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College packing list

Moving to college? Keep this checklist handy as you pack

by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team
Students moving into college

College packing checklist

Use this college packing list to make sure you're bringing the essentials when it's time to move out. Don't feel like you have to show up with absolutely everything you need - sometimes it makes sense to hold off on buying things until you're settled into your new town.

Girl under blanket on phone

Dorm room bedding and towels

The beds in most college dorm rooms are pretty basic, especially traditional dorm rooms. Making your bed as comfortable and inviting as possible will go a long way in helping you get some shut eye. Here are a few things you’ll need for your bed set up.

  • Bed risers: Bed risers raise your bed to a more comfortable height for getting in and out of bed. More importantly, the added height gives you extra storage space underneath.

  • Bed sheet set (2): Two sets - one to use while the other is in the wash.

  • Comforter set: Preferably one that matches your decor.

  • Mattress cover and foam mattress pad: You’ll want a cover for your mattress. A foam mattress pad gives you that extra cushion for a better night's sleep.

  • Pillows for sleeping and lounging: When you're not using it for sleep, your bed makes a great place for people to sit.

  • Extra blankets for lounging and outdoor events: It’s always nice to have extra blankets in the winter for indoor and outdoor use.

  • Towels: Make sure you grab multiple hand towels and bath towels for showering.

Dorm room with white desk and chair

Dorm room decor and storage

Check with your roommate(s) before move-in day to see what they have and make sure you don’t buy or bring more decor items than you need. While most of these are optional items, your dorm is your home away from home so why not make it feel that way?

  • Area rug: Most dorm rooms have hard floors or less than nice carpet.

  • Message boards: Either a whiteboard, chalkboard or dry-erase boards for quick messages.

  • Adhesive picture hanging hooks: Adhesive is key! Don’t get stuck with a damage charge.

  • DIY picture board: Save counter and wall space and make a DIY picture board.

  • Floor/door mirror: Traditional dorms might only have one mirror for you and your roommate. Keeping one behind your door or in your closet will make getting ready easier.

  • Lamps: Bedside, floor and desk lamps are great for late-night studying or when you want minimal lighting.

  • Storage bins that fit inside your closet: Plastic, stackable storage bins are a popular closet storage option.

  • Under-the-bed storage bins: Long and thin plastic storage bins flit nicely under your bed.

  • Desk chair: If one isn’t provided to you.

  • Fan: Floor fans are great to stick in a corner and they keep the room from getting too stuffy.

  • Trash can: Keep your space clean!

  • Hangers: Even if your dorm provides them, you’ll probably need more.

  • Hanging shoe bag: Space-saving way to store your shoe collection.

  • Alarm clock: Don’t be late to class! If you don’t use your smartphone, you’ll need an alarm clock.

  • Locking foot-locker for secure storage: It’s a good idea to have one locked storage container.

Red dustpan and broom on wood floor

Dorm room cleaning and laundry supplies

Keep necessary cleaning supplies on hand. Dorm rooms are small so staying on top of cleaning won’t take much time. If you don’t have the traditional communal showers and bathrooms, you’ll need to keep your bathroom clean throughout the semester.

  • Vacuum cleaner: If your dorm is carpeted, check with your roommate to make sure one of you has one.

  • Broom & dustpan: Dust builds up quickly in a small, shared space. Keep your hard floors clean.

  • Bucket: A bucket makes cleaning bathroom floors easier and holds your cleaning supplies once you’re done.

  • Toilet bowl brush: Keep that toilet bowl scrubbed if you don’t have communal bathrooms.

  • Laundry supplies: You’ll need a laundry basket, detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets.

  • All-purpose cleaner: If you have an apartment-style dorm, have a bottle for the kitchen and your bathroom.

  • Iron and ironing board: Keep your clothes looking fresh!

  • Quarters: You’ll need quarters for those traditional dorm room laundromats.

  • Foldable drying rack: Great for air drying things that can’t be dried in a dryer.

Shampoo bottles in a shower

Dorm room toiletries

Whether you have traditional communal bathrooms and showers or you have an apartment-style dorm room, don’t forget these toiletry items.

