Packing for College: The Essentials

by Caroline Thirkill

For incoming first-years and returning students alike, packing up everything from your summer residence and transferring it to your new dorm room is a huge pain. There will always be one forgotten item, or an unnecessary one brought in its stead. This is particularly true for returning students, especially if you chose to live in a suite and have to fill a much larger space. So while you’re up to your waist in cardboard boxes, here is a simple guide for all Barnard students on what to bring and what to leave.

Barnard may be a women’s college, but no dorm has this closet.

This is mostly for first-years, I figure the upperclasswomen have got this down!

Bring a jacket. Preferably more than one. While we may get a few nice weeks at the beginning of the year, it can get pretty dang cold by the middle of fall semester. If fashion is not your concern, get one of the big puffy coats that keeps you warm no matter how cold it is outside! For those who worry less about maintaining body heat and more about “looking like a New Yorker,” bring a dark knee-length trench or thigh-length pea coat. It is THE winter look in the city, and there will be plenty of others shivering out there with you! Reinforce it with some gloves and a fuzzy hat, and you will (mostly) be okay.

Boots are an absolute must. Not just regular boots, but ones that can take the rain, snow, and slush. Some students spend much of the winter living in their rain boots, but if you are like me and simply cannot pull off that look, buy boots in a material that will dry quickly without being ruined. Boots that end mid-calf are best, because you can easily tuck in your pants on your walk to class – your hemlines and warm toes will thank you.

Wear what makes you comfortable. Just because you are going to a girls school in Manhattan does not mean you have to be a preppy fashionista! While some girls go for that look, most people just want to be warm and comfortable once it gets cold and wet outside. Jeans and nice sweaters are a happy medium on Barnard’s campus, but in the end it does not really matter. Particularly if you have an early class, no one will think twice about it if you show up in sweatpants and a thick winter coat!

You tried. Extra points for creativity.

Cooking Supplies
This really only matters if you live in a suite and have a private kitchen.

For most first-years, this is way beyond the scope of what you have to think about! As nice as your first experience in the Barnard dorms might be, the administration assumes that you will be exercising that platinum meal plan to the fullest, hence only one kitchen per floor to be shared between Sulzberger, Brooks, Reid, and the upperclasswomen in Hewitt. The lack of an appropriate and private space for food preparation turns most people off of making anything more than the simplest meals in the kitchens. If it requires more than a microwave, forget about it! You can bring bowls, plates, utensils, etc. if you plan to make EasyMac or Ramen for lunch, but otherwise it is just not worth it. Any cookware left in the kitchens will be stolen or used without permission and left dirty within the first few weeks.

For those moving into suites, cooking is an entirely different ballgame. While people in the 600s or Elliot may still occasionally brave the weather for prepared Hewitt food, at the end of a long day of classes you might not want the hassle of returning to campus. For the poor students in Plimpton, 110, or Cathedral Gardens, walking all the way back to Barnard after 7pm is a definite no-no. Go with the cheapest meal plan Barnard will let you get away with and put the rest of your money toward getting your own food and kitchen supplies. This is also a chance to learn about being a functioning adult, when you have to take care of yourself without the safety net of college dining halls.

Cookware and Appliances

  1. A nice big frying pan can be used for stir-fry, pancakes, eggs, and much more.
  2. A large pot/sauce pan to make vegetables, soup, or pasta, all staples of the college student diet. 
  3. Some prefer to bring a dutch oven and turn everything into a slow-cook dish!
  4. An oven pan is a necessity for anything that does not cook well on the stove, like roast potatoes! Many students find the oven to be overkill when on a budget, but I personally find the smell of fresh-baked cookies brings them around.
    Why do I feel like I’m forgetting something?
  5. Microwavable food will save your life on a late night. Enough said.
  6. Obviously plates, bowls, and utensils are a must. Bigger tools like spatulas or tongs depend entirely on your cooking style and how you develop as a chef.

Cleaning Supplies
Everyone needs to clean. Whether you are living alone or sharing a space with others, dorm rooms get remarkably dirty within a matter of weeks. Clean as often as you can stomach it!

  1. Swiffer Sweepers will be your best friends! Seriously, the ability to clean with a dry cloth and a wet mop in a single, lightweight tool is the greatest thing to ever happen in cleaning.
  2. If you have a rug or other non-moppable surface, I recommend getting a carpet cleaner. I use Resolve, but really anything will work. I assure you that someone will spill juice or other staining substances on your rug and it will get messy.
  3. A DustBuster or other hand-held vacuum. For easy clean up of crumbs and dust balls in between more thorough cleanings, a small portable vacuum will make you very happy.
  4. Even if you do not care about the state of your windows, a spray bottle of Windex and some paper towels will help keep your desk and other surfaces clean and neat.

These are the often overlooked necessities I have found most useful during my time at Barnard, but I’m sure everyone has other recommendations to add to the list. Before you head back to campus, make sure you’ve packed the essentials for a warm, dry, well-fed, and clean year!

Caroline Thirkill is a senior at Barnard and Opinions Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Chicagoland Custom ClosetsFunny Junk, and Lovelyish.


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