Freshman Year: What to Bring to Campus

By Patricia Gorden Neill - June 13th, 2013

You’re facing a big, exciting change, moving into a college dorm room for the first time. You’re not sure what all you should bring. Many freshmen over pack and bring every little thing they think they might need. Other freshmen do the opposite and under pack and later find they’re borrowing stuff from their roommate. Some parents pack everything they think their child will require, as if worried their kid might not have an essential item and suffer for it. While all of these approaches are understandable, there’s a simple common sense solution to try first, which is to check your college’s Web pages on residential life. There you will find a list of what to bring and what not to bring.

Most colleges provide furnished dorm rooms. You’ll find a desk, chair, dresser, bed and closet of some type. In general, you’ll be advised to bring bedding, sheets, pillows and pillowcases, blankets, comforters, towels and toiletries and rugs. You may or may not be able to bring a micro-fridge and microwave. Other cooking equipment is usually prohibited, like camp stoves or hotplates. Be sure and check with your college before packing.

Things to Bring

Once you’ve checked your college’s list of things to bring, then keep your common sense intact when finishing your packing. Here’s a list of suggested items you may find handy and/or necessary:

  • Laptop computer
  • Television
  • Bean bag chair or other comfy seating
  • Study lamp
  • Alarm clock
  • Filing cabinet
  • Clothing for the fall season, including coats, walking shoes, a mixture of warm and cold weather clothes, bathrobe, swimsuit, one or two formal outfits
  • Laundry supplies—sturdy laundry bag, detergent, fabric softener, stain stick, small ironing board, iron
  • Small sewing kit
  • Small tool kit—including duct tape
  • Small first aid kit
  • Miscellaneous—umbrella, portable flash drive, checkbook, flashlight, flip-flops for the shower, shower caddy, ear plugs, cleaning supplies, surge protector, plastic ware and utensils for late night snacks, rolls of quarters for vending machines and small fan. Check with the college before bringing quarters, the school may now put all vending charges and laundry use on your college account card.

Things Not to Bring

Most colleges will also tell you what not to bring. These items include firearms, ammo, weapons, explosives, hazardous materials, fireworks, candles, incense, other flammable items and pets except for fish and small aquarium. Most of this is common sense as well. Use your noggin’ and check with the college for small electrical items as some may be prohibited.

Be careful about bringing valuables such as expensive jewelry. You should keep your room locked at all times, but expensive items will draw potential thieves. Leave your heirloom diamond ring at home.

It’s a Small Space

Remember, you’re moving into a small dorm room that you’ll be sharing with at least one other person. There’s only room for so much stuff. If you know contact information for your roommate, contact them and make arrangements on TVs, micro-fridges and microwaves. You’ll only need one of each and the two of you can plan who is to bring what item.

Most colleges do not provide storage space for extra stuff. There’s no attic or basement like you have at home. You’re not moving into another permanent home; your dorm room is simply space you’ll share with your roommate for a few months each semester. For your freshmen first semester, bring only what you think you’ll need and that you’ll actually use. A good rule of thumb is if you don’t use it at home, you won’t use it at college either.

If you forget something or miss something, have your folks mail it to you or pick it up the next time you’re home. After the first semester, you’ll have a much better idea of what to bring for the rest of your college career.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.