When It’s Time to Go to College

When it gets to be that time of year, all you new about-to-be college freshmen (I’m sorry: “freshpersons”) and your mothers may find yourselves in a dither about “What to take?!” I’ve addressed this vexing issue in years past and this year is no different.

I try to avoid quoting myself, but I will today, since what I said long ago still applies, I think. I’ll also provide you with some interesting links to what others have said about this panic-inducing topic. As for myself, I once observed:

… Some of you will be leaving for freshman orientation in early August. Others of you won’t leave until early September. In either case, packing for college can be a real challenge.

The challenge comes in knowing what to leave behind. One of the best ways to determine what you need to live is to do a “lifestyle inventory.” A lifestyle inventory is a chronicle of what you use in your everyday life to maintain your current standard of living. It involves taking some notes and pausing for thought, but the result can be quite practical.

Pick a week when you anticipate that your life will be “normal” within the context of your family’s lifestyle. Then pick two weekdays and either Saturday or Sunday as your three sampling days. Get a small notebook and devote two pages to each day. Divide each day’s pages into sections for morning, afternoon, and evening.

For each of your three sampling days, make entries in your notebook at the end of each day’s three periods. At noon, review the morning and write down everything of yours that you needed during the morning. At dinner, recap the afternoon, and before bed review your evening’s needs. You’ll then have a list of 85-90 percent of everything you’ll need to pack for school. The other 10-15 percent will come in the form of suggestions from your mother.

Women tend to pack much more than guys. In fact, guys tend to forget stuff they need, requiring supply runs during the year. If you have to travel long distances to get to your school, it will pay to do your research now. A good generality is to think cool for early Fall and late Spring and think warm for late Fall and early Spring. At a minimum, you’ll need your fan and a warm coat (and gloves) to meet this requirement…

I hope that excerpt has focused your mind on the task ahead. To help you further sharpen your thinking and packing plan, here’s a roundup of some others’ cogent thoughts about jamming your steamer trunk:

An aptly named Website, CollegePackingList.com, has a very handy, easy to use list that works like this: “How to use College Packing List: Check off items as you pack them. Add custom items to your list with the box on the left. Remove items that don’t apply by clicking the X next to each item. Print, Save or Share your list above. Your list automatically saves every few minutes if you don’t manually save it.” …

Kelci Lynn Lucier, on About.com, advises, in part: “You don’t have to pre-plan for your entire academic year when packing, especially if you’re on a really tight budget. You can buy pens, extra binders, and lots of other things as the year goes on. Additionally, if you aren’t sure if you need to bring a small desk lamp or if the school will already provide one for you, for example, just research it in advance. See if the school’s website says anything. Check out facebook and ask other students. Call the residence life office and ask what’s already in the room.” …

Towson University offers a room preview: “All rooms are furnished with mattress/frame, desk, chair, closet or wardrobe, dresser (except Newell and Richmond Halls), wall-to-wall carpet, MicroFridge, cable TV, and Internet access.

The following list will help you pack. We encourage you to bring only the essentials when you move in. It’s also a good idea to contact your roommates to find out what they plan to bring.” … [Would that my home were this well furnished.]

Jenna Johnson, in The Washington Post, notes: “Walk into any major retailer this time of year and you can usually find a long checklist of everything you need to buy for a dorm room. Keep in mind that those lists were compiled by a company looking to make money — not to help you pack only the essentials.

In the wise words of Cynthia Bell, a rising senior at Seton Hall University: “You aren’t going to Antarctica. You are going to college.”

So here are some of my suggestions for what to pack (and not to pack) as you head off to school.” …

Julie and Lindsey Mayfield, in U.S. News, advises: “No matter how far ahead you plan, the process of actually packing for college and moving into a dorm room can be a confusing one. What should your student take and what should be left behind?” …

Seventeen says: “Perfect your college packing list! Here are the items to choose, plus the ones you should lose.” …

Dormsmart [I like that name] proffers this wisdom: “This dorm room checklist includes the essentials for campus living plus a few tasks for college bound students to complete prior to move-in day! While our dorm checklist may seem like a lot to pack, many items suggested are dorm size and easily stored in a dorm room! Watch our Dorm Room Reveal Video on Youtube!” …

Seton Hall University offers some college-smart advice: “Deciding what to bring when you move on to campus can be a tough and often confusing decision.  To make things easier we have compiled a list of recommended items/suggestions as well as those items that you should not bring to campus.” …

And for a grand finale, I present MyRoommateIsDrivingMeCrazy.com’s [Gotta love that domain name] insights: “Think you are JUST packing for college?

Think again.

Instead, you will be packing and packing and packing. Since most dorms won’t allow you to store your items for the summer, it’ll be a blink and you’ll be repacking to take the accumulation to a storage unit or back home.

Or, you’ll be packing to move to a sorority or fraternity house. When that gets old, you may share an apartment with four, or a house with nine. When you out-grow that noisy experience, you’ll be looking for a two bedroom.   Anyway you look at it, packing for college means a good four years on the road.

Suitcases? Forget about it.” …

So, I hope this roundup will send you packing in the right direction. Best wishes for a well-packed college experience.