have forgotten. One small but important item that new students often forget is a laundry bag. In fact your best bet is to bring one for whites and one for dark colors... if it's your first time doing your own laundry, trust me you'll appreciate the tip! By late spring, many national retailers offer 'College Room Essentials' and you can get usually get good deals on staple items like bedding and towels. Enjoy the shopping spree and remember to buy quality that will hopefully last through college
Extra long sheets and more tid bits at Bed, Bath & Beyond
It’s time to realize that life in a dorm room is not the same as living down the hall from your mother. You may not realize what you need. A helpful website with check lists and lots of other information on dorm living is available at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They have checklists and articles, as well as a store locator to find one near your school. Don’t pay for extra luggage; ship the items you need to yourself so it will arrive when you do. Take advantage of the free shipping option and remember to buy extra-long sheets!
Get in touch with your roommate
Getting acquainted with your roommate over the summer is a great way to ease the transition to sharing your living space in the fall. Plan to introduce yourself, discover your common interests, discuss what each of you would like to bring – (tv, stereo, refrig, etc), and when you plan to arrive. Some students even shop together to choose room decorations once they arrive on campus. Word of advice: less is better.
It’s not just about the sheets
You’re going to get lots of advice about dorm-sized refrigerators, extra-long sheets, and rubber shoes for the shower. But really, the most important things you need to bring to college are a thirst for learning and a willingness to get involved from the moment you step on campus. Matching quilts and microwaves are fine for the room, but the REAL action goes on outside of the residence halls and that’s where you need to focus. Be open to new people, get involved in different activities, and challenge yourself academically. Don’t substitute that fancy new laptop for real interactions with real people. Bring your curiosity, energy, and a smile and don’t hesitate to share them with others
Less is best, but…
When thinking about what to pack for college, students should be guided by two factors: dorm/closet space and student-style. A list of basic items can be found on the school’s website or on the Off-to-College Checklist at collegeboard.com. A bedside lamp and power strip with surge protector and extension cord are often overlooked. Hold back on bringing too many clothes, shoes, etc., as there will be styles and looks you’ll want to duplicate once you see what others are wearing. Savvy shoppers will order items from their local Target, Walmart, or Bed, Bath and Beyond to be picked up at a store close to campus
Letter to yourself about why a college degree is important
One item you might not find on traditional college checklists is a letter you’ve written to yourself. Throughout your college experience, you may have days that frustrate you and make you wonder if you will ever get your degree. Write a letter to yourself now – when your excitement for this new adventure is fresh and your goals are clear. Why is going to college so important to you? What are your goals upon completion? Take this out when things get rough and you will remember that all your hard work and effort is indeed worth it.
Lists, organization and brainstorming will be key
First, develop your list(s) of tasks to do, in order to minimize emotional stress. The lists will help you stay focused and organized, reducing the possibility of forgetfulness. Jot down all the necessities you feel you will need at college. This will help you determine what is feasible for travel; especially if there will be limitations due to your transportation; such as, a small car or an airplane. Don’t panic if you forget something; surely you can find a replacement on campus, or in town. If not, your parents will probably be delighted to assist you.
Make Your Life Easier by Bringing These to College
Don’t count on your memory in college. Bring a planner! Professors will give assignments in advance and you need a reliable system to record when things are due. (Can also be used for social events!) Bring the obvious supplies you used in high school and don’t forget that calculator. Is your alarm clock packed? Finally, if you have a futon and a laptop, doing homework is so much easier.
Memory Foam Mattress Topper- Don't leave home without it!
Your success at college will be closely linked to your purchase of a memory foam mattress topper. There will be a direct correlation between a coed that is happy academically, socially, and emotionally and a good night's sleep. A good night's sleep will lead to feeling well rested and your ability to successfully tackle all the challenging academics at college. A good night's sleep will lead to feeling socially confident and ready to meet new people because you are well rested.
