I remember perusing the aisles of my local Bed Bath & Beyond, with Mom in tow, staring at what appeared to be an endless sea of must-haves for college. I had a long checklist of my own, carefully curated after texting about 20 separate high school friends, all of whom were already moved into their dorms while I sat in Doylestown, Pennsylvania (thank you quarter system). Navigating the maze of bins and shelves left me overwhelmed. A mini steam cleaner? I guess I would need that. Mini vacuum? Into the cart that goes too. What about that jumbo pack of fairy lights? Obviously a must-have.
I left the store with a hefty receipt, as Mom and I were both armed with various plastic bags containing an array of gadgets and decorations, which I thought would set me up for the greatest four years of my life. However, 90 percent of those purchases were a complete waste of money and space (shout-out to the impeccable yet small rooms of Shepard Hall). So here I am to give you my own checklist of must-haves for freshman year, most of which cannot be purchased at Target.
What I thought I needed: Matching duvet covers with my future roommate.
What I actually needed: A freshman year roommate who would patiently listen to my incessant complaining about, well, everything.
From how much work my journalism class was to how my ex-boyfriend had the nerve to send me a text, my roommate heard it all. Heck, it’s a miracle her ears are still working after the moaning and groaning I subjected her to. However, no matter how horrendous it was for her to listen to, she still remains my best friend and most likely will be there on my wedding day as maid of honor listening to my bemoaning about god knows what. I’m not going to lie though—our navy duvets did look Instagram worthy.
What I thought I needed: A sexy red dress from Topshop for formal.
What I actually needed: A bathroom full of girls that patted tears from my eyes as I cried about my ex.
Sure, the red dress was a nice touch to my evening, but my night was so bad that I might as well have been wearing a potato sack. Shout out to the ladies (there is a long list of you) who brushed my hair away from my teary face, wiped my makeup back into place and told me to pull it together because I am so much better than him. Some of you I knew, most of you I didn’t, but at the end of the night I learned that the girls’ bathroom can be a powerful place full of motivating women and future best friends.
What I thought I needed: A disposable camera for my Project Wildcat (PWild) Pre-Orientation Program.
What I actually needed: That one guy I met on PWild who I was positive I would hate, but actually turned out to be my life coach.
I didn’t like sports or Excel in the slightest, and this kid showed up in a Nationals T-shirt talking about how he has a spreadsheet for just about everything. I remember standing there in my newly purchased hiking boots, disposable camera in hand, thinking, “What did I just get myself into? I have to spend eight days in the woods with this guy?” Turns out that guy would edit all of my Journalism 201-1 stories without fail, give me half his Cheesie’s sandwich and a sweatshirt when I had a bad night, and talk me through my impulsive decisions. Thank you for making me a little more rational and a lot less reckless. I still got a nice Facebook cover photo with the disposable though, don’t worry.
Moral of the story: Bed Bath & Beyond is an okay start, but no matter how many hangers you buy or how fancy your shower carrier is, they just won’t cut it when it comes to surviving your first year of college. What matters the most is finding and holding onto the friends that will be there for the bad (my mono induced stress) and the good (think elevated platform on Dillo Day).
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