Staff Editorial

Essentials for life at Rensselaer

By The Polytechnic Editorial Board August 18, 2020

As the summer comes to an end, The Polytechnic would like to share with you a list of college student essentials and recommendations for the coming school year. This comprehensive list covers nearly all of your dorm and classroom needs, from mattress toppers to iClickers.

Dorm Room

  • Bedding: mattress cover, mattress topper, twin XL sheets (at least 2 sets), bedspread/comforter, thick blankets (fleece or wool for the cold), pillows and pillowcases, underbed storage units

While most of these seem relatively common sense to bring, The Poly would like to stress how important good bedding is. A mattress topper is essential, as comfy is not the first word we’d use to describe dorm beds.

  • Hygiene: shower caddy, soap, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, moisturizer, face wash, Vaseline, sunscreen, lip balm, menstrual hygiene products

Moisturizer and lip balm are especially important to have for the winter months, with its dry air and biting wind.

  • Medications: First-Aid kit, prescription medications, allergy medications, Vicks VapoRub (very helpful in the winter), NyQuil/DayQuil (or an alternative that you prefer), cough syrup, cough drops, Pepto Bismol, vitamin supplements

We recommend storing these in a separate container for easy accessibility.

  • Laundry: towels and washcloths, laundry basket, detergent, stain remover, lint brush, sewing kit
  • Cleaning Supplies: Clorox wipes and spray, paper towels, hand vacuum

Cleaning supplies will be even more important this year due to the pandemic.

  • Technology: surge protectors, a monitor/second screen (if you want one), a desk lamp (maybe one with USB ports or a wireless charger built into it), mouse, keyboard, long charging cable

With many classes and clubs meeting virtually this year, the technology setup in your dorm will be extremely important. Though most of this list comes down to personal preference, our Editor in Chief loves having a second monitor to read off of while working on a separate screen. A long charging cable over six feet is highly recommended as outlets are not always near the bed.

  • Kitchenware (coordinate with your roommate): microwave (under 1000 watts), refrigerator (no larger than 6 cubic feet), electric kettle (with automatic shutoff), coffee maker, dishes, plates, mugs, cups, utensils, dish soap, dish sponge

Freshmen are required to have a 19-meal-per-week meal plan this year, so keep this in mind while packing kitchenware. Our news editor appreciates the versatility of mugs; they can be used as bowls or cups, and can hold hot or cold food and drink.

  • Food: any snacks you might want, non-perishable items, ramen, other ingredients for cooking if you have access to a kitchen

Snacks can help tide you over during a long day of classes or an intense study session. Just be mindful of how many snacks you eat!

  • Decorations: posters, photos, colorful washi tape or easily removable decals

Make your room your own, while following the RPI Office of Student Living and Learning requirements.

  • Other room essentials: Kleenex, a trash can, trash bags, a diffuser (and the scented oils), bulletin board, whiteboard, whiteboard markers


Do not bring your whole wardrobe to college, as our staff learned that a majority of the time you will not wear all of it.

  • General items: shirts, pants, underwear, socks, masks
  • Professional attire: business casual to more formal wear, for career fairs, interviews, performances, or other events you might need to be dressed up for
  • Winter gear: winter coat, base layer tops and tights aka long underwear, waterproof boots, gloves (waterproof pair and a cloth pair), warm beanie, thick wool socks

You don’t need to move in with winter gear since you have time to buy some before it starts snowing, but try to get winter gear as soon as possible.

School Supplies/Stationery/On the Go

You probably won’t be using as much stationery as you have in the past, as most classes will be conducted online. Many of the items below are useful to have on hand.

  • Stationery: pens, pencils, markers, notebooks/loose-leaf paper, stapler, staples, staple remover, hole puncher, binders/folders, paper clips, rubber bands, scissors, ruler, sticky notes, index cards, tape (Scotch, duct, masking), blank cards (for “thank you” cards and birthday cards) and envelopes, glue/glue sticks
  • Organizational items: a planner, a calendar, portfolio/portfolio case for interviews

The Poly recommends having a game plan to organize your work, but find what works best for you. Assignments come quickly, so even if you survived high school without a solid organization plan, you might find yourself getting overwhelmed without a study system.

  • Technology: your laptop, laptop and phone chargers (one for your room and one for your backpack), graphing calculator, flash drive, iClicker (if any of your classes requires one), headphones (noise cancelling), earbuds, batteries (AA/AAA)

The Poly recommends bringing both a graphing calculator—because of its ability to solve equations and do matrix math—and a cheaper scientific calculator to bring to wet labs or if a class does not allow graphing calculators. It is also useful to have a backup calculator in case you forget to charge yours before an exam. We recommend waiting until knowing if you need an iClicker before buying or renting one, as many classes do not require them. Though expensive, noise-cancelling headphones are a wonderful investment, making it easier to study, work, or relax. Some of our staff members love using tablets for their portability and flexibility of electronic note-taking.

  • Other: reusable water bottle, umbrella, and a reliable, sturdy, and comfortable backpack to carry all of your daily essentials

If you purchase a laptop from RPI, you will receive a backpack along with it.

Important Documents (store safely)

  • Identification: driver’s license or state-issued ID, copy of birth certificate, copy of Social Security card, passport, student ID
  • Financial documents: bank statements, financial aid information, credit/debit card
  • Insurance cards, information, and documents: health, dental, renter’s (for upperclassmen), car/driver’s (for upperclassmen)
  • Other: emergency contact list, product warranties, car registration (for upperclassmen)

Remember that dorm space is limited while you consider whether or not you want to bring something. Many people bring a lot of items that they never use. Make sure you follow the guidelines outlined by the Office of Student Living and Learning.

The Poly suggests bringing enough to live in your dorm comfortably, but not so much that it becomes difficult to pack everything up quickly, especially with the ongoing pandemic. We also recommend preparing and storing a “go-bag” with some clothes, chargers, electronics, a thermometer and medications, a list of emergency contacts, and any other essentials in the case that you find yourself self-quarantining, and communicate where you are storing your “go-bag” with your roommate. The Polytechnic hopes you enjoy the upcoming school year, despite the challenges that we face during this pandemic. Stay safe and healthy!