The Unexpected Must-Buy List for College

It's the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas--back-to-school shopping! You can endlessly search for the all-encompassing list of dorm essentials, but let's be honest: no matter what you pack, you'll always find you need, but don't have. Since you'll be concentrating on bringing along the essentials, here's a list of items you might overlook.

­It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas—back-to-school shopping! You can endlessly search for the all-encompassing list of dorm essentials, but let’s be honest: no matter what you pack, you’ll always find you need, but don’t have. Since you’ll be concentrating on bringing along the essentials, here’s a list of items you might overlook:

Duct tape

As a college student, you don’t exactly have endless funds for repairs, so you need to be resourceful. Every student will tell you one thing: duct tape can fix everything. And it’s true! Most likely, you already have some on-hand for hanging posters or lights, but duct tape is the go-to material for cheap, quick fixes. Got lint on your shirt? Duct tape. Binder falling apart? Duct tape. Hole in your shoe? Duct tape. And we all know the student dorms aren’t exactly luxurious, so be prepared for any kinds of repairs to your bed, desk, drawers, or closet, and keep a full stock of that silvery sticky substance close to you at all times.


Chances are you have spent your life in a quiet home with your family. Now, you’re in college, and your sleeping has to take place in a building jam-packed with rambunctious students and in an area with an outrageous population density. It will be loud! Since you can’t control the noise, try to control whether or not you hear the noise, with earplugs. Not only can you whip those out when you’re desperate for some shut-eye, but if you want to study or read, wear earplugs to create your own quiet environment without having to drag yourself to the library. And if you hear the fire alarm start to go off, put in some earplugs--the noise those things make can shatter concrete, and your eardrum!

Mole skin

Compare the size of your high school with the size of your college--you will be doing a lot more walking. And more walking means more blisters, so mole skin can become your best friend for your tender feet. Put it anywhere that needs cushioning, like your baby toe, bunion area, heel, or tendon. Even after you form a blister, put mole skin over the top so it can heal properly.

Water filter

Unless you’re one of the lucky few with a newly built or renovated residence hall, you probably live in a building with very old and overused water pipes. Dorm water tastes horrible! Although a water filter pitcher can be expensive, the savings add up quickly if you eliminate bottled water. It’s also better for your health, since water filters eliminate lead and other contaminants found in tap water.

Plastic plates and silverware

When you’re shopping for your dorm, it’s easy to get lured into plates, bowls and silverware with cool colors and fun themes. Be wary, though, because those funky designs don’t look as good when there’s constantly food encrusted onto the surface! Most hallways don’t have a dishwasher, or a utility sink, so those dishes won’t be cleaned often. Go to a bulk store, and stock up on plastic dinnerware. Though most would assume it’s more expensive, plastic plates and bowls can be hand washed, if you have the energy. But let’s be realistic: 99% of the time, you won’t have the energy to wash your dishes in those cramped bathroom sinks!

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About Catherine Seraphin

Catherine Seraphin

Catherine Seraphin is a Multimedia Project Manager at Harvard University and a former Assistant Editor/Online Specialist for CollegeXpress. Catherine graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Journalism, a minor in English, and course concentrations in Business. She was previously an in-depth arts reporter for Penn State’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Collegian, and interned as a features reporter at a paper based in Southern Massachusetts. Catherine previously had a full-year internship with a well-known higher education PR firm. Her favorite experiences during college include her two years as a resident assistant and her involvement in THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. There, she was on the PR committee that helped THON become the third-most tweeted topic worldwide. When she isn’t working, you can find Catherine shopping, reading, or running.


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