Ask most college students about the first lesson they learned as freshmen on the day they moved into their dorm and they’ll probably answer: “I brought way too many clothes.”
So to those heading off into the wilds-of-dorm-living students (and their parents): Stop the shopping, folding, stacking, piling and packing. Dorm room sizes vary, but most are small and closet space is bound to be at a premium.
Thoughtful packing is not only smart, says Samantha Bassford, a residence hall director at Adelphi University in Garden City, but it can teach a life lesson.
“There’s a difference in knowing what you need versus what your mom, dad or guardian thinks you need. You’re learning how to live independently, how to compromise with a roommate, and to some extent that happens with the fashion choices you make.”
At Long Island University Post in Brookville, Matthew Blanar, the director of events and operations, who also works to oversee residence life, says, “I see students arrive with seven or eight of these big plastic containers, and by the end of the day you see parents leaving with five of them full.”
That was Gabby Pardo, 20, an incoming junior journalism major at Stony Brook, who walked into a triple dorm room (as in three women sharing it) her freshman year. “I should have cut at least a third of what I brought with me,” says Pardo, who is from Staten Island. “I had to bring a lot of shoes and clothes home.”
Julia Porter, 20, a rising junior at LIU Post who is a fashion marketing major and chief executive of The Student Body, the school’s student-run fashion boutique, fell prey to the “too-much” syndrome in part because, she says, of being an out-of-state student from Alexandria, Virginia.
“I brought a lot of clothes I didn’t even need.” This semester, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how to pare down. I’m thinking, ‘Is it stylish? . . . Does it really embody my style and is it practical for college?’ ” Her essentials include good snow boots (“because it does get slippery,” she says), a little black work dress for networking events and a fashion upgrade on the ubiquitous backpack that she calls her “city bag,” a giant, black open compartment bag that carries everything you need for the day.
Fashion-loving Yadiel Corporan, 20, an LIU Post junior from Brooklyn who is majoring in sports management and is also a residential assistant, suggests thinking “carefully about the things you’re going to need on a daily basis, mostly for when you’re going to class because really there’s a scarcity of other events.”
Corporan’s closet strategy is “hoodies you can rely on,” along with a “very clean” pair of white sneakers (“prepare for them to get dirty,” he says), which he considers versatile and fashionable. He’s also a big fan of layering. “”We live in an area that we have to be prepared for different temperatures, so a jean jacket is a good thing to have. You can wear a hoodie under it.”
TAME THE SHOES “I’ve observed people bringing 100 pairs of shoes and I remember one student coming with a U-Haul,” says Michelle Singletary, the associate director of residential programs for residence halls at Stony Brook University, where each closet is approximately four feet long.
PACK IN SEASONAL SHIFTS Bassford and Singletary say students often initially move in with all their fall, winter and spring clothes — yet they’re likely to be back home for a month over winter break and could swap out what they need.
BRING ONE PROFESSIONAL LOOK Pardo suggests packing one job interview outfit — just in case. “I know a lot of people who forgot this and had to go out to buy one,” she says.
PLAY FAVORITES “Don’t bring stuff you’re going to wear once in a blue moon,” says Pardo. “Bring your favorite things that you love to wear.”
EXPERIMENT Incoming freshman might want to take the opportunity to change up their style. “If you’re going to be leaving something behind in high school, think about the person you want to become,” Porter suggests. “College is a great experiment. Bring the things that will help you become the person you want to be.”
ABOUT THAT LAUNDRY Obviously: Learn how to do your own laundry — trust us, it’s the simplest way to need less and save on space.
THE ONE MUST-HAVE ITEM: SHOWER SHOES
Pack anything that suits you for college, but one important piece of gear that everybody should have, according to the experts, is a pair of flip-flops.
“They’ll be walking to the bathrooms,” says Michelle Singletary, associate director of residential programs for residence halls at Stony Brook. “And I don’t recommend going barefoot.”