11 Things You Never Knew You Needed to Survive in College

Checklist for College

By Jessica Gross And Chris Haigy

Along with your acceptance letter, your college probably sent a several-page packing list: a cell phone or phone card, a laptop and printer; if it’s cold, some sweaters; if it’s warm, some short sleeves. You’ve talked to your roommate and decided who will bring the TV, the DVD player, the fan and the beanbag chair. You have your flip-flops for the shared bathroom.

But don’t close that suitcase just yet. Here are 11 not-so-obvious suggestions for your college checklist.

Extra Sheets. At school, you will likely find that one set of bed sheets (twin extra-long, in most cases) is not enough. The odds of someone throwing up in your bed quintuple when you get to college, but even for the straightest of the straight-edge there are other considerations. Bed sheets hung up on the wall or ceiling can add color to a room that you’re not allowed to paint. They make great togas. And, in a pinch, they are surprisingly good laundry bags if bundled up hobo-style.

Ice-Breakers. On orientation day, wear a T-shirt featuring your favorite band or TV show. Connecting over shared interests is the best way to meet new people. You might also bring a movie to watch with your hallmates (maybe something that features your college), or a board game.

Pre-Prepared, Non-Perishable Food. For late-night hunger emergencies, you’ll need a stash of food that you don’t need to cook or that will never go bad. Our favorites are popcorn, granola bars, peanut butter, and ramen noodles. For the health-conscious, whole wheat crackers, rice cakes, and dried fruit are good alternatives. Bring a water filter if you’re not fond of tap or if it’s unsafe to drink in your college area.

Sports Water Bottle. To cut back on beverage expenses, bring a sturdy, plastic water bottle to fill up at drinking fountains or from your filter. Bring it to class or to the gym—or use it to smuggle soft drinks out of the dining hall and back to your dorm room.

A Bank Account. If you’ve never had a bank account before, college is a great time to start managing your expenses. Look for a bank that’s close to campus (there might even be a bank on campus, and it probably has special student rates). Also remember that a bank with a branch back home will let your parents deposit checks directly into your account instead of mailing them to you. If you already have a bank account at home but there’s no on-campus branch, you might consider switching banks or opening an additional account to avoid ATM fees.

Earplugs. Dorms are loud. There may be parties down the hall or your roommate may play Halo while listening to Pantera. Even if your room is relatively quiet, earplugs can help you keep your concentration while your next door neighbor does jumping jacks. Bring a pair as a just-in-case sleep or study aid.

A Plant. Don’t just decorate your dorm room with unicorn posters and pictures of high school friends; improve the Feng Shui with a little greenery. Studies also show that plants keep you happier and make you more responsible. Plants are like pets that don’t pee on the sofa.

Dry Erase Board. College is hectic. You’ve got meetings to attend, papers to write, library books to return, and maybe bills to pay. Don’t trust yourself to check an assignment book daily; a dry erase board is an easily visible place to keep track of your responsibilities. Also, it’s the perfect place to write your roommates notes—like “I bought some candy; help yourself” or, in a touchier situation, “Would you mind cleaning the bathroom? Thanks!”

Random Clothes. College theme parties may require some pretty silly clothing. Themes we’ve seen include “too tight, too bright,” “dress as your favorite superhero,” and every decade this century. So throw a multicolored wig and a pair of disguise glasses into your bag along with the more “practical” items.

An Open Mind. Look, we know it’s corny. But it’s important—seriously. Take classes in departments you’ve never heard of, like Nordic dance or prairie studies. Talk to students who dress, believe, or look differently than you. Learn Capoeira. This is your best chance to challenge your preconceptions. Take it.

Odor Spray. Indispensable. You’ll thank yourself when the laundry machine is busted or your roommate reeks like a hippie retreat.