College Packing List: What To Bring To College


Last updated December 13, 2023

It’s time to head off to college! You’ve attended orientation, considered a major, signed up for classes, and now it’s time to make the move. Preparing for college can be daunting; it’s a huge life change! But, like any significant move, preparing yourself is the best way to feel comfortable with your choice.

Whether it’s your first year at college or you’re moving on campus for the first time, you may be wondering what you’ll need to bring with you. And, what do you not need? Based on years of experience seeing students come and go, this is our ultimate college packing list.

How to Organize Your College Packing List

Start with the Basics

Your college packing list is complete with the absolute must-haves: clothing, bedding and toiletries. 

When it comes to essential clothing, consider the climate. Make sure you’ve packed warm coats if your school is located in a cold climate, or pack layers for climates that experience all of the seasons. Even if your school is in a location with generally warm weather conditions, you may want to bring sweatshirts or jackets to class; air-conditioned buildings, like the library or study centers, sometimes run colder, and your dorm room may not have self-controlled climate controls.

  • Undergarments, socks
  • Pajamas
  • T-shirts, long sleeve and short sleeve
  • Shorts
  • Pants, jeans
  • Sweatshirts
  • Jacket
  • Winter coat (if in a cold climate)
  • Raincoat
  • Gym clothing

Speaking of your living quarters, you will need to bring bedding and pillows to outfit your sleeping space. Pack two sets of sheets, pillows, pillowcases and a comforter or duvet. If your bed is provided, confirm the size of the mattress. Most dorm rooms come with a standard twin or twin XL mattress. On top of your bedding, keep a throw blanket or throw pillows for extra comfort.

When you’re packing linens, don’t forget to pack towels with your toiletries. If your dorm or apartment has community showers, you may also want to pack a bathrobe or towel wrap. Personal care items, like your toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, hair products, shaving supplies, lotion and other bathroom essentials, will fit in a shower caddy, so you’ll always know where they are.

For laundry day, you may need to bring laundry detergent. Don’t forget the laundry hamper so you can easily carry dirty linens and clothing to your laundry room!

  • Sheets and pillowcases (2 sets)
  • Bed pillows
  • Comforter or duvet
  • Throw blanket
  • Towels
  • Bathrobe or towel wrap
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Shampoo, conditioner
  • Soap
  • Hair products
  • Shaving supplies
  • Lotion
  • Shower caddy
  • Laundry hamper
  • Laundry detergent, softener

Dorm Room Essentials

Let’s face it: most dorm rooms are tight on extra space. Be sure to use creative storage solutions to maximize the space and stay neat and organized in your room. Under-bed storage bins can easily slide under furniture to hold extra bed linens and out-of-season clothing, while drawer organizers can sort your desk supplies or folded clothing. Hangers, especially those that can hang multiple pieces of clothing, maximize your closet space so you can store more efficiently. Don’t be afraid to bring extra sets of drawers; plastic drawers and bins can slide into closets and corners for even more storage.

You’ll likely spend a reasonable amount of time at your desk, so desk supplies are essential on your college packing list. Stock up on notebooks, pens or pencils, highlighters, binders or folders and a strong and reliable desk lamp for studying at night. You may also want to invest in a wall calendar or peg board to keep your due dates and social events top-of-mind. Of course, don’t forget your computer’s power adapter and cell phone charger!

  • Storage bins
  • Under-bed storage
  • Hangers
  • Drawer organizers
  • Notebooks
  • Pens or pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Binders or folders
  • Desk lamp
  • Wall calendar
  • Computer power adapter
  • Cell phone charger

Kitchen and Food Supplies

If you plan to snack or dine in your room, add a microwave and mini fridge to your college packing list. Be sure to check your housing regulations regarding appliances. Some boarding facilities have rules against certain appliances, such as toasters, and regulate the fridge size you may bring.

