What to Bring to College: Your Personal Packing List

One question every first-year college student asks is, “what do I bring to college?” Since most residential colleges require that first-year students live on campus in a residence hall, this list is intended for students in that situation. With that in mind, think of your college dorm room as a mini house. You want to have what you need for everyday activities, while adding a personal touch to make it feel homey, yet not have so much stuff that you can’t be comfortable or invite guests to hang out. This list isn’t geared toward the minimalist packer, but it is about preparedness.

After you contact your roommate(s) and explore the Residence Life webpage, you are ready to start gathering items to put into suitcases and vehicles. Here are some of the items you might need broken down into a few main categories:

  • Seasonal and weather-specific clothingboots, jacket, and umbrella for rainy weather. For winter, you'll need a coat, boots, hat, and gloves/mittens.
  • For the Shower and Bathroom—flip flops or slide sandals for residence hall showers. Also pack a shower caddymake sure the it has a good number of small holes on the bottom of it so that the water that gets in it while showering doesn’t collect/remain in there (even little pools can get moldy and smelly); if necessary, drill more holes in it before you leave. You'll also need bath towelsbeach towels can double as a robe, so you might decide to only buy this size and leave the other bath towels at home). Also pack hand towels and/or washcloths.
  • ClosetsNot all closets will have doors. If yours does not, there is usually a way to attach a spring-loaded curtain rod with a curtain so that you keep your closet hidden from guests. You'll also need hangers for dress clothes, coats, and bulkier clothing that might not fit in a dresser drawer. Dress clothes are nice to have in case of a presentation, on-campus interview, or formal event. A shoe rack is also a nice item to use as an efficient way to store your shoes in a smaller space.
  • Laundry—detergent, dryer sheets, laundry bag or hamper, and drying rack.
  • Clothingworkout gear. Ever heard of the Freshman 15? Well, it can become a reality with the buffet-style cafeteria and the added stress of college-level academics. If you pack your fitness gear, you'll be ready to hit the gym and stay in shape!
  • Room Essentials—air fresheners (either a spray or a plug-in, but try to choose something that isn’t too fragrant so that you’re roommate won’t hate it…better yet, wait for your roommate and buy one when you get into town). Storage bins are also suggested (choose smaller ones that stack well and shapes that fit into small spaces). A power strip is also handy since it can provide you with additional outlets. Don't forget a floor-length mirror! College dating can be awkward enough, and you never know when you’ll meet that special someone! Make sure you’re not wearing stripes, polka dots, and argyle all on the same day.
  • Bedtimemattress pad (look for one that guards against bed bugs, just in case), a foam mattress topper for extra comfort, extra long (XL) twin sheet sets so that they fit a college mattress, pillows and pillowcases, comforter, blanket(s), alarm clock (with extra batteries). Many people use their phones as their alarm, but that might lead you to check social media when you should be sleeping or resting.
  • Desk and Work Arealaptop/tablet, desk lamp, external mouse (preferably wireless to make things easier and helps to reduce tendonitis, which could develop when you’re typing so many papers), chargers for computer and phone, pens (multi-colored ones make note-taking more fun), pencils and pencil sharpener, markers and/or crayons, highlighters, post-its and tape flags, paper clips and binder clips (for thicker piles of paper), rubber bands, notebooks, extra erasers (the big pink ones work well), red pen for editing, tape dispenser and tape, stapler and staples, 3-hole punch and single-hole punch, 3-ring binders, glue sticks, white-out (liquid, pen, or tape), ruler, scissors, surge protector, notecards (a great way to study for tests is to make flashcards), backpack, calculator, planner/calendar.
  • ToiletriesFirst-Aid kit, Band-Aids, Neosporin or Bacitracin, rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs or cotton balls, thread and needle for loose buttons, ice pack or ice tray for freezer, deodorant, sunscreen, eye drops, floss, mouthwash, toothbrush, toothbrush holder (the travel tube works well so that your toothbrush stays clean), toothpaste, tweezers, comb and/or brush, hair dryer, facial tissues, Advil or Tylenol, thermometer and thermometer covers, cough drops/throat lozenges.
  • Room décorposters and/or wall art, pictures of friends/family to remind you of home, small white board (remind yourself of project deadlines or bond with your roommate(s) by having a word of the day or a quote of the week).
  • Kitchen/Foodquick, microwaveable items (oatmeal, Ramen noodles, mac n ’cheese, soup), hot pad/pot holder, granola bars, fruit snacks, water bottle to refill (saves the planet from more plastic bottles and saves on space), mugs and cups (best if microwave-safe), bowls (best if microwave-safe), one or two sets of silverware (fork, knife, and spoon), plastic containers for snacks or lunch on-the-go, can opener, dish soap, sponge or dishwashing brush, hand soap,  hand sanitizer for your backpack, disinfecting wipes, napkins or paper towels (Select-a-Size paper towels are recommended), Ziploc bags, chip clips/twist ties for bags of snacks.
  • Important documents and I.D.driver's license, student I.D., debit/credit card, checks, emergency contact list, prescription info, immunization records, insurance card and info, passport, Social Security Card (memorize your number for important forms, but don’t pack your actual card).
  • Extrasbook light, flashlight, adhesive hooks and strips (like 3M) to hang things in your room without making a hole in the wall, earplugs (you never know if your roommate(s) will snore like a freight train, but at least these will help), lint roller, fan, refrigerator magnets, sunglasses.

That should be everything you need to bring to college! Trust me, all of the items on this list really do fit nicely into even a smaller dorm room. Now it’s time to pack your vehicle and hit the road! If you’re going to a college that is a plane ride away, you might be packing your suitcases and taking to the skies! Either way, you’ve got a big adventure ahead of you.

{ Return to Inside College Admissions for more posts. }

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