A pre-first-year that I met at an "Accepted Students" party had asked me if I had a packing list for what to take to Smith. Below is D's first-year list, segregated by Bring/Buy, which division will certainly differ if home is within driving distance. It's not definitive but should provide something for each individual to react against. I just remember running around for two days shopping here, shopping there amid all the orientation stuff.
For those from warm climes like SoCal, a winter coat, hat, (maybe a scarf) and boots are necessities but in our experience it was better to purchase those locally. Neither the selection nor the prices for winter gear are particularly good here...D found it helpful to see what other students from colder climes preferred and why.
4 spiral-bound notebooks
four 1-inch 3-ring binders
extra HP ink cartridge for printer
TI-84-Plus Silver Edition calculator
black ink pens
color ink pens
graph paper (in spiral?)
batteries for clock
Our D brought one set of sheets with her. She did one of the hiking pre-orientation trips and she and I flew in the night before. That morning we were able to make up her bed before she left on her trip, so when she came back two days later, she had a made bed to fall into.
We also purchased much stuff on the day between preorientation and orientation. The one large thing that she brought with her was the quilt that she and I made that summer. It was a wonderful project to do together before she left home.
A fan and extra lamps for your room are also good things to have. You will probably want to talk to your roommate and split up who is bringing or buying what.
It is also nice to know that much of your stuff can be left in your house attice or basement over the summer so you do not have to figure out how to get it all home.
Posters can be ordered on-line from museum stores etc. The Metropolitan has a nice selection of relatively cheap prints.
LL Bean is a reasonable place from which to order winter gear. Not fashionable but eminently functional, and everyone looks like a blob when the windchill dips below zero so you might as well go for warmth. Mittens keep the hands warmer than do gloves. I would recommend a fleece jacket for the 50s, a fleece jacket with wind shell for the 40s, an insulated down-like parka or coat for the 30s and below, and a raincoat or slicker or poncho (Goretex if you can afford it) for the kind of rain Massachusetts has been having at record levels since the end of school.
A digital camera is nice for sending pictures to friends and family.
If you need to fill prescriptions regularly, there is a CVS in Northampton within easy walking distance of the campus. (It also has the kinds of dorm-room necessities that even the most compulsive list-maker tends to forget, like light bulbs for that new desk lamp.)
The local stores were a bit expensive for winter coats, but L.L. Bean is an excellent option for making an online purchase. But... it gets so cold in western MA at times, that I bought a Canada Goose parka -- the one they use for arctic expeditions. Expensive, but I stayed warm even when it was below 0.
Great list TD, thanks!! Very helpful, as we have been asking those same questions lately around here. As someone who grew up in New England...it gets mighty cold and chilly around here from October thru March; so come very prepared to keep warm during the winter. Follow the good advice above, and you should be alright. Don't skimp on the winter coat, you'll be sorry you did. Don't forget boots, as the snow sometimes falls by the feet rather than inches. Lots of fun in the winter, and the surrounding area turns beautiful as it gets covered in a blanket of white.
D had been taught about layering and she got a winter coat, when she got one. Though, come to think of it, that purchase was deferred until Family Weekend when it was purchased at Holyoke Mall, financed by First National Bank of Dad.
Her silly roommate, from Eastern MA, tried to convince her that she didn't need boots, but TheMom and I both told her about how miserable you get if your feet get both cold and wet.
Told D about this thread just now and she voted for several hats and pair of gloves/mittens. She said that you don't have to be fashionable at Smith and that a good parka will get you by though a winter coat is more a thing for going into the City.
Our D was going to buy boots but never did, she didn't see a need for them. ( She does have hiking boots and leather shoes) We bought her a real winter parka but she never wears it. She bought herself a navy peacoat, and wears that with sweaters. She does wear scarfs, hats and gloves.
She does report that she has worn her heavy coat once or twice and she did get a pair of UGG boats at a rummage sale last year. Scarfs and long underwear are a must according to our D. She also likes hats, but she has always liked hats. She is planning to find a very flamboyant hat in Florence next year to wear for convocation and rally day hat for her senior year.
Re footgear: Beans sells a sort of mud-season version of clogs (can't remember the name) which might appeal to those who don't want to bother with boots. They're nice because you just slip them on -- no laces to tie or uppers to pull up. They're mostly made of some very sturdy water-proof material with a good tread for slippery conditions. If you just have to go to class on mostly plowed paths, they work very well. All the virtues of flip-flops without freezing the toes. (Wearing heavy socks with them is a good idea.)