Boarding School Common Room

Do’s and Don’ts of Packing for Boarding School

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Setting up your room on campus for the first time can be a fun and rewarding experience. And yet, you may not be sure what to bring. Not only are there rules to follow, but you’ve also probably heard many suggestions that ultimately aren’t necessary, and some that will really help. You’ll want to make your space your own, while also building in some comforts from home. Our summer Communications Fellow and New Hampton School alumna Madison Adler ’17 shares her experience and tips to help you get started. Be sure to read through the school materials for additional tips and guidelines.

Learning from experience

One of the things I was most excited about when coming to boarding school was decorating my new room. I spent hours looking online and in magazines planning what I thought would be the perfect dorm room—only to realize later on that many of the things I thought I should pack I either didn’t need or couldn’t have for safety reasons.

By my second year at New Hampton School, I was an expert in bringing what I needed without overpacking. To make your new dorm room the best it can be, here are some of my “Do’s and Don’ts” when packing for boarding school.

DO pack smart storage options

Plastic drawer sets like the one pictured above are a great way to organize your belongings and save space. They are light and easy to move around and are perfect for stowing away clothing that doesn’t fit in your closet or school provided dresser. I used mine to store clothing as well as first aid supplies and snacks.

TIP: placing the drawer set under a raised bed frees up valuable floor space!

Storage drawers dorm room
Storage drawers are a helpful resource to maximize the space in your shared room at boarding school.

DON’T pack your home furniture

Non-school provided couches, beds, and other furniture items are generally not allowed in your dorm room—and even if they were, you likely wouldn’t have room for them! Stick to the school provided furniture and save space by leaving your queen-sized bed at home.

Boarding school work space
Students create a comfortable, cozy work and living space in their campus residences.

DO pack a nice mattress pad

Dorm rooms come with a standard twin XL bed frame and mattress. Having a cozy bed is essential to making your dorm room feel like home. To get the most out of your school provided mattress, I cannot stress enough how necessary a quality mattress topper is. I found mine online, and many come with special features such as extra support or cooling technology. REMINDER: make sure you get twin XL bedding, as standard twin sizes will not fit on the school provided mattresses.

DON’T pack a mini-fridge

Don’t bring a fridge unless you are a senior or a house proctor, as mini-fridges are generally not allowed in your dorm room. The common area will have a communal fridge where you can store whatever snacks you may have that need to be kept cold—just remember to write your name on whatever you don’t want to share!

DO pack lots of Command Strips

Decorating the walls of your new room is one of the best parts of moving in. To avoid accidental damage from tape or push pins, easy-to-use wall mounting materials like Command Strips are a must. You can find them at many stores in a variety of styles for all your needs. I used small strips to hang posters and photos, and large Command Hooks as a spot to hang my coats and backpack.

DON’T pack candles, incense, or wax warmers

Although it may be tempting to liven up your room with fun scents, air fresheners that use heating elements (candles, incense, wax warmers, etc.) are not allowed in dorm rooms for safety reasons. You can, however, use things like essential oil diffusers or air fresheners—just make sure your roommate likes it as well!

DO pack posters and pictures

Living away from home can be hard, but having something that reminds you of the people and things that you love can help. Hang posters and photos on your walls to show off your unique personality and style.

You can also bring battery operated lights to decorate your room. But do not bring lights that plug-in, as they are a fire hazard and won’t be allowed.

DON’T pack room dividers

Before coming to boarding school, I never had to share my room with another person. One of the items commonly suggested to me was a room divider or hanging a tapestry to separate my space from my roommate’s space. I didn’t get one, and I’m glad I didn’t!

While it is generally prohibited to obscure the full view of the dorm room, it also makes the space feel smaller. Sharing the space instead of dividing it actually provided the best outcome! Whether you choose your roommate or are assigned one, making an effort to communicate your needs and expectations is essential to transitioning into a shared living space.

Roommates at boarding school
Living with a roommate requires good communication and flexibility, but it’s full of fun and rewards.

DO pack a warm winter coat

It doesn’t matter which boarding school you go to, if it’s located in the northeast, you’re going to see some cold winter months! Save yourself an unnecessary trip to the store once you’re here and pack a warm coat because you’re going to need it. I recommend a down-filled parka for extra warmth, and you can choose between multiple lengths to suit your style. North Face, Patagonia, and have great options.

DO bring a fan

There are also times when the weather or house will be warm, so bring a fan if you like! It can help keep air moving and keep you cool and comfortable. This is a great alternative to the (not allowed) air conditioner and heating units.

DON’T pack an iron or ironing board

An iron is one of those items that I thought I would desperately need at boarding school. Even though I had never really used one before. As it turns out, in my two years at school, I never needed one. Also, irons and hot pots are fire hazards and not permitted in dorm rooms. If you ever find yourself in need of one, you may have a dorm parent that is happy to help.

BONUS: remember to pack your Husky gear!

Your time at boarding school will be full of events, games, and spirit weeks. Show your school pride by remembering to pack all your New Hampton t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other gear.

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