To Incoming Students: College Shopping Myths You Need to Know

by Elisabeth Wilder – Horizon Guest Writer

Almost as soon as I graduated high school, I began seeing TV ads bombarding me with messages that I needed absolutely everything to have the best college experience. If my room didn’t have coolest decorations and the biggest TV, how was I going to make new friends? My social life would surely suffer if I didn’t buy a futon to fit all my future friends, and what would people think if I brought my bedspread from home instead of buying a new one like everyone else?

Do yourself, the planet, and your wallet a favor and ignore the dozens of ads and the college checklists sent out by big retailers. Instead, pay attention to these debunked college shopping myths so you really know what to buy. Take it from someone who knows what you actually need (and what you don’t). Trust me, you’ll be glad you decided not to spend those Walmart and Bed, Bath and Beyond gift cards from your graduation party that are burning a hole in your pocket. Especially when you and your parents have to carry all that new stuff to your dorm room in the sweltering August heat!

Skip the mall, skip the ads, and don’t let these five packing myths get the best of you. Take it from me and what I learned after two years at Hesston, don’t believe the five big myths.

Myth #1 You Need the Comfiest Bed:

No one's bed looks like this.
No one’s bed looks like this.

When you don’t get into your room until 2 a.m., are taking a 40-minute power nap between class and practice, or sleeping in until 3 p.m. on a Saturday after a long week of classes, it doesn’t matter if you have the softest sheets, fluffiest blankets, or thickest mattress pad. You’re going to be too tired to care. Don’t spend tons of money on new pillows and comforters for your bed either. It doesn’t matter if you got your comforter from Target, if it’s the one you’ve been using since you were 15, or a t-shirt quilt your grandma made. As long as you have your extra long twin sheets, pillow(s), and a comforter/blanket that you like, you’re set. Don’t break the bank on a $100 mattress pad that promises to leave you more refreshed for 8 a.m. classes or $10 throw pillows to dress up your bed, the basics are more than enough when you’ve finally finished that paper and have five hours of sleep to look forward to.

Myth #2 Make Your Room the Hangout Center:

You would have to rent a U-Haul to bring all this stuff to college.
You would have to rent a U-Haul to bring all this stuff to college.

You don’t make friends by having “the coolest room” or the nicest stuff, and even if you did, what kind of friends would they be? Your college experience is shaped largely by what happens outside of your room. The moments that create your college experience happen when you’re hanging out with friends in the lounge, going out for half-price appetizers, and studying with fellow classmates in the library. If you stay isolated in your room and expect people to come to you, you won’t meet as many people and will miss out on all the potential friends you could be making at campus events like soccer games and make-your-own pizza night. Skip the $200 TV, $50 cords,  and cheap $60 chairs. Watching a movie with buds in a TV lounge or cuddling up with friends and laptop is way better anyway .

Myth #3 More Desk Supplies Equal Better Grades:

It doesn't look like much studying is really being done.
It doesn’t look like much studying is really being done.

Highlighters and sticky notes don’t instantly make you a better student if you buy them, so be realistic when you’re buying school supplies. If you’re weren’t the best student in high school and are looking to change some of your bad study habits, start with a planner and work your way up. There is no need to buy all the office supplies available to ensure you get a 4.0. Good grades come from paying attention in class, consistent study habits, and applying your learning outside of the classroom. Don’t buy a $10 desk organizer, a $20 lapboard, or a $12 desk lamp (your room already has one anyway). School supplies don’t make you a better student; you are going to make yourself a better student.

Myth #4 Keep Your Dorm Room Stocked with Food and Beverages:

No college student has a fridge this full or filled with food this nutritious.
No college student has a fridge this full or filled with food this nutritious.

It may seem like college is going to be tough enough going without mom’s home cooking every night, but there is no need to overcompensate with a cupboard full of food which will most likely only contribute to the Freshmen 15 (take it from experience). Realistically, you won’t spend much time cooking in your room. If the cafeteria isn’t serving your favorite meal, you and some friends are going to make a Taco Bell run or order a pizza to your room.

Unless you want to be eating more than you should alone in your room, don’t worry about buying lots of food or an abundance of kitchen supplies such as bowls, plates, silverware, or tupperware. You also probably don’t need a mini fridge with a freezer unless you’re on some special frozen dinner diet or have a borderline unhealthy obsession with popsicles. Keep in mind, too, that you can get coffee or hot drinks from the cafeteria anytime during cafeteria hours (just remember your reusable tumbler!), which means a $15 coffee maker or $10 hot pot isn’t necessary if you just need a small pick-me-up in the morning.

Myth #5 You’re Not Going To Have Enough Space:

If you buy tons of stuff you don’t actually need for college, of course you’re going to need storage containers to keep it all! While having a shoe rack over your closet door isn’t a bad idea, your room will have plenty of storage space for you. If your t-shirt collection can’t fit into one of your dresser drawers, you brought wayyyy too many t-shirts, my friend. No need to buy $40 storage carts, $20 sweater organizers, or a $8 decorative tub. Chances are that if you’re buying stuff to store your stuff, you have too much stuff!

These are just expensive, big, and unnecessary.
These are just expensive, big, and unnecessary.

Not only can I tell you all of this from the experience of getting duped into buying stuff I didn’t need, I have also seen it on the other end. When students are moving out of the dorms and are trying to sell their $200 mini fridges without luck and throwing away $30 worth of school supplies they opened but never used, you realize what you really need. The stuff we all thought we needed is thrown away to save ourselves the expense of having to haul it back home for the summer (sorry for the waste, mom).

To combat this problem, however, Hesston College has fought back with several consumer friendly and sustainable initiatives. One of the most popular and up-incoming initiatives is The Free Store. The Free Store is an initiative in which students can give away their good, usable items that they no longer want. Other students can then visit the free store and take these items…for free! At the end of the year, all items that are left are donated to various nonprofits or sold to sponsor more sustainable initiatives on campus.

More recently, items have been withheld specifically for freshmen and returning college students so they don’t have to make another trip to the store. When you arrive on campus be sure to check out The Free Store for the following:

  • Hangers
  • Binders
  • Shower Caddies
  • Waste bins

As a last tip, do as much of your back-to-school shopping as you can at thrift stores or consignment shops. Unique stuff with a story is way better than the generic stuff from Walmart. But whether it’s regifting that Bed, Bath and Beyond gift card when you forget your mother’s birthday or having space in your dorm room for that awesome couch you and your new college buddies found thrifting, buying less will definitely be worth it.

For more packing suggestions check out these tips and checklists to help get you ready for college.


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