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Articles / Campus Life / Don't Take These Items to College

Don't Take These Items to College

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Aug. 4, 2016

Yeah, it's time to move back (or for the first time) to college. You may be making a list and checking it twice to make sure that you don't forget anything.

Moving-list anxiety is highest among about-to-be first-year students. Hey, you're moving away from all the comforts of home to live on some alien planet called a dorm room, right? Better make sure that you have all those comforts with you, right?


That's the point of my post today. There are some things you just don'tneed to be dragging to campus in the back of your Mom's giant SUV. That's what I'm going to share with you today.

Chances are, you may be headed for a school that offers yogurt bars, climbing walls, and a Starbucks, among a long list of other student luxury perks. (Hint: That's why your cost of attendance is sky high.) So, think about it. Many of your “comfort" items will probably be there already.

The College Confidential discussion forum has many “college packing list" threads that may be able to prompt you about an odd or specialty item that might have slipped your mind. The trouble with these lists is that they usually include the kitchen sink, not literally, but are miles long and brings to mind a picture a United Van Lines truck when imagining taking all that stuff to school.

Thus, as a public service to my readers (parents, especially), I searched the Web for information about what not to take to college. Eventually, I found the perfect article: 10 Items You Won't Need in College (No, You Don't Need a Brita Filter). I love the article's title and couldn't wait to see what was on the exclusion list.

Let's take a look at author Christiana Littrell's introduction, which sets the stage:

The summer before your freshman year of college, you'll feel an emotional mix of excitement, nerves and mystery—kind of like the wee hours before a first date. While you already experience the overwhelming “feels" of moving out, you also need to deal with the stress of packing for college. Shelves and shelves of items cover stores like Target and suck you into the vast world of college shopping. In reality, most of those “necessary" items just crowd up your already tiny closet all semester. Rather than emptying your wallet on your packing list, follow this guide to save some money for Starbucks (I mean books, mom) and start your broke college student budget early.

That makes a lot of sense. When my wife and I moved our kids to college, we looked like a modern version of the family in The Grapes of Wrath. There was so much stuff jammed into and on top of our Honda Accord (for our older child, a daughter) and in the U-Haul (and car, for our younger son), I actually called our state police to ask if there was a height limit for things packed on top of passenger cars. The trooper I spoke to, just laughed when I explained.

Okay, exactly what are some of those 10 items Christiana says you shouldn't take? Here are five, including some of her comments:

– Brita Filter [Naturally!]

Pure, fresh water easily available at any time of day or night sounds great. Except…who will refill the Brita Filter once it's empty? Maybe you and your roommate will do each other the favor in the beginning, but that will end once you've walked up two flights of stairs to the nearest sink just to empty the filter all over again after you refill one water bottle. Yep. Bye bye, Brita Filter, hello water fountains.

– Keurig

With the exception of a few hardcore coffee addicts out there, most freshman can survive without having coffee a few feet away from their beds. Remember, dining halls serve “free" coffee almost all day, and most campuses serve coffee in various cafes or convenience stores. When rushing out the door for your 8 a.m., filling up your Keurig with water and waiting for the coffee to brew falls to the bottom of your list of priorities. Also, K-Cups don't last forever. Save your money and your time and leave your Keurig at home.

– Your Entire Closet [Attention females!]

But what about that one body-con dress I wore to homecoming in ninth grade? Nope. While you should plan ahead for unpredictable weather (raincoats and rain boots are a must), you'll survive without every pair of jeans you own. Your tiny dorm dresser won't hold that much clothes and you'll never wear them all anyway. “If you're in a traditional dorm, your closet space isn't that big," University of Maryland sophomore Isabelle Minkin said. “Bring what you're going to be most comfortable in for class…then bring some outfits for going to parties…have a variety, but it's not like you need your whole closet." You typically find yourself resorting to your two or three favorite outfits, which eventually will turn into a cycle of re-wearing the same pair of leggings and your college sweatshirt for a week straight.

– Desk Lamp [Surprise! (I took one of these.)]

