Top 20 things no college student should live without

Christie McCowen

Welcome to Lawrence University, your home for the next nine months. Are you sure you have everything you need? I remember my first move-in — unpacking, picking which activities to go to, the excitement of Freshman Studies — that feeling will pass. Now, on the brink of graduating, I pass on my list of essentials — the 20 things you’ll never return to campus without.
1. USB flash drive
When your printer is broken, or the computer lab is out of paper, a flash drive may be the key to getting your paper printed quickly. As you will discover, the less often you log on to a campus computer, the longer it takes for the computer to log you on. If you are in a hurry, put your paper on a flash drive and find someone already logged on. Ask to borrow that person’s computer, if he or she has a moment to spare, so you can print your paper.
What’s the alternative? Email your paper to yourself so that you can just as quickly jump on a computer and print the paper off. Make sure you put it in the right format, or you will be running back to your own computer.
2. Hot pot
Do you like tea? Hot chocolate? Soup? Macaroni and cheese? All of these –anything that requires hot water to prepare — can be made in a hot pot. Just make sure that you buy one that is designed for food, and not just water. Otherwise, get yourself a microwavable bowl or mug and use the microwave on your floor. You may also check out a pot or pan from the hall front desk and head down to the kitchen to cook the old-fashioned way.
3. Mattress pad
While the mattresses are not the worst I have ever slept on, they are not like your bed at home. The best case scenario? Your bed is comfortable … most of the time. My advice is to get yourself a mattress pad to make what sleep you get the best possible. Buy a king-size egg-crate–style mattress pad, and cut it in half. You can double the padding, or split it and the cost with your roommate.
4. Compact umbrella
You never know when it is going to rain. Just in case, get yourself a collapsible umbrella that fits in your book bag. This way, you will never be caught off guard. A rain jacket or a poncho is a good alternative, but can be bulky or easily forgotten on a sunny day. Check the forecast in the morning to see what the weather calls for.
5. Grab ‘n’ go meals
When lunch just is not in your schedule, a snack is a great way to get through the day without hunger distracting you. Keep a few granola bars or any other stomach filler with that umbrella, and you will never go wrong. Out of portable snacks? Plan ahead and stop by the campus center for a grab ‘n’ go meal container — fill it up with as much of whatever looks good and have a spare meal on your schedule.
6. Water purifier and recyclable water bottle
Why spend money on bottles of water when you can just refill a recyclable water bottle? Save your money and the environment at the same time. A water-purifying jug will keep water at your finger tips and help keep you hydrated. If you are like me and enjoy cold water, filtered or not, just keep a spare water bottle in your fridge for when the other gets low.
7. Fabric refresher spray
Do not waste your quarters doing laundry for things that do not need to be washed … yet. A bottle of fabric refresher spray can get you another day of wear with that sweatshirt. Did your favorite pair of pants get mixed in with the dirty laundry? A quick spray and they are ready for a night out. A few hours of wear does not mean it is ready for the laundry.
8. Collapsible laundry basket/hamper
Try your hardest to keep the clutter at a minimum, but sometimes things just pile up. Your dirty clothes do not have to be a part of the mess. A collapsible hamper or a laundry basket tucked into your closet or under your bed will help keep things cleaner. It also comes in handy when laundry day finally arrives and you have to cart your clothes to the laundry room.
9. Date book
Stay organized with a date book. If you keep it with you at all times, you will always know when you are available, or when your paper is due. When you get your class syllabus, transfer all of the due dates to your date book — it is harder for a paper to sneak up on you if you keep yourself organized. If a date book is not your style, try using Google Calendar — it is free if you have a Gmail account, which is also free. Another option is to get a wall, desk or dry-erase calendar. Whatever works for you to keep organized is the right system.
10. Vitamins
We all try to eat right, stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep in the beginning, but then things build up. The stress of trying to keep up starts to increase, and pretty soon eating right is reduced to remembering to eat anything at all. It is not always easy for us to remember to take care of ourselves. Help keep yourself in top performing condition by staying as healthy as possible and taking a multivitamin to fill in for what you do not or cannot get on a daily basis. Do you not know what to buy, or what your body needs? Stop by the health center for some free advice.
11. Electric fan
You’ll want a fan. Even if you end up in Hiett with the fancy temperature control, you’ll still want a fan for circulation. The air can get stale really fast, especially in winter when it is too cold to open the window, so buy an oscillating fan to keep things cool and fresh.
12. Power strip
Television, DVD player, lights, various chargers, computers, accessories and everything else that goes into a dorm requires power. Believe me, for two people there just are not enough outlets for everything, especially if you live in a building where the top outlet is controlled by the wall switch. You will kick yourself if you do not have one of these.
13. Shower shoes or flip-flops
While I was never a big fan of wearing shoes in the shower, I did like to wear them to the shower. Prevent the possibility of a fungus, because you really do not know what happened in the shower before you got there.
14. First-aid kit
As Katy Hillbo ’09 said, “You may never use this one, but there will always be that one random butter knife injury to prove you wrong. Also, Lawrentians tend to get a lot of paper cuts.”
15. Extra lighting
You will thank me for this one when winter comes, and the sun goes down at 5 p.m. What used to be plenty of light with the curtains open becomes eye strain within three months of living on campus. A desk lamp, standing lamp or really any extra lighting will help prevent headaches. If you enjoy reading in bed, go for one of those little tap lights that you can stick to the wall.
16. Sleep mask
You may have turned in your Freshman Studies paper on time, but that does not mean that your roommate did — he or she really meant to finish before you were planning on sleeping, honest! In case of emergencies, forgo fashion and put on a sleep mask. There are times when you just have to deal with the fact that your roommate moving all of that stuff to the nearest computer lab is more hassle than you dealing with a little extra light.
17. Coffee, soda, caffeinated tea
Good for pulling an all-nighter, watching the sunrise or waking in the morning. If you do not have time to make it to the campus center before class, it is always good to have a backup plan. Or, try something with natural sugars, like an apple.
18. Sticky tabs and hooks
Whether it’s the hooks, the frame mounts, or any other removable wall accessory adhesive, it’s all good for dorm decorating. Don’t get caught puncturing the walls and risk a fine. Hooks and removable adhesives are the perfect accessory to dorm living.
19. Headphones
You may not think that your music is bothering anyone, but it probably is. If you want to listen whenever you want, go with headphones. Trust me — it will prevent roommate drama!
20. Alarm clock
While your cell phone may double as a great alarm, you will want something a little more effective after p
ulling your first all-nighter. Just make sure to be considerate of your roommate before buying the alarm that can be heard from across the street. Also, remember to turn it off when you go away for the weekend. Your neighbors, and security, will thank you.