Fraternity party via Flickr: Rex Roof
Fraternities and sororities get a bad rap, and sometimes deservedly so—there are a lot of things you should take into account before you join one—but there are also a lot of potential upsides. There’s a reason Greek life has been going strong for as long as it has, in fact, there are a bunch:
- It’s great to feel like you have a home base, and a place where you can walk in and be welcomed. Especially as an underclassmen, going to parties at fraternities and sororities can be intimidating—they’re not letting everyone in at the door, you don’t feel like you belong there, you don’t know where the bathroom is, or where you can leave your coat with the least risk of gross things getting spilled on it. Walking into a house where everybody knows your name, a la Cheers, can be pretty great, especially when you’re living away from home for the first time.
Sorority House via Flickr: gb_packards
In movies about college, it seems like frats and sororities are pretty much where it’s at (to use a nerdy, dated phrase, that makes it seem like I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to what’s cool). From Animal House to Van Wilder, it’s all about the Greeks. As with most things that are true in movies about college—nerds always get their revenge, you don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies, blonde people can be lawyers—this doesn’t necessarily hold true in the harsh light of reality. Greek life can be a great choice, but it’s certainly not the only choice, and you should think about whether or not you want to be involved in that scene before you decide to join. Here are some potential downsides that you should definitely consider before you sign on:
- Being a part of a frat or a sorority is not free. There are dues, parties, formals, and any number of little expenses that add up. It usually isn’t a giant amount, but it’s definitely a factor.
Vegetables via Flickr: TheGirlsNY
“The Freshman Fifteen.” It’s a phrase that strikes dread into the hearts of seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds across the nation; a seemingly-unavoidable weight gain that no one is safe from. Here’s some sensible advice on avoiding it.
First of all, don’t freak out about it.
Half of maintaining a healthy weight is what you put into your mouth, yes, but the other half is what goes on in your head (ok, maybe those percentages aren’t exact, but you get the idea). Worrying too much about what you’re eating, and spending too much time obsessing over food and diets is a time-tested way to build an unhealthy relationship with food, which usually leads to unhealthy eating habits, which, regardless of whether they tend towards too much or too little, won’t make you look or feel good. The Freshman Fifteen is not some magical curse that will come upon you, no matter what you do, it’s the very predictable result of putting more cupcakes, pizza, and probably beer into your body than your body can get rid of. If you don’t do that, it won’t happen, and if it does happen, you can undo it with healthier eating habits and by being more active. It’s the whole “calories in/calories burned” math thing, not some horrible environmental side-effect of living in a dorm (though it can sometimes feel that way).
Almost all high school juniors find themselves asking this question, and wondering just how thorough an investigation are those college admissions officers going to do.
Surely they’re too busy to Google you, to look you up on Facebook, or to find your Twitter account, right? They’re busy people! The last thing they have time to do is look through your photos from homecoming, when things got a little messy, or notice that your last couple statuses were ragey rants about your math teacher…right? Can’t we just throw those rumors in the conspiracy theories pile, and forget about it?
Packing for college is not like packing for summer camp.
You’ll need more than a few t-shirts, shorts, and a change of underwear. You won’t, however, need to pack up everything you’ve ever owned and expect it to fit into your half of your new dorm room. The transition to college is a big one—it may be the first big move you’ve ever made, and it’s probably the first time you’ll be living away from home. Deciding what to pack can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to put off this very tangible marker of your transition out of childhood and into adulthood. We have been there, and we’ve put together a list to help you get started.
Since closet and dresser space is probably going to be pretty limited, keep the season in mind as you choose which clothes to bring to college. Remember that you’ll probably be home again for Thanksgiving, and could switch out some of your fall jackets for winter parkas then. Even if you don’t plan on going home before winter comes, you could pack up a box of winter things for your parents to send to you when the temperature starts to drop. Location is important, too—if you grew up in Florida, and are headed to Carleton, Syracuse, or Dartmouth, you are in for a surprise…don’t forget your mittens, ski hat, parka, long underwear, and warm socks. Conversely, if you’re a Vermonter heading to Florida State, go ahead and hand down your snow pants to your little brother. You can always borrow them back when you come home for the holidays.
Some other things to keep in mind as far as clothing is concerned:
- The number of pairs of underwear and socks that you bring will probably determine how often you do laundry. Bring a LOT of them.
- You will definitely want to look good sometimes, but you will find that pajama pants and sweatshirts play a much larger role in your day-to-day wardrobe than they ever have before. Bring lots of comfy things.
- Bring all the things you will need to keep your clothes clean and nice: hangers for your closet, a laundry bag, detergent, stain remover, dryer sheets, an iron and small ironing board, a sewing kit with safety pins in it (they come in handy when you’re making a toga out of a bedsheet), and one of those Tide-to-Go stain remover pens for emergencies.
- Bring flip flops for the shower. Seriously.
Bath and Toiletries
You won’t be able to spread your things out in a shared dorm bathroom, so bring the things you need and something to carry them back and forth from the bathroom in.
- Bathroom caddy
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and anything else—retainer?—that you use regularly
- Hairbrush, comb, your hair products of choice, and styling tools (blowdryer, curling/straightening irons, bobby pins, hair elastics, etc.)
- Body wash, shaving gel/cream, razors, deodorant, and nail scissors
- Facewash, moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup
- Two or three bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths
- Bathrobe (you don’t want to have to get fully dressed just to go down the hall to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and while you could just risk it in your skivvies, we strongly suggest a robe.)
