By Drew Larson

What Should I Pack for College?

Were sharing some of our favorite posts from over the years! This post was originally published in August 2013.

Are you getting ready to move to campus soon? Packing for college can be a confusing process. Many of you will be living on your own for the very first time, and you might be just a little unsure about the process.

Important questions abound. What should I bring? What should I leave behind? How will I fit it all into my two-door Honda Civic? (The answers, in order, are: “read on,” “your parents,” and “by playing Tetris for six consecutive hours beforehand.”)     

As usual, InterVarsity is here for you! We don’t want you to arrive on campus feeling stressed. We want you to slam into campus like a stage-five hurricane of readiness. When you unpack on your move-in day, we want you to hear your personal theme music playing in your head and think, Oh yeah, I got this.

Mostly, we want you to remember to bring a comforter. College can be drafty.

With that in mind, here is InterVarsity’s Utterly Comprehensive (But Still Unofficial) Freshmen Packing List. If you follow our advice, you’ll be well ahead of your peers, many of whom sadly did not have access to this guide ahead of time.

1. Shower slides. Look around on your first day of class. Two out of five freshmen you see won’t be practicing regular hygiene in three months. Water is Mother Nature’s highway system for disease, and shower slides are your way of throwing up a “This Exit Closed” sign around your feet.

2. A bike. Whether you’re at Small Liberal Arts U or Ginumbo Tech, bring a bike to get around on. You can usually find a half-decent used one at an affordable price, and it’ll just make your life easier. Pair it with a good lock for maximum savviness — cheap bike locks are almost comically easy to defeat.

3. A towel. An incredibly versatile iteam. Potential uses include a blanket for sleeping in the hall when your roommate snores, a screen door for when you create a “Learning Cave” in the space under your bunk bed during finals, and actually drying off.

4. Your favorite pillow. It’s great for combating any unwanted homesickness. Plus, this is the one thing you own that you know will never, ever get stolen — nothing on earth is more disgusting than someone else’s decades-old pillow without the pillowcase on it. Somebody really needs to invent a paint color called “Old Pillow Yellow.”

5. Ingenuity. Most dorm rooms have roughly the same dimensions as your average airplane cockpit. Even if you bring only the bare minimum of possessions, chances are you’ll need some creativity and can-do spirit to fit it all in your room. So what if your room was obviously a telephone booth in a previous life? Just think of it as “Tiny House: College Edition.”

6. Index cards. Throw away those highlighters. Flashcards are your brain’s best friend, thanks to a concept known as “distributed practice,” which is one of the most effective learning strategies available to you. Use flashcards and graduate magna cum laude with a major in “I’ve Got a Job Lined Up After Graduation.”

7. A basic medicine pack. Headache meds, fever reducer, cough drops, etc. Sickness happens, and when it does it helps to have everything you need to heal right at your fingertips. Leave the room for medicine while your head feels like a soccer ball? That’s a rookie move. You’ve got TikToks to scroll through.

8. A mini-fridge. Self-explanatory in its usefulness. It’s a fridge, but smaller, which is like saying, “It’s a pizza, but it’s also two more pizzas.”

9. Clarity about the laundry situation. Where is it on campus? Do you pay using a college-issued card, will you need to pack quarters, or is there some kind of bartering system in place? If you need quarters, can you get them from the bank? If you need livestock for bartering, can you get them from the bank as well? It’s a lot to wonder about, so do your research ahead of time.

10. Some tableware. “It would have been nice to have a plate,” one student told us while reflecting on his freshman year. Indeed it would! 

11. Something fun to do with other people. Board games, video games, reindeer games — whatever you enjoy doing that other people can join, make sure to pack it. Mind-blowing new research has proven that people like to do fun things and often make friends by doing mutually fun things together. You heard it here first.   

Most of all, remember to pack a good attitude! Starting college is a chance to grow in countless exciting ways. You’ll build new friendships and explore new horizons of learning; even more, you’ll take new steps of faith and discover new places God wants to transform your heart. (We can help with that, too!) In fact, that’s the most exciting thing about packing for college: knowing that Jesus has already gone ahead of you to campus, eager to welcome you and walk with you in these next few years.

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Drew Larson works as a writer on InterVarsity’s Communications Team in Madison, Wisconsin. You can buy his book hereYou can support his ministry with InterVarsity here

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