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SEP 27, 2019 • 5 min read
You’ve finished your college applications. You’ve endured the agonizing wait for those decisions to come through. You’ve opened up the admission letter of your dreams. The only thing left to do now is pack up your stuff and move!
Except... what are you supposed to bring, and what are you supposed to leave behind?
There’s only so much that you can fit in your oversized luggage before you exceed your weight allowance, and suddenly everything in your childhood bedroom seems vital - your clothes, the knick-knacks that sit on your bedside table, your stuffed toys that you’ve kept for “emotional value.”
Even when the hardest part of the college admissions process is over, the task of packing remains.
The general advice that colleges give, especially to international students, is to pack less rather than more. This is because you most likely won’t know the exact configuration of your dorm until you arrive on Move-In Day, and US college rooms are also relatively small with little storage room available. So, what exactly is one supposed to do in this situation?
It helps to start with knowing exactly what not to bring. Most colleges will send specific information to you about what exactly they provide in the rooms, but the standard is: a bed, mattress, desk, chair, dresser and some form of bookcase, wardrobe or closet storage (usually very small.) Colleges will also have a trash and recycling system in place, but chances are that you will have to bring your own trash can for your room - and be in charge of emptying it, too!
Then there’s the prohibited items: your own cooking appliances (like microwaves or kettles), candles, exercise equipment, weapons of any kind (goes without saying) and space heaters. Obviously, the rules differ at every school, so be sure to check your specific college’s policies!
Now that we’ve covered what you won’t need to pack, what does go into your suitcase? Generally, a freshman will need:
The list above will cover the general practicalities of living in a shared dorm room. If you feel like some of these are too bulky to bring with you (bed linens, for example), consider leaving yours behind and buying new ones once you arrive at college (hit ‘Bed, Bath and Beyond’ for all the essentials!). Also, you’ll most likely be in contact with your roommates before you move in, so it’s always a good idea to coordinate extra furniture or room items with them.
Bear in mind that some schools won’t let you bring some types of items from home, but will let you rent or borrow them once you arrive. Some universities even provide them for free. Fridges, safes and microwaves, for example, are often available for rent. Basic kitchen appliances will also be in common areas for shared use, so don’t fret too much about where to make your late-night ramen!
Play an instrument? If you’re a serious musician, you’ll definitely want to bring your instrument along with you. Most colleges do have music practice rooms, but won’t have space for you to store your things separately. That violin will just have to live in your dorm room with you. On the other hand, if you’re a casual musician, and you’re already steadily reaching your baggage limit...maybe consider leaving that particular part of your life behind for now.
As for personal items like clothes, shoes, books and interior decor, it’s time to make some brutal decisions. It might be a good idea to do a quick pre-pack of all your items, so that you know how much space you’re working with and what you may need to leave behind.
Ditch heavy items like books or large room decorations - you can always buy more once you arrive at college, if you really need them! In general, try to adopt a minimalist mindset, and bring stuff that you know you’ll actually really need. Remember that you can always ask your parents to send you anything you’ve forgotten!
I’ll be following these strategies myself as I leave for Harvard from Sydney, Australia. Hopefully this has answered some of your questions, and made the task of packing for college just a little easier!
Lina was assisted by her Crimson tutors and mentors in applications to both the US and the UK. Undecided as to which education system would suit her best, she pursued both educational opportunities with great success, including acceptances from Harvard, UPenn, and Oxford.