I learned from experience...
When I was preparing for my first year of college, my mom went NUTS. It was like she had waited her whole life to design someone else’s dorm room (she went to college- this wasn’t her first rodeo, but you would have thought it was). She even made me pack an extra white sheet in case I got invited to a TOGA PARTY. Apparently in her day those were big. Note: in my 4 years of college, I never encountered a toga party.
That said, there were still some things I almost forgot to bring, or DID forget to bring- things aside from the basics like a shower caddy, shower shoes, and school supplies. So, I thought I’d share them with you so you don’t make the same mistakes as I did.
1. Twin XL bedding (if you’re in a dorm)
Some of my friends had bought nice new bedding, and arrived at school only to realize that it was Twin sized, rather than Twin XL. Be very careful about this! Certain brands, like Original Penguin, are great about offering Twin XL sizes so you don’t have to choose between stylish and correctly sized- so keep an eye out for those!
2. Extension cords (and surge protectors!)
You never realize how many things you need to plug in until you only have 2 outlets but NEED your laptop, phone, heated blanket, and headphones to charge all at the same time. Definitely buy extension cords (in case the only outlet is in an inconvenient place), an outlet strip (for more plugging ability), and if you can, make sure it offers surge protection! Sam's Club for the win...for literally everything.
3. ID case
Let’s be honest, your ID is a small little rectangle that will get immediately lost. First of all, it’s important to note that, at least at my school, it was easy to spot the freshmen because they wore lanyards around their necks (hint: don’t do that!!!). Second of all, this is a great opportunity to get a cute little ID case (hello, Kate Spade!) where you keep your important cards like your school ID, driver’s license, and maybe a debit card. Just make sure you don’t lose the case!!!
4. A rug
Ok. So. Either your floor will be cold vinyl tiles that you will DREAD stepping on first thing in the morning, or it will be a carpet that has likely trapped every ounce of dust since 1979, regardless of how often it has been vacuumed. Either way, not ideal. Getting a cute little area rug (I’m obsessed with this one from Urban Outfitters) will make sure your feet stay warm and (relatively) clean.
5. Bed bug mattress protector
I don’t want to scare you, or make you think that EVERYONE in college gets bed bugs...but I WILL say that I never had any, and I credit it to my bed bug mattress protector. When you think about how many people have owned that mattress before you, it makes you want to have as MANY layers between you and the mattress as possible. Getting something like this mattress protector from Sam's Club is a great idea because it’ll protect you from bed bugs, and protect your bed from any iced coffee spills that may occur. Bonus: don’t forget to pick up a mattress pad for optimal coziness!
6. Trash can (and bags!)
You probably assume the school will supply this-- but you’re probably wrong (this was a mistake I made!). Maybe they’ll have one in your bathroom if it’s communal, but you’ll probably want one in your room as well. You can pick up a cheap one, like these Kate Spade beauties which are small, lightweight, and under $6.
7. Rain boots
You’re walking from class to class, and the weather doesn’t discriminate. This seems obvious, but I had to frantically put in an online order after ruining a pair of shoes during my first college downpour. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy, they just have to be waterproof! This pair from Bob’s Stores is a good, inexpensive, and matches almost anything.
This should be obvious, but a lot of people forget about it, and JUST bring a towel. But let me tell you from experience, you will not want to walk down the hall in just a towel when you forget your pajama bottoms! Something simple and cozy works, like this one from Aerie, and I pretty much guarantee you’ll want to live in it half the time anyway.
9. Gym bag
Whether you’re a student athlete or not, you’ll probably want to head to the gym every now and then (helloooo, freshman 15!). It’s good to have a bag to carry your clothes, so your muddy gym shoes aren’t sharing a small backpack space with your laptop! Getting a gym bag from Adidas will also make you look athletic, even if (like me) you’re SO not.
10. Sleeping bag or air mattress
You’ll probably have a visitor at some point, whether it’s a friend from another school or someone down the hall who lives in a single and saw a spider in their room and needs to crash on your floor. Getting something like an air mattress, sleeping bag, or even a body-sized floor pillow like this pretty and fluffy one from Urban Outfitters, is a good way to make sure your friends don’t destroy their backs on your (probably disgusting) floor.
11. Beach towel/blanket
In my experience, the cliché image of students sitting out on the quad with their laptops is entirely accurate. You’ve got some good summer time at the start and end of the year, so you’ll definitely want a towel or blanket to sit out on! Plus, if you get a cute one (yasss ASOS yasss), you can get some good #insta opportunities, too!
