If you leave everything else behind, don't forget shower shoes.
That's Andy Gray's advice after finishing his freshman year in the dorms of Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. The Burke County teen immediately listed flip-flops when asked about the essentials of dorm living.
"You do need those," the 19-year-old Burke County High School graduate said with a laugh. "At Georgia Southern, there are community showers, and it's just not so sanitary to go around barefoot."
Teens who are getting ready to live in college dorms for the first time are faced with the task of condensing their life - and all it contains - to fit into a room that may be even smaller than their bedroom at home. That one room will also be living room, study, kitchen and dining room - and you'll be sharing it with at least one other person.
Leave the skis at home.
You may be tempted to take everything with you, trying to create a familiar atmosphere. But slow down and take a little bit at a time.
"What I tell new students is not to bring everything all at once on the first weekend," said Shay Davis, assistant director of the residence life department at the University of Georgia in Athens. "Bring the essentials, get comfortable in the room and see what will fit. Some people will pull up to the residence hall with a U-Haul trailer behind them."
"The essentials," Ms. Davis said, would be a set of bed linens, basic bathroom gear, a few posters or pictures for the walls, storage bins and academic supplies, as well as clothes for the season.
"I've seen people bring too many clothes - for the whole year," she said. "Especially if you're going to college nearby, you don't need to bring a wool sweater when it's 90 degrees in August."
Added Joseph Tinsley, director of admissions at Paine College: "We try to tell them when to bring particular clothes because of weather constraints. A lot of people bring their entire wardrobe, and, particularly if they're local, that's just too many clothes."
Wait until it gets cold, then bring the appropriate clothes from home. Likewise, wait until you've checked out the size and layout of the room before bringing extra furniture such as futons, couches or extra desks, said Ms. Davis, who estimated that the average dorm room at UGA measures no more than 11 by 13 feet.
Still, there are some things you can't live without.
"A lot of microwaveable snacks," Andy suggested. Pajamas and lounging clothes - "because no one cares what you look like."
He also stressed bringing rolls of quarters - he lost his prepaid laundry card and couldn't get his money back, so bringing the change would have been safer, he said.
The recent trend is for students to bring their video games with them, along with electronic equipment such as televisions, computers and stereos, Mr. Tinsley said.
"The newest thing is video games - for male and female students," he said. "It's like a must-have."
Before moving in, check your college's Web site to see if it gives dimensions and layout of dorm rooms - that will give you some idea of what you can take along, Ms. Davis said. Also check to see what's prohibited. Georgia Southern won't allow lava lamps in the dorm because they heat up and are a fire hazard, Andy pointed out. UGA prohibits double lofts in some dorms and tries to discourage them altogether.
Paine College provides a checklist that includes items you should bring and things that are prohibited - including microwaves and hot plates. No cooking appliances are allowed in the dorms, although refrigerators are common, Mr. Tinsley said.
Call the residence life department to find out what you won't need to bring along. Some schools will provide telephones. Others have voice mail systems that allow you to leave answering machines at home. Ask what kind of telephone service and Internet service is available - at UGA Internet access is included in dorm fees, so students don't have to worry about paying for a service provider.
Ms. Davis also suggests that roommates not split the cost of individual items they intend to share. "Make a list and decide who's going to buy which items so it works out evenly. But if you split the cost of a refrigerator, at the end of the year does that mean someone has to pay the other half? Who gets the refrigerator?"
Items to make life easier in the dorm include (if they're allowed):
A throw rug - most dorms have cold tile floors
A wastebasket - some schools provide them, but you never know. It can always double as storage.
Storage bins - you can never have enough storage in a dorm room
A small refrigerator for milk, soda, fruit
A small coffeemaker or electric teakettle - you can also use it to heat water for soup
A lamp - dorm lighting is notoriously bad
A lap desk to study and write letters on your bed
Throw pillows to use as cushions when you and friends sit on the bed
A mattress cover and "egg crate" cushion so you can sleep better on what's likely to be an old mattress
A dry-erase message board and pen for the outside of your door, so people can leave messages when you're out
A bucket for your shower stuff
Towels and washcloths
Shower shoes and a comfortable robe, to make communal showering a better experience
Lots of lounging clothes, such as pajamas and sweats. It's true - no one cares what you look like in college.
A broom to get rid of dust bunnies
Air freshener. Communal living can be unfortunately stinky at times.
An extra blanket or sleeping bag, in case it gets cold or a friend stays over
One or two sets of bed linens. More than that will just sit in the closet.
A comforter to pull up over the messy bed when you're rushing off to class
An iron and a small ironing board
Dishes, preferably plastic, for cereal and soda
Quarters and laundry supplies, including detergent and a laundry basket. A mesh laundry bag that can hang behind a door will take up little space.
An alarm clock, to get you to class on time
A double jack for the telephone
A telephone. If you splurge on a cordless model, you won't be confined to your room while you talk.
An answering machine
A small TV. Some dorms offer cable accounts in dorm rooms.
A computer. This is a luxury, and many colleges have computer rooms. But your own computer, particularly a laptop, allows you more flexibility. Some colleges are starting to require that freshmen have a laptop.
Stuff from home. Don't go overboard, but posters, pictures and a favorite pillow can give things a homier feel.
Academic supplies. Don't forget notebooks and pens.
Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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