The Ultimate College Packing List (and How to Pack Everything Up)

Off to college and unsure what to bring? We've gathered all the packing tips for moving to your dorm, plus convenient college dorm checklists. Take our college packing list with you while shopping, or use it to verify you have everything you need on moving day.

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What to Bring to College

It's true, you actually can bring too much to college. Lucky for you, we've compiled a handy checklist of what you might need. As a solid rule, bring only what you can store. Nothing is worse than having to dig through boxes stacked on the floor while trying to find the tape you know you packed last August. Do yourself a favor, and stick to our college packing list. And be sure to consider the extra tips below each section of the checklist for how to pack for college.

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Bedding Basics

When considering what to bring to college, keep bedding as simple as possible. Choose blankets and comforters that are easy to wash and comfortable to sit on and sleep under (i.e. no tassels, beading, or specialty fabrics). When picking patterns and motifs, remember that roommates and dorm-floor buddies will be seeing your sheets.
  • Alarm clock—loud! 
  • Bed risers 
  • Bed sheets—two sets 
  • Bedside lamp—a clip-on lamp is ideal for dorm room bunk situations 
  • Blankets or comforter 
  • Mattress topper or foam pad 
  • Pillowcases—two sets 
  • Pillows 
  • Sleeping bag or air mattress—for guests or overnight trips 
  • Under-bed storage containers
Packing tips for moving: To pack your bedding, roll don't fold. Use pillowcases to tote hard items (like bed risers and alarm clocks) and the rest of your bedding to fill in gaps when you pack the car.

DIY Underbed Storage

Room Essentials

Everything in your dorm room should reflect your personality. When your new roommate sees that framed and signed photo of you with your favorite band, they'll be more likely to strike up a conversation about music and, boom, instant friendship. Get personal with the things you bring to college. This college dorm list is a mix of needs and wants. 
  • Additional seating—a fun chair, beanbag, or futon
  • Area rug
  • Blank CDs
  • Bulletin board, dry-erase board, or chalkboard
  • Cell phone
  • Cell phone charger
  • Curtain rod and curtains—use adhesive hooks if you're not allowed to put holes in the walls
  • Doorstop
  • Fan
  • Floor lamp
  • Full-length mirror
  • General storage containers—rolling plastic or canvas drawer sets are perfect for dorms and apartments
  • Leisure books/movies—just a few (you won't have a ton of spare time for these things!)
  • Over-the-door storage—for closets and the main entry
  • Photos
  • Television
  • Throw blankets and pillows
  • Wall posters and artwork
Packing tips for moving: The items on this list will make up the bulk of your packing problems. A floor lamp and mirror aren't going to fit well in a moving box, and you can't easily pack a chair or TV. Fit what you can into storage drawers and tubs. The rest will slide into the car after everything else is in.

Dorm Room Desk

So much time will be spent at your desk over the next few years, you should really make it your own while ensuring it's functional. Our college packing list for your desk will help you do just that!
  • Adhesive hooks and strips—the easy-off, no-residue variety
  • Adhesive notepads
  • Binder clips
  • Calendar
  • Desk chair—it's OK to splurge on an ergonomic chair (you'll be spending the better part of four years in it!)
  • Desk lamp
  • Desk organizer
  • Envelopes—you'll be surprised how often you need these! (delivering class dues and activity fees, rent checks, and thank-you notes to instructors, advisors, and interviewers)
  • Erasers
  • Folders—one for each class per semester
  • Glue
  • Magnets
  • Paper clips
  • Pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Pens—black, red, and blue as a minimum
  • Permanent markers
  • Push-pins
  • Rubber bands
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Staple remover
  • Staples
  • Tape
  • Three-hole punch
  • Wastebasket
  • Correction tape
Packing tips for moving: Remember those plastic storage drawers we suggested you bring? Everything on this list should fit into one of them!
 

