Fall College Students Need to Take Stock for Life on Campus

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES. Mary Yarber teaches English and journalism at Santa Monica High School. Her education column appears weekly.

If you're going away to college in the fall, it's likely that you'll be living in an on-campus dormitory. And if you haven't already started making a list of what to bring, you should.

I have my own list of essentials to offer. For those whose planning is well advanced, look it over to make sure you haven't left anything out. If you're just getting started, use it as a guide to what you'll probably need in your first year as a "dormie."

First, there are what I call the "boring basics"--the supplies you need to function as a student.

Most important is a typewriter or word processor, since the days of handwritten papers are pretty much over once you enter college.

Have a year's supply of typewriter or printer ribbon, along with at least two reams of typing paper. These items always seem to run out the night you're typing a paper that's due in 12 hours. Also, bring some white correction fluid; it can save you a lot of retyping or rewriting time.

If buying a machine isn't feasible, find two or three other dormies who will lend you theirs. You should still use your own paper, however, and offer to replace their worn ribbons.

Two important books should christen your dorm room bookshelf: a good dictionary (Random House or Webster's) and a handbook of English usage (I suggest "The Practical Stylist" by Sheridan Baker).

You probably already have a versatile calculator, so bring it, along with a hole-punch.

A basic lab coat may also be valuable if you will be taking a science, art or other messy hands-on lab course.

Transportation is also part of the boring basics, and don't assume that this means driving. Preferred styles of getting around vary from campus to campus.

When I lived on the rural University of Oregon campus, cars were virtually taboo, and nearly everyone rode bicycles.

When I moved to UCLA, though, I left the bike with my parents, because cars were the rule there and bicycling around Los Angeles seemed almost suicidal.

Security problems vary from campus to campus, but be aware that theft is all too common almost everywhere, and dorm rooms aren't hard to penetrate. So the first rule is, leave all your valuable jewelry and electronic gadgets at home.

Then, buy a sturdy lock for one of your built-in drawers and keep cameras, watches, or other such things in it.

Keep a flashlight near your door or bed. There will probably be times when you come home late and need to knock around the room without waking your roommate. Also, lights in dorm halls occasionally burn out, break or mysteriously disappear.

A long extension cord with a multi-outlet head will also prove handy, since dorm rooms frequently have only one or two outlets, which are often in strange places.

Now we come to what you were probably thinking of when I first mentioned dorm room basics: the stereo and television.

If possible, call your intended roommate and ask what equipment he or she plans to bring. Space is tight, so don't waste it by having two similar entertainment systems.

Besides, this may work to your advantage if your roommate has better stereo speakers or a larger TV screen than you.

Still, there are some drawbacks. An elaborate stereo may be pointless, because dorms usually have limits and curfews on music. And, as you've probably been told all your life, TV is the natural enemy of schoolwork.

Many dormies also rent or buy small refrigerators and I think this is a good idea.

Dorms usually feed you only during specific mealtimes, but you'll be hungry much more often. You could raid the snack machines, but they're probably stuffed with junk food.

With your own fridge, however, you can have healthier snacks (fruits, vegetables, juices) any time. You may also avoid the "freshman 15," the dreaded weight gain that many new dormies face.

Finally, a word about the most important part of your dorm room furnishings--your roommate.

You and your roommate should decide immediately what kinds of behavior you can and cannot live with.

Negotiate a set of rules and then post it somewhere in the room for easy reference in case of arguments.

Some questions to discuss: May you borrow each other's possessions? Which ones? How loud and late will you play the stereo or TV? How about a permanent, daily block of quiet time for studying? Who will vacuum and do other chores?

Also consider: Are spontaneous parties OK, or should you give each other some notice? Will you allow the roommate's boyfriend or girlfriend to stay the night? How much notice do you expect for that?

For more ideas on supplying and maintaining a peaceful dormitory room, contact your campus housing office.

And remember, if you study really hard and get a good job, then someday maybe you can own a house that you won't have to share with anyone!

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