Obviously, you’ll want to bring any medications you take, along with a prescription for a refill when you run out (or a plan to have your doctor call in a refill). It’s also good to know ahead of time what to do if you miss a dose. There are a few over-the-counter things you might want to have on hand as well:
- Pain reliever/anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen, Tylenol—whatever you like)
- Cold/allergy medicine/decongestants (you can always purchase this later, but you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with a terrible cold and nothing on hand)
- Visine (whether you think so or not, you may find yourself needing this)
- Band-aids and antibiotic cream
- Contact lens solution and case (if you wear contacts)
Since your bed will also probably serve as living room and study space, you’ll want it to be comfortable, functional, and nice to look at. Don’t buy the first cheapo off-to-college-sheet-and-comforter set that you see—they can be scratchy. Bring the following:
- Two sets of soft sheets and pillowcases (we’ll leave thread count up to you, but make sure that you’re buying the right size—many dorm beds have extra-long mattresses).
- A duvet with a washable cover
- A mattress pad
- A mattress protector (Other people slept on that mattress before you. You don’t know them. A barrier is not a bad idea.)
- A few throw pillows for when your bed is doing double-duty as your couch.
- A reliable alarm clock
- Earplugs and a sleep mask are optional, but can come in handy if your roommate unfortunately turns out to be a loud night-owl.
Your under-bed space will probably be your best bet for storage in a small room, so plan ahead. Buy:
- Bed raisers (blocks that go under each leg of the bed, and give you extra storage space)
- Under-bed storage boxes
- Storage for on top of your dresser (jewelry boxes, stackable boxes—whatever suits your needs)
You’ll probably be eating most of your meals in dining halls, but it’s nice to have some things in your room, too.
- Mini-fridge (you may be able to rent one through the school)
- Hotplate (if it’s allowed by the school—they can be a fire risk)
- A few bowls, spoons, forks, knives, and cups, and a sponge and detergent to wash them with
- Paper towels (they’ll come in handy)
- A water filter (like a Brita)
You can buy the actual food when you get there, but here are some classics, and some new ideas:
- Top Ramen (Your father probably ate it at college, and maybe his father before him. It’s a tradition. It’s also kind of gross.)
- Cereal and milk
- Fruit (apples last a long time)
- Nuts (almonds, if we’re being healthy about it)
- Mac and Cheese
- Peanut butter (good on apples, good on bread, good straight out of the jar!)
- Protein bars (they last forever, so as long as you eat them before you graduate, you’re probably ok)
Your room is your new home, so don’t forget to bring things to make it feel that way. Posters, photos, wall-hangings, rugs, a fan, mirrors, white boards…go all out. You may also enjoy bringing the followings things, for entertainment both in and outside of your room:
- TV/DVD player (unless you plan to watch both of your computer)
- Sound system you can plug your iPod into
- Gaming system (Gamers beware—this is a major time suck. Don’t let it eat you alive.)
- Digital camera and photo paper
- A vacuum cleaner, and some cleaning supplies (We know that doesn’t sound super fun. But you won’t want to have people over if your room is disgusting.)
- Baseball glove
- Hiking boots
- Camping chair for reading on the quad
- Water bottle
The most important thing you’ll want to have for your study space is a computer, preferably a laptop. Your school library will have computers, but it’s very hard to do without one of your own (preferably a sturdy one, with a good carrying case). A printer is a great thing to have in your room for smaller print jobs and emergency paper-due-this-morning situations, but your school will probably have a good way for you to print stuff out, when you need to. Optional but useful computer accessories:
- Extra power cord
- Extra phone charger
- Thumb drive/flash drive
- Ethernet cable and possibly a wireless router (if your school doesn’t have wireless internet)
- Printer cable, paper, and ink (if you’re bringing a printer)
- Compact speakers
- A lock to lock your computer to your desk
You’ll be getting lots of books and pieces of paper, so it’s good to have some plan for how you’re going to keep track of them. Bookends help you make a bookcase out of any shelf. A file box with hanging folders, one per class, is not a bad option, and a folder for each class to go on your bookshelf when it’s not in use is also helpful. Other things for your desk/study space:
- A desk lamp
- Pen and pencil holder
- Pens and pencils
- Paper clips
- A stapler and staples
- Staple remover
- Three-hole punch
- Sticky notes for flagging things you’re reading and for leaving passive-aggressive notes for your roommate (just kidding about the passive-aggressive part…though sticky notes do work well for that.)
- Sharpies (these just seem to come in handy, like duct tape)
- Power strips/extension cords/surge protector
- Batteries for everything battery-powered that you’re bringing
There are also a few important cards you’ll need, and documents that you should remember to bring, and stow safely away in your desk somewhere:
- Your driver’s license or state ID
- Your health insurance card
- Your social security card (you will rarely need this, and you should keep it locked up somewhere, but some states require it when you apply for a license, and some jobs might need to see it before they hire you.)
- Health records
Last of all, remember that your desk is also going to serve as your dining room table, and your entertainment center. Do yourself a big favor, and get a rubber keyboard cover. They’re cheap…much cheaper than replacing your computer when a drink gets spilled on it…which it will.
So, this was a loooong list. It may feel like you’re packing for the apocalypse, but don’t worry. If you forget something, your parents will probably be happy to send it to you (if you ask nicely), and they might even use it as an excuse to visit you. So, depending on whether or not that’s something you want, pack with care!