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What to Bring to College

Don't make the your first collegiate mistake by bringing everything you own to your college dorm (residence hall)!

No college preparation guide would be complete without a comprehensive list of stuff to bring to college . But remember to do your research first! Don't go out and buy everything on this college to-bring list, you will not need all of it. The explanations in the list below we will tell you why we suggest the items we do, and we will offer alternatives when available. This will allow you to understand the reasons why we suggest that you bring the items that we do so you can decide for yourself whether or not you would like to pack them. Make sure to read the reasoning behind the suggestions. The explanations are packed with useful information, and they will really benefit you.

Don't forget all your classroom supplies! Because our specialty is college life, we do not include study materials like notebooks, pens, paper, etc. in the list below. A good place to get reliable information on this topic is your high school guidance office.

Again, pay attention to the explanations. It's no fun when mom and dad have to bring half of the stuff you brought back home.

Do us a favor and let us know if we've missed anything on this list. Send us an email at thedorm2005 [at] yahoo [dot] com to contribute your two-cents. It's always appreciated!


Items marked with a "X" in the following list may be illegal at your school, or may be subject to special regulations. Check with your school before packing any of these items.

X Power Strips/Surge Protectors - Dorm rooms never have enough outlets for everything that must be plugged in. Depending on what you and your roommate plan on bringing, it is a good idea to pack a few power strips that double as surge protectors. Bring along more power strips than you think you will need. Many computer components and other electrical devices use adapters that cover about three outlets but only use one. Although power strips are great to have at school, too much of a good thing is bad. Schools are strict about the number of power strips that they will allow per room. If you have too many it will pose a fire hazard and you may get fined. Check with your RA when you get to your room to see how many power strips your school allows.

X Extension Cord - Outlets in residence halls are rarely placed in convenient places. Bringing an extension cord will give you the freedom to place furniture where you'd like. A 9-foot extension cord should be fine.

Tools - We're not suggesting that you steal dad's toolbox, but having tools like a screwdriver, pliers, and a knife in your room will come in very handy. Multi-tools are great to have at school because they are small, durable, and very useful. A multi-tool looks like a pair of pliers that has a number of other tools that fold under both sides of the handle. Turst us, everyone will have wished they brought one of these once they see how often you use it.

Extra-Long TV Cable - The cable TV receptacle in your room may not be in the most convenient place. A TV cable that is 15-25' long will give you plenty of room to work when deciding where you want to put your TV.

Cell Phone - Granted, a cell phone to an incoming college freshmen is slightly more improtant than food and water but we figured that we would include it on this list anyway. You can save a lot of money by using a cellular phone for long-distance calls at school. With a cell phone plan is no need to pay high long-distance fees through your school. Each wireless provider has unique pricing and benefit packages. Do some research and find out which one is best for you. Cellular plans and promotions change very frequently, so before you sign a contract make sure you know what you are getting.

Nice Outfit - You never know when you will need to dress up or look professional. To be prepared bring at least one nice outfit. You may find you have to dress up more often than you think.

Quarters - Some washing machines and dryers operate using quarters only, some operate on student charge cards, and others operate on either quarters or charge cards. However the machines operate at your school, make sure to bring a couple rolls of quarters so that you don't have to hunt for change before you can wash your clothes.

Air Freshener - Bring some aerosol air freshener to combat the sweet aroma that a residence hall room is known to cultivate.

Cordless Phone - Don't just rely on your cell phone at school. It's always good to have a landline phone in your room.

Area Rug - If your room isn't already carpeted, odds are it will be tile. Tile has a tendency to get really cold, and can be very unpleasant to plant your feet on first thing in the morning. Bringing an area rug to put in the center of your room will solve the problem. If you don't know whether your room is tile or carpet you will be able to find out by calling your school's Housing Office.

College Steamer Trunk / Footlocker - Trunks are great because they serve as a secure place for your stuff, a piece of furniture, and a piece of luggage for trips home.

Lock Box - The privacy that you are accustomed to at home will not exist at school. You won't have the freedom of keeping your stuff safe by locking your bedroom door. A trunk or lock box will keep your things private and away from wandering hands and eyes. If you want to keep a lot of things locked up you should bring a steamer trunk, commonly called a footlocker. If you buy a good quality trunk it can serve as a piece of furniture as well as secure storage.

