Alan Garza ’24, left, walks through campus during move-in day in September 2020. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Communications

You’re packing for college. We’ve got tips.

The following advice, written by Awa Badiane ’21, then a student writer in the Office of Communications, is a must-read for Lawrence newcomers. But it was written before the pandemic rearranged our lives. Karina Herrera ’22 has stepped in to offer an updated version.

This list of packing do’s and don’ts will be particularly useful for first-year and transfer students, but keep in mind that many of our sophomores have yet to live on campus because of the pandemic. So, for all those Lawrentians who need it, here are Awa’s packing essentials, with some helpful tips from someone who has been there, done that.

See you soon.

1) Power strip / extension cords 

Power cords are a MUST. You’ll have lots of things that will need to be plugged in throughout your room. There will come a time when you need to blow-dry your hair and charge your phone at the same time. To avoid having to choose between wet hair or a dead phone, get some power strips. Your room will not come with 20 outlets, but some days it’ll feel like you need that many. It will make dorm life so much easier if you have multiple outlets for all your electronics. 

Tip: Having one or two power strips is a lot more useful than a bunch of extension cords.   

2) Shower caddy 

You have probably heard of the joys of a shower caddy from the dozens of college starter packs you have been seeing. But just in case you have not given it proper consideration, trust me, owning a shower caddy is very important. This will be the home to all your shower items. College bathrooms are communal, meaning we have to share them. This also means you can’t leave all of your shower stuff in the bathroom. People typically bring what they need to shower with them using a convenient shower caddy. 

Tip: I find the mesh shower caddies to be a lot more convenient than the plastic ones. With the mesh shower caddy, you can hang it up on a hook while you shower. With the plastic ones, you have to leave them on the floor. 

3) Shower shoes 

Again, with communal bathrooms you have to share showers. Sometimes you’ll find that someone just finished using your go-to shower and it’s still wet. You’re not going to want to step in someone else’s shower water; get shower shoes. It also never hurts to be cautious of germs, especially in a pandemic.  

Tip: No need to waste money on “specially designed” shower shoes. Flip flops work just fine.  

4) Laundry bag with straps

If you don’t get anything else on this list, please do yourself a favor and get a laundry bag with straps! No matter how disciplined you are, you will not do laundry once a week. Your laundry will pile up and that’s OK. And when your laundry does accumulate, you will be very happy to have a laundry bag with back straps. How else will you be able to carry the three loads of laundry you told yourself to do last week when it was only two loads? 

Tip: Tide Pods make laundry a breeze.

5) Reusable water bottle 

We love sustainability at Lawrence. Because Lawrence is a campus that supports sustainability and reducing waste, we have lots of water stations all around campus. With a reusable water bottle, you can fill up throughout the day to ensure that you stay hydrated. And not that you need a mini fridge, but if you have one, I would also suggest investing in a water filter pitcher so that your water will always be cold and so you don’t have to mask up when you leave your dorm just to fill up your bottle. 

Tip:  A water bottle with a wide opening is easier to clean.  

Kianni McCain ’24 carries boxes into Ormsby Hall during move-in day last September. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

6) Storage bins 

You will need storage bins! Not only do they make it easier to organize your room, but they also make life so much easier when you have to pack up your room at the end of the year. 

Tip: Having storage bins that can fit under your bed is ideal. 

7) Medication 

During COVID, everyone is doing their part to stay healthy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch a cold or get a headache. You are going to be here for nine months, and that’s a pretty long time. We hope you don’t get sick during this time, but if you do catch a sniffle, you’ll want to be prepared. I recommend having some Dayquil, ibuprofen, and Emergen-C’s on standby just in case. 

Tip: The Wellness Center does provide free ibuprofen and aspirin. You can also get extra masks from there if needed.  

8) Bedding

Your room does not come with bedding, so you will have to bring your own. Make sure you find Twin XL sheets for the extra-long beds. Our rooms don’t get too cold, so you won’t need too many blankets. A few sheets, a comforter, a couple blankets, and some pillows will be just fine. 

Tip: Invest in a good mattress topper! It will last you all four years, and your back will thank you for it. 

9) Décor 

Do not stress over décor. This is the fun part. Make your room a space you enjoy being in, but don’t lose sleep over what to put on the walls. Do not let Pinterest make you spend hundreds of dollars because you think your room is not good enough; your room is good enough.  

Tip: Command Strips are gold. And remember: the more décor you have, the more stuff you have to worry about packing at the end of the year.

10) Cleaning supplies

You will be living in this space for about nine months. Throw in this pandemic and … yes, you’ll need to clean your room. I suggest having a broom, dustpan, lots of Clorox wipes, and plenty of hand sanitizer. You can also get a mini hand vacuum for pretty cheap online — it doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to work.

Tip: You can clean your whole room with just Clorox wipes. Believe me. 

11) Plug-ins

Scented plug-ins are not necessarily a must, but I do highly suggest one. Spray air-fresheners are not banned, but they are frowned upon. Having a plug-in means you don’t have to worry when you have guests over because your room will always smell like your favorite scent.

Tip: If the scented plug-ins are not your style, diffusers work great, too! 

12) School supplies 

For some reason, when people go back-to-school shopping for college, they forget they need school supplies. (Honestly, the only reason I remembered to get school supplies my first year was because I saw my little sister picking out pencils and markers.) Three 3-subject college-ruled notebooks, a pack of pencils and pens, index cards and some Post-It notes is all you’ll really need.

It’s also a good idea to pick up travel-sized hand sanitizer to add to your backpack. You could even buy those fun hand sanitizer holders for cheap off of Amazon. Also, don’t forget to have plenty of masks. Lawrence will provide disposable face masks, but make sure you have a couple of washable ones on hand, too.

Tip: You can wait until after the first day of classes to get all your school supplies. See what your professors say you’ll need on the first day, and then go to the store and get exactly that. Still bring a pen and some paper, though!

13) Winter coat

Winter is coming. When winter is here, you’ll need a coat. You won’t really need your heavy-duty winter coat (if you don’t have one, get one) until winter term, though. If you can, wait until winter to bring your coat because it takes up space. Beware, there is a period near the end of fall term where it’s too cold for a sweater, but not cold enough for your real winter coat. I would suggest bringing a jacket for when that time comes.  

Tip: Invest in layers that you can wear in winter. 

14) Mini Fan 

Contrary to popular belief, it does get warm in Wisconsin. At the start of fall term and the end of spring term, you will be very glad to have a fan in your room. 

Tip:  Get a box fan and put it against an open window. It will feel like air conditioning. 

OK, that’s the list. I hope it’s helpful. Good luck. Move-in day for first-year students is Sept. 8 and 9. Returning students follow that weekend. Let’s get packing.

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.