What to Pack for College? Here’s our Ultimate Packing Checklist

September 11, 2018 / Posted in Moving Basics
Steven Rogers

Apart from sharing Captain America's name, our freelance writer Steven is also a big fan of moving, history, and geography.

The waiting is over! That long-sought letter of acceptance has arrived, and you are officially a freshman. After hours and days of delight and joy, a question inevitably arises – what to pack for college? But fear not, with our checklist of essential supplies and small but handy items to have, you’ll be packed in no time and well-equipped for the next chapter of your life.

Students in university
When you are done with school it is time to move

Education is one of the top reasons why people move. So let’s go over the list of things you’ll need, and some of those you won’t.

What to Pack for College – Essential Stuff and School Supplies

Going off to school most probably means that you’re moving to a new city alone. So, maybe, think of the things you’d need for the first apartment, albeit a small one. In which you have a roommate.

The first advice we have is to find out how big your dorm will be, so you can stitch up some kind of plan as to what will go where. Also, campuses often regulate what can and what can’t be brought in, so contact the administration to get a detailed list. This especially concerns household items.

And now to packing. Start with the obvious things, such as a backpack. Umbrella may be a good option, too. It rains even in LA, on a bad day.

The first larger bunch of things comes from the kitchen. Don’t hesitate to put paper towels, tissues, wet wipes, can and bottle opener, and a couple of food-storage containers in your bag. Also, take a plate and a bowl, a cup, and a mug. You have to eat somewhere. And since you’ll have to eat multiple times, take a bottle of dish soap.

Also not to be forgotten are medications, from aspirin and painkillers to prescription ones, if you need them. A basic first aid kit is also recommended.

School supplies should form the largest part of your moving checklist. There should be a batch of notebook, pens and pencils, highlighter pens, and labels and sticky notes. Also, have a stash of staples and folders. You’ll also find that some kind of bulletin or a dry-erase board will be very beneficial for planning your curricular and other activities.


Handy Things You’ll Want to Pack for College

Of the things in the ‘Misc’ section of your checklist should be a lamp or two, and an alarm clock. You may also find a good use for storage trays that go under the bed and trash can.

Having already said that you’ll be on your own, you should take with you a basic tool kit and sewing kit, just in case.

guy carrying a backpack
When packing for college, a backpack is a must

There Are No Strict Rules When It Comes to Clothes

When it comes to clothes, there are no all-encompassing rules. The main criteria for what to take should be where you move and when you move. Since you’ll probably be moving in summer, lighter stuff will do just fine for a start – shirts, jeans, and so on. By the time the winter arrives, you can have your warmer clothes sent to you, or you may go home and pick it up. The most important thing is that you feel good in what you wear.

Underwear, socks, and slippers go without saying. Also, sweats will surely come in handy.

A jacket should be in your bag too, whether light or heavy. That depends on where you are going. You’ll have to wear much warmer things in Denver than in San Diego.

Shoes should also depend on the climate of your destination, but as a rule, you should have at least two casual and one formal pair.

That being said, one or two more “adult” combinations may be in order, in case you land a job interview or have to attend some formal ceremony.

Sports equipment is recommended, too, for you never know when you might end up on a college team.

Clothes hangers are also helpful and don’t take too much space.

Don’t Forget About Laundry

Living on your own means that some things that you may have taken for granted will fall squarely on your shoulders. Namely laundry.

Make sure you take a laundry basket with you, a detergent, stain remover, and fabric softener. As well as a drying rack to hang your clothes after washing them.

pile of boxes
When packing, make space for all you will require, but think carefully not to take something not necessary or not allowed

Bedding and Bath Stuff

Another often taken-for-granted thing is a made bed. When on campus, this will be your duty, too. So inform yourself in advance about the size of the bed and prepare accordingly. Take with you two sets of pillowcases and sheets, two pillows, a mattress pad, and a blanket or two. Nights may get a bit chilly, wherever you are.

When it comes to toiletries, first learn if you and your roommate will have a single bathroom, or you’ll have to use a communal one. If the latter is the case, then take shower gel, hair shampoo, soap, toothbrush, and toothpaste. You wouldn’t wish to wade through the hallways with the entire Avon production line, right?

