When I first went to college, and each semester thereafter, I would find that I had forgotten something essential and would then have to run around trying to find a replacement. Sure, there are small stores near the campus that sell most of the things you need, but they are usually over-priced by comparison with the big discount stores where you and your parents live, or compared with the “Back to College” prices you can get on Amazon.
So, how do you decide what to bring? By the time I graduated I finally got it right by using a simple trick. I would imagine myself in my room at college going through a typical day: asleep (on my favorite pillows), waking (aha – must remember the alarm clock), eating (need some crockery and cutlery), drinking (I like filtered water), personal hygiene, studying, walking to class, etc. As I imagined each activity, I would write down the items I needed.
So here’s the sort of back to college list I would create (with some notes about why I considered including each one):
- Travel alarm clock: Your smart phone can double as one – but I’m never that confident that it will always work.
- Pillows: Worthwhile taking ones you really like.
- Toilet paper: No doubt provided in the dorm, but supplies can run out at embarrassing times.
- Personal care items: Shower caddy, bars of soap, nail clippers, and other toiletries.
- Clothes hangers: Easiest to pack these with your clothes on them (takes up less space and ensures you you include enough) and add a few spares.
- Everyday clothes: Enough to last two weeks (before which you’ll need to do some washing). And a bathrobe and slippers – especially if you have a communal bathroom.
- Special occasion clothes: Most of the time you’ll be fine with your everyday clothes – but best have something ready for those few occasions when you need something smart.
- Laundry items: Basket, laundry pods, wrinkle remover spray (I personally never bother with an iron).
- Quick food: Tins and dried “just add hot water” food for those times when you need a quick meal, e.g., soup, beans, Spaghetti-O’s, tuna fish, pasta, etc. You can get a College Dorm Kitchen Cooking Set to use in a microwave cooker for rapid ramen noodles, mac & cheese, oatmeal, and instant rice.
- Microwave oven: You can live out of one of these.
- Drinks: Tea, coffee, cocoa, and whatever else you like.
- Can opener: Make sure you have a good one that actually cuts the can rather than scrapes it – and perhaps have a cheap backup one that you can lend out to others on your floor.
- Crockery: Favorite mug and a few spares, a couple of plates and bowls.
- Cutlery: Though if all else fails there’s always the plastic stuff that comes with fast food – I find that meals taste better with the real metal variety.
- Drinking water bottle: Most schools have drinking fountains where you can fill your water bottle; or you might want to take your own water filter pitcher if you prefer filtered water.
- Cleaning supplies: Disinfecting spray, sponges, cloths, most dorms provide a vacuum cleaner but it might be handy to take one anyway.
- Health and medical kit: Nothing fancy – a packaged First Aid Kit, vitamins, Band-Aids, Neosporin, hydrocortisone, disinfectant wipes, paracetamol, box of tissues – for anything more serious you should go to the medical center.
- Duct tape: So many things it can be used for.
- Essential tools: Screwdriver, scissors, Swiss Army pocketknife, paper clips, stapler and lots and lots of staples.
- Umbrella: You need a sturdy one that can withstand those windy days on campus.
- Rain boots
- Laptop and book bag: You need one substantial enough that it protects your laptop, but preferably is still lighter than the contents.
- Power strip (preferably with surge protector): You rarely find a room with enough outlets for all those plugs you’ve got.
- Reading light: Useful for studying, but can also brighten a dark dorm room, or serve as subdued lighting for a room with too bright a light.
- Luggage cart: Your own little luggage cart would be useful to carry all this lot to your room.
Anyone got any items they think should be added to the list, or any stories of “work-arounds” devised when items were forgotten?
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