Updated: May 22, 2023
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. This is an exciting time! But also a daunting one. Not sure where to begin? Follow these college packing tips for what you need, and how to pack it so nothing breaks, so you’re not left wondering where you put your favorite hoodie once you get to your dorm room.
Pack 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, and don’t try to pack all things for all seasons. Remember, you can always pick up more items from home during winter break. Be sure to pack a rain jacket and an umbrella: essentials for those walks across campus on a rainy day.
Make sure to pack clean clothes so you don’t have to do loads of laundry when you get to campus. To save space, you can roll your clothes or use compression bags. For clothing that needs to hang, sort items by length, and wrap a garbage bag around the grouping, pulling the drawstring around the neck of the hangers. It’s a great way to move clothing in bulk.
Your school might provide a list of what to bring, so be sure to refer to it before you start packing. In general, you’ll likely need items to digitally store files, like USB drives, as well as items to help you study and take notes, including textbooks, pencils, pens, highlighters, notepads, index cards, and sticky notes. You’ll be able to get many of these from the campus bookstore, so don’t worry about being too comprehensive.
Pack your books and school supplies first, and fill each box to the top as you go. Partially filled boxes mean you’ll fill up the car quicker than you’d like, but make sure the boxes aren’t too heavy to lift. You can also use folders and notebooks to line the bottom of each box as a way of reinforcing it.
In addition to the basics—soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste, nail clippers, and lotion—make sure you pack supplies for minor medical issues that might pop up, such as Band-Aids, antacids, cold medicine, and antibiotic ointment. You’ll also want to bring a pair of flip flops and a shower caddy, as you’ll likely be sharing the bathroom with other students in your hall.
Double-check each bottle to make sure it’s properly shut. Also, pack all bottles together in a box or plastic bag—and keep away from clothing and books. Nothing ruins move-in day like an exploded shampoo bottle.
Extra-long twin sheets are the standard for most dorm rooms, but check with your school to make sure. Don't forget a couple of pillows and a comforter, too. You’ll also want a bath towel, as well as a hand and face towel. Remember to pack two sets of everything, for when laundry day inevitably arrives. In addition to a laundry bag and detergent, it’s also wise to bring a sewing kit, for any repairs you may need to do.
As with your toiletries, pack any liquid detergents separately in their own box, tape the top of the bottles to prevent spills. To save space, you can consider getting detergent sheets or pods instead of liquid, and pack pillows inside of containers, drawers, or garbage cans.
Consider bringing a small toolkit to make repairs if something breaks, as well as a power strip to have enough outlets for your electronics. To keep your room clean, bring a few basic items, like paper towels, trash bags, and all-purpose cleaner. Sometimes, you might want a quick meal in the room, so bring a couple of mugs, plates and bowls, as well as some cutlery, plus a reusable water bottle to keep hydrated.
You can pack any household cleaners with your detergents and toiletries. For your dinnerware, wrap them with towels or thick clothing items, like sweatshirts, and move them in a box with your bedding.
Your college dorm will provide most of the furniture you need, but make sure to check what’s supplied to give you a better idea of what you’ll need to bring. Dorm rooms are notoriously lacking in closet space, which is why you’ll want to bring some storage bins and hanging organizers to help you store your things under the bed, over the door, or wherever there is free space. Some other items you might want to take are a desk lamp, fan, rug, and room decorations. For extra items, like a microwave, mini refrigerator, or blender, reach out to your future roommate to see what they might bring. You don’t want to double up.
Any storage container or drawer can double as a packing container! Fill those up with light items, like pillows and bedding.
Label, label, label! Make sure that every box you pack has a clear label about what’s inside, so it’s easier for you to unpack once you get to your room.