Heading to college is one of the most exciting times in a young person’s life. It is often the first instance of independence and spreading one’s adult wings after high school. The college experience will be thrilling and busy for the next few years, so it’s best to be prepared.
But what should you take with you to college? Whether your college campus is close to home or across the country, it’s important to have all the essentials readily on hand.
Read on for the ultimate college packing checklist to make sure you have everything you need!
General Packing Tips
Getting ready for your move to college is exciting and stressful. Consider some general packing tips to make the process run more smoothly.
If you do end up forgetting something, don’t worry! You can always collect it when you visit home or have it shipped.
Find Out What Items Your School Allows and Prohibits
Don’t waste space by mistakenly bringing along items that are prohibited on-campus. Visit your campus website for guidelines on what is and is not allowed. This may include space heaters, extension cords, and other such fire hazards. It’s better to check before you pack!
What to Use for Packing?
You might be wondering what to use to pack your college items. You can always find some sturdy boxes at the local grocery store, but it is also a good idea to pack some of your items in reusable storage containers.
Most dorm rooms do not offer much storage, so try this handy trick—stow clothes and small belongings into lidded plastic totes or suitcases. When you unpack and settle into your room, you can use these items for additional storage!
Clothes for College
It’s easy to pack more clothing and accessories than you will need, especially given the limited closet space in most college dorms. When it comes to outfits, think carefully about the activities you will be doing and where you will spend the majority of your time.
A good tip is to pack primarily for the seasons you will be at school for and only bring a few items for other weather. You can always swap out clothing and seasonal items at the end of each semester if need be! Bring a wide selection of comfortable shoes, too.
Before we delve into some of the specifics of what you should bring to college, let’s go through some of the essential items that every college student should have on hand. Have these items readily accessible, either on you or in your room.
Make sure to bring all your important documentation with you to college. The last thing you need is to realize that your medical insurance card is a few states away when you are at the doctor’s office.
Some documents include:
- Accommodation Documentation
- All Student Finance Documents
- Bank Details and Banking Cards
- Driver’s License
- Health Care Card
- Health Insurance Card
- Medical Alert Information
- Official College Documents (including your acceptance letter)
- Room or Contents Insurance Documents
- Student or Young Person Discount Cards
- Vaccination Records
It’s crucial to consider your safety when packing for college. Though most campuses have security offices, phone systems, and other student safety measures, don’t forget to come prepared.
Depending on state regulations, pepper spray can be a useful safety item to keep close. Alternatively, try these other safety measures to keep yourself and your belongings secure:
- Automobile Glass Breaker
- Bike Lock
- Combination Locker Padlock (for campus lockers or the gym)
- Dorm Room Security Camera
- Emergency USB Battery Charger
- Headlamp or Other Hi-Def Safety Transportation Light (for your bicycle, skateboard, etc.)
- Laptop Lock
- LED Mini Flashlight
- Multi-Tool Keychain
- Personal Emergency Protection Alarm
- Personal Whistle
- Under-Bed Dorm Room Safe
- Waterproof Zippo Lighter
Whether you own a car or are an avid walker, figuring out your method of transport on campus is important. There are many options for getting around campus, but when necessary, wear the appropriate safety gear, such as a helmet or knee pads.
Get to class or run errands with:
- Bicycle and bicycle pump
- Good quality walking shoes
- Roller Skates
Most college bathrooms will not have everything you need already supplied, whether you’re in a student hall or off-campus accommodation. So save yourself an embarrassing towel-wrapped dash down the hall and bring your essential bathroom items in with you!
These items include:
- Air Freshener
- Bath Soap or Shower Gel
- Body Scrub
- Face Cleanser
- Face Cloths
- Loofah or Sponge
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Shower Caddy
- Shower Flip Flops
- Shower Mat (for the interior of shower stalls, when the tiles are slippery).
Other bathroom supplies you might need, depending on how well-stocked your living arrangements are, include:
- Shower Curtain Rings
- Shower Curtain
- Toilet Paper
Personal care is crucial during your college years as you socialize with your peers. Don’t be left without necessary toiletries or other personal care accessories by planning ahead.
Here is a list of items you need to consider:
- Cotton Swabs
- Curling Iron or Hair Straightener
- Hairbrush or Comb
- Handheld Mirror
- Lotions and Moisturizers
- Makeup and Cosmetic Supplies
- Makeup Remover
- Nail Clippers and Tweezers
- Shaving Kit and Razor Replacements
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Medications and First Aid
Although all campuses will have first aid kits and medical support, it’s worth bringing your own for those small accidents and minor pain that do not warrant a doctor’s visit.
Here are a few suggestions:
- All Prescription Medications (along with copies of the prescriptions)
- Antiseptic Wound Cleanser
- Cold and Flu Relief
- Compression Bandage
- Cough Drops
- Heating Pad
- Ice Packs
- Pain Relief (such as Advil, Aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin, etc.)
- Vitamins (Including D and C, which are great for boosting the immune system and mood)
- Well-Stocked First Aid Kit
Instead of having cleaning products scattered throughout your dorm, keep all your cleaning items in the bathroom. So, when you are rushing to clean up a spill, you know exactly where to look.
- All-Purpose Surface Cleaning Spray
- Bathroom Cleaning Spray
- Glass Cleaner
- Broom and Dustpan
- Dish Detergent
- Disinfectant Wipes
- Electronics-Safe Wipes (for your laptop, tablet, etc.)
