10 Things You Didn’t Know You Would Need When Starting College

Check these items off your packing list.

By Evelynne Crumm August 16, 2022
10 Things You Didn't Know You Would Need When Starting College

Beginning college and leaving home is scary enough as is; leaving behind your comforts of home makes it much harder. I fondly remember going through my belongings at home with my mom and deciding what to keep, what to donate, and what to bring to my residence hall room. In your transition to life in a residence hall, it is OK to throw out those old clothes, that old lamp, and leave behind an abundance of your clothes and shoes.

While it has been two years since I lived in a residence hall, I have packed and moved every year, so I know what it is like to struggle throughout the packing process. Throughout this process, I have come to realize there are at least 10 necessities to bring everytime I move. These are the 10 items that made residence hall living and college life much easier from the beginning. Hopefully I can impart my experience on you, and you can avoid mistakes I made in packing my first year.

One: Small Wallet or a Phone Wallet

This is perhaps the most useful and beneficial item I purchased coming into college. I don’t know about you, but I never have deep enough pockets to put a wallet in, and I don’t like carrying a purse or bag with me everywhere. Within my first week at school, I went to the M-Den and bought one for about $5, and it was the best money I ever spent.

Two: A Deck of Cards

Whether it’s UNO, Cards Against Humanity, or a regular card deck, bring something. It’s so useful to have just laying around in your residence hall for playing games with all your new friends. I found it to be a great way to break the ice right away since everyone knows basic card games! One suggestion that I have with this is to have a brand new UNO deck and make it a game to have the winner of each game sign their winning card. This way you have a fun keepsake and can make it a tradition in your friend group!

Three: Water Bottle with a Straw Lid

Highly, highly recommend investing in a great water bottle that is very durable, stylish, and has a straw lid. I don’t know about any of you, but I always found it awkward and embarrassing to open my water bottle and have the lid squeak during my 100+ person lectures. Even in smaller discussions, it was awkward for me. Investing in a straw lid for whatever water bottle you have may just save you some embarrassment. Side note: It is the best purchase as a tour guide since it’s easy to drink water while walking.

Four: Smaller Toiletries

Yes, I know this sounds weird. My first experience with showering with a shower caddy was clumsy to say the least. I had to lug my large shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, and all my other bathroom products from my room all the way down the hall to the bathroom. It’s not a big issue at all, but it was heavy, large, and, frankly, annoying. Once I had used my larger bottles, I started buying small and medium sized bottles instead and am so much happier for it. During my first two years at Michigan, I had to bring my shower caddy from my room to the bathroom everyday, and having smaller and lighter bottles was much easier to transport, especially if I just wanted to grab a couple things rather than my entire caddy.

Five: Good Walking Shoes

As I went through my first two years, I found just wandering around campus to be very comforting — pre-hot girl walking trend too. I also walked about three miles every single day with just classes on Central Campus, not to mention I go to the gym multiple times a week as well. Bringing high-quality and comfortable everyday walking shoes saved me many blisters, foot pains, and complaints. While you can survive without them, you will regret it quickly when your feet start to complain within the first few weeks.

Six: Air Freshener

Please bring it. I had a bottle of Febreze coming into the residence hall my first year. It has served me well for two years and is still going strong. This is a literal lifesaver occasionally, and you won’t regret bringing it. Honestly, you likely won’t use it much, but those few times where you do use it, you’ll be so glad you had it and didn’t have to beg and explain to a neighbor why you may need to borrow it.

Seven: Noise-canceling Headphones

While I never had these, I would recommend having good headphones or earbuds that can drown out background noise. Personally, I love my AirPods — yes, I just have the original ones. As long as you have a way to drown out background noise when studying, walking around, or when you get annoyed by a friend or a roommate, you will be fine. I use mine daily to make hands-free calls while walking between classes; to tune out background noise while studying in coffee shops; and whenever I get annoyed with a roommate and want an excuse to tune her out. Trust me, these are a must. You’ll likely also use them for classes to watch videos and lectures, so invest in a durable pair.

Eight: 10-Foot Chargers and Multiple Extension Cords

I chose to fully lift my bed in the residence hall, so it was a long way up for my charger to reach my bed. If you don’t already have at least a six-foot charger — I recommend a 10-foot charger — invest now because you will need it in the residence halls. Also, bring multiple extension cords with lots of ports. That way, you can have multiple things charging at once. In my case, there was only one outlet on my side of the room. Having two long extension cords served me well because I was able to plug in our fans and charge my devices simultaneously. Warning: Don’t plug anything else into the outlet you use for your mini fridge (if you bring one), as it will overload the socket.

Nine: Throw Blanket

I can’t count the number of times I had friends crashing on the floor or I had a movie night on the floor — I’m a total floor person — and having a small throw blanket saved me. It’s great for hot nights too when you don’t want to get under your covers. Also, if you go to a friend's residence hall or you want to do a hall movie night in the common room, then you’re all set!

Ten: Slip-on Shoes

While you should already be planning to bring shower shoes — yes, you really do need them — I recommend also having some kind of slip-on shoe. I can’t count the number of times I regretted not having some. Flip-flops work great, but I would leave my residence hall in socks and have to either take them off for flip-flops or put on tennis shoes. Recently, I purchased a pair of Birkenstocks that I can wear with socks and I loved them. As someone who wears socks almost all the time, it’s nice to have shoes that I can quickly slip on to go to the bathroom or wander down the hall to the kitchen or to a friend’s residence hall.

Hopefully this guide will help you in final purchases for college! Everything on this list I chose because I’ve found it to be helpful and make my life easier through every living experience and my college life thus far. As I mentioned previously, I didn’t have some of these when I first started in college, which could have saved me some hassle and embarrassment in the short term. As you’re finalizing your packing lists and getting ready to come to campus, make sure you consider bringing the items that will make life easier for you. My biggest piece of advice is to bring items that are great in terms of comfort, convenience, and functionality. It will serve you well, and I promise you won’t regret that extra box of stuff that you have to bring up the stairs to your residence hall.

Evelynne Crumm

Evelynne Crumm (she/her) is a junior from Ann Arbor, MI studying business in the Ross School of Business and political science with a minor in history of law and policy in the College of Literature, Science, and Arts. Outside of school, Evelynne is involved in social and professional fraternity and sorority life as a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority and Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. She is also a current member of MECC Consulting Group through the Ross School of Business. Beyond extracurricular involvements, Evelynne works as a tour guide, course assistant for BA 200, and as a peer mentor for incoming Ross students. When not on campus, she enjoys hiking, exploring and traveling to new places, and seeing her dogs (two labs!) and family.