College Packing List: What To Bring To College

Happy student packing suitcase
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

As you prepare to leave home and start a new chapter in your life, you’ll want to bring everything you need to kick off your journey. Read on for a breakdown of a college packing list of items every freshman should have. 

Starting college is both an exciting and overwhelming process. Most freshmen have a million things running through their minds as they prepare to begin college, from nerves about leaving home to worrying about keeping up with college classes. 

You’ve done all the hard work of looking for your dream colleges, going through the application process, and getting into college. Now it’s time to get to the exciting part: getting ready to move into your new place! 

This article provides a comprehensive, detailed list of all the things to bring to college for your new dorm. The college packing list below will make your packing experience as painless and stress-free as possible.

How To Pack for College

The most important piece of packing for college is to set out a plan. Ask yourself, how are you getting to your destination? Are you driving or flying? Your mode of transportation will greatly affect how you should pack for college. 

If you are driving, the first thing you need to do is get a bunch of cardboard boxes. Cardboard boxes are great because you can usually source them for free from family, friends, and even businesses. 

Cardboard boxes are also great to label and stack, especially if you have limited space in your vehicle. Label your boxes and put things all together in one box (e.g. a bathroom box). Face the label outwards to make unpacking easier! Storage bins work well too. 

If you are flying, you will need to pack lighter if you are confined to suitcases. If you fly down but have a moving company ship your belongings to the dorm, you are able to pack more. However, shipping costs may be expensive, especially for heavy packages. 

Once you know how you and your things are getting there, you can begin planning, collecting, organizing, and packing. Begin with a list of everything you will need, double-check it, and start from there. 

Helpful Tip #1

Figure out what you already have, and what you need to buy. Acquiring new appliances can be pricey. Check out thrift shops, yard sales, and secondhand stores. These are great alternatives to finding stuff for a cheaper price.

Things To Bring To College

As if moving out and starting college isn’t enough to think about, there are so many items you will need to bring to college. We’ve broken down our college packing list into categories for you, so it’s easier for you to organize.

1. Electronics

You’ll want to make sure you bring all the electronics you can, especially because these items are often pricey to replace/buy. Here are some electronic essentials to bring to college: 

  • Laptop 
  • Cell phone 
  • Fan 
  • Headphones 
  • Chargers
  • Extension cord 
  • Game console 
  • Earphones
  • USBs
  • Batteries 

As everything is now largely geared towards online learning and communicating, so make sure to double-check that you have your electronics. 

2. Household

You’ll want your dorm to have all the essential household items for comfort and convenience. Here are some household items every dorm should have:

  • Coffee maker and/or kettle 
  • Air fryer 
  • Paper towel 
  • Alarm clock
  • Trash bags 
  • Water bottle 
  • Coffee mug 
  • Silverware 
  • Dishes (plates, bowls, etc.) 
  • Dishcloths 
  • Dish soap 
  • Rug 
  • Portable vacuum 
  • Mini fridge 
  • Cleaning supplies 
  • Disinfectant wipes 
  • Under-bed storage bins
  • First aid kit 
  • Trash can
  • Drying rack
  • Can opener
  • Lamp

While not permanent, your dorm will be your home for the upcoming years. You’ll want to take care of it as best as you can for comfortable living. 

Helpful Tip #2

Get in contact with the school and ask what is included in the dorms. Some dorms may be lightly furnished and come with appliances like a microwave and fridge.  

3. Clothes & Laundry Supplies

Here are some essential laundry and clothing items to pack:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric softener 
  • Laundry basket 
  • Hangers 
  • Socks 
  • Underwear 
  • Pajamas 
  • Sweatpants 
  • Tank tops 
  • T-shirts 
  • Pants 
  • Dress clothes 
  • Jacket 
  • Hat 
  • Sweatshirt 
  • Sneakers 
  • Sunglasses
  • Lint brush 
  • Dryer sheets 
  • Tide To-Go stick 
  • Belts

Try to avoid overpacking clothes because most college dorms do not have large closets or storage spaces. However, make sure you pack appropriate clothing for the weather/seasons if applicable. 

4. School Supplies

You’ll be doing a lot of work and studying in your dorm, so you’ll want to make sure you add these school supplies to your college packing list:

  • Staplers and staples 
  • Printer (optional) 
  • Highlighters 
  • Pens and pencils 
  • Sticky notes 
  • Notebooks
  • Binders 
  • Wall calendar and/or agenda 
  • Desk organizer 
  • Tape 
  • Backpack 
  • Calculator 
  • Desk chair 
  • Computer mouse
  • Index cards
  • Scissors 
  • Whiteout
  • Whiteboard 

School supplies are expensive to replace, so pack as much as you can. While most students move in a week or so before classes actually start, you will be doing homework and work in your dorm before you know it. 

