20 College Supplies You Never Had

I was reading this list posted on Wire Cutter about essentials for any college student and here’s how my inventory of junk during my undergrad days (not so very long ago) compares:

1. Alarm clock
Didn’t have one of these, I used my phone. Didn’t even have an iphone with fancy functions for playing rainforest sounds or crickets chirping to gently lull you out of your sleep – mine was a $15 nokia from AT&T. And well, I didn’t exactly get up for all my classes… I missed so many classes for one of my First Year Writing Seminars that I had to make up for it by giving an extra presentation on self-indulgent worship music in the church – who schedules classes at 8am in the morning anyway?? The teacher didn’t even make it for one of her classes, which is a way graver sin than our absence, because the entire class dragged themselves out of bed to Goldwin Smith in the cold and there wasn’t even class in the end. She brought us breakfast the next class to make up. So unless you’re a TA with an 8 o’clock class, an alarm clock is more of a want than a need.

2. All purpose cleaning spray: This would certainly have been useful around the house. We probably only had one in the 3rd year – when you’re living in a dorm I don’t suppose it matters much if things get a little stained and sticky.

3. Bag: for carting school supplies around. Most people (girls) brought totes. And if I’m not wrong most guys just brought a pencil and eraser and not much else. Who needs bags? Or notes?

4. USB backup battery pack: Really? Essential? I definitely didn’t have this.

5. Rechargeable batteries: I didn’t have this, but liangze had a pack and a charger for replacing batteries in clocks.. who else ever uses AA batteries? Everyone uses lithium batteries nowadays. I can’t think what else would possibly need an AA battery if not a clock or a flashlight.

6. Bike light: Well, I didn’t even have a bike. I did get bike lights while cycling around Copenhagen though – it was compulsory for night cycling there.

7. Bike lock: I guess there was a reason so many people’s bikes got stolen around campus – one poor singaporean guy forgot the combination to his bike lock and tried to cut the lock and was caught by campus police.

8. Book light: My roommate was never bothered by the entire room being illuminated, the rare times when she was in at night studying.

9. Chip clips: We have these, but not quite in the same form – they’re ikea clips for keeping bags air tight and work pretty well.

10. Coffee maker: This seems more like a grown up appliance than anything else – where in your dorm are you ever going to find the space to put it?

11. Duvet: You will freeze to death without this in Ithaca.

12. Earplugs: I didn’t have these although my roommate did make lots of noise at night skyping her family in India. These are uncomfortable to wear though, I doubt I’d be able to get to sleep with or without the ear plugs. We have a huge box of them up the chimes tower for people who want to visit the belfry while we’re playing.

13. E-reader: I only got my kindle back in Singapore to pass the time on the long commute to work. Not so necessary at college, where you hardly have time to read books and I never thought of downloading my textbooks then because I wasn’t acquainted with bookos

14. Eye mask: Would undoubtedly have been useful but I didn’t get one either.

15. First aid kit: I can’t think of a single college student who has a first aid kit. That’s too adult. When you get a cut or burn you basically just wander the halls asking if anyone has a band-aid until one of the RAs points you in the direction of the dorm first aid kit. In Risley we just put it on the listserv and offered other goods for barter (cookies, hugs, etc.)

16. Flash drive: Everyone had flash drives, to print stuff on campus. Either that or they sent their essays to their email accounts.

17. Hangers: Sure. Nobody wants to fold clothes. You got as many hangers as clothes you had.

18. External desktop hard drive: Almost nobody had desktops.

19. Portable hard drive: Everybody had hard drives, although back in the day they were all 250gb or 500gb only.

20. Headphones: Nope. My roommate had this set of headphones (nothing fancy like Bose or anything) with a mouthpiece so she could skype her parents easily. Maybe it’s a natural indian inclination to look like a telemarketer? I constantly teased her for it. The larger your headphones, the more of a geek/loser you were generally considered to be, because you had no friends to talk to going to and from classes and constantly walked from hall to hall by yourself, listening to your music. (At least that’s how I viewed a certain M. Andrade)

21. Hooks: We had tons of them. In the bathroom, in the hall, to hang your coats up, etc. All the 3M removable kind, of course, so landlords wouldn’t get on our backs.

22. Iron or garment steamer: Are you kidding? Does anyone in college actually iron anything? If your clothes need to be ironed out of the dryer, you’re doing college wrong.

23. Laptop: A necessity. No work would get done otherwise although I did know of one person who used school computers exclusively.

24. Laundry basket: Also a necessity, that or a laundry hamper. I think baskets would be more durable, the wires in my nylon laundry hamper used to start sticking out through the fabric after about a year of use.

25. Laundry detergent: Everyone uses Tide. Although since you start doing laundry for the first time at college (at least for me) there is always a period of experimentation about what smells nicest. Also, fabric softener sheets are a must.

26: Mattress pad: Good to have, one never knows how germ-infested dorm beds can be (very). I didn’t always use one though. A shabby thin one was provided for the freshman dorms but of course you weren’t allowed to take it with you after.