There's a slim chance you'll study in your dorm room ever, especially late at night. Desk lamps seem like considerate alternatives while your roommate sleeps, but a desk lamp actually just feels like a police spotlight illuminating the entire room. “On every list of 'things for college dorms,' all of them said [to buy] a desk lamp. Being the anxious freshman, I decided that I needed to buy every single thing on every list," UMD sophomore Hannah Borison said. “I soon realized that I didn't even think about brining a light bulb so I just left the lamp on the desk. It stayed there for the entire year…and I never touched it."

– A Surplus of Pillows [Again, attention females!]

Think about it…how are you supposed to sleep with a mountain of pillows covering half of your bed? Your body won't even fit on your tiny twin (excuse me, twin extra long) bed with that many pillows. Yeah, they look straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog, but you know those pillows will end up covering the floor. And unless you make your bed every single day, those pillows will stay there too …

You can check out the remaining five (some are surprising) for yourself.

Back to the CC forum, here's an interesting thread:

Dorm packing: “Everything but the kitchen sink" or “Why would I take that?"

A few highlights:

– Inspired by the current discussion on the 2016 parent thread and the contrast between my D15 and D16, I'm curious about other people's experience.

My oldest child was of the “Why would I take that?" school of thought. We suggested a small tool kit might be handy, tape, a mini sewing kit, an extra umbrella. All met with disdain.

Dorm shopping with child #2 at a thrift store: “Oh, this is a really cool rocking chair. Let's buy it for my dorm room." Um, we are driving you from the east coast to Michigan in a Prius and you will be living in a room the size of a large walk in closet with a roommate. No rocking chair.

– I could give my D a tool kit and I am 100% certain that it would never even be opened. The first aid kit, however, will be the one every kid on her floor will learn about and visit D when they are sick or mildly injured. We have had to talk her down from bringing every single pair of shoes she owns. We are still discussing the amount of make up she thinks she needs. We did convince her that in the southern state with highs in the 90's well into September, maybe she will not need fall clothing in August. I have no idea where she thinks all of this stuff is going to go, except for a fleet of underbed containers.

My older D was happy with about 5 pairs of jeans and a pile of tee shirts. Her dorm closet looked empty. My son was in the Navy and thrilled that he wouldn't need to decide what to wear ever.

– My 21-year-old son wanted to get his younger D a couple of graduation presents to take with her to college. So he got her a record turntable (of course, much fancier than the ones we used to have) and a HUGE, HUMONGOUS bean bag chair! The biggest one I've ever seen. We have to fit DH, D, and me in the car, along with all of her stuff PLUS camping gear, because DH had the bright idea of camping on our way home from Pennsylvania. Good Lord. DH enjoys packing, so this will be HIS circus!

– There is nothing in the world more amusing than standing in the parking lot watching people drop off their kids. at college. We've seen it all…from cars with so much stuff strapped to the outside it looks like the opening scenes from Beverly Hillbillies to full-on big U-Haul vehicles. Most of them are living in rooms…with additional people…that have less square footage than the UHaul! I had a friend who loved to go pick up his kids in Ann Arbor and go get a new flat screen TV every year off the curb and other acquisitions at move-out. I had 3 boys and 2 had to get everything in the back of the Volvo to get to Colorado so after the skis, lacrosse sticks, golf clubs and longboards there wasn't much room for anything but clothes even with the skibox on top.

– We walked into S1's freshman dorm and were greeted by mom folding and putting away clothing a dresser they brought from home which was stack on top of roomie's desk, and dad plus 2 siblings sitting on a couch which they also brought. No sign of roomie. H accesses the situation and after a long pause he comments that S1 will not be able to access his desk with roomie's couch. Roomie's dad says he has put 3 kids through college and not one of them ever say at their desks. H and I left it up to the kids to work out, but S1 said the only purpose for the couch the entire school year was that it provided a place for roomie to discard pizza boxes and to dump out the laundry bag he brought from home each Sunday night.

Of course we weren't perfect either. I recall limited window visibility and the smell of the hockey bag permeating from the way back of the SUV.

… and so on.

Bottom line: Think and rethink that packing list. Chances are that you'll use only half (or less) of what you take to college. The best thought to have is imagining dragging and repacking all that unused stuff home, just when you can't get off campus fast enough!

Think on that. It will lighten your load.


Check College Confidential for all of my college-related articles.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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