College Life: What You Won’t Find on Dorm Recommendation Lists

This August marks five years since I first moved into my freshman dorm, just over a year since I moved into my first apartment, and just under three months since I’ve settled into my second apartment. During the four years I spent in the dorms, I learned a lot about things I loved that I didn’t find on any “Recommended” list, either at Walmart or Bed, Bath, & Beyond, or anywhere in-between. There are a lot of lists that claim to be “all-inclusive,” but honestly, they’re just too detailed and confusing. If you tried to take everything they tell you on the list, you’ll end up buried under a mountain of stuff! Most dorm rooms are only 8′ x 16′, and you’re sharing that space with another person. Don’t be the one that takes up the whole space and leaves nothing for your roommate!

Some things might have shown up on a list somewhere, but going by my personal experience, I never saw any of these things. Or if I did see them, I never used them for their intended purposes…

Without further ado, I present to you, my collection of five things you won’t find on dorm packing lists (but you should bring anyways):

  1. A dry-erase whiteboard calendar. A lot of people simply use their planners (or don’t use them), but I couldn’t have survived without my whiteboard calendar. It’s held up for five years so far, but at the end of graduate school I might have to replace it. It’s beginning to wear out and get a bit raggedy, particularly in the cork-board part. I love the whiteboard calendar because I can put it right by my door/above my desk (or wherever you want to put it!) and give it a quick glance as I head out the door/as I sit and do homework. As long as you remember to update it, you’ll never miss another event again!
  2. A fully-stocked “Just in Case” kit. You’re going to have an on-campus nurse, but most of the time you’ll have to make an appointment a few days in advance in order to take advantage of this service. A lot of packing lists will tell you to bring some bandages or a simple first aid kid or something along the lines, but that’s just not enough. One of those first aids kids rarely has what you need inside it. What follows is a short list of what I’ve considered life-saving while living on my own:
    • over-the-counter medication (allergy pills, pain relievers, cough syrup, DayQuil/NyQuil, etc.)
    • prescribed medication (birth control pills, ADHD medication, etc.)
    • bandages of all sizes & antibacterial cream (I use bacitracin on the recommendation of my dermatologist)
    • icy-hot patches (I get muscle pains/cramps every now and then, and these are amazing; I just get the Walmart-brand knockoffs and they work just fine)
    • gauze/stretchy bandages (to wrap up cuts that are too big for a bandage)
    • itch/rash cream (because you WILL get a bug bite at some point and you’ll scratch yourself into madness if you’re not careful)
    • a thermometer (I got a kids’ one at Publix for $5. It’s got a cow on the top)
    • bug spray/sunscreen (for prevention)
    • rubbing alcohol/hydrogen peroxide, for sterilizing
  3. A stepladder. I can’t tell you how many times the first year I lived in the dorm that I wished we’d had a stepladder. Of course, once you need it, you’ll probably never need it, but I’m always in the camp of “It might come in handy someday,” and stepladders never really go out of style.
  4. A toolkit. This might be more geared towards those who are living in an apartment already, but I don’t know how I would survive without my little toolkit. My mom bought me one at Aldi for Christmas 2015. It’s a sturdy black bag with pink highlights (and pink tools!), but it’s well-made and I’ve used them dozens of times over the past eighteen months. I even bought a picture-hanging kit and reused an old tackle box to keep all the little pieces like nails/screws/whatnot in it. I bought a little electric screwdriver. I’ve got plenty of room for tool-expansion, too! Now, if your dorm does not allow nails in walls, get yourself some command strips! They have literally been a lifesaver. (And you can keep them in your handy-dandy toolkit!)
  5. Rain boots & Umbrella. Now, now, hear me out. You’re going to be doing more walking in the months and years ahead than you (most likely) have ever done before. A lot of that walking is going to be in nasty weather. You can’t just take an off day because the sun’s not out! Equip yourself with a nice umbrella and some rain boots, and don’t fear the weather any more! (Psst: you don’t need to buy $200 Hunter boots, either; I bought a pair for $20 from Rack Room Shoes that lasted four years and looked great!) If you want to go all-out, get yourself a rain jacket, too!

Now, this list is by no means exhaustive. There are so many other things I could put on this list, but these five things are my top “things to include in a dorm-packing list” list.

Your list may be slightly different, or it may include all of these plus some! That’s okay!

What sorts of things did you include on your list? Is there anything you included that you would consider part of your Top 5 that I didn’t include here? Let me know in the comments! It’s hard to just pick five things to put on a packing list, but I tried my best.


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