Two Sets of Twin Extra-Long Sheets

(Extra Long) Mattress Pad

Alarm Clock - Don't run out and buy the loudest alarm clock you can find! Your roommate won't want to be blown out of bed every morning by the siren that you call an alarm clock, whenever you have to get up for an eight o'clock class. Be considerate of your roommate, and get an alarm clock with a few different alarm features. A clock radio with adjustable volume works well. There is also a new alarm clock called a "Shake Awake" that attaches to your pillow and vibrates quietly to wake you up. The Shake Awake works great and allows your roommate to keep sleeping.

Tree Style Floor Lamp - Many college residence halls have poor lighting. Some only have a single ceiling light in the middle of the room, or office-type fluorescent lighting. A tree style floor lamp allows you to aim the individual lamps in different directions to illuminate dark corners of your room.

Desk Lamp - If your school provides a desk for you, it may already have a desk lamp built in. If there is a light built into the desk the chances are very good that it is a fluorescent light. Bring your own desk lamp if studying by fluorescent light bothers you.

Clip-on Lamp

Laundry Stuff - No special tricks here! Just remember to bring laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and lots of quarters.

Laundry Bag - Laundry bags are good for taking your laundry to and from the laundry room. There are a few different types of laundry bags available such as mesh, cotton, and heavy-duty. Mesh bags will let your clothes breath, but tend to get runs in them and rip if you pack them tightly with clothes. If a mesh bag will not be able to handle the pressure of your laundry habits get a heavy-duty or cotton laundry bag instead. Both of these bags are very durable. The difference is that the heavy-duty bag has large holes that will allow your clothes to breath, where the cotton bag is solid material.

Pop-Up Hamper - A pop-up hamper is a great alternative to a laundry bag! A pop-up hamper has mesh sides and a flexible spring-steel frame that folds easily into a small circle when not in use. It's nylon handles allow it to be easily carried to and from the laundry room, it's mesh sides and top let your laundry breath, and it holds it's shape when open so your clothes don't sit in a pile on your floor.

Clothes Hangers - Clothes hangars aren't very exciting. Just make sure you bring enough!

Laundry Basket - You should bring a laundry basket if you fold your clothes as you take them out of the dryer. Clothes tend to get wrinkled if you fold them and place them in a laundry bag. A pop-up hamper is a good alternative to a laundry basket. Pop-up hampers hold their shape when open so clothes don't get wrinkled, and can be collapsed when not in use to save room in your closet.

Dryer Rack - Make sure to bring a dryer rack if you have a lot of delicate clothes or sweaters. Accordion style drying racks have ample space for clothes, and fold up easily for storage. Sweater dryer racks also work well. These have flat mesh surfaces and stack on one another to give you extra drying room. Both dryer racks work very well and won't cost you money like the electric dryer!

Portable Iron - Portable irons are a great alternative to full-size irons. They are smaller, use less energy, and a good quality portable iron will function as well as a full-size iron. Black & Decker X10 or X30 Travel Irons are among the best. These irons are fully functional steam irons that work great, and fold up for storage.

Mini Ironing Board - As much as you may hate doing it, sometime during your college career you will have to iron a pair of pants or a shirt. Bring along a mini ironing board to keep in your closet so you are prepared when this dreadful day arrives. Another option is to use your mattress as an ironing board, or to put a towel on the floor and iron your clothes this way.

Sewing Kit - When a button pops off your favorite pair of pants mom won't be there to fix it. Bring a small sewing kit with a couple needles and a few different colors of thread so you are able to fix your clothes.

Bathrobe - If you will be living in a hall with community bathrooms you should bring a bathrobe. The walk back to your room after a shower can get a little chilly, not to mention a little revealing.

Bath Towels - Bring at least two bath towels so you can wash one while you use the other.

Shower Caddy

Shower Shoes - Shower shoes are another item that is dependent on the bathroom accommodations in your residence hall. In a suite style room you will have your own bathroom and may prefer not to wear shower shoes. In a community bathroom situation shower shoes are strongly recommended. Most students use a pair of flip-flops as shower shoes. Students living in a suite should consider wearing shower shoes even though they will have their own bathroom. The shower will not be cleaned frequently (in most cases) and will be an ideal breeding ground for unwanted fungi. Shower shoes will keep the fungus on the floor and off your feet!

Suction Hooks - Suction hooks are especially good if your hall has community bathrooms. Community bathrooms seldom have enough hooks to hang your towel, clothes, and bathrobe on while you take a shower, and In most cases, the few hooks that were there are broken! Bring suction hooks to the bathroom so you will have places to hang all your things, and make sure to take them with you when you're done.

