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For the college bound, gearing up means leaving behind the battlefield mentality and adopting a new set of civilian tools. Besides the obvious ó backpack, clean socks, beer ó what else goes in the rucksack? Ten things, plus an extra, that no one told you to bring along:
1. Cleaning supplies. The dorm room wonít scrub itself. Sponges, cleanser, antiseptic wipes, scads of paper towels, an air freshener: These constitute the first line of defense in the battle of the blech.
2. Sleep aids. Your roommate doesnít start class until 10:30 a.m., and youíve got a 6:30 reveille set for a 7:30 lecture. On campus or off, college housing can rock at all hours. Sleep mask, earplugs: No one tells you about these, but they can make a world of difference.
3. Water filter. When did they build that apartment block? Lord only knows what comes out of those ancient pipes. The filtered stuff tastes better anyway.
4. George Foreman-style portable grill. Itís late, youíre hungry, and greasy Chinese sounds like a bad idea. You could order a greasy pizza instead ó or whip up a quick panini to quell the rumbles until that term paper is finished.
5. A safe. Remember the absolute trust that comes with camaraderie in uniform? Forget it. If dorm life is in the cards, youíll likely be bunking with strangers. While most people are pure of heart, dorm rooms get left unlocked, and wallets and keys are left lying around. Youíve got important discharge papers, too. Lock Ďem up and sleep soundly.
6. Quarters. You want to do laundry, right? Or at least you want a Snickers bar at 2 a.m. to fuel those last three pages of Sociology 101. Rather than bank on a change machine working, itís safer just to be the bank. A couple rolls of shiny GWs can go a long way.
7. Shower shoes. Think about it. Five or 15 or 50 other college students share that bathroom. Do you really want to slip your freshly showered toes along that linoleum?
8. Power pals. Unless youíre in posh off-campus digs, there wonít be enough outlets to go around, what with phones and laptops and tablets and all the rest being charged around the clock. Vital to health and happiness are a couple of extension cords and a power strip with multiple outlets.
9. Mini kitchen. The cafeteria wonít always be obliging in its hours or its ďculinaryĒ selections. (Although, really, is turkey tetrazzini that much worse than a chow hall burger?) Under the general heading of Be Prepared, equip your student housing with at least a rudimentary mess. This can be done at relatively low cost and might include: mini fridge and mini freezer, two sets of silver (for entertaining), hot plate, bottle opener and microwave. Even if the next Great Blizzard brings the campus to its knees, with a couple cans of ravioli and some Stoufferís in the freezer, youíll be set for the long haul.
10. WD40 and duct tape. Somehow, somewhere, you will need these. Never be without.
Bonus tip: Computing considerations. You want to bring an iPad, or some other tablet, and who could blame you? Itís lightweight and portable, and it sports snazzy graphics and thousands of apps. Leave it at home. You need a computer, not eye candy. The iPad has little memory, and itís easy to drop and break. Itís pricey, and all those apps add up to a lot of whiz-bang distractions when you ought to be working. The lack of keyboard makes it impractical for note taking or serious paper-writing. Invest in a laptop. Itís a little bulkier, but infinitely more practical.
Of course, you need not overburden yourself with extras. School is probably within spitting distance of a Wal-Mart or a grocery store that stocks the basics.
Still, planning will take off some of the pressure once the bell rings and classes begin. Taking the time to shop in advance also will likely save you a couple of bucks. The key is to think it through. Once you know where you are going to be living, consider everything youíll need to survive there comfortably and with your basic practical needs met.
Not so different from life in uniform after all.