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12 Things Nobody Told You to Pack for College

We know stuffing all your belongings into one car is not the most fun way to start college (collegiettes across the country know your pain!). It requires a lot of foresight to pack everything you need for a year away from home—you’re bound to forget something! While we can’t predict your every need, we do have 12 helpful packing suggestions that freshmen don’t usually consider. Our college veterans have weighed in on items they wish they stuffed in their suitcases, and we’ve included the best in this handy checklist. So before you close your car trunk full of shoes and posters (mainly shoes), check out these oft-forgotten college necessities!

1. Safety Pins

Etka Partani, a senior at UCLA, says she took her mom’s box of safety pins for granted before she arrived at college. “I know it seems random, but sometimes they're completely necessary to adjust an outfit or make sure the costume that you threw together for a party doesn't fall off,” she says. You can keep safety pins in a small box with other random knickknacks, such as paper clips and bobby pins.

2. Boot Tray

If you’re going to college in a northern state with lots of wintry weather, bring a boot tray to store your soaked shoes. According to Phyu-Sin Than, a senior at Mount Holyoke College, “It's completely necessary to have if you're going to a school in the north where half the school year is dragging yourself around in the snow.” Try this one from Bed Bath & Beyond to keep your dorm carpet clean and dry (a regular serving platter also works just as well).

3. Bookends

You can rack up a sizable collection of books in your first year, especially with general education classes (American Lit., anyone?). Shira Kipnees, campus correspondent for HC Franklin & Marshall, recommends that freshmen bring bookends to organize their study sessions. “My books always ended up in a fallen mess on the shelf and it would take me forever to find the exact book I was looking for,” she says. You can find cheap bookends on Amazon or invest in decorative ones from Etsy, like these cute bicycle ones for $35.

4. Old T-shirts and Costumes

There will be plenty of theme parties in college, which means plenty of opportunities to unleash your creative fashion sense! Come prepared with the right materials to make the most of these festive events. Emma Miller, a senior at Kenyon College, suggests bringing old shirts you wouldn’t mind cutting, dyeing, highlighting, or doing whatever else to that strikes your artistic fancy. You can also bring old Halloween costumes and accessories or outdated clothes to stock your theme party wardrobe.

5. Electric Kettle/Water Boiler

Emily Willeman, a senior at Western Washington University, suggests bringing an electric kettle for making late-night ramen. Sometimes you won’t feel like walking to the dining halls or they won’t be open when studying late at night and get hungry, so it’s nice to have hot food options in the convenience of your room! An electric kettle is also great for making hot tea or soup when you have a cold or want to make hot chocolate during winter months. Add some Tim Tams to the hot chocolate and invite friends over for a snack social!

6. Brita Pitcher

Not all college dorms have a water fountain on every floor, so invest in a Brita pitcher to filter tap water so you can stay hydrated. If you are lucky enough to have a fountain in the hall, you may want to buy a pitcher anyways so you don’t have to run back and forth for another cup of water!

7. Safe

It may sound paranoid, but you’re better safe than sorry (pun intended). Since college is a completely new environment and strangers may be coming in and out of your room from time to time (depending on how social your roommate is), you’re better off having a secure place to store valuables while you’re out. A safe is a good precaution until you get to know your roommate better and have a better understanding of what’s risky to leave out in your dorm.

8. External Hard Drive

You never know when your computer will crash (yet it always seems to happen during crucial times, like finals week). An external hard drive is a solution to potentially losing all of your hard work. Though some collegiettes use online storage programs (or use the old email attachment method), it doesn’t hurt to have a local copy of your work in case there are Internet connection problems. Be sure that you buy the right hard drive for your computer!

9. Earplugs and Sleep Mask

Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for a roommate who doesn’t snore, head to college prepared for the worst. Even if you are a deep sleeper, it’s better to have these aids at your disposal than to wish you had them while tossing and turning at two in the morning or waking up as the sun rises on a Saturday. Dorm halls have an unpredictable mix of students—some who may not have the same level of respect for others as you do. Earplugs are a safeguard against booming speakers, awkward hallway arguments, disturbing noises through thin walls and anything else you could (literally) lose sleep over!

10. Extension Cords and Power Strips

You don’t want to be tied to working at your desk because your computer charger is too short to reach your bed. Bring an extension cord for free range around your room (or the library). Many dorm rooms also have a limited number of outlets, so pack a power strip to charge all your gadgets, because you shouldn’t have to pick between a functioning phone and laptop! Plus, you will avoid any arguments with your roommate about being an outlet hog. Now you can both dry your hair in peace!

11. Duct Tape

People joke about it being a poor man’s tool kit, but duct tape is incredibly useful, versatile, and cheap! Use it to cover up wires, secure loose items, and solve problems you can’t even imagine right now. It actually works magic.

12. Sporting Equipment

If you were involved in any sports in high school, bring your gear! You don’t want to limit your opportunities on campus, especially if you love the sport and want to play it, even recreationally. “I joined a volleyball intramural team and having my kneepads made it so much easier to get involved in the game,” says Jaclyn Turner, a junior at the University of Maryland. “I also looked really official having the proper volleyball gear!”

Now you’ll be the most prepared freshman on your floor (and your roommate’s savior when she realizes what she forgot!). Happy packing!

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