Arriving on Campus

The good news is that everyone else around you is in the same boat. Nobody knows where they’re going. No one knows where the dining hall is, or where the dorm orientation is going to be held. That’s OK. Your new school doesn’t want you to be freaked out or scared, and it provides countless resources to help you. We’ll cover all of those resources. But first, let’s deal with some basics.

What to Bring

A major way to relieve the stress of moving into the dorm is to pack appropriately. You will be sorry if you bring things that you won’t use, items that are too large, or that double up on what your roommate is bringing.

Here’s a list of the stuff that you’ll be very happy to have in your new pad:

  • Computer (don’t forget the manuals and software)
  • Power—strip/surge protector, extension cords, and two-to-three prong adaptors
  • Light—desk lamp, floor lamp, and clip lamp
  • Alarm clock (a reliable one!)
  • Laundry supplies—detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets
  • Hangers
  • Bedding—two sets of sheets and pillowcases; two pillows; one comforter; one fleece blanket (check on sheet size because many dorms have extra-long beds)
  • Toiletries—shampoo, soap, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
  • Thesaurus and dictionary
  • School supplies—pens, pencils, notebooks, etc.

On top of these items, there are some extra things you should consider bringing if you already own them and you have extra room.

Here are some things that are nice to have but not essential:

  • Television
  • DVD/VCR player
  • Stereo
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Computer printer
  • Photos of family and friends
  • Coffee maker
  • Bicycle
  • A plant
  • Room decorations
What Not to Bring

Every dorm has a list of items they don’t allow, and some stuff is just too risky to bring anyway. Here’s a list of stuff to leave at home:

  • Pets. It’s pretty much a guarantee that pets aren’t going to be allowed in the dorm. You can ask about it, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. You may be allowed to have a fishbowl, but check with your dorm first.
  • Ritzy stuff. Don’t risk having Grandma’s ring stolen, or losing that fabulous Gucci bag. Yes, you might bring some expensive computer equipment and other gadgets, but those things are replaceable—a family heirloom isn’t. If you are bringing expensive computers and gadgets, make sure they are insured and you have the serial numbers written down somewhere safe.
  • Your whole wardrobe. If you’re moving into the dorm in August, you don’t need all of your winter coats and sweaters. You can get these when you go home for Thanksgiving. Remember, your dorm closet looks more like a breadbox than a storage space. Also, college students tend to dress down, so the fashion-show look of some high schools doesn’t really fly.
  • Dry-clean-only clothes. Don’t bring clothes that are too hard to care for. Bring only what you can stuff into a washing machine.
  • Giant appliances. Everything in the dorm room should be scaled to size: mini-fridge, plug-in burner (if allowed), and four-cup coffee pots are the norm on campus.
  • Halogen lamps. Many colleges consider them a fire hazard and warn students not to bring them.
  • Your high school yearbook. It will remind you of home and your friends and offers you some comfort on those lonely nights. Right? Wrong! It will just take up space, and you won’t be looking at it anyway. Your new friends and new activities take up a lot of time, so there will be a few spare moments to get misty-eyed and sentimental about high school. Besides, it’s fun to look at that stuff at home once you’ve had some time away from it.
  • Candles. Most dorms don’t want you setting fires anywhere.
  • Alcohol. Most dorms are dry, meaning that alcohol isn’t allowed. And, may we add, you’re under the legal drinking age anyway.
  • Drugs. College kids get busted with drugs all the time too. It’s a bad idea to have them and a worse idea to use them.
Shipping Your Stuff

If you’re not driving to school, you can pack a lot of stuff in boxes and ship it ahead of time. Make sure to use a company that will track the package, and call your new dorm to make sure that someone will receive the packages and hold them securely for you.

If you’re flying, remember that most airlines have a weight limit for suitcases. These days, airport security goes through everything thoroughly, so you may find your nice packing job turned upside down. Your best bet is to send things ahead of time, have your folks send your stuff once you get to school, or buy most of what you need when you get to your new town.

Contacting Your Future Roommate(s)

Before you arrive on campus you should be able to find out the name and phone number of your future roommate. There’s a chance you’ll be placed in a double, a triple, or a quad, so you may have to make a few phone calls. Expect some phone calls as well, especially if your future roommates get their mail before you do. It’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself and break the ice. It’s also a great idea to discuss who’s bringing what. If you’ve arranged to have someone you already know as your first-year roommate, then these decisions should be easy. You may even want to go halves on some of the larger-ticket items, like the mini-fridge. Make sure to decide who’s going to take (and perhaps keep) the item when you and your roomie part ways for the summer.

Things you can share with your roommate(s):

  • Refrigerator
  • Television
  • DVD/VCR player
  • PlayStation
  • Microwave
  • Toaster oven
  • Computer printer
  • Sports equipment
  • Blow dryer
  • Water filter
Moving In

Moving day will be one of the most nerve-racking and exciting days of your life. If you’re moving into a dorm, the good news is there will be plenty of people to help you. The dorm should have resident assistants and dorm monitors on hand to guide you to your room, and the dorm should provide you with wheeled bins or hand trucks so you can move your stuff easily.

Once you get to your room and put your stuff down, you’ll have to choose a bed and a desk. What side of the room do you like to sleep on? Do you like to be by a window? Closer to the bathroom? Top bunk or bottom? Ideally, roommates should decide together who’s going to get what furniture. If your roomie hasn’t arrived yet, just put your stuff to the side and wait till he or she gets there to choose beds. You’ll be off to a bad start if you start making executive decisions from the get-go.

Bed Swap

If you get to the room and your new roommate has already claimed a bed and a desk, deal with it if you can. One great way to avoid any conflict is to agree to switch furniture next semester. That way, neither of you will feel too much resentment about having a worse situation. Later on, you might decide there’s no need to switch, but it’s a nice way to start out the year on even footing.

Goodbye, Folks

Saying goodbye to Mom and Dad might be a tearful scene. That’s OK. It’s a tearful scene for most people. Mom’s eyes will get misty and Dad will come back twice from the car to tell you some crucial piece of advice that he forgot to tell you earlier, probably something about crumbs in the toaster. Just let them be who they are. In a moment, they’ll be driving away, and there you’ll sit, at the edge of your dorm bed and at the beginning of your adult life.

Make sure to tell your folks that you’re going to be okay. You’re going to eat regular meals and brush your teeth and study and not do all of the other million things they’ve warned you about. Oh, and wipe the grin off your face until they’ve actually driven away.

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