Packing for college

Photo of a Prescott Hall room.Packing for college can be full of headaches and guesswork, particularly for students who have never lived in a residence hall environment before. Thankfully, one of the advantages to Union's location in Lincoln is the convenience and variety of shopping options. If you forgot something or flew here with only a carry-on and the clothes on your back, there's a Target less than a mile from campus, with many more choices around the city.

Rees Hall provides an easy checklist (PDF) for students, and the list below should provide further inspiration. Everyone is different, so don't think of these as one-size-fits-all prescriptions, simply pretty good recommendations based on years of experience.

For specific questions, contact a dean:

LeAnn Merth,
Dean of Women
Donene Caster-Braithwaite,
Assistant Dean of Women
Doug Tallman
Dean of Men
Ron Dodds
Assistant Dean of Men

Things provided by the college ...

Rooms in all three residence halls provide air conditioning, heating, a sink and mirror, two desks with built-in shelves, two chairs, mini blinds on the windows, wired and wireless Internet, cable TV, an active phone line with personal number, and toilet paper. Some of the differences between the dorms can be seen in the table below:

  Rees (Women) Prescott (Men) Culver (Men)
Flooring Linoleum Carpet Carpet
Beds Two extra-long twin beds that can be used as bunk beds (36"x80") Two beds, extra long twin mattresses (36"x80") Two beds, extra long twin mattresses (36"x80)
Bathroom A shared bathroom for each hall. Suite-style bathrooms shared by two rooms. A shared bathroom for each hall. 
Closet Two closets Single walk-in closet Two closets
Dimensions 12'x17' 12'x20' (12'x14' excluding closet and bathroom) 12'x17' (estimate)
Elevator No Yes Yes

Things you should bring ...

  • Clothing—The number of items depends on how often you do laundry, and the primary goal is to make a good, distinct impression, which includes not stinking.
    • Pants—They really aren't optional in polite company. Most students wear jeans to class, but you'll also want more formal options for church and presentations.
    • Shirts—You may want to underestimate the number of t-shirts you'll need; they tend to accumulate during registration. You'll also want formal and long-sleeved options, and sweaters and hooded sweatshirts add versatility.
    • Coats—You need a warm winter coat and a lighter jacket in spring and fall.
    • Dresses/Suit—While you may be able to succeed in college without ever dressing up, your mother, banquet dates and business professors would prefer you put in a little effort. 
    • Socks and underwear—You can never have too many. Seriously. 
    • Shoes—Stereotypically, men bring too few and women too many. Guys will want at least four pairs of footwear: black, brown, sandals and sneakers or athletic shoes. Women should remember they'll probably have less closet space than at home. (A tip to help combat foot odor: don't wear the same pair of shoes on two consecutive days. Your roommate will thank you.)
  • Hangers—Similar to how God divided the waters with the firmament, hangers are a good way of dividing the clean from the unclean. 
  • Bath towels (at least two), hand towels and wash clothes—Bring more towels if you plan on exercising a lot. You'll need them for the pool, for extra showers, etc. As Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says, a towel is "about the most massively useful thing ..."
  • Bedding
    • Mattress pad—Optional, but an extra layer means extra comfort and is easier to wash than a mattress.
    • Sheets—It's a good idea to have an extra set to switch to between laundry days. And no gentlemen, a sleeping bag is not a good substitute.
    • Pillow/s and pillow cases—It's always nice to have one pillow left after throwing the other at your roommate.
    • Blankets, bedspread or comforter—The dorms are heated, but in the winter you'll probably want at least two layers in addition to your sheets. 
  • Laundry paraphernalia—You'll want a hamper, detergent, bleach, and lots of quarters. A sharpie to initial your things is a good way of ending whose-sock-is-this arguments with your roommate. Each dorm has laundry facilities and it's cheaper on-campus than off. Bleach is especially important for Prescott Hall residents who have to clean their own bathrooms.
  • Cleaning supplies—all dorms have sinks and mirrors, so glass cleaner, disinfectant, and sponges or wipes are a good idea. If you eat in your room, you'll want dish soap too. The dorms no longer provide vacuums or brooms for student residents due to misuse, so bring, borrow, or form a cleaning co-op. 
  • Toiletries—Soap, shampoo and conditioner are key to an active social life, as are a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, razors, etc. Flip flops are a must, a showering basket is optional.
  • Alarm clock—Classes don't wait.
  • Trash can—It's not synonymous with "the floor." Also consider a recycle bin. There's a recycling center on campus next to 49ers Field.
  • Medications—Bring all prescriptions. Sunscreen and Band-Aids are pretty useful too. 
  • School supplies—Don't forget to be prepared for class. Pens, pencils, folders and notebooks will help carry you through.