- Paper Towels
- Rubber Gloves
- Swiffer WetJet or Mop
- Vacuum (either a handheld dustbuster or a larger room unit)
College is a great place to define your style, so don’t be afraid to accessorize and rock your own flair.
Here are some things to consider when packing your clothes for college:
- Athletic Wear (Leggings, Running Shorts, Sports Bras, etc.)
- Business Wear (more functional than a formal outfit, especially for job interviews, important meetings, or school presentations)
- Formal Attire (one formal outfit should be adequate for most college students)
- Rain Jacket or Poncho
- Scarf and Gloves (if the local weather requires them)
- Shirts (T-Shirts, Long-Sleeve Shirts, Button-Ups, Tank Tops, etc.)
- Shoes (Sandals, Tennis Shoes, Boots, Heels, Rain Boots, etc.)
- Closet Organizer
- Over-the-Door Hanging Organizer
- Removable Adhesive Wall Hooks or Command Strips
- Shoe Rack
Desk and School Supplies
No college experience is complete without a few pencils and books. Providing your setup with all the supplies you might need during a study session is a good plan.
Think about bringing some of these items with you:
- Calendar or Agenda
- Desk Organizer
- File Folders
- Hole Punch
- Paper (Notebook Paper and Computer Paper)
- Pencil Cup
- Pencil Sharpener
- Reusable Notebook or Composition Book
- Ruler or Protractor Set
- Sticky Notes or Adhesive Tabs
- Sturdy and Spacious Backpack
Dorm Room Goods
Comfort is key when it comes to your dorm room. Return from a full day of classes to a cozy setup that also fosters great study sessions and a good night’s sleep.
Some ideas for outfitting your dorm room to the max include:
- Bed Sheets and Pillowcases (two sets are always a good idea)
- Bulletin Board or Whiteboard
- Clip-On Reading Lamp
- Duvet or Comforter
- Floor Lamp and Desk Lamp
- Floor Rug
- Heated Blanket
- Mattress Cover
- Mini Dehumidifier
- Plush or Foam Mattress Topper
- Throw Blanket
- Weighted Blanket
You will be spending a lot of your time in your dorm, whether that’s socializing, sleeping, or studying. Therefore it is paramount that you accessorize and feel comfortable in your surroundings.
Try adding a bit of your own style to your dorm with these items:
- Bean Bag Chair or Ottoman
- Command Strips (for hanging artwork safely on the walls)
- LED string lights
- Photographs and picture frames
- Plants (either real or plastic, they give the room a vibrant feel)
- Washi Tape or Thumb Tacks
- Bed Risers (great for creating more storage space underneath the bed)
- Storage Trunk
- Portable Three-Drawer Storage Units
- Under-the-Bed Lidded Storage Totes
No college student is without some essential gadgets and electronics to help complete their course work. But don’t forget to pack some entertainment systems for your downtime—relaxation between essays is just as important!
Don’t forget these items:
- Chargers for all Electronics
- External Computer Monitor
- Good Quality Headphones
- Laptop or Desktop Computer
- Multi-Port Power Strip
- Printer and Printer Paper
- USB Flash Drives
- Wireless Keyboard and Computer Mouse
If you enjoy music and entertainment, don’t forget to pack these items:
- Bluetooth Speaker
- DVD Player
- Gaming Consoles
- HDMI, Coaxal Cables, etc.
- Roku Remote
Electronics are one of the most important items to keep safe and secure throughout your college journey.
Try fitting in some of these items to keep your parents at ease:
- Power Surge Protectors
- Smart Plug (with remote turn-off features from your smartphone)
- Tile Tracker Tags (for expensive electronics so they can be tracked if lost)
Though some campus living arrangements might not have access to a full kitchen setup, you can still furnish yourself with some essential kitchen items to make cooking and snacking easier.
Consider some of these things for a kitchen space:
- Aluminum Foil
- Coffee Maker
- Collapsible Strainer
- Dish Towels
- Measuring Cups
- Mini Fridge
- Mugs and Cups
- Oven Mitts
- Paper or Microwave-Safe Plates
- Pizza Cutter
- Pots and Pans
- Saran Wrap
- Silverware or Plastic Cutlery
- Trash Bags
- Water Bottle
- Ziploc Bags
Whether your college experience includes a dorm room with available laundry service or you have access to a coin laundromat, clean clothes are a must.
With that in mind, here are some of the key laundry items you will need in college:
- Bleach or Enzyme Stain Remover
- Delicates Bag
- Dryer Sheets
- Fabric Softener
- Folding Drying Rack
- Iron or Steamer
- Ironing Board
- Laundry Detergent or Pods
- Lint Roller
- Pop-Out Laundry Hamper
- Sewing Kit
- Stain Stick
- Wrinkle Releaser Spray
On top of all the essentials and personal care items, here are some other things that you might want to have with you in college:
- Duct Tape
- Ear Plugs
- Foldable Extra Seating
- Gym Bag
- Local Guidebook or Attractions Pamphlets (if you are new to the area, take in some sights and local delicacies with friends)
- Rolls of Quarters for Laundromat, if applicable
- Sleeping Mask
- Tool Kit
Now that you know everything you need to bring to college, it is time to get packing. Because before you know it, you will be on campus, enjoying the next chapter of your life, fully prepared to take on any challenge.
For more helpful tips for college students, check out our blog on campus safety!