Pack Basics and Shop When You Settle In
Resist the urge to go shopping! Contact your future roommate to coordinate on the refrigerator, microwave, and TV. Pack the basics – sheets, towels, essential clothes, and toiletries. Add items you simply can’t live without (my list would include iPhone, computer, and big fuzzy blanket). Choose a few accessories – like posters and lamps – to make your dorm more welcoming. After a few weeks on campus, you’ll have a new list of must-haves (from clothes to food), plus you’ll know what you forgot. By packing only the basics, you will avoid clutter and probably save money.
Pack light and ship cheap!
Remember that dorm rooms are small, so stick to the essentials! Do bring or buy indispensible items like hangers, a power strip, a sewing kit, first aid supplies, and basic hand tools. Save money by using USPS One-Rate boxes to mail heavy items, and media rate to send books. Take advantage of an Amazon Prime Student account to get one year of free two-day shipping. And avoid shipping fees altogether by ordering online from retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Sears, and REI that allow you to pick up the merchandise at a store located near your college.
Pack light, find resources, and balance your time.
The space in your dorm room is usually much less than at home, so be judicious when deciding what to bring. Include familiar comfort items to aid the transition. Get to know your roommate. Seek out student mentors in your dormitory and ask questions. .
Plan with your roommate and get off on a good start
Pack some unbridled energy, unparalleled curiosity, acute sense of adventure and a fresh excitement for new experiences as you head to college this fall! Some of the practical things to bring or buy, room refrigerators, stereos, printers et al, can be shared with your roommate. It's important to speak with your roommate prior to arriving in order to have a cooperative plan about this. Bring and present a welcoming attitude as you meet your new roommate. Nothing will make your year go so smoothly as getting off on the right foot with your roommate. Bean bag chairs are a must!
Ship it don't pack it
If you are moving any distance away to college, you will probably have limited space to take all of your belongings. The solution? Ship easy to pack items like clothing. By shipping you know that the items will be available to you when you arrive on campus and you don’t have to worry how you are going to fit everything into your suitcase. For bulky items like bedding, think about buying those items in stores close to campus so pick them up once you arrive.
Someone to talk with who can help you navigate your first year
I would recommend bringing contact info for a trusted and reliable mentor to whom you can turn for miscellaneous advice. It could be a teacher, older college or grad student you met at a summer program, a guidance counselor, college consultant, or even a family friend who works in a field you might someday like to enter. No matter how close you are with your parents, sometimes it's better to get an independent opinion. Most colleges work hard to provide a support network for their first year students, but with all the new experiences you will encounter, nothing beats a conversation with someone who already knows you.
The best thing to take to college is an open mind
You can’t borrow or buy an open mind, but it will serve you well in your transition to college. Your college roommate is likely to be someone with whom you share a similar living style, not necessarily your best friend. As you begin your college experience and learn to live with a new group of people, allow room for differences of many kinds, and learn from them. Bring an open mind and your best communication skills with you as you make the transition to residence hall life.
The need to impress means bring dress clothes!
The most common item my students tend to forget when heading to college is luggage. They pack things into boxes and when it’s time to come home for break they realize they don’t have anything to pack their stuff into. It’s also a good idea to bring a set of dress clothes. And don’t forget the dress shoes. One never knows when an interview may come up or you need to attend a function that business attire is required. Also bring a bowl, cup, and a single setting of silverware. Unexpected food shows up in the dorm from time to time and you need something to eat it with.
There is only one thing you absolutely need to bring with you to college.
The main thing that you will need cannot be packed into the trunk of your car or purchased at the local Walmart. The most important thing to bring with you is an open mind and a spirit of adventure. There is likely never going to be a time in your life again when you can devote every waking moment to your personal development. Strike up a conversation with the person who you never would have talked to in high school, take an acting class to conquer your stage fright, or ask a professor if she needs a research assistant. You will likely look back on your college experience as not only educational but transformational.
