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Freshman Move-In Day: What To Pack For College and What To Leave Behind

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

Hello, college freshmen! Congratulations on graduating high school and beginning the next chapter of your lives. An extra congratulations to all of you who have selected Penn State as your home for the next four years. I promise, it’s going to be an amazing time.

As a rising sophomore moving out of the dorms and into an apartment, I have to admit that I do not envy your impending year of living in freshman dorms, but I promise it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. With some effort put into decorating and a lot of love, these dorms really can feel like a home away from home.

I spent this past year in Hamilton Hall, part of the West Residence Halls. My hall was traditional, which meant no air conditioning, no heat, nasty communal bathrooms, and no fancy lounge or commons like most freshmen get in East.

Despite this, I’d still argue that West is one of the best places on campus to live. The dining hall is the best of all the other dining halls on campus (the cookies are incredible), the location is hard to beat and the rooms are some of the biggest on campus. West’s rooms are a little over twice the size of the rooms in East, making the lack of air conditioning and gross bathrooms worth it.

That being said, some of my suggestions are only applicable to rooms with the amount of space that Hamilton provided and are unnecessary for a room with air conditioning. Without further ado, here is my list of what to pack and ditch based on some of the most popularly debated items.

pack: a fan

Honestly, even if your dorm has air conditioning, you’re going to want a fan in those early months of school when the weather hits above 90 degrees regularly. Our dorm was on the top floor of the building, which meant all the heat rose to our room. Without having the window open and a fan or two blasting at night, I’m not sure how my roommate and I would have survived.

For the rest of the year, we used the fan as a nightly white noise machine to help block out the sounds of our incredibly noisy next-door neighbors. Fans are super useful, multi-purpose, and even in an air-conditioned room, help to keep the air circulating. Highly recommend.

pack: extra blankets

While we’re on the topic of weather, extra blankets are just as (if not more) important than anything else. I slept in the bed by the window, and no matter what my roomie and I did, a breeze would somehow always creep in from it (old buildings, am I right?).

Penn State gets freezing in winter and I’m always cold anyway, so I spent the months of October-April sleeping under a pile of four blankets. If you have a heated blanket, I highly recommend bringing that as well, but just remember that if you like to study in bed, you run a very high risk of falling asleep if you do it under a heated blanket. Be warned.

ditch: the printer

You do not need it. I brought my printer and was never able to get it set up with the Penn State Wi-Fi, which was fine given the fact that I maybe printed ten papers the entire year.

Every residence hall commons has a printer, which you can use for only a few cents per page. I printed all of my papers, worksheets and sheet music in the commons and spent less than $3 the whole year. It is much more convenient to just use the printers Penn State provides than to waste space on your desk for a massive printer.

Along with this, you don’t need a hole puncher, stapler, or most other office supplies. They just sat on my desk the entire year for me.

pack: a power strip

Bring. A. Power. Strip. You will have so many cords to plug in and you need a power strip.

Dorms (especially the old ones) are notorious for having very few outlets. They’re also always in inconvenient spots, so something as simple as charging your phone may become a challenge.

It feels like everything in your dorm needs an outlet, and power strips are essential to keep everything running. Just trust me on this one.

ditch: the throw pillows

Now, I am not advocating ditching all of your pretty pillows, because a few good throw pillows really can pull together the entire color scheme of a room. What I am advocating is that you don’t bring any more than three or four and that the ones you bring are practical, comfy or useful.

Don’t bring pillows that aren’t comfy enough to nap with or keep on your bed — they’ll just spend the whole year living on the floor. I have one long and fuzzy body pillow that I absolutely loved using as a makeshift headboard or just cuddling up with to sleep, one medium-sized pink pillow, a larger gray-blue patterned one that I usually kept in bed to sleep with, a small white pillow, and my actual pillow.

This was plenty, and the only reason I was okay with having so many is because they were all comfy enough to actually sleep with. If your throw pillow is hard as a rock and strictly decorative, leave it behind and get a comfier one.

pack: a carpet/rug

The floors are gross, cold, and ugly. In our room, the floor was dark brown tile with a design that looked like random smears of a lighter brown across the dark brown. There is nothing that you can possibly get to match a floor like that.

For the sake of comfort, hygiene, and decoration, please do yourself a favor and get a carpet. My roommate and I had an 11 x 16 ft light gray rug and it was our saving grace. They are easy to vacuum, soft, nice for your feet, and help tie together whatever color scheme you choose for the room.

pack: a plastic shower caddy

My mesh one seemed like a great idea in theory. Until one day I was walking down the hallway dripping wet after a shower and my conditioner bottle ripped straight through the mesh and fell onto the ground, bringing my razor, shaving cream, washcloth, curl cream, shampoo, body wash, shower gel and wet brush with it.

I was stuck crouching on the ground in my towel hoping nobody would walk by as I tried to scoop it all into my arms and shuffle down the hallway to my dorm while still holding up the towel.

Don’t let that happen to you. Get a plastic shower caddy to begin with and you’ll be just fine.

ditch: the robe

You really don’t use robes in college. There’s nowhere to put a robe in a communal bathroom where it won’t get soaked and you won’t flash everyone walking to the shower.

Just walk down the hall in a towel, hang the towel over the shower door when you’re showering, use it to dry off, and then wrap it around yourself to get back to your dorm. My robe just hung in my closet taking up space since the first week of school.

pack: whatever makes you happy

When it comes to decorations, bring whatever is going to make you happy and comfortable. In my case, that was a photo wall, fairy lights, and a little pink sign with a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote on it. For some people, that means a tapestry, LED lights, and a giant stuffed teddy bear. Whatever is going to make you feel happy and at home, bring it with you.

College is hard enough without your little comforts. Don’t ever feel guilty about doing everything you can to make your dorm room yours. Have fun decorating, and good luck!

Emma is a third-year Elementary and Early Childhood Education major at Penn State University. When she's not writing, you can usually find her singing, reading, painting, going on walks, hanging out with friends/her incredible boyfriend, and drinking iced chai lattes. Outside of Her Campus, Emma is the President of the Penn State Singing Lions, a Students United Against Poverty Ambassador, a member of the Phi Eta Sigma honors fraternity, and works at an after-school program.