Remember These When Packing For College

Packing for college – especially as a freshman – can be a bit daunting.  There are many helpful checklists on the internet, but here are a few handy items that aren’t always mentioned.

  1. Sleeping Bag – college can be a season of road tripping and visiting. Having a sleeping bag makes it easy to host a guest on the floor of your dorm room. An extra pillow is handy too.
  2. A Small Duffel Bag – backpacks are great for books, and suitcases are great for moving in, but most of the time, a small duffel will be just what you need for a weekend trip.
  3. Long Phone Charging Cord –an outlet isn’t always nearby, so keep a 6ft cord (or longer) in your backpack for when you need to charge in the library or the nearest coffee shop.
  4. Laptop Lock – yep, laptops are commonly stolen. Don’t leave your computer unattended in the library or dining hall, and keep it locked up when your computer is in your room and you are not.
  5. Command Hooks and Strips – most dorms don’t allow you to nail or tape to the wall, and when the year is up, these easily peel off with no damage to the paint.
  6. Storage Containers – bring some “structure” to keep your belongings organized:
  • an organizer to hold your desk accessories (e.g. a drawer insert or a lamp that has sections for supplies)
  • bins that fit under your bed or on top of an armoire
  • an “over the door” organizer (but beware the clearance at the top of the door, sometimes they don’t fit)
  • hangers (bring at least a couple that are plastic for hanging wet items)
  • a shoe rack (not necessary, but nice to have)
  • a towel rack (you will have wet towels)
  • a “kitchen” bin or basket for holding snacks, K-cups, paper products, etc.
  • a double closet rod like this if you have limited width and/or a hanging closet organizer like this.
  • a make-up storage container (also nice to have a small mirror which you can put on your desk or dresser for applying make-up)
  1. Small Décor – this can be a rug, wall art (I love the reusable photo wallpaper from WeMontage), or a string of white lights for some ambiance. Always check with your school regarding specific restrictions.
  2. Headphones, Earplugs, and/or a White Noise Machine – dorms can be loud, and not everyone is on the same schedule.
  3. Laundry Detergent Pods – large containers of powder or liquid can be a pain to carry around. Pods like these are easy to use.
  4. Water Bottle and Mug – something you can easily identify as “yours.” Also, if you don’t have a sink in your room, it can be handy to bring a pitcher so you have water when you wake up in the middle of the night and don’t feel like walking down the hall.
  5. A “Lockbox” – for keeping your most important possessions: cash, passport, copy of your insurance card, driver’s license, etc.
  6. Trash Bags – many forget to bring these and they always come in handy. Small ones work well as a liner for your trash can, and larger ones are convenient for packing quilts, towels and clothing when you move in.
  7. “Emergency” Kits –first aid, tools, sewing supplies, medicines. It’s surprising how often you need them.
  8. Plenty of Underwear. You can put off doing laundry, but you need fresh underwear, so bring plenty.
  9. Shower Flip-Flops and a Robe – you will want something to wear to/from the bathroom, and trust me that you don’t want to walk into a dorm bathroom with bare feet.
  10. Milk Crates – these are great for packing, and easily serve as bookshelves or a nightstand once you’ve moved in.
  11. Surge Suppressor Strip – there are never enough conveniently placed outlets in dorms. Check with your school before packing an extension cord, as many dorms do not allow them.
  12. Rain Boots and a Good Umbrella – you are going to be walking in all kinds of weather, so be prepared.
  13. Lysol Wipes – you’ll be glad you have them.
  14. Membership to Amazon Prime and/or NetflixAmazon Student (students get a free 6 month trial) gets you free shipping, so you can quickly get anything you forgot. And leave the DVD collection at home… streaming takes up less space.
  15. “Back-up” Supplies – your parents’ stash won’t be available, so think ahead and bring things like batteries, staples, printer ink/paper, and pencil leads.
  16. Clip-on Febreze –clip them onto your fan or heating/AC vent.
  17. Can Opener – a can of soup is handy, but make sure you can open it!

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Got a suggestion not on this list? Please comment and let everyone know!

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32 thoughts on “Remember These When Packing For College”

  1. Great tips Seana, and one I will keep as a reminder when my 13 year old is off to college. I myself, never went away to college, so this list is very useful.

    1. And I’m sure there will be a bunch of new things by the time your son goes, because there are some elements of dorm living that are changing quickly. But at least you’ll have these ideas tucked away for reference:) It will be here before you know it!

  2. Such a comprehensive list, Seana! Speaking as a dorm RA for 3yrs, I can say that typically the string lights are not allowed. And let me just add small DustBuster / hand vac to the list. Folks were always knocking on my door asking for the vacuum!

    1. The college student who read my post last night said, “Oh, the wipes… definitely!” Too funny! It changes quickly, but it’s a fun stage.

    1. I can certainly agree with that. The college and young adult years are characterized by a lot of moving around. It is a fun time, but also a time where you are constantly “on the move.” It’s great to have your own place and just get to stay put!

  3. Great list! That’s what all parents and college kids need to get ready!

    I add a cocoon grid case for the tech wires. It’s easier to keep up with these all the time when they are easily stashed in a case.

    1. Yes, the timing isn’t quite right for your stage of life. But it is still fun to think about the excitement that others we know are experiencing as they plan for this special season of life, right? I’m almost jealous it’s not my turn…

    1. I’m in the same boat, Janet. I’ve had to learn about current dorm life for this post. I think when I moved in to school, half of the car was filled with my stereo and giant speakers. Now all of that plus a whole lot more is on the phone!

    1. Aww, thanks Hazel. I think organizing is so satisfying, it hardly matters what we are talking about. And to be honest, some of this may apply on vacation or even moving to a small apartment!

    1. Yes, that is an excellent point. Many dorms have the XL length twin beds. I was just talking about this with a student, so I’m glad you added this!

  4. Great list! My oldest son is heading off for college in a few weeks. Even after sending 2 daughters to college, it is still daunting to remember everything. The only thing I have to add is a few rolls of quarters for laundry. Forgot about the flip flops!

    1. Quarters – excellent addition! Some of the kids use their ID card now (loaded with $$) in the laundry rooms, but still handy to have some on hand as not all schools offer this! The list changes from child to child… I’ve changed a few items from my first to my last!

    1. And I bet many things will change in 3 years, but it’s never too early to start keeping a list. When life gets busy in a couple of years, you’ll remember these details:)

  5. Really helpful list! My brother is heading off for collage and I don’t think that he has any idea what he should take with him. I am excited that he is moving out 🙂 so I would love to help him to take everything that he needs! Thanks for sharing all this! Greets!

    1. So glad you found it helpful, Meredith. I’m laughing at your comment about being excited that he is moving out! Hope he has a smooth move and you get some newfound peace and space:)

  6. I wish someone had given me this list when I was going off to college! Granted, we didn’t really have cellphones and laptops back in the day, so some of these things wouldn’t have applied for me. However, having things like a sleeping bag and milk crates would have been amazing when I was at college. Thanks for the great list!

    1. Thanks for the affirmation, Hazel. The rooms are small, so you’ve gotta make the most of every little bit. I can probably rewrite this post about every 5 years given the pace of technological change, right?

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