The Unofficial Guide of What to Actually Bring to College

Aug 22, 2006 (Updated Aug 23, 2006)

The Bottom Line Keep it don't have much room!

I went to Linens & Things today and they had a flier in the front of the store. It was a checklist of the essential dorm items. I looked at the list and was shocked. There were so many things that I know that these unsuspecting freshmen don't need.

This is why I'm here. Freshman are going out as I speak, buying racks and lamps they will never need. I'm here, Super Senior, to stop this needless waste of money and space. Parents, freshmen, listen to me...I will guide you.

Here's what you actually need.


Unless you are a lucky lucky child, your closet is going to be about the size of you with your arms stretched out, if you're lucky. What I'm going for here is that you'll barely have enough room for your clothes, much less anything fancy.

Get hangers, cheap plastic white hangers. Get maybe a two dozen, maybe more based on how many clothes you brought. Get them cheap, no need to go nuts on the hanger budget.

Plastic Bin
I would advise buying at least one plastic bin to store clothing that you need but don't use very often. I am thinking mittens, scarves, eye muffs, umbrellas, hats, rain jackets. This way it will put away but you can grab it whenever you need it.

For Girls
Hangable Shoe Rack
They sell these at Target and other department stores. These are shoe racks that have a hanger mechanism on the top and has cubes that drop down. You can store about a dozen shoes in these and they take up practically no space.
Do Not buy a stand-up shoe organizer. This will take up room that you need for storage. The hanging one will only take up room on the closet bar and not the floor.


This is where people tend to overbuy. Here's what you really need for your desk...

Storage for Pens/Pencils/Highlighter
Get a little cup to put your writing utensils in. It will save you money in the longrun because you won't lose them as fast as you would in your drawers.

If you are bringing a laptop then you really should buy your own printer. Nowadays printers are very affordable, about $80-100, and will save you so much frustration and headaches. If you have your own printer you won't have to go to the library or computer lab everytime you need to print out a paper which gets very irritating.

Blue Tape
Most colleges only let you use blue carpenters tape to hang things up. So buy 1-2 rolls and keep them on hand.

A Few DVDs That Many Will Enjoy
When looking at what entertainment you will bring, opt for the season of Friends rather than that abstract film from 1940's France.
For the most part you will be watching movies with your new friends more often than by yourself. Therefore, bring films you like but also ones that a majority of people your age will enjoy watching with you.

Useful supplies:
Notebooks, Folder for Papers, Stapler, Thumbtacks, Highlighters, Sharpies, Dry Erase Board & Markers, Pens, Pencils, & Planner.

Surge Protectors
You probably won't have that many plugs in your room, maybe 4 outlets tops. Just your laptop and printer alone will take up two. Need your hair dryer...well you're stuck.

Splurge on a surge protector. Not only will it help you in a power outage but will also get you more outlets than you'll ever know what to do with.


Laundry Bag
Get a bag that about a foot high that can hold a few weeks of clothes. Chances are you're not going to be laundry all that often so make sure it can contain all your stuff. Also, bring a roll of quarters so you're not freaking out due to lack of change come mid-September.

Here's where I know I messed up. My parents & I bought more toiletries than I will ever use. We were getting six tubes of toothpaste, eight bottles of shampoos, you get the idea.
Take it down a notch. Think two of each, if that. Toothpaste lasts awfully long, so does shampoo.
Rule of thumb, buy enough toiletries to last you until November. If you use two bottles of conditioner, then get that. If you have ten bottles of shampoo you won't have room for anything else.

Alarm Clock
Get one that has big numbers and a loud alarm so you will wake up and be able to read the numbers.

Soaps, etc.
Get a large box of laundry soap. I bought a huge thing of powder detergent at CostCo and it lasted two years! Go big and save yourself the stress.

Posters, etc.
Get some decorations! Buy a few big posters, print out some're going to want your room to be decorated painted brick and white is really boring to look out and will just look sad.

Check with your school to see what size your bed is...twin, long twin, etc.

Dining Stuffs
I would get a cup or two. I would also advise getting two bowls, two plates, a few forks/knives/spoons. You won't use them that often so you don't need to go crazy on the eating utensils.

If they let you bring one, definately do it.
And, if you have a fridge, I would definately get a Brita filter so you will always have cold water within inches of your chair.

Bath Stuff
Bring a few towels, face clothes, shower caps, anything you use in the shower. Get a little bucket to transport your stuff to and from your dorm, it's a lifesaver.
Also, bring a pair of sandals as shower shoes, you'll thank me later.

When you're not home you don't realize how many batteries you actually use. Bring a pack of AA's for spares. You can get a good deal on more batteries than you'll ever need at places like CostCo.

More Plastic Bins
Like what you bought to store your sweaters...only these will go somewhere else and hold your shampoos.

You Don't Need

Desk Lamp: I have seen scores of freshmen buy desk lamps. They're beautiful and stylish, chrome and sleek. And no one ever uses them. Dorm rooms come with lights everywhere: over the desk and on the ceiling.
Chances are that you are not going to use your desk lamp enough to warrant spending the $20 on one. However, if you really think you'll use it then go for it, but I don't advise it.

Big Desk Calendar
Your desk just aint big enough to warrant it...go for the little ones, much better.

Scotch Tape
You won't use it. If you really think you'll do a lot of wrapping presents or repairing rips then get a tiny roll.

Large Stand-Up Stuff
Don't you dare bring stuff such as drying racks, ironing boards, etc. You won't have room to store it much less set it up and do anything with it.

Everything High-Schooly
It'll just make you sad and nostalgic. Just bring your senior yearbook and some pictures. Keep it simple. You're starting something new, don't live in the past too much.

All the Clothes In Your Closet
It's hard to not be tempted to bring everything "just in case". You won't have too much room in your closet and drawers so only bring the clothes you know you'll wear.

So good luck on moving in freshman! Just remember to keep it simple and not go overboard and just have fun!

My Other Fantabulous College-Related Reviews:
How Many Colleges to Apply To
What To Do When Visiting a College
Guide to Getting Great Teacher Recommendations
My alma mater, Willamette University

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Member: Liz Cauley
Location: Salem, OR
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