When I finally headed to college, it was after a summer spent checking and rechecking an organized list of university essentials. From shower shoes to desk lamps, I created a long list of things that I knew would be necessities for me in dorm life. I checked it over and over in order to ensure that I forgot nothing. Looking back, I wish I had spent less time deciding if my laundry bag matched my bed sheets.
After finishing my first year of college and, hopefully, heading back soon, I’ve learned what almost every college student has to learn on their own: you can anticipate a lot of the things you’ll need, but most of what you use in college will not be on your organized checklist.
In interest of all the students hopefully heading to college this fall, here’s a list of things I wish someone told me to bring before I got to college.
- A pair of shoes you frankly don’t care about.
This, right here, is a big one. When I got to school, I expected I would be wearing my cute new air forces or my chunky wedges much more than I ever did. Instead, I found myself in a ratty pair of old converse or boots most of the time when I went out, covered in mud and other people’s footprints.
A pair of shoes you don’t mind getting dirty is a staple of college life. While it’s important to have walking sneakers for trekking from class to class, I wish I had known how often I would need a pair of gross sneakers. Buy a cheap pair of beaters or black boots, throw them on before you go out and thank me later.
- Sweatshirts you don’t mind losing.
I feel like this one is pretty big at every school, except for anyone heading off to warm southern schools. I would have loved to know about the “frackets”, or random sweatshirts to wear to frat parties or bars that consistently end up lost.
Jackets and coats always go missing during a night out, whether they get misplaced or stolen, so it’s nice to bring a few that you won’t care about losing . My tip is to go to a local thrift store and pick up a few loose sweatshirts or oversized T-shirts that you can throw over your clothes before heading out. I still haven’t learned what to say to someone when I see them wearing my fracket to class the next day, though.
- A portable charger.
In college, my back to back classes broken up solely by my frequent and durable stays in the library made me yearn for a portable charger. Some days I anticipated being back in my room early enough, but found myself stranded in the library, having forgotten both my phone and laptop chargers.
To last a full and busy day, I highly recommend purchasing one of these babies and always carrying it on the go. This way, you don’t always have to be the friend borrowing the charger.
- Themed clothing.
I WISH I had known the extent and necessity party themed clothing would become for me in college. No matter what school you’re heading off to, party themed clothing will make an appearance. Looking back, I was always glad I had a random assortment of clothes handy, emphasis on the random. You’ll never know when you need the extra tennis skirt or oversized jersey.
My tip: go to Party City, raid your old spirit week drawer or get thrifting. Find random clothes you think you may need and bring them up with you when you move in. Not surprisingly, they aren’t the easiest pieces of clothing to find last minute.
- Dorm decorations.
Need I say more? This is your first year living away from home, and trust me, you want to spice things up. Your dorm acts as your new home, a place where you’ll be spending the majority of time that you aren’t in class or the library.
My advice: Talk to your roommate(s) and plan something fun you can all collaborate on. Matching pillows? Tapestries? String lights? There are so many ways to decorate and, personally, I think it is one of the most fun parts about living away from home. It’s all up to you.
Personally, here’s some dorm inspo I relied on.
- A handheld vacuum.
For my final tip, I HIGHLY recommend investing in one of these bad boys. Whether or not you decide to get a carpet or rug for your dorm room, you are going to make a mess. Proven fact. The amount of debris on my floors after a night out, late night snacking or just friends coming in and out made it impossible to ever feel like my room was really clean.
When my friend next door let my roommate and I use her handheld vacuum, quite literally, our lives became cleaner. Using a small and compact vacuum allowed us to get all the grease and grime out of our carpet and in all those hard to reach spots without breaking the bank on an expensive vacuum. To find one of these, I recommend looking at Target or Amazon for a fairly decent priced option.
Thankfully, everyone faces first-year surprises their freshman year of college. As prepared as I thought I was, I always found myself thinking, “I could really use that right about now.” At the end of the day, as long as you feel comfortable and happy in your environment, it won’t really matter what you have or forgot to bring. Still, a little guidance never hurt no one.