Time management skills reign supreme…
When thinking about the most important things to bring to college, time management skills are at the top of my list. For most incoming first year students, the greatest change they will notice is the increased freedom. It is very easy to embrace that freedom without anticipating the consequences. Even though students likely will have much less actual class time, the amount of homework will be increased significantly. Students need to understand how to budget their time well in order to flourish both academically and socially.
Top of list: an open mind
It’s easy to focus on the tangibles one needs when preparing to go off to college: clothes, linens, computer, etc. But the most important thing to bring to college is an open mind, receptivity to new opportunities and people. You’ll never again have an experience like the four undergraduate years ahead, years in which you’ll grow and develop in ways you can’t even imagine right now. Remember to bring motivation, too: the will to push yourself harder than ever before in your academic work, and to commit yourself to meaningful activities that’ll result in a feeling of connection to the campus community.
Try not to bring too much with you
At Puget Sound over 80% of our students join us from high schools outside of Washington State. This means most students travel a distance to enroll at a campus which has its own identity, culture, and style. The mistake most freshmen make is that they bring too much with them. Plan to buy as much as you are able to when you arrive on campus. This goes for clothing as well as items for your room. Of course you will want to bring favorite things which will make your adjustment to college smoother such as your favorite comforter or pajamas but don’t overload yourself before you arrive on campus.
Unusual essentials to pack for college
Extra-long sheets, alarm, and shower flip-flops are obvious things you need for college. Some other essentials you might consider unusual but are just as important: basic tool set, regular and Phillips screw driver, small hammer, nails, duct tape, power strip and surge protection, hard drive key chain, can opener, message board for dorm door, Poster putty to hang things on the walls, and basic first-aid kit to take care of minor injuries. Check with your roommate to see what you can share.
What NOT to pack is more important than what to pack…
Dorm rooms are small. Don’t stuff the car with not-so critical items, because the likelihood is your parents will return home the same day with half the car full of many of those not-so critical items. So how can you prevent the reloading ritual? First, check the dorm regulations. Most colleges will be very specific as to whether they allow microwaves and refrigerators. Many dorms have antiquated electrical systems and the colleges choose to rent out their own appliances. Second, get in touch with your roommate in advance and decide together whether you'll share the purchase of big-ticket products. Don’t bring: your whole wardrobe - plan to switch out summer clothes for winter at Thanksgiving.
What to think about when moving in with your roommate
First of all stay organized by working with your roommate to create a list of what is needed for the apartment you will be sharing. Then proceed to share shopping and paying for those items that you will both be using, such as paper goods and furniture. Pack a small bag with your essentials separate from your major packing with a change of clothes, toiletries and medicines for the next day. This is handy for those who will not get to unpacking all that they are bringing immediately. Enjoy the journey!
You Don't Need A Lot of Stuff!
Bring an opened mind, a strong desire to challenge yourself and to learn your real interests and capabilities. Leave your preconceived biases and prejudices behind. It is okay to bring your teddy bear!
You don’t need a U-Haul!
Make the important distinction between necessities and accessories. Pack the necessities and wait on the accessories. Just as realtors advise new home owners to “live with it” for a while before making any radical changes or large purchases, approach moving into college the same way. Yes, you will need towels, a comforter and extra long sheets. You also need toiletries, school supplies and some snacks. A few things that students often forget: an extension cord with surge protection, a wastebasket, poster putty, coat hangers, an umbrella, laundry detergent and a set of dishware and utensils. Most of all, don’t forget to bring a sense of adventure and an open mind. Enjoy!
Your most important survival skill: humor!
I think the most important things to take with you to college are humor and flexibility. Keep in mind that things will be different than they were at home, and that’s okay. Things like food, sharing a bathroom, having a roommate who snores, figuring out laundry all take a little while to get used to, and experience has taught me that the best way to adapt is to change is to realize that it might feel uncomfortable, and then when it does, you can beat it by laughing at it--or at yourself. Don’t take the little stuff so seriously, and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.