College freshmen, think ahead and plan carefully about what to pack

A standard dorm room. Photo by Alec Sitton

T-minus one month and counting. The countdown to your first day as a college freshman has officially begun. There are advice articles galore with lists of what to pack and what not to pack; it’s almost as overwhelming as the college admissions process.

Here are a few important mantras that I must share.

Please remember:

  1. You are going to college in the United States, and there will be a CVS, Walgreens or RiteAid close by. There is no need to stock up on items that you can purchase locally. I have heard stories of students insisting on packing a year’s worth of shampoo and laundry detergent.
  2. You will be living in a frighteningly small space, and you may be sharing it with one, two or three other students. There simply isn’t enough room for you to bring all of your clothes, all your personal mementos and everything that reminds you of home.
  3. The US Postal Service does a great job. If you forgot or need something you left behind, you can either have it sent or it can wait until you come home at Thanksgiving.
  4. Nobody wants to lug everything up to your room and then realize there’s no space and then have to lug it back to the car and back to your home. Pack lightly and intelligently.
  5. Physical space and outlet capacity is at a premium. Any important item that doesn’t take up a lot of space or require being plugged in becomes more valuable.

Based on conversations with students who have recently completed their freshman year, here’s what they said were items not worth bringing:

  • Keurig – it sounds like a great idea, coffee in your room, any time you want. Truth was, students preferred to make their coffee-time social and join friends at Starbucks. It also takes up space and a valuable outlet.
  • Television – most students were happy watching their favorite shows on their laptops. Purchasing a subscription to Netflix or Hulu could be a great gift.
  • Printers and ink – check with your school; many colleges now provide complimentary printing as a great perk.
  • Wall calendars/wall planners – face it, you’re just not going to use them. There are plenty of organizational apps that are easily accessed on your phone and allow for continual modifications.
  • Candles/hotplates – most colleges have strict rules against candle and hotplate usage.
  • Microwave or refrigerator – unless you’ve already checked out what is allowed by the specific residence hall. Once you are aware of what is permissible, it’s a great idea for one roommate to purchase the microwave and another to purchase the refrigerator.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions