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What I Wish I Did (and Didn’t) Bring to College

Lexi reflects on things in her dorm room that are essential and well, not-so-much.

Lexi reflects on things in her dorm room that are essential and well, not-so-much.

Yay! You’ve got your Carleton acceptance letter in hand, so now what? It is time to start packing, of course. At least, that’s what I thought two years ago today. 

Despite my color-coded Carleton College Packing List, which I meticulously curated over the course of three weeks, I still managed to completely forget about some things. Looking back on everything that I brought to college, I can definitely say that I did not bring half the things I’ve needed and brought too much of everything I didn’t.

To potentially save you from making the same packing mistakes I did, here are a few dorm room “necessities” I have found to be essential to my daily life and a few, well, not-so-much. Please remember that these are my personal experiences, so what may work for me might not work for you. (And that’s actually really cool, maybe you can help me declutter?)


Reliable microwave-safe mug

How many things can you eat/drink out of a mug? Let me tell you, more than you’d think. I’ve eaten oatmeal, cereal, soup, and even mac’n’cheese out of a mug. I’ve drank water, tea, coffee, hot cocoa, soda, and even electrolyte sports mixes out of a mug. That is what I call multi-use.

Lexi pours water into her reliable mug
I use my mug so often that I had to borrow my roommate’s for this photo.

In a smaller space like a dorm room, having items that are multi-use can be a real space-saver. It’s also more economical!

First aid kit

Try as I might to avoid it, I still get paper cuts and skin my knees more often than I’d like to admit. Having a first aid kit has come in handy more than a few times, both for myself and my roommates. Who knows, maybe offering someone a bandage will help you make a new friend!

I personally have an already-assembled first aid kit, which includes antibiotic ointment and bandages. However, I have added things like pain relievers and antihistamines over the past few months. Possibly one of the more difficult experiences of college life is being sick away from home (which is different from being homesick, which I’ve written about before!) for the first time, so it is important to do what you can to be able to cope when you catch a cold.

Lexi sits in her dorm hallway with a first aid kit
Oh no! I need a bandage for my knee right at this moment! Good thing I have my handy-dandy first aid kit.


If I am a pearl and the world is my oyster, then we’re both wrapped in clamshell packaging. It is unbelievable how much packaging, envelopes, papers, and clothing you may need to cut open as you assemble your little life in a dorm room. The good news is that scissors are extremely helpful in that regard.

My scissors serve as a reminder to practice some self-care by doing some crafts like origami. Whenever I feel like releasing some tension, I can just snip-snip away at some old worksheets and make a little heart or boat or frog. Without my scissors, I don’t think I’d be able to remember that I like origami, much less cut squares out!

An origami heart with a bright pink pair of scissors
Yes, I did use an extra worksheet from last term for this origami heart.


Clothing steamer

Y’all, if you make time to steam your clothing, I admire you. I have never in my life had the inclination to iron or steam any of my clothing. In fact, I don’t even wear the clothing that I think needs to be pressed in order to look nice.

The lesson that my twice-used clothing steamer provides is that you’re not going to be a completely new person when you get to college. If you don’t already steam your clothing, you are unlikely to start in college! Don’t spend all your money on aspirational items. A steamer is different from a paper agenda or a computer program. By all means, please obtain things that will make you successful in your schoolwork!

Lexi steams a white shirt
I told you that I never steam my clothes. I won’t even steam them for a posed photo session.

White correction fluid

That is, White-Out. In high school, I was obsessive about covering my ink mistakes with correction fluid, but in college, I have found no real use for it. It is a waste for me to have a not-insignificant amount in my desk drawer here at school.

What I take away from the bottle of White-Out congealing before me is to remember that you will change when you get to college. It’s important to allow yourself to grow, both figuratively and materially, as you progress through the next few stages of your life. Don’t cling so much to your old ways of doing and being that you feel stuck, like two notebook pages cemented together by correction fluid. I’ll see myself out, I know that was an awful stretch of a metaphor…kind of like a string of correction fluid…

Lexi applies white correction fluid to a teal-colored note
One thing that hasn’t changed since high school is that I write my letters backwards on occasion. I have just stopped trying to correct it every time it happens!

So. Much. Soap!

This was an accident, okay, please remember that. I bought soap to take to college with me, then I saw a clearance sale at Target in Northfield, then I saw specialty soaps in my hometown over spring break, then my mom bought me some soap as a silly gag gift. So now, I have so much soap, and it is overwhelming me.

Learn from my soap mis-adventures. Take stock of what you already own! Check everywhere before you buy more of something disposable, like bars of soap. This also applies to things that aren’t disposable, like hair ties, hair dryers, and even silverware. 

Lexi lays on the floor surrounded by soap
I honestly think I have enough soap to last me until the end of my time at Carleton.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, folks, 6 things that sit in my dorm and inspire Admissions Blogs because of their (lack of) utility. I hope your experience packing to come to Carleton College is stress-free and fun because you’ve earned it after all your hard work. Three cheers for you and your packing lists!

Lexi Wallace (she/her) is excited to be returning to Carleton as a sophomore. She works as an Admissions Blogger, Russian Teaching Assistant, and Writing Consultant. She plans on becoming a SOAN and Russian double major, but you’ll have to ask her what she ends up declaring in the spring. Her current obsessions are oat milk, NCIS, and Doc Martens.