Whenever in the shower, have your flip-flops on. Don’t forget the comb and hair dryer, either.

In the case of a semi-private bathroom, having a shower caddy is an excellent asset since you can put all gels, lotions, and conditioners in it. Of course, there are useful trinkets such as tweezers, nail clippers, and cotton swabs.

a clean living room
Keep your living space clean and your shower equipped with gels, lotions, and conditioners

Make Your Dorm a Home With Personal Items

As it is, you’re likely to spend the next couple of years in your campus room, so there’s no reason not to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Here are some ways to do it.

Dorm Room Will Be Your House, So Set It Up

Your abode has to be functional above all else, while at the same time not disrupting your roommate’s life. If possible (and allowed), take a toaster, or a refrigerator. An area rug might be a nice touch. Again, in this matter, agreement and prearrangement with a roommate can do wonders.

Like Your New Surroundings

Sooner or later, you will be hit by nostalgia. To ease it when it strikes, you should bring along some of the posters from your room, and framed photos of family and friends. Use two-sided tape to put them on the wall, though, never nails.

Books are generally not recommended to take along since they are heavy and demand space. Still, a couple of favorite paperbacks should definitely come with you. For everything else, there is a gadget called Kindle.

Make It Fun by Bringing Games and Related Pastimes

Leaving for school means saying goodbye to friends. It can be very hard, indeed, having to adjust to a new city alone. But it doesn’t have to be that hard. Coping with moving away from friends is best done by making new ones.

Invite neighbors to a casual backgammon or card game. For example, a little can do more in helping you meet new people than a game of Cards Against Humanity. Then, depending on your board games collection, you may deepen your friendship by saving humanity from Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, for example. Or by fighting Great Old Ones in Arkham Horror (this may be a special treat if you’re going to school in the  Northeastern US).

If you’re more down to Earth kind of guys and girls, you may build colonies on Catan from scratch or fight for supremacy on the black market in the appropriately named game Bootleggers.

Who knows, maybe you finally find players for that Dungeons & Dragons campaign you’ve been perfecting for years.

people taking a selfie
Arrange your room to your liking and invite neighbors to a friendly game of whatever you have in store

Electronics and Electrics

Stuff such as a laptop will naturally find a place in your bag. So will music headphones, and portable speakers. Be careful with those, though, and research how to pack electronics for moving. Just a short few years back, advice would be to take a camera and music player. Today, you only need a smartphone.

When it comes to household items like TVs, DVD players, or microwaves, you should ask campus administration if it is allowed at all. If it is, then try to contact your future roommate and arrange who will bring what. It could be quite awkward if both of you show up with a TV and a minibar.

laptop and wi-fi
Carefully wrap electronics and learn what electric devices the campus allows

And Finally, a Counterlist – What Not to Bring

After we went through what you should, let quickly scan what not to pack. The first rule here may be to never bring anything too big. So, furniture should be out of the question. It’s to no avail if you bring your favorite armchair only to have to put it in storage.

The same goes for utilities like air conditioners, and hotplates. Many campuses don’t even allow them. Administrators (and janitors) also frown on nails in the dorm walls, so leave your nail picture hangers at home.

A printer is a useful tool, but you shouldn’t carry it since most campuses offer a service of printing lab. If you still decide to take it with you, be sure to have printing paper packed, too.

Unfortunately, pets, too, are usually not allowed.

Likewise, really valuable belongings and family heirlooms should not follow you to the campus.

couple carrying a couch
Be mindful of space, there won’t be much of it so don’t cramp it with unnecessary and bulky stuff

You’re All Set

Always remember, it’s no disaster if you forget to take any of this to the campus. After all, you’ll be going home for the holidays soon enough. You can even buy all of it. Yet, by following our tips, you’ll be settled as well as possible, and you’ll have more money to spend on more important things in your freshman year. And if you’re still having trouble preparing your belongings for transport, think about hiring professional movers withpacking services to help you out.

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