It’s that time of year in which high school seniors are graduating and getting ready to spend their last summers at home before embarking upon the adventure that is college. For many, it is the part of life where they say “bye-bye mom and dad,” and become true dorm-room rats. As a survivor of my own first year of college, I can remember the time I spent worrying about what to pack with me for my own dorm; I spent a lot of time on the internet researching “dorm room essentials” so that I would be fully prepared, and the cool guy in the hall. Rookie mistake, I suppose! After this first year with moving in, moving out, and trying to live comfortably in a dorm room, I truly learned what I actually used, and what I actually needed. I hope to impart some of my knowledge and wisdom from this first year of college to others who are looking for it.
Dorm Room Things for General Survival
These are the things that you will want to have in your room at some point. They provide the perfect mix of comfort and convenience, as well as having the “just-in-case” scenarios covered.
Mini-fridge: Although it’s not needed in order to survive, it makes surviving a whole lot easier! You will of course be storing your drinks, but you can also store food from the cafeteria that you didn’t finish eating for a late-night snack. It also provides extra desk/counter-top space; I kept my deodorants, shaving tools, mouthwash, and combs on top!
First Aid Kit: Did I ever need this a lot? No. Am I glad I had one? Yes. For whatever reason you may need it, it’s better to have it than wish you did. Not only do you have to use it for injuries, but some of the stuff inside can just be plain useful! I used the gauze scissors to clip my nails several times, for example.
Coffee Maker: This is the microwave killer, in my personal opinion. I never had to microwave many things, because I never really had anything to microwave. I envied the people with coffee makers because hot water can do so many things. With hot water, you can make tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and noodle cups! Yeah, you can do these things with a microwave, but you have to have a microwavable cup/container, and you can really only do it once at a time. With your coffee maker, you have an entire pot of water being kept hot that you can pour into several mugs to enjoy coffee or tea with your buds, or have a couple of noodle cups when you’re getting the studying munchies.
Medicine: I recommend buying the general kind of stuff: painkillers, allergy and sinus medicine, stomach medicine, and cough syrup. Buy in bulk before the semester too, because the last thing you’ll want to be doing is running to the store when you’re feeling cruddy. You may not use all of it, but like the first aid kit, it’s better to have it all than wish you had it.
Computer: Let’s face it, we’re a part of the computer age. It’s almost silly to go into college without one. Although you can make it without a computer (schools are required to provide the necessary tools for their classes), the convenience of having your own almost makes it a must-have. You will inevitably be staying up late doing research at some point, and the computer labs won’t be opened to help you out.
Shower bag/bucket: This is especially useful if your dorm has community bathrooms. Keep your shampoo, soap, and any other bathroom essentials in it so it’s easy to carry. I bought a $3 dollar bra bag from Wal-Mart, which is just a white mesh sack. It has served perfectly! I also recommend wearing flip-flops if your hall uses community bathrooms.
Alarm clock: This is pretty self-explanatory.
Towels: I recommend two sets. You will need them for showers, and you will need them for spills that those bathroom paper towels stink at cleaning up.
Dorm Room Things for Fun
You’re in college now! You’re going to want to socialize, meet new people, and spend time with your good friends. These are a few things to help bring people together, share some fun, and get out of your dorm room!
Computer Speakers: Instead of bringing your entire CD collection, load it onto your computer and have some computer speakers. Play anything you want, anytime. This is also great for watching movies (assuming your computer can play them), or internet videos with your friends. Trust me, you will all be watching a funny video that somebody in the hall discovered!
Posters: They’re not by any means essential, but a great way to make some friends is to post up posters of your favorite bands, movies, or interests. These can help strike up conversations, and break the ice. They can also make great jokes. Post up a Justin Bieber poster on some guy’s door, or something along those lines.
Frisbees: I don’t know why, but it just seems as if Frisbee is just one of those friendly college things to do. It’s not exactly competitive (although it can be; ultimate frisbee anyone?), and it’s relatively easy going. Nothing required other than the frisbee, and someone or some people to throw it at!
Digital Camera: Take pictures of all the things that will at some point be your fond memories. Keep it in your backpack so you can snap a picture anytime. I have already encountered too many things just in this first year where I wish I had a good digital camera to snap a picture of the prank victim reaction, or the crazy campus antics.
Dorm Room Things for Studying and Assignments
Why are you going to college if you’re not going to invest the time into your studies? These are some essential items to help you study and keep track of your to-do list.
Headphones: You never know when you’ll need to drown out your roommate’s music, or the people in the hallway while you do your homework. Have your headphones handy to play your tunes and be productive.
Calendar/Planner: Do not underestimate this tool. You may not have needed one earlier in your school career, but you should buy one before going to college. Your workload will be larger than normal, and you do not want to forget any assignment. I went and picked one up after it was too late; my professor gave the class an insanely difficult take-home midterm. I was under the impression in my head that it was due two weeks later on Thursday. Instead, a week later, my professor asked for our midterms of which I had hardly anything done on it. He took mercy on me, and gave me two hours to complete it after class. Don’t have this happen to you, since your professor might not be as nice! Record the due dates of assignments.
Flash Drive: Who doesn’t have one of these nowadays? Keep an organized Academic directory with files for each of your classes, and keep all of your computer assignments in these folders. In the main directory of your flash drive, have a text file named “Contact Info if Flash Drive is Found”, with all of your contact information in case you lose your blessed flash drive! It’s surprisingly easy to leave behind a flash drive when you’re leaving your lab frazzled.
Dorm Room Things to Reconsider
Living in a dorm is a new experience. You don’t want to forget anything, but you don’t want to haul everything. Here are some things to think about before moving in to help you remember and quantify what you’ll actually need.
Collections: A lot of people have collections, and many are hard-pressed to leave them behind. I, for example, have a great book collection and I just had to have it in my dorm! Now I have the wisdom to leave it at home, so I can avoid hauling 70 pound tubs of books to my car when I’m moving out. So seriously rethink bringing your collections along. They may be more of a hassle than you think. You also risk losing some of your collection if any of it is stolen or misplaced. Your CD collection may be massive and massively cool, until you realize you never listen to 75% of them.
Clothes: This is very important to think about. What clothes do you wear the most? What clothes do you hardly ever wear? Are you going to need to dress nicely a lot? Do you tend to lose socks and never find them again? Ask yourself these kinds of questions before you decide which clothes to take with you and what clothes to buy.
Extra furniture: Extra furniture can be a hassle, or it can be a blessing. Hopefully you have toured the rooms you’re going to be living in, so you know what the dorms have to offer in terms of space and furniture. Only bring it if you’ll use it!
Hobbies: Take some time to think about the things you like to spend your time doing. If you’re a musician, consider taking a cheaper instrument so that your precious expensive one won’t be harmed. If you enjoy exercising, make sure you have extra workout clothes, and tennis shoes so that you’re not having to wear dirty ones all the time. If you enjoy reading, only take the books you haven’t read. If you run out of books, your school does have a library!
When thinking about living in your dorm, you want to keep in mind a balance of comfort and convenience. You may be extra comfortable having your 52″ flatscreen TV and home theater setup in your dorm, but you have to set those things up, take those things down, and move them around. It may be extremely convenient to save the money instead of buying a mini-fridge, but it’s not very comfortable to have to walk to a water fountain or go to a store to get a cold drink all the time.