You MUST bring:
1) Mattress pad: They make even the hardest of dorm beds super comfy. Stick with the memory foam ones, they're the best. Mine's 1.5" and I got it at Walmart last year for $40.
2) Double sided tape: Scotch tape does not like to stick to dorm walls and duct tape will leave residue that you will have to pay for (literally...I've done it...) at the end of the year.
3) Tupperware: Two small ones will suffice. These are great for a) if you go out and have left overs b) if you get those recipe in a box microwaveable snacks. c) stuffing in your bag and then using to take extra cookies/brownies/etc from the dining hall
4) Extra clothes hangers for when you need to air dry clothes that can't go in the dryer
5) Posters/pictures: Nothing is more depressing than having your entire room set up and looking nice (before your parents leave and you get lazy, anyhow) and having drab, bare, white walls. Print out pictures of celebs, bring photos of your friends, or bring posters with you, but you're going to want to but something up.
6) Glasses/bowls/plates: I got a $2 pack of plastic tumbler cups and a matching 3-bowls (for $3 maybe) and then just used paper plates.
7) Food: Bring munchies for when you get there and stuff for later. Keep in mind that everyone's gonna be getting to know each other and hanging out and probably sharing food with their friends quite a bit the first few days.
8) Shower shoes: 'nuff said
9) Fans: If your room isn't air conditioned, as most freshman dorms aren't, you'll definitely need a fan. I found that the oscillating tower fan I brought and my roommates box fan worked very well together and kept the room nice and cool.
10) Movies: Bring any of your movies that you can imagine yourself wanting to watch with you to college. You may only watch a couple of them, but movie nights in the lounge became popular with my friends and I, and the more options you have the better.
11) Duct tape: Because it's always good to have
12) An umbrella: The ones that compress to be smaller so that you can shove it in a drawer
13) A few fancy outfits: You'll want to look sharp for any dances or events that might arise. At my school, there was a dance at least once a month. Great thing about going to college with all new folks is that you can recycle outfits from high school homecoming etc.
14) A school ID Holder: The first day we arrived we were given a lanyard with our school ID on it. Within a month, the small hole at the top of my ID snapped. Without the ID holder I attached to my lanyard, I would have gone crazy trying to keep track of my ID. (And buying a fun lanyard for your ID isn't a bad idea either.)
15) Shower caddy: I got one for a few bucks at k-mart and was able to put all my shower stuff as well as my toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush etc in it and just leave it in the bathroom in my dorm hall.
Tips for shopping for textbooks
1) Depending on what school you go to and how strict the professors are you can usually get away until waiting until the first day of class and double checking that the books you need are ones you'll actually be using. It isn't uncommon to get to your first day of class and have your teacher tell you that you'll only be using a few of the books on the list or that x books are needed and y books are optional.
2) Buying books: I like to buy books, because you can keep them or resell them after the semester is over. I NEVER EVER buy them from the bookstore. You can get textbooks new or used from half.com, bookbyte.com, or betterworldbooks.com. (Note: "Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide" Why not buy textbooks and save the world all at the same time?)
3) Renting books: Renting textbooks is another thing all the cool kids are doing these days. You can get the books for much cheaper, and you don't have to worry about lugging them around with you or trying to sell them back at the end of the semester. The best site I've found for this thus far is campusbookrentals.com. The site is awesome for a few reasons.
1) You get free shipping for both the purchase and return of the book.
2) You can return the book and get your money back within thirty days if it turns out you won't need the book for school.
3)You can choose how long you want to rent the book for.
4) This is kind of the reason I chose this site in the first place, they donate money to Operation Smile, so far to cover over 1,000 surgeries. Operation smile, for those who don't know, is a non-government funded organization that has "a mobilized force of medical professionals and caring hearts who provide safe, effective reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate." For those of you who know of my community service background, you know this is a big thing for me. As I said before, why not
So that's it. Of course, there's lots of other obvious stuff you need. Clothes. Shoes. Glasses and/or contacts if you wear them. But hopefully this covered most of the stuff that you might overlook. Let me know if you have any other ideas and/or questions.
<3 Gina Blechman