Things I Forgot to Bring to College

Nathan Wilgeroth

I thought I lived a simple life. I thought I’d grown to be perfectly minimalistic, impervious to the petty evils of material things. I thought I was all set to move to school with little more than a couple of suitcases. I thought it’d all be a cinch.


I can laugh now about how quickly I found that all my odd pride came from a place of flat-out, cocky ignorance. I’d taken so much of my parents’ resources for granted and overlooked the conscious effort they’d put in to keep my house well stocked—you know, like adults. But now it was my turn to live alone, away from home, like an adult, and I had to learn some vital skills to be self-sufficient. Because I’d hardly realized how many forgettable amenities are needed to keep me clean, healthy, and sane, I moved into my bare-bone dorm with no sustainable supply of very, very necessary things. I had to learn what I needed to purchase along the way, but by each time I found myself in need of something, I was far too late.

Westfield State University advertisement

Please, for your own sake, don’t make my mistakes. Read this list, check it twice, and use it to brainstorm all the staples you may have forgotten to consider. Your future self will thank you.

  • A first-aid kit and medicine – Mommy’s medicine cabinet is miles from your dorm, so plan ahead and be well prepared for any sniffles and/or scratches that may come your way.
  • Clorox/cleaning wipes – I now swear by these wonderful, multi-surface sheets of heaven. A lot of schools rightly pride themselves in being “historic,” but “historic” often means “old,” and “old” often means “dusty.” History has its charm, but so does visible cleanliness.
  • A fan – This one may not apply to everyone, but people for whom it does will thank me. Growing up in Texas, I’d become used to air-conditioning as a given feature of every building. That is not the case for the New England city to which I moved; snow dominates most of the North’s academic year, so indoor cooling is only necessary for a small amount of time. In that time, however, the dorms get hot, heavy with the humid dew of your own sweat. Because I didn’t originally have anything to help me cool down, I was stuffing my pillowcase in my freezer for a chance at cool, comfortable sleep. I soon learned better, bought a fan, and survived the fall.
  • A printer – A lot of schools are beginning to make valiant efforts to be eco-friendly. While I think it’s admirable to encourage thousands of the world’s future leaders to practice sustainable living, I have to admit that these efforts can be pretty inconvenient. Each semester, students at my school are allotted a small quota of pages that we may print from the library. Should we exceed this quota, we have to pay per page. While the school promotes going green and limiting paper usage, however, I’ve found that a lot of my professors did not get the memo and instead required me to ravage through a forest’s worth of pages for paper assignments and extra reading. Investing in a printer is entirely worth it, so it may be smart to reach out to your future roommate or other friends on campus to chip in for a handy community printer. It also has the added convenience of sparing you a trip to the library just to pick up a Xeroxed copy of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
  • Shower sandals – I don’t think I can stress the importance of these enough. In fact, I advise you to make this among your top-five priorities to bring to college. Many dorms have communal bathrooms that are shared between multiple people, and that means that shower floors cycle through the runoff of dozens of different bodies on a daily basis. I don’t want to convince you that all dormitory bathrooms are swampy cesspools—some of them are actually getting more and more impressive with renovations—but I would advise you to treat them essentially as if they were gym locker rooms. Because of that, you need to wear sandals in the shower. A lot of people (I’ve found from personal eye-witness accounts) have the misconception that shower sandals are those that you wear to get to the shower. But wearing shoes while taking a shower is arguably way more important. Germs exist, and they’re happiest in damp environments. Protect your feet.

This is, in no way, a comprehensive list. Three years into college, I still find new things I’d never before considered to have at the ready. If anything, I hope I’ve gotten a few gears turning—the independent lifestyle is all a learning process, but a cautious amount of foresight can let it start smoothly. Happy shopping, happy moving, and, hey, happy college-ing!

More Helpful Guides

College Move-In Day: A College Packing List of Essentials for Your Dorm Room

Best Forms of On-Campus Transportation

What to Pack for Freshman Orientation (Includes More than the Essentials)

13 Useful Services and Resources to look for During a College Visit