Rather than running to a food court or eating off a paper towel whenever you want a snack, you may also want to invest in basic food utensils such as plates, bowls, eating utensils, cups and water bottles. Remember that most dorms do not have in-room dishwashers, so you’ll need to clean dishes and utensils at the sink by hand. Bring your cleaning supplies! You’ll be responsible for all of the cleaning duties.

  • Microwave (if allowed)
  • Mini fridge (if allowed)
  • Plates, bowls
  • Eating utensils
  • Cups, water bottles
  • Dish soap
  • Paper towels, napkins
  • Broom, dust pan
  • Cleaning supplies (windex, Clorox wipes)

Am I Packing Too Much for College?

Do you have too much on your college packing list? Remember that when you move into your new home, you start over from scratch! However, some items are unnecessary, especially when trying to fit into a small space with or without a roommate.

Prioritize Necessities

If you’re worried your college packing list is too long, focus on multi-functional essentials with multiple uses to save space. Things like ottomans that double as hidden storage space or a sofa that converts into a bed are large items that are useful for different reasons.

Another easy way to cut back on unnecessary items is to pack only the clothing that you’ll use in the immediate future. For example, only pack clothing for the season ahead; for fall arrival, pack for fall and winter. When returning to school in January, swap your fall clothing for spring clothing. 

Consider Dorm Room Size

Room size is a significant factor in how big or small your college packing list will be. Before you purchase or pack anything, familiarize yourself with your room’s dimensions and layout. Understand whether or not the room comes with furniture and which pieces are provided. (Many dorms already have a bed, desk, closet and dresser in the room.) You may not have space or extra electrical outlets to move in with a mini fridge.

Similarly, if you’re sharing your room or living area with roommates, discuss which shared items you each will be responsible for. This will alleviate your college packing list and also save space by avoiding having multiple of the same items on hand.

What Not to Pack for College

Considering you’re starting a new life in a new home, there are items you shouldn’t bring to college. Other than commonly prohibited items, such as certain electrical appliances, candles and tacks or nails, some items are unnecessary and distracting. If these items were on your college packing list, you can reconsider them to lighten your load.

Bulky Furniture

Smaller spaces require smaller furniture. If you planned on bringing large chairs, couches or other oversized furniture, you can probably rule it out, as it won’t likely fit in your dorm room. Similarly, you won’t need excessive decorations that take up space, like floor lamps, large faux plants, or vanities. These unnecessary items pose tripping risks and make the room feel cluttered.

Non-Essential Gadgets

You’ll quickly realize what’s non-essential in a small room. Unnecessary electronics, like extra tablets, gaming systems or DVD players, take up space and get lost easily. Your laptop can serve as your TV, music player and homework device. Remember to refer to your college’s dorm regulations as high-volume speakers and stereo systems may violate regulations because of noise complaints.

Tips for Efficient Packing and Moving

Have you considered how you’ll move all of these items on your college packing list? Here are the best tips we’ve learned over the years!

Packing Strategies

Rolling clothing racks make transporting hanging clothes from your car to your closet easy! Plus, it saves space, time and minimizes wrinkles. For folded clothing and other items, use labeled storage bins or boxes that can be reused in your space for easy organization and unpacking. You can also try rolling your clothing rather than folding them to save space. 

Moving Day Essentials

Two other essentials for moving day include a basic toolkit and first aid kit. We recommend packing a screwdriver, hammer and scissors for unpacking, decorating and assembling furniture. A first aid kit will come in handy in case of moving emergencies with band-aids and other items to treat accidents. Leave these in your dorm to use all year long and for move-out!

Final Thoughts

With this college packing list, you likely won’t overpack, but be considerate of non-essential items or items that only serve one particular purpose. Multi-use items and daily-use items are essential, but many of the extras you may have at home won’t be necessary. Remember, you only need items that keep you focused on your schoolwork with some self-care and social time to balance it out.

Preparation is critical for a smooth transition into dorm life. By staying well-organized with your college packing list, you’ll feel confident entering the next step of your life journey. And when something comes up, and you need a band-aid or a bowl for a snack, you won’t feel panicked. Here’s to your very first college home!