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College: Essential advice from grads

The big move into college dorms often stresses incoming freshmen. Lists lie buried under stacks of clothing waiting to be packed and boxes of so-called “essential” items; disorganization often rules supreme.

The transition from high school to college can be made easier with the advice of those who have gone before. Many college students are willing to draw on the knowledge they have gained to help high school students pave their way to success.

“The first time I left I thought I was going to Antarctica or something,” Julie Fujihara, ’03, said. “Then I realized that there are stores, so you don’t need to bring three bottles of shampoo and 12 tubes of toothpaste.”

Fujihara has realized, through a year and a half at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California, that there are certain things a student can leave behind.

“If you are close to home and can go home between seasons then don’t bring all your clothes,” Fujihara said. “I switch my summer and winter clothes when I go home for Thanksgiving. I also realized that I don’t need 15 pairs of shoes.”

Other students in the L.A. area have also realized that there is a limit to how much can be packed into a small space. Michelle Harbour, freshman at The Master’s College, suggests that students visit the dorm they will be living in before they begin packing.

“You definitely want to know what size room you’ll be living in,” Harbour said. “That way, you not only know how much stuff to bring, but also to prepare yourself mentally to be accustomed to living in such a small space.”

Despite the boundaries on how much students can take with them, there are certain items that should not be forgotten.

“I’ve found lots of things that come in handy,” Harbour said. “The biggest are Post-it notes, Kleenex, Febreeze, a shoe rack, a power strip–because there are only two outlets in my room- extra hangers, pictures of people back home and a good computer game for when you don’t feel like doing homework.”

Fujihara also has recommendations of essentials students should bring.

“You definitely need storage bins for your clothes and food,” Fujihara said. “I also think you should have random things like stamps and envelopes, printer ink and paper, and a can opener. You might even want to bring lights for your desk or by your bed because most dorms have really bright and ugly lights.”

College students also have hints on how not to starve and how to avoid the “freshman 15.”

“Cereal and milk is a great and healthy nighttime snack,” Jeanine Herrick, resident assistant at University of California, Fresno, said. “You will also need a few microwave safe bowls, some utensils, a plate, a bowl for popcorn and saran wrap.”

Depending on the rules of the dorm they choose, students may or may not be allowed to bring microwaves, toasters, coffee makers and other kitchen appliances. However, some dorms have a central area on each floor containing a microwave and oven for the students use.

“If your dorm has a microwave then you should buy food that you can cook in the microwave,” Fujihara said. “Like Rop Ramen and cup of noodles, or even popcorn.”

In addition to food, there are other small items that students may not think of.

“A water purifier is a good idea for a dorm room because buying bottled water will add up in the pocketbook,” Herrick said. “You will also need shower flip-flops and a shower caddy that can hold all of your shower stuff.”

Once all of the necessary items have been gathered, the trick is getting them into the dorm in an orderly fashion.

“I recommend making your moving boxes your room pieces,” Herrick said. “For example, on move-in day, fill up your laundry basket with belongings, or buy a few of those plastic storage cubes.”

All college students stressed that it is important for incoming freshmen to relax and enjoy the dorm experience.

“The biggest advice I could give to incoming freshmen is to not stress,” Harbour said. “You’ll find a way to deal with the studying and have plenty of time to socialize.”

For information about the freshman year of college, visit

For articles about life as a college freshman, go online

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