College Packing List — How to Pack and What to Bring

Your Ultimate College Packing To-Do List

You've been accepted, you have your start date, and now it's time to do some prepping, planning, and packing for college move-in day. Chances are your dorm room isn't as spacious as the Big Brother house, so you'll have to stick to the essentials. But if you've never been to college before, you might not know what you'll really need. We've put together a packing cheat-sheet for you that includes what you need for your campus arrival.

Some general tips:

  • Find out what's provided and what's restricted. Usually, dorm rooms are furnished with the basics, including a bed, a desk and chair, and sometimes a dresser, floor lamp, and/or bookcase. Each campus has its own rules about what's not allowed in the dorms, for instance, anything that poses a fire hazard.
  • Connect with your soon-to-be roommate to see what bulkier items can be shared. Perhaps you'll bring a printer, and your roomie has a couple of beanbag chairs to contribute. Other shared items might be a TV, video game console, an area rug, and a fan. This will help avoid cluttering up the room and save you both some money.

The list of essentials (and things you probably didn't think of):

With the amount of things running through your mind as the start date approaches, these are items you don't want to leave home without:

  • X-long twin sheets — that's usually the standard mattress size in dorms, but check with your school to make sure. Don't forget a couple of pillows and a comforter, too.
  • Storage containers, hanging organizers, and a pop-up hamper/laundry bag — you won't have a ton of drawers or a huge closet all to yourself, so plastic bins and other organizers can help you store your things under the bed, over the door, or wherever there is free space.
  • Flip-flops and a caddy for the shower, a couple of towels, and a bathrobe — when you're using the same shower as other students you'll have to carry your soap, shampoo, and other toiletries back and forth.
  • A small tool set, a sewing kit, a flashlight, a power strip, phone/tablet chargers — think about what you might need to put small things together and make repairs if something breaks, and of course, you'll want enough outlets for your electronics.
  • A rain jacket and an umbrella and a fall jacket — for those walks across campus on a bad weather day.
  • Casual, comfortable clothes, and just one or two dressier go-to outfits — college student wardrobe staples mostly include jeans, T-shirts, hoodies, yoga pants, and sneakers. With lack of closet space in mind, pack lightly.
  • Reusable plastic water bottle, basic dinnerware, approved appliances — once you confirm what you're allowed to bring and/or if there is a common kitchen area, you can determine if you should bring things like a small microwave and refrigerator (these are usually allowed and can even be rented from your school). Other possibilities include a smoothie maker or coffee pot, depending on what you like. For your own in-room meals and snacks, a mug, cup, utensils, dish, and bowl (2 of each) should do the trick.
  • Also, pack a bin of easy-to-store-and-prep foods like oatmeal, cereal, canned foods (don't forget a can opener), and of course, Ramen noodles.
  • Basic cleaning supplies, a small first aid kit, over-the-counter pain reliever, and allergy medicine (if needed).

What to leave behind:

  • It's great to bring a few decorative items that'll give your dorm digs some personality such as posters, pictures, or small desk trinkets. A combination dry erase/corkboard is useful, too. What you don't want to do is turn your dorm into a high school memories shrine, or bring your stuffed animal or collectible figurine collection.
  • Leave valuables like jewelry back home. You wouldn't want to accidentally leave something lying around with so many people coming in and out of the room.
  • Don't worry about seasonal clothing just yet. You can always ask mom and dad to ship some stuff down later in the semester, or if you're close enough to visit home on a weekend, you can make appropriate swaps.

Think of packing for college like preparing for a trip. You want to try to bring all of the essentials you'll need, but you don't want to overpack and pay all those extra baggage fees. Worst case, you can always find a local store on or near campus, or ask mom and dad to send a care package your way if you forget something.

Bring along this checklist as a guide as you do your dorm shopping, and before you know it, you'll be ready to begin your freshman year.