College packing lists are a dime a dozen, and often populated by the things only the most absent-minded would forget. Let’s be honest, you’re not going to forget your phone charger. When you’re packing for college, there is the standard packing list, and then there’s the “I never would have thought to bring that” packing list. When you pull out your suitcases this fall, use this list and you’ll be your own hero every time Future You already has what you need.
This is one of those items that you don’t think of until you need it. Unlike buying medicine – which expires – in advance, you’ll never regret having a good-quality digital thermometer handy. Living through a pandemic has made most of us more aware of the importance of knowing when you have a fever, but even if you’re not sick with coronavirus, keeping an eye on temperature spikes is a must. The last thing you want to do is have to stumble to the store to buy one when you’re already not feeling well.
Reusable storage containers
Whether you’re on a rural campus or an urban one, a big part of college life rotates around food. Cooking it (sometimes for the first time), going in on meals with friends, ordering delivery – you name it. But everybody forgets about leftovers and what to do with them. To avoid creating a stinky-fridge situation, consider grabbing some good reusable storage containers. The flexible bag variety is easier for mini fridges, and they’re also good for stashing snacks in that you can eat between classes.
Rubber bands are one of those items that you often don’t even know where they come from – they’re just in your parents’ house, bundled up in a drawer when you need them. You never know how handy a rubber band is until you don’t have one! You can use them to open jars, to close bags of chips after late-night study sessions, as a binder to keep posters rolled up, and a million other useful things. But only if you have them. Luckily they won’t take up much space in your bags.
It’s hard to overstate how important tape is, and how annoying it is when you don’t have it. Its uses are innumerable. Duct tape can fix things. Painter’s tape can hang posters without peeling the paint off walls. Scotch tape can be used for everything from wrapping gifts to picking up broken glass. People don’t usually forget a small tool kit when they head off to college – but tape is an unexpectedly handy item to add to your list.
Or cookie mix. Or cake mix. Leaving for college is all about starting a new life and a big part of that is making new friends. It will, without a doubt, soon be someone’s first birthday away from home. It has the potential to be sad – but sharing brownies with a new friend could make it sweet.
While we’re on the topic of food, and on the topic of friends, be the person that has ketchup in their fridge. Everyone will have fries and no one will have ketchup. Not only can you make a new friend by being the person who had ketchup in their time of need, but the great thing about someone mooching off of you is that you then have someone to mooch off of. It’s all about give and take!
People with periods usually have this one covered, but having a heating pad on standby is a great idea at college because, whether urban or rural, walking all around campus is sure to introduce some unexpected muscle cramps. Neck pain from crouching over the books all night? Heating pad. Using the campus wellness center to do new workouts? Heating pad. Just like a thermometer, it’s one of those items you want to have in advance and not be limping to the store to get one when you need it most.
The word “ottoman” sounds like something that you’d find in a stuffy part of your grandparents’ house, but if you have space in your room, having an ottoman is an item it probably didn’t occur to you to buy but that you won’t regret acquiring. Not only can you buy them with storage space inside to reduce clutter, but it’s also utilitarian extra seating for your room!
Pro tip: there will be a time when all you need to do is put your contacts in – but your roommate or your roommate’s friend or whoever will be in the bathroom. You just need a mirror! You just need to do one thing! Over-the-door storage is already your friend because your closet will never be big enough, but an over-the-door vanity that has pockets for your stuff and a mirror if you need to pop your contacts in or out, etc. can be really nice.
Snacks are a given. Cereal, Oreos, all the things that make long study sessions bearable. But don’t forget snacks that you can eat on the go – as punctual as you think you are, there will always be times when you’re booking it from one class to another, with no space in the middle to stop and eat. Consider Pop-Tarts, granola bars, bananas – anything that is handheld and can be munched while you’re charging across campus.
Fentanyl test strips
Fentanyl test strips are a simple, inexpensive, and evidence-based tool that can be used to prevent drug overdoses. Lots of people experiment with drugs in college, and whether you’re one of them or not, you can keep these on your person and perhaps save a life.
Parents are great for thinking to include first aid kits on the packing list, but a standard first aid kit rarely includes allergy medicine as it’s not exactly an injury. But a bout of bad allergies will feel like an injury. This is especially true if you are moving a significant distance from home for college – you may not use allergy medicine at home, but moving to a new region can be a smack in the face when it comes to the kind of pollen you’re encountering, and if your eyes are swollen shut you won’t be able to see the professor or the notes they’re writing out during their lecture! Then there’s always the possibility that your roommate has a cat at home whose dander has coated all their possessions. Be prepared!
Most professors don’t accept loose sheets of paper, even if your name is on each. There is also a common “turn it in during the first five minutes of class or it won’t be graded” policy. There’s no worse feeling in the world than staying up all night working on a paper, printing it out just in time to go turn it in, and then having to sprint to the library or administration offices to beg for the use of a stapler. No one wants a cluttered desk, but at the very least get a miniature one that will fit in your drawer. You will never regret it.
Just, uh, trust us on this one.
I know, I know, you’re learning to keep yourself alive without your parents for possibly the first time – who has time to keep a plant alive too?! But hear me out. Studies have continually shown that being around plants improves happiness and reduces stress, and when you’re away from home for the first time and cracking under the pressure that a full course load brings with it, there will be moments when you brought along that ZZ plant. Other super-low maintenance plants like succulents or snake plants are a good option too. Then there’s always aloe vera, which doubles for first aid.
No matter how many roommates you have, there are going to be…smells. Your roommate may not be a fan of simple things like showers. Your roommate may be a dance major or athlete with pungent shoes. Your roommate may prefer cheese imported from France. Or even if you have no roommates, if you simply haven’t done laundry for awhile and your crush drops by unexpectedly…you want to have a fix for that. Candles generally aren’t approved due to fire hazards, so go for air freshener or even an essential oil diffuser.
With the amount of people in and out at all hours, earplugs are a necessity for both sleeping and being able to focus on studying. Our SLEEP earplugs are made with a soft silicone total block filter. It's an essential for getting good sleep at college and for sensory reduction needs. For all the loud social events on your calendar, EARPEACE MUSIC is hearing protection that is easy to throw in a purse or on your keys, especially for the sensory sensitive.
College is the start of your life as an adult, and one of the major lessons that you’ll learn – and keep learning, again and again – is that life loves to throw you curveballs. And that’s not always a bad thing! As you pack for college, try to think about your packing list as more than a list of stuff – it’s stuff, but the things you take with you are also potential conversation starters, potential gateways to new friendships, and opportunities to be independent. Lean into expecting the unexpected. You’ll never be prepared for everything, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try!