The Ultimate College Packing List

What to take to college

A college dorm room or campus living space may be small, but it’s still capable of feeling like home. Things like bedding, bathroom essentials and some favorite tech gear can make the college experience more comfortable and enjoyable. Whether planning a move to campus for the first time or returning to school and just looking to get organized, read on to learn what to pack for the transition.

Questions to ask before move-in day

Before shopping or packing, it’s a good idea to check with the college to get a list of what is and isn’t provided at on-campus living facilities. Use this opportunity to ask questions to get a better idea of what’s needed. Some things to consider asking are:

  • Are dorm rooms furnished?
  • What’s the room size?
  • How big is the closet?
  • Are mattresses provided?
  • If so, what size are they? (Twin, full, extra-long, etc.)
  • Can you bring rugs or window coverings?
  • What items are restricted?
  • Are there laundry facilities on campus?

Consult with roommates before the move

It’s also good to check in with roommates (if you’re able to contact them ahead of time) to see what items they’re bringing and what they want to share to avoid doubling up — especially on bigger items like microwaves or furniture. Talk with them about their likes and dislikes, and learn about any allergies or other things to be aware of before moving in together. 

Stay organized with this college packing checklist

Now, you need to figure out what to pack. As tempting as it may be, it’s not possible to haul everything from home. Having limited storage space means it’s important to prioritize and only bring the essentials. 

Dorm room packing list

What items from home should go to campus? Take an inventory of some of the most-used items around the house and determine if they’re essential to college living. When compiling the packing list, make sure to emphasize must-have items, because remember, living space will be limited. These are the basics:

  • Clothing. Keep it simple, and consider the seasons. Pack something nice and professional for a presentation or a date, and some comfortable loungewear or workout clothes. Don’t forget rain gear for trekking across campus in inclement weather. More clothes can always be added or switched out later during trips home.
  • Bedding. Bring a mattress pad, sheets, pillows and pillowcases, a comforter or duvet and a throw blanket in case it gets chilly.
  • Electronics. Don’t forget a laptop and chargers for cellphones or handheld devices. It’s also a good idea to bring a set of headphones, a portable charger and some batteries (if needed), and a surge protector to help keep gadgets charged.
  • Food and dining supplies. The campus dining hall will have everything needed for meals when eating there, but for in-room dining, it helps to have some essentials on hand. Buy a supply of plastic cups, plates, bowls, and silverware, along with paper towels and microwave-safe containers for warming up food.
  • Toiletries. On-campus residents need towels, washcloths and the essential toiletries and hygiene items. The dorm bathroom may be communal (check with the college ahead of time), so a shower caddy will come in handy for transporting and storing toiletries, and flip flops or shower shoes will protect your feet.
  • Laundry. Whether at an on-campus laundry facility, or a local laundromat, be sure to pack some detergent, dryer sheets, quarters and a laundry basket or collapsible hamper that’s easy to carry or wheel to the washer and dryer.(You might consider two laundry hampers to separate whites and colors). Some other laundry items that would be good to keep handy are stain removers, a drying rack and a clothes steamer (for getting out pesky wrinkles).
  • Personal documents. Things like a debit or credit card, driver’s license, health and dental insurance cards, financial aid documents and possibly bank documents or a birth certificate might be needed on campus. It’s also wise to make copies of everything and put all the materials together in a secure file for safe keeping.
  • Essential odds and ends. Buy a calendar or day planner to keep organized, and get some area rugs or wall décor to give the place a homey feel. Also bring along a small trash can, some storage bins and a sewing kit for mending.
  • School supplies. Don’t forget school supplies! While professors on campus may provide a syllabus for specific things like text or reference books, bring things that can be used in any class. Items like notebooks, paper, binders, pens and pencils, sticky notes, a highlighter and a backpack are essential items.
  • Transportation. Many college students find a bicycle useful for getting around campus and the surrounding area. Bikes can easily be transported using vehicle racks, and once on campus, parking racks are plentiful (be sure to bring a bike lock). Also, there are various space-saving ways to store bikes in dorm rooms using simple wall and ceiling mounts, but be sure to get approval from the college first.

Get a complete list of things to pack in our printable college moving list

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

Reminder: While making sure to bring the right things to college, it’s also important to avoid bringing the wrong things. Some campuses don’t allow appliances like hot plates, toasters or electric kettles, or accessories like large speakers or entertainment systems. Before going, check with the school to find out what is and isn’t allowed. 

When to start packing 

Don’t wait until the weekend before leaving to start packing. Determine the campus move-in date, then begin a few weeks out and go through the checklist section by section to figure out which items you have, need to buy or can wait until later to get.  

Once packing begins, designate a suitable space in your home to put the items you’re packing. Having everything stored together will make moving day much more manageable. Need more moving help? Check out our college moving resource to get helpful tips, including packing tips and other advice about student moving. 


Still have questions about what to bring to college? Leave us a comment and we’ll be happy to find an answer!