WHAT TO PACK! Your first year at boarding school

If you’re starting boarding school this fall – Congratulations! – you’re probably really excited and already packing or wondering what to take. Your school is likely to provide you a comprehensive list of what will be in your room, what you need to bring, what you might like to bring and what you are not allowed to bring. Follow this list. They know what they’re talking about and the list is specific to your school. Take special note of electronics. Are you allowed to bring tablets, ipads, kindles and desktops, only laptops, or no computer at all? What are the school’s rules about cell phone use? Which cell phone carrier has the best service on campus? Do you need to switch?

The school’s list and any additional answers you get will guide you well, so let’s consider some ways to think about packing for the first time, and go over a few “life-saving” hints.

What to Pack - SuitcaseYou are going to need a lot of stuff. Keep that in mind and try not to get overwhelmed. Remember, you are going to live at boarding school. You are not just taking a trip. However, you do not have to take everything you own. You are starting a whole new adventure! Growing into a new You. Some of the things that are really important to you right now, will become unimportant or you’ll just be too busy to deal with them. That’s all ok. The point is, you don’t know who you are going to become, so grab the essentials but leave room for what the future You is going to want.

All that being said, if you are engaged in a special pursuit that really is a big part of you – definitely bring your musical instrument, sports equipment, calligraphy brush, watercolors, poetry collection – whatever it is. Find out from the school what will be available to you in your special area of interest – like a piano – then bring what you need. If you are bringing hard drives with your digital work on them, back them up and leave the redundancy at home. If there is something that makes you feel special or comforted or like “I can do it!” definitely bring that.

On to the everyday stuff.

Packing – consider packing your things in stackable storage boxes that you can use in your room. Then you’ve got a transport system and extra shelving all in one! This is great if your parents are driving you to school but if you are shipping, you can plop the plastic box right inside the shipping box – pull it out, voila!

Clothes – Bring all your socks and underwear. Enough for 2 weeks for sure. Whether you do your own laundry or the school has a service, laundry will not come more than once a week. You don’t want to have to think about it. Same goes for bedding and towels – have 2-3 sets of everything.

Investigate the weather at your new home. Is it very different from where you live? Weather in New England and the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest and the San Francisco Bay Area will change throughout the day – layering is the way to go. For cold winters, don’t skimp on a super warm scarf, snow-sturdy gloves, a reliable hat (plus a spare), 3-4 sets of long underwear, a couple medium and heavy sweaters, a rain jacket and a really warm winter coat. Make sure some of your socks are wool or one of those magic tech-fabrics that stay warm and repel water.

If your school has a uniform – order it early and follow the directions. If you deviate from the uniform standards, you will have to deal with that every day! You have more important things to do. Same goes if your school has a dress code – follow the rules. There will be room for creativity. You will want some dressy clothes for special occasions, as well as hiking or outdoors wear – a lot if outdoor life is a big part of your school.

In terms of trends and what everyone’s wearing, you might find some fun info online, but you are more than likely going to change your style once you get to boarding school, so don’t stress. You have to start where you are – you might become the next trendsetter!

Shoes – You are going to want the right kind of shoe for all the things you do. This may seem like a lot, but chances are you will wear them all. Remember you are not going on a trip, you are going to live at school. Consider: comfortable everyday walking shoes for both warm and cool weather, sneakers, specific athletic shoes, dress shoes, flip flops/sandals, rain boots, snow boots, hiking boots.

Bathroom – Observe yourself for a day and take note of everything you use in the bathroom. You’re going to need to bring it. I don’t mean toilet paper, but I do mean toenail clippers. If you’re using your big sister’s facial moisturizer, you’re going to have to get your own.

If you take prescription medication, bring it in the prescription bottle it came in, not in plastic baggies or a vitamin caddy, and with all instructions. You may need to demonstrate that it is your prescription or hand it over to the school nurse who will administer it to you as directed. Your school probably has specific instructions about this.

School Supplies – All the regular things. But again, if you use your Dad’s scissors to cut pics out of magazines to make your dream boards, you’re going to need to get your own scissors. Same point as bathroom. Notice all these things you habitually use at home that you don’t even think about. Do you need to get your own and bring it?

Some things might be available in the School Store. Like printer ink and the sticky fun tacky putty stuff you are supposed to use to put up posters in your room. Don’t worry about tracking that down. The school is likely to sell it and if not, someone will know where to get it. (Most schools don’t want you sticking tacks in their walls.)

Food – If you have favorite foods that feel like home – bring ‘em! You won’t have time to sprout your own mung beans but your favorite BBQ or Vegetarian Oyster Sauce will do you right when homesickness surrounds you like an evil down comforter or you can finally predict the pattern of the dining hall menu. Make sure you have air tight containers to store the yum-yums. You don’t want spills on the way or little creatures breaking into your bounty.

If you are tempted to install a small kitchen – mini-fridge, hot pot, coffee maker, toaster, hot plates – find out if your school allows these things. Many DO NOT. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to create your own kitchen efficiency in college or in your first NYC studio apartment.

Music & Decor – Find out what is allowed. You definitely want some kind of music system whether it’s speakers for your computer, an ipod with earbuds, or two turn tables and a microphone. Regarding room decor, bring what makes you happy. Be ready and open to discuss with your roommate(s) what goes up on the walls. You might be able to contact your roommate in advance, but if not, you’ll create and negotiate as soon as you get there. You may have a lot of wall space to cover. Sites like PIRL.com or BuzzFeed DIY can be good sources of inspiration. A plant that’s not easy to kill is always good – like a Lucky Bamboo. If you currently study at a desk at home, you might want to duplicate your desk at school to give yourself the same feeling.

A few extras that might make your day:

Shower Shoes (like plastic or rubber flip flops)
Slippers or 2nd pair of flip flops for around the dorm
A Soap Dish with slots in it so the water runs out
Shower caddy or easy-to-carry container for your bathroom stuff
Something really comfortable to wear in the dorm that’s still cool to be seen in (Could be sweat pants and tee-shirt, mu-mu, panda-bear onesie – you’re going to want to study and hang out in comfort but you’re also going to be seen by other people, so think about it.)
Earplugs or noise-out headphones
Alarm clock
Back-up Alarm Clock! (Because you might not be allowed to use your cell phone with its 7 alarms.)
A big mug or two
Refillable WaterBottle
Laundry Bag
(You may or may not need a floor Lamp – check the school list)
Lock for trunk or wardrobe
Backpack or Easy to Carry Book Bag (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum made 2-strapping it cool again.)
Small duffle bag for short trips
Over-the-Door Shoe Rack
Lots of Hangers
Little Reading Lamp or Book Light
3-prong Extension Cords
Surge Protectors
If you can’t bring a computer, then Thesaurus & Dictionary (These still exist as printed material.)
Chargers for all the electronics you are allowed to bring – cell phone, laptop, etc.
All the cords your computer (if it’s allowed) came with – usb connectors, etc.
Your start-up disc if your computer had one
Extra or External cell phone charger
Camera if your phone doesn’t have a good one
Several Thumb Drives
A cup to store pens on your desk
If you have a lot of small items like jewelry or lucky paperclips, hearing aids, data cards – get a set of boxes to organize and keep the small things in.

Don’t bring super expensive stuff that isn’t necessary.

There’s likely to be a superstore capitalizing on your needs somewhere near campus. If you forget things, buy them before classes start if you can. Someone else has probably needed exactly what you need, so just ask.

Have fun! Let the adventure begin!

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