Walk into any major retailer this time of year and you can usually find a long checklist of everything you need to buy for a dorm room. Keep in mind that those lists were compiled by a company looking to make money — not to help you pack only the essentials. So here are some of our suggestions for what to pack (and not to pack) as you head off to school.
Bedding: Most dorm beds require extra-long twin sheets, and one set is all you need, as long as you regularly do laundry. Pack a comforter — and extra blankets if you are headed to a cold region. You will also need a pillow or two, but there’s really no need for decorative throw pillows that will likely end up on the floor.
Entertaining: Decide who in your room should bring a television. Buying one? Get the one that weighs the least — the dad who has to haul it up five flights of stairs in August heat will thank you. Sign up for a Netflix or Hulu membership, or put your favorite DVDs into a small binder (they’ll take up less space). Most guys — and some women, too — like to bring all their gaming equipment.
Dining: Remember, if you live on-campus most of your meals will be eaten in the dining hall, so there’s no need for a full kitchen setup in your room. Check with your roommates to see who will bring a small refrigerator, microwave and a can opener. Bring a few microwave-safe plates and bowls, basic silverware, a coffee mug, a plastic cup and a water bottle.
Studying: Most dorm rooms come equipped with a desk, chair, trash can and basic lighting, but check to make sure. Buy a loud alarm clock unless you use your phone to wake up. You’ll probably want a small study lamp for your desk that you can use when your roommate is asleep. Along those lines, also bring earbuds.
Nearly all college students bring a laptop or computer to campus. See if your roommate wants to share a printer and a power strip to maximize your limited electrical outlets. And don’t forget all of your chargers for your phone, laptop, camera, MP3 player and other electronics.
You will also need notebooks, pens, pencils and all of the other basic supplies you routinely bought in high school.
Washing: You will likely use communal showers your first year at school, so don’t forget a sturdy pair of flip-flops, bathrobe, and caddy to hold your shampoo, conditioner, body wash and other toiletries. Also pack a few washcloths and towels that aren’t too thick and will dry quickly while hanging on a hook. You may also want a full-length mirror. You need a laundry basket, detergent and a basic understanding of sorting brights from whites. A lot of students pack ironing boards and irons, but few actually use them.
Decorating: Many roommates like to put a small whiteboard on their door so people can leave notes. Pack photos of friends and family that can decorate your walls, along with posters or artwork you created. You might also want a colorful rug to cover up an aging floor.
Clothing: Bring your favorite clothes and comfortable shoes, but don’t feel the need to bring everything. Pack one or two outfits that would work for job interviews or fancy dinners. Don’t forget workout clothes and pajamas you wouldn’t mind everyone seeing you in during a 4 a.m. fire-alarm pull. And don’t forget to pack an umbrella.
Other random things: Bring a first-aid kit, bandages and a few over-the-counter medications. Although your dorm floor will likely have a vacuum cleaner you can use, pack paper towels and an all-purpose cleaning solution.
Things not to bring: Most campuses are not far from stores selling things like toothpaste and bottled water, so there’s no need to stock your tiny room like a Costco.
Someone probably gave you a tool set for graduation, but at most you need a screwdriver, hammer and sticky tabs to hang stuff on your walls.
Don’t bring candles, hot plates, space heaters or anything else that could set your dorm ablaze. And don’t bring alcohol, drugs, weapons or anything else illegal. On that note, check your college’s rules for what’s allowed and what’s not.