Toothbrush case - The bathroom counters in residence halls are not nice and clean like the counters at home. Keep your toothbrush in a case to provide a sanitary barrier between whatever may be growing on the counter and the brush you stick in your mouth everyday (at least we hope you use it everyday). A case will also keep your toothbrush separate, and protected from everything else in your shower tote/basket.

Soap Case - Keeping your soap in a case keeps everything in your shower tote from becoming a sudsy mess.

Hand vacuum/dust buster - A hand vacuum is great for minor clean up and maintenance! They are less expensive than a full-size vacuum, and they don't take up much room. A cordless hand vacuum is recommended for extra portability.

Vacuum - If you are bringing a hand vacuum you probably won't need a full-size vacuum. The Housing Office will have community vacuums that you can borrow when cleaning must be done (reluctantly of course). Contact your roommate before bringing a full-size vacuum. You don't want to end up with two in your room.

X Microwave - Many colleges and universities regulate microwaves to keep power consumption in residence halls to a minimum. If your school does allow microwaves, check to see if there are any voltage restrictions before you purchase one. Almost all residence halls have a lounge where a microwave will be provided for you. If you don't mind a walk to the lounge to make your popcorn you can save a few bucks (and some room) on a microwave. If you want a microwave in your room anyway, consider a MicroFrige first (listed below).

X Refrigerator - Almost all schools allow refrigerators, but many have strict regulations associated with allowable size and power consumption. Refrigerators are very convenient to have in your room and most students bring one to school. Before purchasing a refrigerator make sure to check with your school's Housing Office, or in your new student package to see what is permitted. A great alternative to a refrigerator is a MicroFrige (listed below).

X MicroFrige

Stereo - Talk with your roommate to decide who will be responsible for bringing a stereo. Resist the urge to bring your own stereo if your roommate is bringing theirs. Your room may be very small, and aside from taking up valuable space, both stereos would be inaudible if they were blasting at the same time.

Immersion Heater - Immersion heaters are a must bring! An Immersion heater is a small device that clips to the side of a cup, mug, or bowl. It has a metal probe that heats or boils liquid only when it is totally submerged. Immersion heaters cost less (under$10) than hot pots, and are much safer. If the heater is in use and then falls off the cup, bowl, or mug it was attached to, it will shut itself off!

X Hot Pot - Anything with an element that gets hot can be considered a fire hazard and may not be allowed at your school. Hot pots are convenient for heating and/or cooking food, but make sure they are legal before bringing one. If hot pots are illegal, bring a regular pot and use the stove in the lounge to heat your food in.

Camera - A lot of great memories will be made at college, and ten years from now you will be glad you brought a camera! If you don't have your own camera, and would rather not fork over the cash for one right now, get a few disposable cameras. They work just as well!

X Plastic Storage Containers - Shop around to find the ones that are best for you. Plastic storage containers like those made by Sterilite or Rubbermaid are excellent to use in your room for storage, and as luggage to move in and out of school. Rolling carts with drawers work very well for miscellaneous storage, or as an extension of your desk or dresser. A large plastic container with a lid is great to store food items in because it will help keep your food fresh. Some schools consider plastic containers a fire hazard and will not allow them in residence halls. Check with the housing office, or in your new student package to find out what is allowed at your school.

Plastic cups, Plates & Utensils - Plastic cups, plates, and utensils are convenient to have whether you plan on cooking in your room or not. Plastic stuff doesn't break easily and is a breeze to clean.

X Poster Putty, Mounting Tape (or Squares), and/or Poster Tape - Colleges and universities really hate it when you make a bunch of holes in the walls to hang your stuff. By using mounting tape, poster tape, or poster putty instead of thumbtacks or nails you will avoid making holes in your walls, and will also avoid a nice damage bill at the end of the year. Hanging posters is a job for poster putty or poster tape. Hanging heavy stuff like mirrors or clocks is a job for mounting tape. Don't be nervous about using mounting tape, it can hold up to two pounds per square inch! If you will be hanging a tapestry in your room, super glue two pennies to each of the top corners, and use mounting tape to attach the pennies to the wall.

Adhesive Hooks - Bring adhesive hooks to give yourself more places to hang things. Put a few adhesive hooks by the door where you and your roommate can hang your keys. This will help to keep you from locking each other out of the room. When you grab your keys to leave the room, don't lock the door if your roommate's keys are still hanging on the hook. A few small adhesive hooks can save you a lot of big headaches!

