3 Items to Pack for College

As I walked through Kohl’s this weekend, I found a section stuffed with back-to-school wares: colorful mirrors, fuzzy pillows, bright shower caddies. Already! I started thinking again about the two high school graduates who I wrote to earlier this summer, the journey they’ll take, and when they’ll walk aisles like these looking for things they’ll need. As I hurried toward my kitchenware destination, I thought about what purchases the summer before my freshman year of college best served me. What turned out to not just be useful, but unexpectedly vital in my college and post-college life?

I feel like I should say “pack your intellectual curiosity,” and that’s definitely important. But I’m thinking more tangibly. If you’re assembling a going-to-college kit, you likely won’t forget towels or a new shower curtain or a laundry hamper, and once you get there you’ll realize you need more spoons and an extension cord. Give it enough time, and probably wish you packed these too:

1. Flashlight 

The one on your phone will work until the power’s been out all afternoon and you need to save your phone’s battery so your alarm will get you up for class in the morning. Or until you need something to lay on the sink while you use to the window-less bathroom. The flashlight, ideally, will be tactical, with grooves and ridges around the light in case you ever need to break a window or figure out which end not to point at your face when you wake to heavy darkness in the middle of the night. During hurricane season, I’d trade my kingdom for a battery-operated camping lantern and phone charging pack. But for shorter outages, the main thing I need is a handy flashlight.

2. Screwdriver

This should at least have an interchangeable head to accommodate Philips (cross-haired) and flathead screws. It doesn’t need to be fancy (ratcheting, 11-in-1, in the shape of a crab). I’ve been the only person on my hall who could produce a screwdriver; why it was needed has slipped my mind, but I remember being widely applauded for it. I’ve also been the only person in my house for the weekend, desperately trying to stop the old-school smoke alarm from screaming. I’m all for power tools, but a basic screwdriver is lightweight, portable, and appropriate for just about any situation. 

3. Duct Tape 

This doesn’t have to be name brand or even grey. But it’s kept my bumper from falling off, kept a milk carton from leaking in my trunk, kept my trunk from leaking in the rain, and kept my bookshelves from completely collapsing. You feel like you’re prepared for anything with a roll of duct tape. And, with a little creativity, you’re prepared for more than you think you are.

Happy shopping!