The personified pre-frosh naïveté inside your head (I’m thinking Inside Out here) is probably convincing you to buy everything labelled “college” at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and all of the (emphasis on quotation marks) “Room Essentials” at Target. If you want to be a smart freshman, take that beanbag chair out of your shopping cart and keep reading.  I went to go pick up a couple things for this year and I couldn’t help but people-watch the freshmen shopping for college with their parents, contemplating twin XL sheets and depleting the store’s entire supply of Brita filters. I’m convinced the whole concept of “college shopping” was fabricated by these superstores for their sales, so save your money (to spend on, I would argue, the trifecta of pure joy – Amazon Prime, Spotify Premium, and eating out) because –

  1. Your dorm will look way less like a stereotypical freshman dorm if you don’t hang up 20 pictures from senior prom and have a laundry hamper that matches your comforter set pattern.
  2. Having less stuff to bring makes packing, move-in, and move-out stupid easy and your parents will thank you.
  3. If you have less, there’s a smaller chance that your paper due in two hours somehow “gets lost” in the depths of your pile of laundry.
  4. Bringing too much physical baggage is the gateway for bringing all your high school baggage that no one (no offense) really wants.

This is your chance to seriously start over – why bring so much stuff that holds you down?When you have the choice of making an aspect about your college life simple or complicated – please, go simple. There will be plenty of opportunity for these next four years to be insanely complicated. So bring only what you need. That way, you can spend your freshman year actually meeting people, making friends, trying new things, learning, and all that fun college stuff, not hugging that picture of you and your dog while you cry yourself to sleep.


Here are the essentials you will definitely need:

  • Clothes that you’ll actually wear. Go for things you can layer because the weather here is all over the place. You can never go wrong with some solid basics. Don’t overkill on t-shirts because you’ll get twenty free ones the minute you get to campus. Invest in a good pair of waterproof boots for rain/ice/snow – you won’t regret it. And you’ll need professional/formal attire for those special occasions!
  • Good bedding. Instead of spending money on random things for your dorm you probably won’t use or even look at, invest in a good bed set (which you’ll use an average of 3x per day). Get a comforter that is comfortable (who would have thought) and easy to wash. This year, I bought a set of jersey sheets because they’re ridiculously soft. Bring a pillow that you legitimately like. The pillow I bought new last year from BB&B was just way too memory-foamy for me so I’m going with my trusty, firm pillow from my bedroom at home. And everyone raves about getting a thick mattress pad but I actually slept fine without one. The main point is – quality over quantity.
  • Bath necessities. If you’re living in AMR I/II, don’t skip the shower caddy. I don’t want to see anyone using a Barnes & Noble shopping bag to hold their toiletries like I saw someone do last year. If you’re living in Buildings or Wolman/McCoy, Clorox wipes will make cleaning easy. Two or so really soft bath towels can bring you a lot of happiness after your morning shower. Shower shoes are an absolute yes. Don’t forget – Amazon Prime is your friend.
  • Miscellaneous items. There’s nothing like a pair of speakers to liven the space up with some tunes; bring an aux cord so your cool new college friends can show you that “sick new Kygo remix”. You’ll obviously need a solid backpack/bag that can hold everything you need – laptop, books, snacks (!), reusable water bottle (!!), etc. Bring a mini fridge/microwave (and a fan for AMR I/II) so you make it out of freshman year alive. There’s also nothing wrong with bringing a little bit of home to your dorm with a couple pictures or small memorabilia.

And here’s my edited version of the packing list Hopkins gives out:

Personal Items

  • Clothing, enough to last between washes – Less clothes = less washing = happy you
    • Athletic clothing 
    • Warm weather clothing
    • Formal wear
    • Sandals, dress shoes, sneakers
    • Bathing suit and beach towelI have never used these two items my entire freshman year… but maybe I’m not just as fun as other people
    • Socks
    • Underclothes
  • Prescription medications
  • Umbrella and rain gear (boots, poncho) – I did okay with just a rain jacket after I broke my umbrella halfway through the year
  • Laundry basket/hamper – I’d go for a good quality, sturdy basket with solid handles
  • Hangers – You don’t need anything fancy
  • Laundry detergent and dryer sheets – Go for those extremely convenient laundry pods
  • Bedding for twin XL mattress – Say it with me now: jersey sheets
  • Extra blanketsI just brought one to use on the Beach!
  • Pillows
  • Toiletries
  • Shower caddy and shower shoes !!!!!!
  • Towel and washcloth
  • Blow dryer, hair straightener, etc.

Transportation You just… really don’t need a bike, especially living on-campus

  • Bicycle
  • Bike lock


  • Computer/tablet and power cords
  • Portable fan (especially for the AMRs)
  • Alarm clock – There’s this cool new thing called a phone now
  • Cell phone/charger
  • Camera – …There’s this cool new thing called a phone now
  • Batteries – Eh, if you really wanted to just in case, but I never needed batteries
  • Power strip (check Guidelines for JHU Power Strip requirements) !!!!!!
  • TV, game consoles – Only if you really want to
  • Mini fridge, microwave, etc. (unless in Hopkins Inn) 


  • School suppliesAmazon Prime it to your dorm
  • Backpack
  • Sporting goods
  • Health insurance card
  • Photo ID, passport, social security card (if planning on obtaining a job while on campus)
  • Pictures, posters, push pins/tacks – Don’t go crazy!
  • First aid kit with medicine and vitamins
  • Small tool kit
  • Small cleaning supplies
  • Ear plugs/head phones
  • Trash bags
  • Paper plates/utensils because no one likes to wash dishes after eating

Truth is, you just really don’t need all that much stuff. The fiscal life of BB&B and Target is sustained solely off of college freshmen excitement and the sudden and absolute need for a bedside caddy and strange, cube-shaped storage shelving. Some of you might hear me out, but some of you will indeed, get that matching laundry hamper and hang up those huge picture collages of you and your high school friends. If that’s you, at least do this –

Spend a little time during your last part of summer deconstructing your current bedroom – I just did it, and it felt like I should have done it a year ago. Your room deserves a decent goodbye, too, not just your friends and family. Take a minute to look through the past 18 years of your life and then put it all away. Get rid of all those high school homeworks and papers – you really won’t need them ever again. Box up all those trophies and medals and certificates I know you won and put them into storage – everyone’s on the same playing field when you’re at Hopkins. Donate all those clothes you won’t wear again to Goodwill – simpler is always better. It’s time to make some space – physical, emotional, and intellectual for all you’ll experience and want to remember in these next four years.


Everything in storage – including the notorious pink flamingo I stole from Gilman Quad last spring