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College packing list

Moving to college? Keep this checklist handy as you pack

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Written by Jonathan Trout
college students moving into dorm

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.

dorm room bed with folded sheets on it

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 sleep. 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 desk with wire picture board

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.
cleaning supplies in a bucket

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 and 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.
shampoos and conditioners in the 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.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash
  • Razor, shaving cream
  • Shower caddy
  • Shower flip-flops
  • Shampoo, conditioner, body wash
  • Hand soap
  • Nail clippers, nail file
  • Makeup
  • Comb, brush
  • Hair products
  • Hair dryer, straightener, curling iron
  • First aid kit
college girl studying on the floor with a laptop and 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.

  • Headphones
  • TV
  • HDMI cable
  • Computer
  • Surge protectors
  • Ethernet cable
  • Portable Bluetooth speakers
  • Streaming device
  • Gaming console
dorm room desk with supplies

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 and folders
  • Notecards
  • USB stick
  • Day planner
  • Laptop lock
college girl in kitchen with french press and laptop

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.

  • Bowls, plates, cups, silverware
  • Food-storage containers
  • Paper towels
  • Dish towels
  • Trash bags
  • Dish soap
  • Wet wipes
  • Ziploc bags
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Sponges
  • Chip clips
  • Paper plates
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • Can opener
  • Coffee maker, electric kettle
  • Blender
  • Mini fridge
  • Microwave
  • Toaster
two college girls riding bikes across campus

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.
  • Bring an umbrella to keep you dry on those rainy walks to class.
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