There’s a frequently cited post from College and Finance that lists 18 things people tend to overlook when packing for college. That ain’t no hack though. The hack comes in when you’re already at college and you need to improvise a substitute for each of those 18 items.

    1. Ear plugs – They’re pretty indispensable for blocking out snoring, but you can certainly go without them. The simplest solution is to fall asleep before your roommate, especially on nights when you know he/she has been drinking.
      The other option involves actual communication — as heinous as that may sound. Ask your roommate if he/she could wear nasal strips. I got through my sophomore year by simply waking my roommate briefly and asking him to roll on to his side.
    2. Flip flops or any type of shower shoe – The main, practical reason for “shower shoes” is to avoid athlete’s foot. Talcum powder or preventative spray will hold you off until you can muster up the $2 for a pair of flip flops.
    3. Carrying case for toiletries – Most people already own a Dopp kit, so just use that. Soap and shampoo aren’t that difficult to carry.
    4. Plugs, power strips, and adapters oh my – You can’t really go without a surge protector considering how stingy dorms can be on outlets. Just swap things out of the outlet until you get what you need. Label the plugs with masking tape so you know what you’re doing. And examine the desk lamp that comes with your room. Sometimes, there’s an extra plug on there.
    5. Cleaning supplies – If you’re desperate, you might have to “borrow” some from the janitorial staff. Paper towel dispensers can be easily opened with a flat-head screwdriver or even a paperclip. Also — don’t underestimate the school’s culpability. If when you first arrive your dorm is dirty, complain and they’ll clean it for you.
    6. Duct Tape – The major problem with duct tape is that it ruins things. If you hang up a poster with duct tape, you risk ruining both the poster and the wall you’re hanging it on (which means you’ll get charged by the university). If you tape a CAT5 to the carpet, it’ll stay for a while, but come Christmas, it’ll all be a sticky mess. And if you tape your cords together to keep them organized… you might not ever get them apart again.
      There’s lots of ways that duct tape can save your butt (won’t go through them all), but it’s not as essential as you might think. People over-use it.
    7. Hammer – I honestly thing you’re creative enough to come up with a substitute for a hammer. But the standard for hanging anything on to drywall in college is a simple push pin. You don’t need a hammer, just push hard.
    8. Screwdriver – Just have a swiss army knife or a mini tool kit on hand and you’ll be covered. If not, tools are one of the most borrowable items on this list. Borrow one from a friend or a department you’re friendly with on campus.
    9. Stapler – You can get by without your own stapler. You might be printing stuff out in the library anyway. They have a stapler there. If you’re handing in a paper that isn’t stapled, make sure your name and the page number is in the header of every page.
    10. Door hangers/Hooks with adhesive backing/Something to hang stuff on – Corners of furniture, bed posts and chairs are your back-up hangers for now. When in doubt, just put it in the laundry bag.
    11. Storage containers/Crates – Cardboard boxes.
    12. Bottle opener – There are way too many methods for bottle opening. Look on YouTube depending on your resources: belt buckles, lighters, counter edges, door jams… even a slice of 8.5 x 11.
    13. USB Flash Drive – Finally, something with a Web 2.0 answer. Thumb drives are usually for printing stuff elsewhere or giving presentations. Both can be solved by uploading your stuff to the cloud (ie, emailing yourself the document) or just working in the cloud to begin with. Empressr is our friend and we also quite like GoogleDocs.
    14. Pliers – Okay, seriously now. I don’t know why this is on a list of college vitals. You don’t need pliers in college.
    15. Extra sheets – They’re good to have on hand, but there’s a reason they’re labeled “extra.” Unless you’re still potty-training, you’ll be fine with a bottle of detergent and coin laundry.
    16. Vitamins – Just eat healthy and you won’t need vitamins. In the past few years there’s been a revolution in college dining. We’re over the days of all-you-can-eat-burgers and breakfast for dinner. Get yourself an egg white omelet or a yogurt parfait.
    17. Air fresheners – I’ve heard of people using sheets of bounce, but the best solution is just to keep your stuff clean enough where you won’t need to mask the smell. I don’t know many people who become air freshener-dependent so leave it at home.
    18. Microwave – Most schools won’t even allow a microwave in ordinary dorm rooms and you’ll definitely be fine without one. A simple water boiler is probably the best investment (since they’re so cheap). In apartments, there’s probably already a microwave, and even if there isn’t, with an oven and a stove, you can cook anything.