Digital Wares

So much of college is accomplished through digital media. Be sure you're prepared and have all the digital things you need for college. Bring several surge protectors, because you'll have LOTS to plug in.
  • Chargers and cables—for everything!
  • Camera/extra memory cards
  • Computer/laptop
  • E-reader/tablet
  • Extension cords
  • External hard drive
  • Headphones—invest in noise-canceling headphones so you can study, even when your neighbors throw a party
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Printer
  • Printer ink
  • Printer paper
  • Software—ask your instructors about the appropriate word processors and editing programs for your program
  • Speakers
  • Surge protectors
  • USB flash drive—and save often!
Packing tips for moving: Clear, hard-sided storage bins are essential when moving electronics. You don't want to mix up boxes and accidentally crush your tablet screen. Clear storage allows you to constantly see what's inside and how everything is doing during the move. Keep this tote on top of the pile—or even on the seat next to you.

School Supplies

School supplies are truly dependent on your program of choice. A freshman studying interior design might need a drafting table, while a senior studying journalism won't need much more than a computer. We compiled a bare minimum list of what to bring to college, but be sure to check with your advisers and instructors on what specific items you'll need for class.
  • Backpack—although single strap book bags might be more stylish, heavy textbooks can take a toll on your body. A well-worn, double-strap backpack is essential for making it through the day without a sore back
  • Binder
  • Calculator
  • Clicker—if your class requires it
  • Highlighters
  • Index cards
  • Notebooks
  • Notepaper/notepad
  • Pencil case
  • Planner
  • Portfolio—start this early, and update it at least once per semester!
  • Protective travel case for laptop or tablet
  • Recording device—be sure your teachers allow recording before documenting their lectures
  • Textbooks—look for e-book versions to save space on your desk and in your backpack
Packing tips for moving: The best way to pack your school supplies is to load everything into your backpack. Use small pockets for pencil cases, clickers, and calculators, then load the large pockets with your notebooks and textbooks. It'll be heavy, but you can deposit most of these items on your desk when you get to your dorm.
 

Kitchen Tools

Save your biggest drawers for your kitchen supplies—you'll need all the storage you can get. There's a reason kitchens have all the shelves and cabinets they do; there are so many things that make mealtime easier! At bare minimum, you'll need a plate, bowl, cup, and one set of utensils, but here's the extensive kitchen college packing list. Bring whats fits and makes your dorm life simpler.
  • Can/bottle opener
  • Chip clips
  • Coffeemaker—might not be allowed in dorms. Check with your R.A. or leasing office
  • Cups
  • Dish detergent
  • Dishes
  • Dish towels
  • Filtering water pitcher
  • Knife—you'll need at least one sharp knife
  • Microwave
  • Mini fridge
  • Mugs
  • Oven mitt
  • Paper/plastic plates
  • Paper towels
  • Pizza cutter
  • Plastic food containers—freezable and microwavable
  • Plastic wrap
  • Sealable bags
  • Single-serve blender/blender bottles
  • Sponges
  • Aluminum foil
  • Travel mug
  • Utensils
Packing tips for moving: Kitchenware is often stackable, so that will help you pack your goods into a minimal amount of boxes. Load the heaviest items on the bottom (plates, aluminum foil, dish detergent) and lighter items (paper plates, oven mitts, chip clips) on top. Be sure to wrap any breakable goods and sharp items—you can use the dish towels you're bringing—before sealing the boxes.

Edible Staples

The college life is also the eat-what-you-can-as-quickly-as-possible life. If you're in a dorm, it's unlikely you'll have more than a microwave to cook with, and even less likely that you'll have time to make a full meal. Even in an apartment setting, you'll be so strapped for time that the PB&J you eat at your desk will be a quality meal. Keep your groceries to what you can grab on the run or throw together in a flash!
  • Bottled water
  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Instant pasta
  • Jelly
  • Milk
  • Peanut butter—eat by the spoonful or in a sandwich
  • Soup

Packing tips for moving: The trick for packing food is: Don't! It's best to leave any grocery shopping until after you've moved in, but snagging just a few items from your parents is totally acceptable. One grocery bag should cover everything. On that note, be sure to keep a sturdy reusable grocery sack with you at school. Carrying heavy items is more comfortable with an over-the-shoulder canvas tote rather than plastic or paper grocery bags that can rip.

