Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

Packing for college. It can be daunting, confusing and even overwhelming. You’ll probably forget a few things, and—even more likely—you’ll probably bring things you don’t really need, whether you’re headed a few hours away or taking a plane across the country. I’ve been around the packing-for-school block a few times now—freshman, sophomore and junior move-in days, plus a semester abroad and an unfortunate midyear room change—and here are a few things that I’ve come to consider essential.

1. A toolkit. I have a handy-dandy little toolkit that my mother owned in college, complete with a tiny hammer, screwdrivers and measuring tape. This is the number one item that I’ve been asked to loan out; in fact, roommates from previous years have even texted to see if they can borrow it. There have been so many occasions when this has come in handy, from changing a vacuum cleaner battery to rearranging the room. Even if you don’t have or want to buy a kit, invest in a few key tools, like a small hammer and a basic screwdriver. I’m positive I’ll be using mine around the house for the rest of my life.

2. Duct tape. You never know when you’ll need to tape something, or what it will be, and duct tape is useful in many different situations. It even comes in so many fun patterns and colors that you could use it for dorm decoration.

3. Lint brush and wrinkle release spray. Even though I own an iron, I rarely have time to iron items that don’t absolutely need it. When you’re on the go and in a hurry, you’ll be glad to have wrinkle release spray (protip: you can totally use this even if you’re already wearing something, no matter what the bottle says). A lint brush is another essential, especially for tidying up your suit before interviews.

4. Blu-tac. My roommates and I brought a ton of those easy-peel adhesive strips to school with us freshman year, and it turned out that our walls were institutional painted cinderblock that nothing would stick to… except blu-tac. I’ve been using the same $2 package since then, and I use it to attach things to walls, desks, bulletin boards… everything. Get it.

5. Rain wear. Dealing with Hurricanes Irene and Sandy during two consecutive move-ins meant that the bookstore sold out of their stock of rain gear. If you’re going to college somewhere with rain, make sure to bring an umbrella, at the very least.

6. Clothes you can afford to lose. I was recently introduced to the concept of a “fracket,” or frat-jacket—a light coat that you can wear to parties and leave behind if you forget it, lose it, get too warm or decide to make a quick exit. You’ll probably get tons of free shirts, but an old pair of jeans can also come in handy for things like service trips that might include painting or gardening. If you go to a color run or highlighter party, you’ll also need clothing that can be ruined.

7. Pencil sharpener. I use mechanical pencils and pens, and had to borrow a sharpener for my eyebrow pencil. Even if you use regular pencils, sharpeners tend to get lost or forgotten, so pick one up!

8. Stapler. Many professors dislike when work is handed in without something holding the pages together neatly… and no, the fold-down-the-corner trick doesn’t always work. Spend the few dollars to get a stapler and some staples, and look professional when you turn in your homework. (I actually work in the student center and the information desk bought a stapler because it was the item we get asked to borrow most frequently.)

9. An extra toothbrush. Odds are that over the semester you’ll lose or drop your toothbrush, or deodorant, or razor, and it can be a pain to have to make a special trip to buy one. Save yourself the trouble and buy in bulk to begin with!

When you start packing up in a few weeks and coordinating your bedding with your roommates’, consider picking up a few things off this list. I’m pretty sure that you’ll thank me later.

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the author

Olivia Cunningham is a journalism student at St. John's University in New York City. She is the assistant features editor of the Torch student newspaper, maintains her own blog ( and suffers from a strong addiction to coffee.

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