Extra things you may want ...

  • A bike and chain—Lincoln has 125 miles of recreational trails, and with downtown less than five miles away, a bike is an economical and healthy alternative to driving, even during most of the winter. Make sure to lock it up both on and off campus. Some students have elaborate ways of suspending their bikes from their ceilings to save space. Whatever works for you.
  • Musical instruments—Everyone loves a Friday night jam session. 
  • Electronics
    • Computer—While Union provides computer labs, many students choose the convenience of laptops or desktops. One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is deleting all games off your computer; there tends to be an inverse relationship between game scores and test scores.
    • TV—All dorms have free basic cable. In the unlikely event you will have time to watch, you may bring your own TV and coaxial cable.
    • Telephone/answering machine—A cellphone is great, but your dorm land line gets free local calls and is listed in the campus directory. For long distance calling, you'll have to sign up for your own plan (or just use your cell).
    • Surge protector—Besides protecting your devices, a surge protector also adds much-needed extra outlets and serves as an extension cord. Regular extension cords are not allowed. 
    • Camera—preserve the memories so future generations can laugh at your trendy haircut. 
    • Head phones—These are the technological expression of the Golden Rule. Just because you are a devotee of Hannah Montana or gypsy punk doesn't mean your roommate is.  
  • Eating equipment
    • A dorm refrigerator—Eating one meal a day in your room is a great way to save money and time, and a refrigerator is a great way to save yourself from food poisoning.
    • A microwave—Midnight Top Ramen and study-group popcorn. Need we say more? Hot plates, toasters and electric skillets are not allowed for room use, but are OK in dorm kitchenettes. (You can read more about safety regulations in the Student Handbook, page 41.)
    • Dishes and utensils—The last thing anyone wants in a dorm room is dirty dishes piling up. If you keep only one or two plates, bowls, cups, knives, forks and spoons, you're more likely to wash them on a regular basis. If you plan on using the dorm kitchen, you will want to bring a small cooking pot.
    • Water filter and water bottle—The tap water on campus is good, but if you don't trust tap water, a filter is cheaper and better for the environment than bottled water.
  • Decorations—In a small space, less really is more. A few posters or family photos and a rug can really make the room feel homey without feeling cluttered. Make sure to hang up any decorations with sticky-tack (Student Handbook, page 39).
  • Bunk beds—Rees Hall beds can already stack, but guys may want to conserve space by bringing bunk beds or lofts. 
  • Reading lamp—A small, directional lamp lets you study for tests while your roommate sleeps (dorm hallways are also convenient for all-nighters). Just don't bring halogen lamps, which are a fire hazard.
  • Umbrella, rain coat, waterproof backpack—Singing in the rain is more fun when you're not actually getting wet. 
  • Storage containers—In a small, shared room, the more you can fit under the bed or stack in the closet, the better. 
  • A small dry-erase board—Keep next to your phone or hang on the outside of your door for quick messages from friends.  
  • Iron—Few things say "here is someone who has their act together" as clearly as a well-pressed crease in dress pants. The dorms have ironing boards in the laundry facilities, and fire regulations require students to only use irons in those areas. Note: if you've attempted to make a grilled-cheese sandwich with your iron, and then use it on a shirt, you will need a new shirt. (Don't ask how that was discovered.)
  • Sleeping bag—You never know when your friends might want to go camping, or if the gracious church members housing your touring musical ensemble expect you to share beds.

Things not to bring ...

  • Pets—fish are allowed, but leave at home whatever kitten, guinea pig or iguana you've named "Fluffy." (Student Handbook, page 36)
  • Fire hazards—Candles, incense, fireworks, halogen lamps, extension cords and anything else that can burn down a building when left unattended cannot be used in the residence halls. Lighting a candle isn't worth the $50 fine when a string off white Christmas lights can bring the soulful ambiance your poetry homework requires (Student Handbook, page 41). 
  • Alcohol, cigarettes, narcotics or other controlled substances—This should go without saying, but being in college should mean being smart, and there is nothing smart about consuming addictive and unhealthful chemicals.