First Aid

Accidents happen, so be prepared! In your first aid kit include everything from medications and supplements to bandages and sunscreen. Don't forget the hand sanitizer, either!
  • Acne cream
  • Allergy medication
  • Aloe vera
  • Antacids
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Bandages
  • Birth control/condoms
  • Cold and flu medications
  • Cotton balls/swabs
  • Cough drops/lozenges
  • Eye drops
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • First aid kit
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hot/cold packs
  • Lip balm
  • Nausea relief
  • Pain reliever
  • Prescription medication/refill information—be sure to find a local pharmacy!
  • Sleep aids
  • Sunscreen
  • Thermometer
  • Vitamins/supplements
Packing tips for moving: Many stores sell comprehensive kits with such things as pain reliever, lip balm, and cough drops, but to include some of the less-basic needs, you might need to custom-create your own. Pick up a tackle or crafts supplies box, and fill it with all of your medical needs. This will easily tuck into your closet or out of the way on a high shelf until you need it.

Bath Toiletries

Bathroom goods are vastly different for every person. Add to your college supply list whatever you need to feel your best, but remember that on-campus students will almost certainly be sharing bathrooms with no secure storage. Those living off campus will have a little more freedom on their bathroom supplies, but keep in mind you're likely sharing the space with roommates.
  • Air freshener
  • Bath towels/washcloths—Embroider your name on these to keep track of your laundry
  • Bathrobe
  • Blow dryer
  • Body wash
  • Cosmetics/makeup
  • Contacts/supplies
  • Curling/flat iron
  • Dental floss
  • Deodorant/cologne/body spray
  • Eyeglasses/cleaner
  • Hair accessories
  • Hairbrush/comb
  • Hair products
  • Hand mirror
  • Loofah
  • Lotion
  • Moisturizer
  • Mouthwash
  • Nail clipper/file
  • Nail polish/remover
  • Pumice stone
  • Razors
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Shaving cream/aftershave
  • Soap
  • Shower caddy
  • Shower curtain
  • Shower shoes—cheap foam flip-flops will do the trick
  • Tissues
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Tweezers
Packing tips for moving: You will definitely want to start checking off your toiletry packing list by filling your shower caddy with shampoo, body wash, a razor, and whatever you need in the shower. We suggest designating two additional bathroom bags or boxes. Bag one is for your everyday products: toothbrush, cosmetics, cologne, deodorant, etc., while bag two holds the tools used less often, such as curling and flat irons, tweezers, and nail polish.

Keep Clean

Dorm dwellers don't need to worry too much about heavy-duty cleaning, such as unclogging toilets and scrubbing showers, but there's always upkeep in the room. Off-campus students will more likely need to get friendly with the vacuum and rubber gloves, at least a few times per semester. And remember the dreaded laundry!
  • Bathroom cleaners
  • Bleach
  • Broom/dustpan
  • Clothes hangers
  • Compact vacuum
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Drying rack
  • Fabric softener
  • Glass cleaner
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Laundry detergent
  • Laundry hamper/bag/basket
  • Lint brush
  • Plunger
  • Toilet brush
  • Quarters—for those lovely joint laundry spaces
  • Rubber gloves
  • Stain remover
  • Sewing kit
Packing tips for moving: Packing cleaning supplies will likely take more than one bag or box. The best tip here is to break up the weight. Don't put your liquid detergent in the same box as the bleach and glass cleaner. Spreading the heaviest items between multiple boxes will make moving more manageable. Check with your roommate for items they'd like to share. You don't each need your own dish soap, and there won't be room for two ironing boards.

