College Living: Essential Tips for First-Year Students
By Steven Broussard
Summer is already winding down and the most recent class of high school graduates and their parents are crowding shopping malls and department stores in a scramble to find all the items essential for university living. This first shopping experience is an important initiation to campus living.
The trick is to take some time and imagine a typical day in your new surroundings. Think of what you'll need to operate on a daily basis, and formulate a list of necessities. While this task can appear arduous at first, it doesn't have to be. One of the best ways to alleviate some of the stress is to go with the flow and heed the advice of those that have already been in your situation. Here's a list of college living essentials and where you can find them.
Dorm Room Essentials
- Miniature refrigerator. This item is listed first for a reason. It is perfect for easy access to a variety of soft drinks and bottled water, as well as sports and energy drinks. Don't forget your favorite stickers or magnets to decorate the door!
- Microwave. For reheating leftover pizza and food sent from home, or heating the two traditional college staples: popcorn and Ramen noodles.
- Area rug. Be sure to inquire whether or not your dorm room is carpeted. If not, the bare tile floors of some dorm rooms are less than desirable for bare feet and may be cracked or worn. Area rugs are great for solving this problem.
- Garbage cans and bags. Some colleges surprisingly don't provide either of these essentials. You'd be amazed at the amount of refuse that just two roommates can produce over the course of a week.
- Storage bins. The goal of dorm living is to make the most out of the small space you're given. Thin plastic storage bins work well for sliding under the bed, and more bulky rectangular containers can be stacked in the provided closet space or armoire.
- Twin-long bedding. Be sure to buy the appropriate sized sheets and comforter. College beds are typically longer than the traditional twin, but double-check with your school to get the right size. Install a layer of egg-crate foam over your mattress for additional comfort.
- Alarm clock. Varying class times, social engagements, and frequent (hard earned) naps make this item a must to overcome irregular sleeping patterns and maintain punctuality.
- Shower sandals. Sharing community showers is a humbling experience after a lifetime of washing at home. With so many people using the facilities on your floor, it's wise to say goodbye to your previously barefooted bathing luxury and invest in a pair of sandals.
- Plastic basket for shower products. Toting your shampoo, soap, and other shower products to and from the floor bathroom can be cumbersome. Make it a point to pick up a plastic shower basket for easy transport.
- Fan. Unfortunately, not many college dormitories are equipped with the plush air conditioning units that many prospective freshmen are accustomed to. When you arrive at your room, crack the window and set up a fan or two for improved air circulation.
- Office chair. Your dorm room should be equipped with a desk and a chair. While the desk will be solid wood and more than likely wholly adequate, you'll find that the accompanying chair may be made of the same material and will be less than desirable for extended studying sessions or time at the computer.
- Desk lamp or clip-on lighting. Desk lamps are important at school for obvious reasons. However, if you consider the subtle nuances of dorm living, a form of clip-on lighting may be more appropriate for its versatility (i.e. adjusting desk lighting or moving locations due to a sleeping roommate).
- Printer and ink cartridges. Check with your university to verify its printer availability. Some colleges provide printing clusters scattered around campus, while others may only contain printers at a central location such as a library. Since such services are usually at a cost, are at a high demand, and often require travel (which is of greater importance depending on the season), it's a great idea to bring your own printer and install it in your room.
- Extension chords and surge protector. Dorm rooms have a limited amount of electrical sockets. Since college students need the services of a multitude of outlets for the use of their appliances, don't forget to pack a surge protector and a few extension chords for more power use and greater versatility.
- iPod. No matter where you travel on campus, you will see fellow students utilizing these compact mp3 players and sporting their signature white earphones. Depending on the size of your campus, you may need some entertainment to make the walk to class seem a little faster.
- Laptop and accompanying backpack. Desktops have become virtually unheard of in the realm of college student culture. With many universities providing outlets and wireless hotspots around campus, laptops have become students' top choice computer style because of their size, portability, and practicality. Make sure you find a backpack or other bag with a compartment for carrying your machine.
- Posters. Dorm living would not be complete without the traditional smattering of posters to cover up blank white walls, dents, and stains. You'll be able to find posters for any taste and personality.
- Corkboard. Purchase a corkboard to compliment your poster collection. Use it to post photos, concert or athletic event ticket stubs, and syllabi.
- Television. When they're not immersed in the rigor of the academic setting or taking advantage of various other social and athletic activities, you can find most typical college students glued to a television set. Don't forget yours on move-in day.
- DVD Collection. Considering the hard work some students put into their home entertainment systems and the satisfaction derived from their use, it makes sense that many would bring along favorite DVDs. Students watch movies to relax alone or unwind with their friends after a long day.
- Local bank account. Be certain to open an account at the nearest bank if your current bank does not have any locations in the area. This will enable you to avoid costly ATM service charges.
- Facebook and/or MySpace account. These two social networking sites are staples of contemporary college culture. Students will often ask whether you have an account on these sites before taking time out to write down your contact information. Register for free.
- Sporting equipment. Make a conscious effort to include some recreational items. Pack a Frisbee, soccer ball, or football to enjoy nice days and socialize on the quad.
- A friend with a car. As a freshman, most colleges nationwide will not allow you to park your car on campus. To avoid feeling trapped on university grounds and to meet people outside of your graduating class, try to befriend an upperclassman with some transportation!
The shift from high school to college living is drastic. Although nobody can realistically expect an entirely smooth transition, if you follow these preparatory tips it will make your job a lot easier. Living away from home, meeting new people, and adjusting to a college workload may seem daunting, but it will all become natural in a matter of a short while.
Lastly, once you've completely settled into your new college lifestyle, don't forget to buy a box of envelopes and a book of stamps to write the people you've left at home. Good Luck!