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Articles / Admissions / I Forgot to Pack My . . .

May 20, 2020

I Forgot to Pack My . . .

Most new college students pack way too many things when they prepare for that first year away on campus. The problem is that they many times forget to take some important items that will come in far more handy than those galoshes that Mom secretly slipped into your bag.

A helpful site, College and Finance, has put together a cool list of 18 Overlooked Things Everyone Should Bring to College. How many of these did you forget?

When it comes to bringing things for college, a lot of people make the mistake of packing stuff they don't need, or forgetting to pack stuff they will need. Everyone knows that you need to take clothes, sheets, a micro-fridge, and a computer. However, I recently came across an article that listed some overlooked items students should bring to college. I've come up with my own, expanded list of less-common, often forgotten, items that you should take to college. So if any of these items aren't on your college supply list, they should be. They will certainly prove to be quite useful.

1. Ear plugs – I think I would have been lost had I not gotten ear plugs my freshman year. My roommate said in the summer that he “snored occasionally" but that it “wasn't a big deal." He should have told me that his snoring could wake the dead. For the first few weeks I couldn't sleep hardly at all without being woken up by my roommate's obnoxious snoring. Luckily, my father sent me some industrial strength earplugs. Once I started using those, I slept like a baby. It's also good to have earplugs, because sometimes students can be quite rambunctious in the hallways. You may have the unfortunate luck of having to live below someone who's obsessed with using his or her subwoofer at all hours of the night.

2. Flip flops or any type of shower shoe – When you go to college, you may be unfortunate enough to have to share a bathroom with many more people than you ever thought you would. While some students live in dorms with private bathrooms, a vast majority of students either have hall bathrooms, or otherwise share a bathroom with several other rooms. The result of this is that it can be pretty disgusting to have to take a shower (especially in male bathrooms). Having shower shoes, flip-flops, or any sort of covering for your feet is a must. You don't want to have to walk barefoot down to the bathroom…and you don't want to stand in that shower that oh-so-many people have used before you.

3. Carrying case for toiletries – This goes along with the preparation for college showers. Some students may be relatively far from the bathroom (at the other end of the hall, for example). In this unfortunate circumstance, having a tote to bring your shampoo, soap, conditioner, toothpaste, etc with you can be quite helpful. Also, it ensures that you don't have to leave your belongings in the bathroom and risk the chance of someone else using them.

4. Plugs, power strips, and adaptors oh my – It never hurts to bring a lot of plugs and adaptors to college. When I first arrived, I had my power strip for my computer all nice and ready. However, much to my chagrin, there were no three-pronged outlets to be found. Once again, I had to have my father send me an adaptor, and I had to go almost a week without a computer (in college, a week without a computer or iPod can feel like an eternity). Also, luckily my roommates brought power strips because we needed to have our TV, Playstation 2, and Xbox hooked up. We undoubtedly violated several fire codes with our entertainment center, but at least we had enough plugs. So, remember, bring power strips, plugs, extension cords, adaptors, and any other type of electricity outlet thing you may need. You'll be happy you did.

5. Cleaning supplies – True, one could go to the store and simply buy cleaning supplies. However, why not take them from home, or have your parents buy them for you instead? Cleaning supplies are too often forgotten in college. Getting the basics to clean windows, tables, desks, and chairs is a must. If you have your own bathroom that isn't cleaned for you on a weekly basis, then you should definitely get bathroom-cleaning supplies. Women are generally much better about keeping their dorm rooms clean than men are. However, a bit of personal advice for the young college men out there: if you have a nice clean room, I guarantee she'll be 100 times more likely to actually enter it. Too many women have horror stories of the cleanliness atrocities they've observed in male dorm rooms, don't add another story.

6. Duct Tape – Duct Tape is a fantastic all-purpose solution to many of the problems college students encounter in dorm rooms. It can help keep unwanted cords out of the way, and can fix many things that may become broken. It can help keep posters up on the wall (although it will often stick to the poster itself, so watch out for potential rips). In college, one encounters a variety of problems; duct tape can be a viable solution to many.

