The Ultimate College Packing List

What to take with you when moving to college

Starting college is one of the biggest transitions in life, so when you’re moving into a dorm room, it’s important to make it comfortable. But what do you need? While you can’t pack your whole bedroom — because, let’s face it, dorm rooms are small — you can bring sentimental things along with some essentials. We’ve prepared a packing list to help you stay on track while preparing for college move-in day.

Female student packing books for college using a college packing checklist.


College packing checklist

A college move might be small, but it’s still a big deal. Depending on how far away from home you’re going to school, it may not be easy to go back for forgotten things. Following a solid checklist is the best way to prevent leaving anything behind.  

It’s a good idea to communicate with your roommate first to avoid duplicate items (like microwaves, TVs and vacuums) and decide who is bringing what. Check with the housing office to avoid bringing prohibited items like candles or some small appliances. 

You might not want or need everything on this list, and that’s okay! Here are some suggestions to get started: 

Things for sleeping

You’ll want to be well-rested to absorb all the new knowledge. These things will help make the bed and sleeping space cozy.

  • Alarm clock (consider a combo unit with a lamp or a dock for your phone)  
  • Bedding (confirm the bed size with the housing office) 
  • Mattress pad 
  • Pillowcase 
  • Pillows 
  • Throw Blanket 
  • Under-mattress bedside caddy/storage pocket (handy if you’ll have a loft bed) 

Bath and personal care items

Whether you’ve lucked into getting a private bath or you’ll have a suite-style or community bath, you’ll need some things to look and feel your best. It’s a good idea to pack all the personal care items from home, including any prescriptions or OTC medications you use regularly.

  • Cosmetics (skincare, sunscreen) 
  • Eyeglasses/contact lenses and solution 
  • First aid kit (bandages, cotton swabs, ointments, etc.)
  • Hairbrush/Comb 
  • Hairdryer 
  • Hand towels 
  • Hygiene products (deodorant, perfume, etc.) 
  • Manicure kit 
  • Medicine kit (prescriptions, cold medicine, pain reliever, stomach relief, vitamins, etc.) 
  • Robe 
  • Shower caddy (and a drying mat or tray for underneath it when not in use) 
  • Shower shoes 
  • Toiletries (soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razor, etc.) 
  • Toothbrush holder 
  • Towels and washcloths 

For private or suite-style baths, you may also need: 

  • Bath rug 
  • Shower curtain 
  • Toilet paper 
  • Trash can 

Laundry essentials 

This might be your first time doing laundry, or maybe you’ve been handling it for years. Either way, here’s what’s needed to keep clothing clean. 

  • Clothing steamer or iron/ironing board (only if you regularly use them) 
  • Detergent (laundry pods or liquid work best) 
  • Dryer sheets or fabric softener 
  • Drying rack  
  • Fabric refresher or wrinkle-release spray 
  • Hamper or laundry bag 
  • Hangers 
  • Lint brush 
  • Quarters (if needed for your dorm’s laundry machines) 
  • Stain remover 

Dorm room cooking 

You’ll likely eat most meals in the cafeteria to take advantage of a meal plan, but it’s good to have some things available when you want a snack or need to eat a meal in the room. These are good to have on hand. 

  • Can opener 
  • Chip clips 
  • Coffee maker or electric kettle and mug 
  • Filtered water pitcher 
  • Food storage containers 
  • Plates, cups and bowls (make sure they’re microwave safe) 
  • Shelf-stable foods and snacks (breakfast cereal, canned soups, instant oatmeal, microwavable pasta, protein bars, etc.) 
  • Utensils (disposable or washable flatware) 
  • Water bottle 
  • Zip-top bags 

Depending on what your dorm offers, you might also need: 

  • Microwave 
  • Mini fridge 

Cleaning your room 

It’s up to you to keep the dorm room clean and fresh! Make it easy with these handy tools. 

  • Air freshener or diffuser 
  • All-purpose multi-surface cleaner 
  • Broom and dustpan 
  • Dust wipes 
  • Paper towels and holder 
  • Small trash can and trash bags 
  • Vacuum (a stick vacuum works great for dorm rooms) 

Dorm storage and décor  

Reflect your style with colored and patterned storage solutions, but don’t bring too many décor items since space is limited.  

  • Adhesive hooks/picture hangers 
  • Corkboard/pushpins 
  • Desk organizers 
  • Dry-erase board/markers 
  • Full-length mirror (if your room doesn’t already have one) 
  • Hanging closet organizer 
  • Pictures and frames for walls/desk 
  • Rugs 
  • Shoe storage (shelves or over-the-door) 
  • Under-bed storage bins/drawers 

Entertainment and tech supplies 

Whether for study or downtime, having access to the technology that makes life easier is essential for a good college experience.  

  • Batteries 
  • Bluetooth or phone dock speaker  
  • Extension cord/surge protector 
  • Extra-long phone charging cord 
  • Gaming console 
  • Headphones 
  • Laptop and bag (don’t forget the charger!) 
  • Printer and ink (if you don’t have easy access to a lab) 
  • TV/ Streaming device and any cords needed 
  • USB storage drive 

Clothing and shoes for college life 

Some people like to reinvent their looks when they start college, while others stick with their regular style. No matter which path you choose, keep in mind that closet and dresser space is often scarce in dorm rooms, so packing a huge wardrobe probably isn’t the best bet. Take clothing items that fit and are in season (consider switching out summer clothing for winter gear during holiday breaks). Have enough garments and underwear to get by until laundry day, and pack comfortable shoes for getting to and from class. 

  • Athletic clothing and shoes 
  • Cold weather gear (coat, hat, gloves, scarf) depending on climate 
  • Comfortable everyday shoes/sneakers 
  • Dress/professional clothing and shoes 
  • Everyday wear 
  • House shoes or slippers 
  • Lightweight sweater or jacket 
  • One formal outfit
  • Pajamas/loungewear 
  • Rain gear (boots and jacket) 
  • Socks 
  • Swimsuit 
  • ​​​​​​​Underwear 

School supplies 

You may not know everything needed for each class until you get a syllabus, but here are some general things to get started. Other class-specific supplies will likely be available at the on-campus bookstore. 

  • Backpack or tote bag 
  • Calculator 
  • Handy tools (pencil sharpener, ruler, scissors, stapler, staples, staple remover, tape) 
  • Paper products (folders, index cards, loose paper, notebooks, planner, sticky notes) 
  • Stamps, stationery and envelopes (for old-school keeping in touch) 
  • Writing instruments (highlighters, markers, pens, pencils) 


Here are a few more things that can be helpful in setting up your dorm room. 

  • Air purifier 
  • Bicycle (bike lock, helmet) 
  • Copies of important documents like birth certificate and social security card 
  • Fan 
  • Hammock 
  • Overnight bag or a small suitcase for travel 
  • Picnic blanket 
  • Sewing kit (safety pins, extra buttons and supplies for mending) 
  • Super glue 
  • Tool kit 
  • ​​​​​​​Umbrella 

Prefer a printable checklist? Here you go

U-Pack can help with your student move

If you’re moving out of state for college, U-Pack can help! We have over 25 years of experience in long-distance moving, including many student moves. Get a free quote online or call 844-362-5303844-594-3077. We’re happy to help! 

Did we leave something off the list? Let us know in the comments!