5. Bathroom Supplies

You’ll want to have your bathroom all stocked up so you can feel clean and healthy. 

Bathroom supplies you’ll need for your dorm include:

  • Toothbrush 
  • Toothpaste 
  • Toilet paper 
  • Face wash 
  • Plunger 
  • Body wash 
  • Hand soap 
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hairbrush 
  • Hair ties (if you have longer hair) 
  • Mouthwash 
  • Floss
  • Body lotion 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Deodorant 
  • Shower shows 
  • Shower bag/caddy 

Be thorough when you pack your bathroom supplies; they are perhaps some of the most important things you will pack for college. While you will be busy and stressed out, it is still important to take care of yourself. 

6. Other Items

Now that you have all your essentials, it’s time to pack some fun decor and other items. Other things you may want to bring to make your dorm homey include:

  • Picture frames and photos 
  • Fairy lights 
  • Posters and/or art
  • Plants (real or fake) 
  • Decor 
  • Jewelry 
  • Air fresheners 

While these are not necessarily essential, it is still important to make sure you feel comfortable and enjoy your living space. Bring some personal items with you to make your dorm feel a bit more like home.

What Not To Bring To College

While you will want your dorm to feel comfortable to live in, there are some things you should avoid bringing. Avoid bringing candles; they can be a fire risk, especially in small areas. For this reason, don’t bring a space heater either. 

You should avoid bringing too many knick-knacks or collectables with you to avoid filling out and cluttering your space. As well, be conscious about how much clothing and shoes you are bringing. Most dorms aren’t that big, and many don’t have storage space. 

Due to the lack of storage space, you should try avoiding bringing your entire library of books. Do as much reading as you can during the summer before you move, and only bring a few favourite books and textbooks. 

Helpful Tip #3

If you are able to, get in contact with your roommate(s) and see what they are bringing. You can work together and plan who is bringing what so you don’t double up on items you don’t need to.

When To Start Packing for College

Packing depends on where you are going, how you are getting there, and when you find out. While you can start putting together some essentials you know you will need, it’s best to have all the details figured out before you begin packing to avoid needing to repack.

Early decisions from both Ivy League schools and colleges release their early acceptance results in mid-December, which gives you plenty of time to prepare, organize, label, and get everything in order for your move. 

Regular decisions come out in the spring, usually in March or April. You should begin preparing to pack as soon as possible. It may seem early, but giving yourself tons of time will save you money and ease your stress in the long run.  

You can start actually packing about two weeks before you head off to college. It’s pretty inconvenient to pack away all your stuff months before you actually leave, and it will probably result in you rummaging through your boxes to get something you need anyways.

FAQs: College Packing List

Still have questions about your packing list for college? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about packing for college. 

1. What Should I Bring for My Freshman Year of College?

You should bring the items that were listed above, and whatever else you feel you will need/want. 

Think of things you use every day, like a hair brush and deodorant, and bring these items. 

If you take prescription medications, make sure to bring those with you. You should also bring the proper documents to renew your prescription while you’re away. 

2. What Do You Need for a College Dorm?

You will need what you would need for an apartment: kitchen appliances, bathroom supplies, clothing, school supplies, and personal belongings like books or gaming consoles. 

The most important things you will need for a college dorm are: 

  • Laundry basket
  • Bed sheets and blanket
  • Pillows
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Body wash and shampoo
  • Deodorant 
  • Towels
  • Laptop
  • School supplies like pens and highlighters. 

If you forget to bring certain items, you can buy them at a later date. However, you will need to bring bedding so you can actually sleep and your laptop to do your school work. 

3. What Should You Not Forget To Bring To College?

Some items you should make sure to bring are: 

  • Driver’s license (if applicable) 
  • At least one ID card 
  • Credit card/debit card
  • Rain jacket and/or winter coat 
  • Winter boots 
  • Socks and underwear 
  • Charging cables 
  • Water bottle and mug
  • Clothes hangers
  • Duct tape 
  • Flashlight 

These items may be easily forgotten or overlooked as you have a million other important things to pack. However, these items will make your life much easier, and they are all super convenient to have when you need them. 

One last thing you should not forget to bring to college: self-care items. While you are heading off to college to work hard and do well in your classes, you should also take time for yourself! This could be as simple as bringing your favourite pair of fluffy slippers. 

Final Thoughts

Heading off to college is an exciting time for any student. You are starting a whole new part of your life, and there are many things to look forward to: meeting new friends, gaining independence, and gaining new experiences. 

You’ll want to make sure that you begin this new journey prepared and organized. Use our list as a checklist as you pack, and you’ll be ready to take on college life. 

Congratulations on beginning the next major phase of your life!

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