7. Hammer - Most universities will not allow their students to put holes in the dorm room walls. This does little to stop students from actually doing it though. The fact remains that the best way to put pictures with frames, huge posters, and many other items on the wall involves using nails. This requires the possession of a hammer. Hammers can also be used for a variety of other handy needs. Having a hammer in college can be extremely helpful.

8. Screwdriver (Phillips and Flathead) – College students like to build things, fix things (it saves money), and generally just mess with stuff. Having a screwdriver set is essential in college. Not only if you are planning to loft your bed, or take it apart, build some sort of cabinet system, or a TV entertainment center. Screwdrivers can also come in handy in a variety of other situations. One example is when my roommates and I had the most unfortunate disaster of our PS2 going on the fritz. We determined (though extensive internet research) that the lens was dirty. Long story short, we ended up having to go throughout the entire building to find a screwdriver to use to open up the CD tray and subsequently clean the lens. We could have saved quite a bit of time if one of us had thought of bringing a screwdriver with us to college.

9. Stapler – There will be countless times that you will find yourself needing a stapler. If you think you are going to go through college without ever writing a paper that is more than one page long, then you may be in for a rude awakening. The amount of college students who don't have staplers is staggering. Many students are forced to walk around, wasting precious hours that could be spent playing an exciting video game, partying, or just hanging with friends, trying to find a stapler to use for their long research paper. I made the unfortunate mistake of going my freshman year without a stapler. Not only did I procrastinate with papers, but I was also forced to run around frantically half an hour before the paper was due trying to find someone with a stapler. Take a page out of Milton's book, and bring that stapler.

10. Door hangers/Hooks with adhesive backing/Something to hang stuff on – In college, there never seems to be enough places to hang things. Wet towels often end up on the floor (disgusting), coats end up strewn over beds, belts end up hanging from the most odd places, and more. Having extra hangers is definitely an advantage. The best types of hangers to use are the ones that you put on the top of your door. They are metal and can be obtained at any department/superstore. Hangers with adhesive backing are also fantastic because you can put them on walls. It's surprising how much cleaner a college dorm room can be when students have places to hang everything. There are many other hangers that you could use. The point is, bring something extra to hang stuff on, you won't regret it.

11. Storage containers/Crates – There never seems to be enough room for all your stuff in college. Dorm rooms are always too small, and students always seem to have too many possessions. Bringing storage containers or crates can create an elegant solution to two prevalent college dorm room issues; space and organization. Storage containers that either are stacked, or can be placed under beds or in closets can create space where there was none previously. Having specific containers for things is also a great way to organize. When you are able to actually see the floor in your dorm room, you'll be happy you brought some extra storage containers.

12. Bottle opener – Countless college students are stranded trying to find beers with twist off tops. Most people agree beer tastes better in bottles than it does in cans. So, having a bottle opener in college can be a great asset. It may even make you popular on the floor (assuming everyone else forgot to bring bottle openers as well). Who doesn't want to be known as “the guy (or girl) with the bottle opener"? Get one of the nice key chain bottle openers if you can. Trust me, the alternative usually involves banging the bottle on desks, which usually results in a party foul as you spill everywhere.

13. USB Flash Drive – I can't even begin to truly explain how useful flash drives are in college. Chances are that during your college experience, you may have to run a paper to the library or somewhere else to print it. You may also have to do a PowerPoint presentation. Friends may want some pictures from your digital camera. Or you may just want to share some great music with one of the people in your room or on your floor. Flash drives are much faster than trying to e-mail huge files. They are also much quicker than trying to burn countless CDs full of important data. My freshman year, I was constantly borrowing people's flash drives to transfer pictures, papers, and loads of other files.