27. Mini fridge: I had one. Good for storing the humongous amounts of leftover takeaway chinese. Not necessary by any means though, and a huge electricity sink.

28. Pen, mechanical pencil: This is a given. If you can survive without I’d be very surprised. Most kids use the kind that need to be sharpened though, and our libraries are old enough to have electric pencil sharpeners affixed to the walls.

29. Pillows: I got the $5 Target ones and kept changing them maybe every two years? Wx left behind his Calvin Klein ones and we used those too – they were excellent. (But who spends their dough on Calvin Klein pillows??) In fact my college pillows were much fluffier and more supportive than my pillows back home.

30. Printer: We ran through a slew of half working printers – can’t remember who I purchased them from. LZ was lucky in that one of his housemates (Justin) brought with him a wireless printer that his entire house went in on for toner and paper. After Justin moved out we reverted to the school printers, which were exorbitant. So yes, get a good (first hand) printer if you can.

31. Robe: Necessary in a college dorm (I think). Particularly if you don’t want to change immediately into your clothes after your bath. I had a walk in closet in Risley which was nice. I got mine from Sears, it wasn’t very absorbent.

32. Router: Actually I think this was provided by Time Warner and we had to return it after terminating the broadband.

33. Sewing kit: Are you kidding?? We don’t even iron! I don’t think I ever sewed anything in all 4 years of college.

34. Sheets: Of course. Get the fitted ones, they don’t move all over the place. But make sure you know the size of your bed beforehand! Cornell’s single beds were really oddly sized.

35. Shower caddy: Lots of people had these. There were cubby holes in the toilets too, but my shampoo and conditioner kept getting stolen, so having your own shower caddy is probably a better idea so you can stow your shower stuff in your room.

36. Shower shoes: By which they mean flip flops; these don’t have to just be shower shoes, I think I wore them everywhere, even in the winter. But yes, Old Navy’s flip flops are ridiculously cheap. I particularly liked Aeropostale’s fluffy slippers and purchased a stream of them every semester or so for use in dorm (they get progressively less fluffy).

37. Smartphone: not necessary, I think. Unless you are an overseas student and want to whatsapp your family, all of whom have smartphones. Particularly because my phone was an ordinary $15 nokia, I lost it 3 times in a single year and each time, someone returned it because, who would want to steal a $15 nokia phone with actual buttons?? I kept leaving my phone behind in the practice rooms in Lincoln Hall – once in Malott, and the receptionist, without bothering to check the number, decided to call “Mum”, who happens to be all the way in Singapore. I think it cost me freaking $5. My mum then emailed me to tell me my phone was in Malott Hall with the receptionist. Thanks a lot!

38. Bluetooth speakers: No speakers. No parties. I absolutely hated the parties the frat opposite Risley seemed to hold every friday night. Such bad taste in music.

39. Standard stereo cable: Not necessary at all. This guy seems to be into a lot of audio equipment.

40. Stapler: American staplers are notoriously chunky and badly designed. If you are from an Asian country, bring your stapler over, especially those nice metal ones not much larger than a matchbox. If you purchase a stapler in the states you will find it takes up way too much space on your desk. Don’t bring your two holed punch over, the Americans use three-holed punches, which are more secure when you’re filing stuff, but way larger than necessary. Anyway you don’t really need either, usually there’s a nice asian kid in class who brings a pencil case/stationery case and you can just borrow his/her stapler, or do it at the library. All the boys in my math classes always borrowed my stapler (the only thing they knew how to say to a girl was “Can I borrow your stapler?”) – so much so that Hubbard suggested I start charging for the service.

41. Tablet: I used the Asus Eeepad at college, it was great for tex-ing math notes, what with the keyboard attachment. Now I use the Ipad mini, the asus spoilt quite quickly and I wouldn’t recommend buying one.

42. Electric kettle: A must, especially for cocoa and instant noodles/soup.

43. Toolbox: Never needed one.

44. Towels: I guess Bed, Bath, and Beyond would be a good recommendation. I just got the Target ones. When you’re on a college budget, Target is your best friend.

45. Travel mug: Most people got travel mugs and filled up with Seattle’s best coffee from Libe Cafe. I think Starbucks also has a discount if you bring your own mug.

46. Long USB cable: Never used one. I’d just buy a multiplug adaptor that would be right next to your bed with everything plugged into it within reaching distance of your bed. Anyway purchasing a long USB cable kind of assumes that you have a college dorm large enough that you might actually not be able to reach your USB device, which is an out and out lie. If you’ve seen an american college dorm, It’s not much different from the SPCA.

47. Portable vacuum: I actually had this! For sucking up eraser dust and everything. Not necessary though, if you don’t care about debris on your table.

48. Voice recorder: Not necessary. Recording in lecture halls? Gosh is this a hardcore student.

49. Water bottle: Quite useful, although I lived off aquafina a lot. What with all the overnight problem sets and everything it’s hard to be so on top of everything that you remember to bring yourself, much less your water bottle to class.

50. Water jug: Almost everyone I knew had one. I didn’t. They liked to use Brita filters, which I guess is useful. I had no problems drinking from the tap. I found Brita filters really slow.



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