Ask A South Bay Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

July 23, 2013 5:00 AM

Photo Credit:

Although the new school year is still weeks away, incoming freshmen, transfer students and returning students will soon have to decide what to bring to their new dorm and what to leave behind. Dorm rooms in the Bay Area typically come furnished with a bed, desk, chair and bookshelf, but there are a number of other items considered essential to bring when it’s time to move in. Nan Ferris, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Housing at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC), has helped thousands of students move into dorms on the hillside campus over the years and says one of the most important factors when packing personal items is “bring a backpack, not a U-Haul.” In other words, bring what’s necessary and leave items such as amplified musical instruments and energy-inefficient portable heaters at home. While many dorm essentials can be purchased at campus bookstores like UCSC’s Bay Tree Bookstore, many other retail stores, such as Bed, Bath and Beyond, will carry home items a university bookstore doesn’t offer. Here are five essentials to look for when dorm shopping.

Photo Gallery: Must-Have School Supplies

img 0311 Ask A South Bay Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

Bedding is important (Credit, Randy Yagi)

Nan Ferris
UC Santa Cruz
1156 High St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
(831) 459-1363

1. Bedding – Appropriately sized bed sheets, blankets, pillows, pillowcases and towels should be purchased in advance of moving day. Bed sheet size will be determined by the size of the bed furnished in a dorm room. At UCSC, dorm beds are extra-long twin beds, therefore extra-long twin-sized bed sheets are recommended. Other items to consider purchasing or bringing are a bathrobe, towels, hand towels and flip flops. Hand towels will be especially important this fall at UCSC, since all college residence halls will be paper towel free and students are being asked to bring additional hand towels in an effort to move towards a zero waste environment on campus.

RelatedExplore the Charming Beach Town of Capitola

tide Ask A South Bay Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

2. Laundry Items – Dorm living can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, but each student has a certain degree of responsibility when it comes to chores. A typical dorm has coin-operated washers and dryers, but students are responsible for their own laundry detergent, fabric softeners, stain removers and other products. Students should also purchase a laundry basket and/hamper, clothes hangers and if desired, a clothes iron. Because 60 percent of incoming freshmen at UCSC will be living with two roommates, keeping clothing in an organized manner helps where living space is a valuable commodity.

3. Emergency Kit – While a university regards student safety as a primary concern and will have an excellent support staff for health and emergency services, an emergency kit should definitely be part of a list of dorm essentials. In the event of severe weather conditions or natural disaster, emergency assistance to dormitories may be delayed due to fallen trees, down electrical wires or other road hazards. Any student living in a dorm should have not just an emergency kit but also an emergency action plan, such as evacuation procedures to minimize confusion, risk of injury and property damage, with information provided by the academic institution. Among recommended items to include in a basic emergency kit are a large backpack to hold supplies, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight and extra batteries. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an excellent source for building an emergency kit and provides plenty of useful suggestions.

4. Rain Wear and Boots
 – The Bay Area has its share of inclement weather and having rain wear and boots will definitely come in handy. Returning students at UCSC already know that the local weather can quickly change from a cool brisk December day to a blustery day full of rain. Because the sprawling, redwood-forested campus has a vast network of paths, both dirt and paved, wearing boots will help minimize the risk of an accident when paths are muddy. Other Bay Area campuses will have their own set of unique challenges for inclement weather and information can be further obtained through an individual college or university website.

img 0316 Ask A South Bay Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

Headphones are key (Credit, Randy Yagi)

5. Headphones – Nan Ferris offered one dorm essential that may surprise students, but headphones can go a long ways towards mutual harmony when a room is shared with one or more people. Practically every Bay Area student loves some form of music and perhaps other types of entertainment such as video games and streaming movies. But if a musical preference isn’t shared and a video game or even a cell phone conversation distracts a roommate, that mutual harmony can be challenged, particularly in a dorm-sized environment. The best possible solution is to use headphones so whatever emanates from the device doesn’t interfere with others sharing the same space for studying, working on homework and reading. Still, headphones do carry risk to the user’s hearing over time, and therefore should be used with some caution.

UCSC Housing has a very useful link called “What to Bring,” with many other practical ideas for items to bring to dorms or leave behind at home. Nan Ferris’ final bit of expert advice is with home appliances. Some dorm rooms on Bay Area campuses may already provide a kitchen with an oven and refrigerator. But other campuses, like UCSC, will allow a mini-refrigerator and/or microwave oven. However, with UCSC leading a broad effort towards sustainable living, the recommendation is to purchase or rent only energy-efficient appliances.

Related: Take a Relaxing Trip to Saratoga

Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on

Watch & Listen LIVE