Required Attire

In this category of things to bring to college, less is more. Bring all your basic tanks, T-shirts, jeans, dresses, and shoes to college, and dress them up with different accessories. A few special items, like interview outfits and Greek formal attire are also a must, but don't fret about packing all your band T-shirts and every pair of tennis shoes you own. No one expects you to wear a different outfit every day in college.
  • Accessory organizers—things that can hang over doors, off bedposts, or on adhesive wall hooks are perfect for this
  • Athletic clothing
  • Belts
  • Casual clothing
  • Closet organizers—this is the smallest closet you will likely ever have (do what you can to fit what you need AND keep it organized)
  • Dress clothing
  • Gloves
  • Going-out clothing
  • Gym bag
  • Hat/earmuffs
  • Interview outfits
  • Jackets and coats—all weather
  • Jewelry
  • Pajamas
  • Purse
  • Scarves—both winter-wear and accessory
  • Shoes—1-2 pairs of each: athletic, sandals, flats, boots, high heels
  • Shoe rack—hanging or for the closet floor
  • Snow/rain boots
  • Swimsuits
  • Undergarments
  • Watch/activity band
Packing tips for moving: When transporting hanging clothes, use trash bags. You can slide several hangers-worth of clothing into one bag, slightly tightening the drawstrings around the hangers to keep them together. Accessories should be placed in the organizers that will be used in your dorm. They, along with shoes, can be hauled in the laundry hamper and basket that will be used during your stay. Folded clothes and undergarments from the dresser can be rolled and placed in duffle bags or suitcases.

Important Documents

In case of an emergency, you might find yourself in need of important documentation, and sometimes it's more than just a phone call away. Be sure to store the info in a safe and organized fashion. File folders usually do the trick, but some documents (anything with your bank info or social security number) are best kept in a lockbox.
  • Bank info—account and routing numbers
  • Checks
  • Copy of birth certificate and social security card
  • Copy of lease and renter's insurance—if living off campus
  • Credit/debit card
  • Driver's license
  • Emergency contact list—be sure your roommates know where to find this!
  • Enrollment/financial aid forms
  • Health/dental insurance cards
  • Passport
  • Small safe or Lockbox
  • Student ID
Packing tips for moving: This college checklist is the easiest to pack. Just keep everything in one of your class folders until you put them in their new home after your move.

Car Kit

If you're living on campus, you might not need (or be allowed to have) your vehicle. But for those of you who will live or work off campus, it's a good idea to have some backup tools and supplies on hand. Vehicles can break down, get stuck in the mud, or not be able to travel through certain weather conditions. Here's a good list of things to leave in your car to help you be prepared:
  • Backup flashlight
  • Blanket—for winter emergencies or impromptu picnics
  • Cardboard—use this under your stuck tires to gain traction in snow or mud
  • Car registration/insurance
  • Change of clothes
  • Emergency kit
  • Extra umbrella
  • Jumper cables
  • Parking pass
  • Snow shovel
  • Spare change—college-town parking meters are killer!
  • USB charger
Packing tips for moving: When you pack these items, consider a trunk storage unit. They're compartmentalized to keep organization on par. Make sure your flashlight is always on top so you can use it to help you find supplies!

Everything Else

Your ragtag collection of "everything else" is whatever is most important to you. Are you a biker, or do you skateboard? Add those items to the list. Will you and your roommates have a dog? Don't forget Fido's supplies and toys. The things you'll only occasionally need are still worth packing. A flashlight, batteries, candles, and matches are necessary for power outages, and you'll be surprised how often you'll need duct tape and safety pins.
  • Batteries
  • Bicycle
  • Bike helmet/lock
  • Board games/playing cards
  • Duct tape—comes in handy in SO many situations
  • Earplugs
  • Fan
  • Flashlight
  • Lightbulbs
  • Musical instruments—we don't suggest you bring your trumpet for leisure playing (this won't impress your neighbors), but if you want to try out for pep band, go for it! 
  • Religious materials
  • Safety measures—carry pepper spray, a taser, or tactile flashlight (Verify what is legal in your state and allowed on campus.) Have a safety whistle on your keychain or a high-decible alarm (there are phone apps for this, too!)
  • Safety pins
  • Sleep mask
  • Sports equipment
  • Sunglasses
  • Tool kit—a hammer, screwdrivers, and wrenches will come in handy at least once
  • Travel/overnight bags
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle
  • Yoga mat
Packing tips for moving: The best part about packing this box last is that all of your important items will already be out of the house. Take a slow stroll through your home before the move and put anything you think you might need in a box. Stick to a shoebox so that it can easily fit under the bed and never need to be unpacked.
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