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Packing for College: Take It or Leave It

This may seem obvious, but there are really only a few things that you'll need at college – and many things you'll want to bring. If you lucked out with a huge dorm room – yes, we're all envious – you have much more liberty in deciding what goes with you. For the rest of you, one piece of advice: Don't overpack. You'll end up being stuck with stuff you won't use, and it will take up precious space that can help keep you sane.

Regardless of your room size, here are some must-haves, in no particular order:

  • Computer. If it's at all possible to buy one or borrow one, do it. Most colleges have pretty good computer facilities that you can use for free, but they're often crowded and noisy, and not in your own room. If you have a choice, opt for a laptop – you can bring it to the library or outside, and can have more options for where to work. But laptops attract thieves, so you might also consider buying a lock to keep your laptop from wandering off.

  • Extra socks and underwear. Doing laundry is expensive and it's a pain. You can always rewear jeans and sweaters, but clean underwear and socks are key.

  • Flip-flops. Using communal showers equals foot fungus, an unattractive yet common problem in dorms. It may feel weird to be wearing shoes to the shower at first, but in the long run your feet will appreciate it.

  • Climate-appropriate clothes. If possible, try to bring only what you'll need for the season and climate you'll be living in. There is usually not a lot of room for extra clothes, especially bulky sweaters or excessive sandals. You can always trade clothes at home during winter or spring break.

  • Storage bins. Stacking things is the way to go in your cell block . . . sorry, dorm room. You can get a huge variety of storage bins in stores like Ikea, Target, or Bed Bath & Beyond.

  • Group games. Board games, cards, and any other communal games will make you popular with your classmates. They are a great way to make new friends and are perfect for fun procrastination.

  • Home reminders. Bring things that remind you of home, such as a few pictures, your old basketball, or posters. It's not childish to show off stuff from home, as long as you don't go overboard, and your new friends will appreciate the stories behind the objects.

  • Dictionary and thesaurus. If you have them, bring them to save money. Although most computer programs have a thesaurus built in, the paper version has many more options.

  • Halogen lamp. Fluorescent lights are cold, kill your eyes, and are not extremely intimate for that late-night date. Get a cheap halogen lamp and you'll use it for years – many recent grads still can't part with theirs. But before you go out and buy one, make sure your college doesn't consider them a fire hazard.

  • Clothes hamper. You want something roomy and something you can easily carry with you when doing laundry.

  • First-aid kit. Just in case. Definitely bring Band-aids.
On the flip side, here are a few things to leave at home, if you can help yourself:
  • Twenty favorite books. You'll be reading a ton of new material, and having dozens of your favorite books nearby can serve as an unwelcome distraction. A few, maybe, but not more than a few.

  • A year's supply of cereal and toothpaste. "Why would I?" you're thinking. Good, keep thinking that. But some have, so we just wanted to make sure – there are stores where you're going and you will be coming home in the next four years.

  • 100 pictures of your high school sweetheart. Couldn't just a few do? If you really do love each other, you don't need that many to remember his or her face; and if you don't, then why scare off potential new interests with an in-room shrine?

Navigating Your Freshman Year From Navigating Your Freshman Year by Students Helping Students®. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FEPARENT.

More on: College


From Navigating Your Freshman Year by Students Helping Students®. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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