This time of year, college students all over America begin freaking out about what they need to bring to that glorious moment, your freshman year. Every college has packing lists; newspapers offer conservative estimates of how many skirts-per-capita should be on a girls floor, so there’s plenty of real information out there. I’d like to throw a wrench into the system. This list isn’t about pushing Target’s College ’11 line. It’s about making sure what you bring to college isn’t just what you need, but what you want.
Practically, here is what I agree with on all those lists: Bring medicine, go to Costco or Sam’s Club and get a lot (a lot) of food, but not too much peanut butter. You’ll also need plenty of underwear, so pack accordingly.
Now, to the fun things that actually matter.
Your dorm room is going to be home, but it’s also going to be where you hang out most of the time. You’re too young to rage at the bar, and you probably aren’t friends with upperclassmen yet, so most freshman end up partying in the dorm. Whether it’s a chill night with some friends watching Mulan (it’s going to happen, I know you don’t believe me) or pre-gaming before your school’s bar-that-cards-poorly gets rowdy, this is where the magic happens.
You need things to entertain your guests. I recommend a Lego table, a classy addition that adds both a conversation piece and a motor activity. It can be small, a square foot or so, with storage space for your color-coded Legos underneath. Even the smallest dorm room can benefit from this. Also, have you considered a sound system? Nothing too big or crazy, just two speakers and a subwoofer will be fine, but make sure you can connect an iPod and laptop to it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to bump Beyonce’s new album but my friend didn’t have speakers. Awkward, right? Don’t be that guy.
Let’s talk wall space. Avoid clichés, please. Don’t get the Animal House poster; no one thinks it’s funny. Don’t get the Pulp Fiction poster; everyone likes that movie. Don’t get posters of art you’ve never seen; everyone knows you don’t know anything about art when you put up Van Gogh’s self-portrait. Instead, bring movies that make you stand out, reasons for people to talk to you because you’re unique, not just because you fit a trend. “Oh, is that a Hercules poster? Oh my, let’s chat, that’s so interesting!” And if you can find a Rembrandt self-portrait, it’d go over much better. “It’s just riddled with introspective guilt!” your awkward roommate will say when you put it up. Your response: nod and remain aloof.
As for clothes, the rule is not how many pairs of whatever– I say bring what you love to wear then fill in the seasonal gaps. If you love those tight gray jeans, bring them, even if you’re going to Honolulu U. You’re going to want that comfort. And you know how well it shapes your butt; don’t be ashamed, I’ve seen you in them and they look great on you. But you’re going to school in Hawaii, so bring shorts, too.
College is not just about EasyMac and having four-of-each-silverware-piece-from-Meijer. It’s much more about making sure your space and what you wear reflect who you are. For the first time in your life, going to school isn’t going to be about conforming, it’s going to be about expressing yourself, and if you do so well, you’ll find people like you with whom you’ll love to go to that bar-that-cards-poorly.