Bulletin Board - Hang a bulletin board over your desk (using mounting tape) to give yourself a place to post reminders, assignments, and pictures.

Dry-Erase Marker Board - Attach a dry-erase board to the outside of your door so that friends can leave you a message if they stop by and you are not there. A small dry-erase and bulletin board combination is also a good idea. This way your friends can tack stuff to your bulletin board and leave you messages on the dry-erase board.

Trash Can - Bring some scented trash bags to put inside your trash can. This helps to keep your room smelling nice, makes it easier to empty your trash, and keeps the inside of your trash can clean.

Desk Chair Seat Pad - The desk chairs that schools provide are usually made of hard wood. It's nice of the school to provide you with a chair, but you will find that your bottom gets a little sore after sitting in a hard wooden chair for 3 hours when you are studying. Studying will be much more pleasant if you bring a pad to put on your chair.

All-Purpose Cleaner - There will undoubtedly be a lot to clean up at school. An all-purpose cleaner is best because it can tackle multiple jobs.

Full-length Mirror - If your school provides a mirror at all, it will probably be small. Bring an inexpensive full-length mirror to mount on the wall (with mounting tape or squares) so you will be able to see yourself in all of your glory! You don't want seven years of bad luck, so transport your mirror carefully!

Book Bag - Depending on your schedule you may or may not need a book bag for college. If you have 30 minutes between each of your classes you could easily go back to your room and get the books you need for your next class. Most people do prefer to bring a book bag. This way you can use the time between classes to talk with friends, get food, or do some studying.

First Aid Kit - You don't need a portable doctor's office, but you should have the essentials available just incase you hurt yourself. Include things like Band-Aids, ace-bandages, antibiotic ointment, and painkillers. Tylenol PM (or something similar) is also a good thing to pack in your first aid kit.

Cord Organizer - A cord organizer is something that you can wrap electrical cords around to keep them orderly and out of the way. With electrical cords running all over your room, it may start to resemble a spider's web. It's easy to get this many cords tangled and confused. A good cord organizer that has just recently come out is called the Cord Orb.

Cord Cover - To get everything plugged in, and where you want it, you may need to run electrical cords across the floor where you can easily trip over them. Bring a cord cover with you to put over any cords that must be run across the floor. This will keep the cords from being a nuisance, or a health hazard.

Over The Door Hooks

Answering Machine - Your school may provide you with your own voicemail account that performs the same task as an answering machine. Some students bring an answering machine even if the school provides voicemail because they do not feel comfortable using the system. It's your call (no pun intended)! If you will be buying an answering machine specifically for college, get one with multiple mailboxes so each roommate can have their own account.

Fans - Even with the luxury of air conditioning, residence halls can get very stuffy. Most rooms only have a single window, making cross-ventilation difficult. A small box fan, or stand fan will be powerful enough to circulate the air and make your room more comfortable. Because you will not want to leave a large fan running all the time you should also bring a smaller fan. Clip-on fans are very convenient because you can clip them to a shelf while you're studying or the headboard while you're sleeping.

Flashlight - Bring a flashlight with you so you will be prepared if the power ever goes out and you're stuck in a dark room. A flashlight will also come in handy if you will have to walk to any night classes.

Umbrella - You'll be glad you remembered to pack an umbrella when you have to walk to class in a monsoon!

Rack Raisers / Bed Risers

Water Filtration Pitcher - Tap water at most colleges and universities doesn't taste very pleasant. Using a water filtration pitcher to filter your water will make it taste better, and will remove any sediment. Filtering your water instead of buying bottled water will also save you some money.

Bottled Water - Bottled water is convenient to carry with you, and many students bring bottled water even if they will be filtering tap water. The most economical way to buy bottled water is in large cases. You can usually find cases of bottled water at your local supermarket. A great alternative to bottled water that is much less expensive is a Fill & Go water bottle. A Fill & Go is made by Brita and looks like any other water bottle. What makes the Fill & Go different is that it has a small water filter inside that filters water as you drink, just like the large pitchers! You can carry this water bottle with you, fill-up at any water fountain, and it will taste like bottled water!

Hand Truck and Bungee Cords - A hand truck and a few Bungee cords will save your back and your time on move-in day! Bring your own hand truck even if your school will have them available. Schools provide a small number of hand trucks that must be shared among hundreds of new students. If you don't bring your own you will be waiting a long time to use one that the school supplies. You will be the envy of every poor soul that has to lug a MicroFrige up to the 6 th floor!

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