A laundry basket
When youre lugging your smelly clothes down six flights of stairs, a laundry basket is far easier to carry than a bag. And if your laundry room looks anything like mine did, you definitely wont want your stuff to fall on the floor when youre moving it from washer to dryer. Dont forget rolls of quarters.
3M plastic wall hooks
These stick to the wall with super-strong adhesive, and theyre usually available at stores like Target and Meijer. Get a variety of sizes, and use them to hang your towel, bathrobe and calendar. 3M is the only brand Ive found that comes off the wall without leaving a trace and doesnt detach under pressure--and theyre reusable, too.
A facebook account
If you dont have a digital camera, dont fear--your friends will be posting all of their photos on facebook. The self-described social utility now allows anyone to join, but it began on the college scene, where its trumped MySpace as the online networking tool of choice. Its easy to keep track of new people you meet and know what your friends from home are up to (and to remember their birthdays). Besides, its the perfect way to stalk--er, find out if that cute guy in your anthropology course is single.
Go ahead, laugh now. But if youre going to college anywhere winter strikes, youll want it, especially if you go to a big school where youll be walking a lot. And when you want to go sledding on stolen cafeteria trays, youll be happy to have the extra warmth.
Flip flops for showers
Have you ever peed in the shower? Thats okay, because even if you havent, someone else has. And in the dorms, youll probably be sharing a communal bathroom. Aside from the yuck factor, plantars warts and athletes foot are transmitted in communal showers.
You dont need a passport to go to college, of course, but if you want to get the most out of your college experience, make studying abroad a part of it. You wont need to make your plans right away--most students go abroad during their junior year--but start looking into your options. Find out where youll be able to take classes in your major, or better yet, try to get requirements out of the way so you can study what you like while youre overseas.
Dishes and silverware
Even if you have a meal plan, you WILL be eating in your room. Invest in a few cups, mugs, plates, bowls, and sets of utensils. Dont get in the habit of using plastic throwaways - its bad for the environment. Youll be glad to have a sharp knife and a can opener. A set of Pyrex bowls also comes in handy.
Most colleges allow students in the dorms to rent or bring small refrigerators. Not sure? Go for it. Youll want cold drinks, and buying from vending machines adds up. When you order take-out, your leftovers wont go bad. And itll be much easier to keep those Freshman 15 off if youre able to munch on fresh, healthy food, like fruit and yogurt, instead of Cheez-Its and Oreos.
Even if you like watching movies on your laptop or listening to music while you fall asleep, headphones are a must. A little quiet can go a long way toward preserving roommate peace. Youll also want them if your roommate, say, talks in her sleep or invites friends into the room while youre trying to study, in case she doesnt quite have the same idea.
Resealable plastic bags are perfect for stealing food from your cafeteria. Dont feel bad as you stash baggies of cereal in your backpack. Youre paying for a meal plan, and think of how much food gets thrown away. Ziploc bags are also great for packing a lunch if your schedule doesnt give you a midday break.
An open mind
Many colleges require students to take general education classes in a wide variety of subjects. It might seem like a burden, but try something you know nothing about. If youre undecided on your major--or even if you think youre sure--you may discover a new passion. (Alternatively, you may realize that you never, ever want to hear the word oceanography again. Thats also good to know.)
The fabled freshman 15 may be an exaggeration, but studies show that college students usually gain 3-10 pounds in their first two years, much of it during the first semester. One of the causes is a drop in physical activity. College is a time to form new habits, so start out on the right foot--go to the gym, go jogging, take an aerobics class, or join an intramural sports team. If you want to stick with it, its best to find a regular time to fit exercise into your schedule.
USB Flash drive
If youll be working on any computers that arent your own, a flash drive is essential. Its also great for sharing music and photos with your friends or getting digital pics printed. A 256-megabyte flash is probably big enough, although if you work with graphics or plan to carry a lot of photos, you may want a larger size.
Ive seen guys wearing socks around the dorms that are so grimy they look like they could sprout mushrooms from the bottom. Plus, in the winter, unless youre heading to Florida or Arizona, your toesll get cold when youre tapping away at your computer.
A sense of humor
College is a wonderful time, when hundreds of kids with clashing habits and pet peeves get thrown together in rooms not much larger than jail cells. That roommate who trims his beard over your desk may not turn out to be your best friend, but if you take it all in stride, living in the dorms can be a source of amusement and bonding, rather than the cause of your misery. And who knows--you just might end up actually LIKING your roommates favorite country band.