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What NOT to Bring to College

June 24, 2013

Zoey here! I’m back for the summer before my senior year working on programming for St. Olaf’s sustainability projects.

One of the topics we’ve talked about is college students’ relationship with materialism. The summer before your first year of college can be especially filled with new “stuff.” Between the staggering lists on blogs and the aisles of “necessities” at Target and IKEA, buying all you need for college can seem overwhelming. Now that I’m heading into my senior year at St. Olaf, I think back to the dozens of bags and rubbermaid bins I stuffed into my family’s Suburban and cringe. Most of the stuff I brought to college I ended up throwing away, losing, or stowing in my limited closet space. Looking back, I wish someone would have provided me a different list: Things Not to Bring to College.

Why should you limit the amount of stuff you bring?

First, it’s cheaper! You’ll undoubtably save money if you purposefully try to limit the amount of material things you bring to college. Remember that even though Northfield’s a small town, we do have a Target and a Kmart close by, so you can always pick up anything you need as the year progresses.

You’ll also save a lot of space. St. Olaf dorm rooms are spacious, but they’re still dorm rooms! If you reduce the amount of stuff you bring, you’ll have less to clean up and less to try to stuff under your bed or in your closet.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll reduce your environmental impact. When we purchase new products, companies respond by using more plastic, water, and energy to create more products. When we keep buying new, we perpetuate a continuous material cycle that strips the earth of natural resources. In many ways, choosing to buy less and bring less to college disrupts this consumer culture.

Larson Hall

A view of Larson Hall through the trees. Photo by Will Lutterman, ’15.

So what shouldn’t you bring to St. Olaf?

  1. An alarm clock. If you have a cell phone, you probably don’t need an alarm clock. Most students just set the alarm on their phone! When you leave your alarm clock plugged in 24/7, it continuously sucks energy, making it an unnecessary drain on the environment.
  2. A printer. St. Olaf uses “StoPrint,” which is a campus wide network printing system. Every student gets printing money on their card every year, and you simply need to swipe your card at any printing station (they’re in every academic building, every dorm, and most other places on campus) and pick up your paper on the way to class.
  3. A desktop computer. Unless you’re doing some serious multitasking, a desktop computer is completely unnecessary. Even if you don’t have a laptop, there are computer labs all over campus that run Mac and Windows and have programs like Photoshop and the Microsoft Office Suite.
  4. A vacuum cleaner, iron, other cleaning supplies. Every dorm has a vacuum, brooms, irons, and other cleaning supplies to check out for free.
  5. Pots, pans, and other cooking supplies. Each dorm also has cooking supplies in every kitchen (plus, you probably won’t be cooking much. Our food is awesome!)
  6. Mini-fridge. I know this will be controversial, but mini-fridges are a huge waste of energy. Every dorm has a big communal refrigerator, and you can usually trust other Oles not to eat your food. If you don’t want to use the dorm fridge, consider sharing a fridge with a neighbor, or buying a used fridge from an upperclassman when you get to campus. Chances are you’ll save money by buying used!
  7. Two sets of sheets. Most lists I read when I was buying my college supplies recommended buying two sets of sheets, “Just in case.” Honestly, I never used my second set of sheets once! Just wash your sheets every few weeks, and you’ll be fine with one set.
  8. A bike. This is another item that may cause some disagreement, but hear me out. St. Olaf rents bikes for free from the library for any student. You just check them out like you would a library book! Besides, in Minnesota you usually only end up with a few months of nice weather anyway. Unless you’re planning on joining the Cycling Team or the Triathlon Team, leave your bike and save some car space!
  9. Hundreds of pens, notebooks, and looseleaf. Wait until you sign up for classes during Week One before you buy any school supplies. Often you’ll sign up for a few classes that don’t require notes, use a workbook, or recommend electronic notes. You can always buy what you need at the bookstore or at Target later.
  10. A fan. This depends on the year, but most of the time you can get away with not purchasing a fan. Generally it’s only hot in September, and the rest of the time fans go unused.

Interested in a program that helps you better understand your relationship with material culture? Sign up for this year’s Environmental Conversations program!

Plus, be sure to check out St. Olaf’s SustainAbilities website and Facebook page to keep up to date on sustainability projects. Watch for the Ole Thrift Shop in the fall! You can buy gently used things from other students to save money and reduce your impact.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2013 11:54 am

    This is definitely useful for incoming freshmen to know. 🙂

  2. Andrea permalink
    June 24, 2013 6:51 pm

    I disagree about the fan. My fan was the only thing that made sleeping bearable my freshman year. Other than that, good list!

  3. June 24, 2013 8:42 pm

    I wish I had read this before coming to college. Save your money now so you can spend it all on bookstore textbooks later!

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