14. Pliers – When the hammer won't work. If screwdrivers are proving to be useless, then you may just want some pliers. Pliers, like many other items on this list, have many, many uses. You never know when you may need to bend something metal, clamp something together, or remove something from something else. It is important to note that you can use pliers in lieu of a bottle opener (although it is a bit more difficult).

15. Extra sheets - Too many college students bring themselves only one set of sheets. When in college, you may think that you'll be responsible, and do all your washing. Unfortunately, college students rarely make time to do their laundry immediately, so having a change of sheets can be immensely beneficial. Also, you never know when sheets may need to be changed in an emergency. Who knows if you could end up with the roommate who shows you how much partying he or she has been doing by projectile vomiting all over your nice clean sheets. True, it's a graphic description, but a very real problem. You'll be quite pleased you have a solution to it, although I bet you'll still be annoyed with your roommate.

16. Vitamins – College students don't eat very well at all. Unfortunately, a diet consisting of pizza and beer does not contain all the vitamins that humans need. Neither do Ramen noodles. The best solution to this nutritional problem is having a great multiple vitamin to take every day. Women should also consider taking calcium and iron tablets. You may find that you'll be much more energized for class. Also, when the unfortunate time of the year arrives when everyone in the dorms seems to get sick, you may be able to avoid it. I'm no doctor, but I've noticed that when I'm taking vitamins regularly, my roommates get sick and I remain healthy as can be.

17. Air fresheners - It doesn't matter if it is a spray, or one of those plug in air fresheners, but you should bring many with you to college. This is especially important if you have your own bathroom. I'll save the grim details, but needless to say, you may find yourself surprised at some of the smells your roommates can produce. Not to mention, you may have the unfortunate luck of being stuck across the hall from the “smelly room." Being prepared can help your smell defense. You may also get stuck with the smelly roommate. If that is the case, then you may want to write to your family for re-enforcements. Maybe if that roommate sees you opening a care package full of Febreze bottles they'll get the message. All joking aside, you want to do whatever you can to avoid being known as the stinky room. Once again, women are generally much better about this than men. Trust me guys, girls will enjoy themselves much more if your room doesn't smell like a New Jersey garbage dump.

18. Microwave – Bringing a micro-fridge is common sense. Bringing a microwave is often overlooked. The advantages of having a microwave at your disposal are nearly endless. With a microwave, the amount of food you are able to cook for yourself increases astronomically. Not to mention, you can save extra money by staying in and heating up cheap things like soup, Ramen, and any leftovers from the cafeteria (although college cafeteria food is even worse if it's leftovers, so I wouldn't suggest eating it too often). Some college students are lucky enough to have microwaves provided for them by the university. However, if your college doesn't provide you with one, you should definitely bring one.

These items may be less common, but they will be so useful in college you'd be insane to not take them. Rather than wasting valuable time trying to find someone else who has the thing you need, you can simply look to your own room. The only thing you'll have to deal with is the casual annoyance of everyone coming to use your stuff. However, that's much better than the alternative.

Be sure to read the comments for some additional ideas. Examples:

For the girls out there…. also go buy yourself a closet shoe organizer (the ones that hang on the back of a closet door). Not for your shoes mind you, but for your toiletries. We all own way too many bottles of shampoo, hairspray, brushes, curling irons, lotions etc for any small tote; the shoe organizer has the perfect space for each of these items to be kept, easily accessible and out of the way. Trust me, this will work wonders for tiny freshman dorms.

. . . and . . .

Look into the 3M strips (found in Target etc in the nail/light bulb area) that stick to the wall then have a tab that pulls down when you want to remove it. They don't remove paint or damage the back of paper although they are double sticky. They come in hooks & strips like velcro (also a good thing to take. Used them, they work and my landlord never knew the difference.

If you did happen to forget any of these crucial items, don't worry. You can pick them up during Thanksgiving break. Don't fail to make a note for next year, though. In fact, why not print out this great list and stick it in your suitcase? Better yet, give it to Mom and she can tuck it into those galoshes!


Don't forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

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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