Becoming a first-year at Barnumbia meant lots of preparation; filling out housing and health forms, finding a roommate, registering for FYE/Core classes, and most importantly, dorm shopping. New Bwog Staff Writer Alicia Benis, a first-year herself, finds out what became of the many items friends, family, and Bed Bath and Beyond said we needed (but we don’t really, or do we?)
This summer, as I was getting ready to become a first-year at Barnard, I had one thing on my mind: dorm shopping. So many of my friends knew what they were getting for their dorms ever since they committed to their schools in April, but I decided to wait. For a while, I had planned out in my head what I wanted my dorm to look like: what color my comforter was going to be, what decorations I would have, what I wanted in my mini fridge, and all the other details.
I took a look on Barnard’s website to see what they recommended me to bring, and what not to bring, and it all seemed reasonable to me. The list was made up of things like bed sheets, clothes, towels, toiletries, shower shoes and caddy, decorations, desk supplies and other expected items. I therefore began looking for these things online, and I made some purchases. In the process, I talked to parents of friends also going away to college, and many of them suggested that I bring some things, which funnily enough, also appeared on Bed Bath and Beyond’s “Campus Checklist.” Many of these parents said that these were “super necessary.” They include:
Now, I understand that these sources don’t know the ins and outs of Barnumbia Res Life policies or what the rooms look like and what facilities are available. But some of the things on this list are clearly part of a consumerist trap that stores like BB&B want you, your parents, your friends and their parents to fall into. A bed skirt? Really? And an entire body pillow? (I mean, those can be useful, but ???) So, in order to see if these consumerist policies really work, I went in search of first-years who may or may not have gotten these extra supplies, and found out whether or not they have been useful or not.
A Brita filter seemed to be very useful for one student. Another student said that she hardly used her Brita filter, since there are tons of water filling stations on campus. One student mentioned that fabric storage cubes, the ones most stores tempt you to buy because they’re super cute and look like they’ll be extremely useful, shouldn’t be purchased in bulk. “The space under our beds is already used up [by the dressers],” she notes.
I spoke to a friend, who came with a bit more than she needed. “They said we needed a door mirror but there’s already THREE in my room. Also, a rug? Deadass ain’t room for that. Those hanging closet things? I didn’t get them but again, deadass ain’t room. Whoever made these lists has never seen a narrow ass room in Brooks!” says Elizabeth Burton, Barnard ’22. She’s right! She also said a vacuum was a bit extra, but that she has one and uses it from time to time.
A close friend, Maria Pondikos, Barnard ’22, said that she got “excited at seeing Annie’s Mac and Cheese on sale,” and bought five boxes. Quickly after, she realized she didn’t have anything to cook with, like a pot or a strainer, and started giving them away. I remember being told and seeing on BB&B’s lists that snacks in bulk and dinnerware was a MUST. But, who’s going to do any cooking when we have 19 MEAL SWIPES A WEEK?!
Many students did, however, find the extra accessories somewhat useful. Glade scented plug-ins, were mentioned, as they are “very helpful in keeping the room smelling nice.” One student even said that they have a cooling rack used for baking in their room. You might be thinking, when is this student going to be doing ANY baking (aren’t John Jay’s desserts enough?) However, they actually use this as a drying rack for their shower caddy, with a little paper towel under it, to prevent water from getting everywhere. The general consensus on mattress toppers was that they are very necessary; however, only one would suffice, not two or three like so many people suggested to me.
I for one, am guilty of buying a thing or two that I will now never use. Target had a bin full of fabric bedside storage caddies for only $5, so I caved in and got one. Now I realize there’s nowhere I can put it on my bed without it being a nuisance. My roommate and I have a coffee maker and tea kettle. While those are extremely useful and good to have, we find ourselves getting coffee and tea from Liz’s Place, Peet’s, and the dining halls more often. I went a bit crazy with the string lights, but I have limited wall space, so I only put one set up, instead of all three variations of lights I have. Yet, I budgeted for those instead of buying a step stool. I underestimated how short I am and how high the beds were. You know the trap of dorm shopping is real when you place more importance on string lights than on a method of getting into your bed!
We all know that the whole college process can feel like a money making scam, from application fees to test score fees to bills and dorm shopping. Everyone just seems to be capitalizing on our need for higher education. If I were to give any advice to the high school seniors back home, it would be to remember the basics when dorm shopping: bed linen, pillows, clothes, toiletries, towels, shower shoes, a laundry basket, some cleaning supplies, simple devices for coffee/tea, a mattress topper for comfort, decorations that remind you of home, always being mindful of the type of space you have for extra storage and food, and to not overdo it.
We are definitely lucky to live in a city with so much access to last-minute items. We don’t need to fill our shopping carts with things we’ll never use. We just need what will make us happy and comfortable and that will help us survive the first semester of the newest chapter in our lives.
Photo via Flickr