12. Interview outfit
Even if you’re a freshman and don’t plan on interviewing for an internship right away, it’s good to keep at LEAST a nice blazer in your closet for any potential on-campus job interviews you may have, or even a formal class presentation. Having even just ONE nice outfit (like this gorgeous Express ensemble) for any professional event is a good idea- you never know when you may need it!
13. Water filter
I personally am not one to trust any tap water- ever. I always like to know that it’s been through some sort of filtration, and preferably I’d like to SEE the filtration happen. Even if your mini fridge isn’t big enough for a Brita filter, getting some water bottles with filters in them is a good idea (and OBVIOUSLY you can find these at Sam's Club). You just…...never know with water.
You’d be surprised at how frequently you and your friends want to watch something from your laptop on a big screen, or you need to plug your computer in for a presentation, so you might need an HDMI cable. Additionally, campus wifi can be notoriously slow, so having an ethernet cable on hand is always a good idea (especially if you’re doing something like checking your online banking statement and you want to avoid possible wifi-born identity theft!). Sam's Club is happy to make sure you’re wired appropriately.
Definitely try to find out if your room comes with a full-length mirror. If it doesn’t, you’ll want one! You may also want a smaller wall mirror to check your makeup, if your bathroom is shared and there’s not much mirror space. Also, if you have a roommate, check with them to see if they’ve already bought a full-length mirror, because you don’t need more than one! Not like having more than one of these Urban Outfitters mirrors is a bad thing, though. Obviously.
16. A planner
In college, I ALWAYS took the opportunity of a new year to get myself a nice new Kate Spade planner. It always just made me feel like I had my life together (even when that was NOT true). But, you have to make sure you keep it updated! Sadly, the Kate Spade company can’t write down your homework FOR you, they can only give you the planner.
Your room will either have low light, or painful fluorescent light- there is no in-between. Either way, bringing your own lighting is a good idea, whether that means string lights or a lamp (or both!). I always liked to have both, so I would never need to turn on my horrible overhead light, which made the room look like a hospital. Turn to ASOS for all your mystical ambiance needs.
I mean, duh. You’ll spill cereal, you’ll shed your hair, you’ll track dirt in, and you’ll DEFINITELY get a dusty room. Getting a small, lightweight vacuum that you can store easily is the best idea you can make. Plus, the perk about this one from Sam's Club is that there’s no bag to deal with!
19. Plastic food containers
My school had a “no stealing food from the dining hall” rule, but….come on. We’re poor, we’re tired, we’re too lazy to cook, and the food is already made FOR us. Bringing some plastic containers in your backpack and stealthily sneaking some food back to your dorm will save you some grocery trips and keep you nice and fed! And ModCloth makes it look pretty, which makes it look even yummier!
20. Dining ware
….And to eat the food you steal from the dining hall, of course you’ll need some utensils! You could always go the paper/plastic route if you don’t have great dishwashing access, but if you want to do something nice for the earth you could buy your own. Even having one plate, one bowl, one cup, and one fork/spoon/knife is enough! And DEFINITELY make sure you have some mugs for tea/coffee and some reusable water bottles around. H&M has some great (and cheap!) dining ware that you should def check out.
21. Some fun costume pieces
As I said, I never came across any toga parties. That said, any sort of fun little costume pieces you have laying around (feather boas, mardi gras beads, fun hats) could come in handy. If not, there’s always ModCloth for any sort of quirky clothes (or Halloween costumes) you may need!
22. Adhesive hooks
You’ll def want hooks to hang everything ranging from your towel to your wall decorations. You can get basic adhesive ones, or fun ones like this H&M cloud hook. Just make sure you use removable adhesive so that you don’t ruin the paint on the wall and get fined!
As I said earlier, floors are cold and dirty, and I recommend keeping shoes out of your room as much as possible to minimize the dirt accumulation. You need a good pair of Aerie-quality slippers to get you down the hall to your friend’s room, and to lounge around in when your feet are sore from last night’s heels!
24. YOUR BASIC TOILETRIES!!!!
You may have gotten so caught up in the frenzy of buying new things that you literally forget to bring your makeup bag, razor, toothbrush, and hairbrush. Mentally walk through a day of your life and think about what you use, write it all down in order, and then PACK IT UP. Can’t have hair that’s unwashed (NOT purposely) for orientation!