  • Makeup

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Razor and shaving cream/gel

  • Hair dryer, straightener and curling iron

  • Nail clippers

  • Comb/brush

  • Shower caddy: Makes carrying your toiletries to and from the shower much easier.

  • Shower gear: Shampoo, conditioner, body wash/soap and flip-flops.

  • Hand soap: If you’re in an apartment style dorm.

  • Hair products: Gel, dry shampoo, volumizer, detangler etc.

  • First aid kit: Bandages, antibiotic ointment, gauze. Generic pain relievers like Aspirin and Ibuprofen. Cough drops are important when you're living in close quarters with someone.

Girl on laptop with headphones

Dorm room electronics

If you’ll be living in a traditional dorm room, you’ll still need your own set of electronic equipment. If you have an apartment-style dorm, you’ll most likely have a living room. Check with your roommate(s) to see how many TVs, cords and surge protectors you have.

  • Portable Bluetooth speakers

  • Headphones

  • Gaming console

  • TV: At least one for the living room. If you each have your own room, consider one for each room.

  • HDMI: One for each TV.

  • Computer: Laptop or desktop.

  • Surge protectors: It’s a good idea to have one for all electronics in the dorm.

  • Ethernet cable: If your dorm doesn’t have WiFi, you’ll need one for internet connection.

  • Streaming service device: Apple TV, Roku, Playstation Vue, Amazon Fire Stick, etc.

Desk with computer and other electronics

Dorm room desk supplies

Most of these are pretty self-explanatory, but they can be easy to forget. Your dorm-room desk will have plenty of storage space for supplies.

  • Pens and pencils

  • Post-its

  • Scissors

  • Stapler

  • Tape

  • White-out

  • Envelopes and stamps

  • Notebooks: At least one for each class.

  • Notecards: Flashcards are great for studying.

  • USB sticks: Keep all your electronic files stored in one place or have one for each subject.

  • Labeled folders: Keep your class papers organized

  • Day planner: Organize your schedule.

  • Laptop lock: People come and go all the time, even when you’re not there.
Girl on laptop next to coffee press

Dorm room kitchen items

Traditional dorm rooms at least have a small space for a microwave. If you have an apartment-style dorm room, you’ll most likely have a kitchen area. Check with your roommate(s) before purchasing larger items.

  • Paper towels

  • Dish towels

  • Trash bags

  • Food-storage containers

  • Dish soap

  • Wet wipes - These make it easy to wipe down countertops.

  • Bowls, plates, cups, mugs, silverware/plasticware

  • Ziploc bags

  • Aluminum foil

  • Plastic wrap

  • Sponges

  • Chip clips

  • Paper plates

  • Salt and pepper shakers

  • Can/bottle opener

  • Coffee maker

  • Blender

  • Mini fridge - If one isn’t provided.

  • Microwave - If one isn’t provided.

  • Toaster

  • Electric kettle - If one isn’t provided.

College friends riding bikes together

Don't forget

In addition to packing or buying everything from the lists above, you’ll need to take care of a few essentials before your first day of class.

  • Have proof of health insurance.

  • Register your vehicle with your school and get a parking permit.

  • Bring equipment for activities like music, intramural sports and weekend day trips.

  • Set up a bank account and get a bank card. Most schools use a card system that lets you or your parents preload money for meals and supplies.

  • Bring a bicycle, helmet, pump and lock for getting around campus quicker.

  • Bring seasonal and occasional clothes. (Remember, you can always swap out your clothes at winter break.) In addition to your normal wardrobe, bring workout clothes, a swimsuit and clothes for more professional or formal occasions.

  • Think about establishing a monthly budget, either on your own or with your parents.

  • An umbrella will keep you dry on those long walks to class.

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by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team

As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Jonathan Trout believes having access to free, comprehensive information on products and businesses is vital to making smart purchasing decisions. He focuses his efforts on researching and reviewing multiple brands across a variety of industries, with the goal of writing unbiased buyers guides to help inform consumers on impending purchases.