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A List of the Most Important Things to Bring to College

When you pack for college, you can't just bring your entire room with you. You should know what you need and pack it well, so here's a list to help you do it.

Packing for college isn’t nearly as much fun as unpacking when you get there. It’s easy to just throw everything in some bags and suitcases without much thought, but that can easily lead to overpacking or forgetting things you need and not realizing until it’s too late. Make things easier on yourself by having a packing list and sticking to it. Luckily, we made one for you! These are the essential things you should bring to college.

School supplies

The first section of this list, while important, is a little conditional. If you have all these supplies already at home, bring them. But if you haven’t gone school shopping yet and are attending a school farther away, consider saving this list for a shopping trip when you get there.

  • Backpack
  • Binder clips (Pro tip: can double as chip clips)
  • Binders
  • Bulletin board
  • Wite-Out
  • Dry erase board and markers
  • Highlighters
  • Index cards
  • Notebooks
  • Paper clips
  • Pens and pencils
  • Planner
  • Pushpins
  • Scissors
  • Stapler and extra staples
  • Sticky notes
  • Tape

Related: The Key Categories of Packing for College

Dorm applicances, electronics, and accessories

These are big-ticket items you’ll need for your day-to-day life in your dorm. And obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list, so if anything else is important to you and falls in this category, it’s probably best to bring it.

  • Batteries
  • Cell phone
  • Desk lamp (a small one)
  • Extension cord(s) and power strip(s)
  • Fan (a small one)
  • HDMI cable
  • Headphones/earbuds
  • Laptop and laptop case
  • Microwave (if allowed)
  • Mini fridge (check first to see if your dorm already has one)
  • Coffee maker
  • Mouse and mousepad
  • Phone and laptop charger(s) 

Bath and shower supplies

Most of these will seem obvious because you use them every day, but you’d be amazed at what you can forget under pressure. Here’s your reminder to bring these items (or buy them later).

  • Cosmetics
  • Deodorant
  • Skin care products
  • Flip-flops or shower shoes
  • Hair care products
  • Hairbrush/comb
  • Hairdryer
  • Mouthwash
  • Nail clippers
  • Razor
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shower caddy
  • Soap/body wash
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush and holder/case
  • Toothpaste
  • Towels
  • Tweezers
  • Washcloths

Related: A Handy Guide to Surviving Dorm Life

Bedding and comfort

Bed clothes are important because your sleep is important. Sleeping away from home in a bed that’s not your own takes some adjusting. Make sure you have all these key items for your comfort.

  • Comforter
  • Extra smaller blankets
  • Hygienic mattress protector
  • Mattress pad/foam topper
  • Pillows and pillow cases
  • Sheets (check if you need extra-long)

Clothing recommendations

The key to packing clothes for college is to only pack what you know you’ll wear and pack for one semester at a time. If it’s fall and you’ll be switching to heavier clothes as soon as the temperature drops, don’t bring your light-weight summer clothes. Then when you go home for a break later in the year, you can bring some clothes home to swap out as the seasons change. Trust us, you don’t need as much clothing as you think you do. Plus, you’ll likely buy more over the course of the semester.

  • Closet organizer
  • Comfortable shoes/flats
  • Dress shoes
  • A couple formal outfits (for fancier social events)
  • Hangers
  • Hanging shoe bag or shoe rack
  • Outerwear
  • Laundry basket/hamper
  • Pajamas
  • Professional outfit (for interviews or internships)
  • Rain boots
  • Sneakers
  • Sunglasses
  • Sweatshirts
  • Workout clothes

Related: Laundry Tips for College Students

Vital information

This stuff should not be forgotten. You will need it, and often in emergency situations. It wouldn’t be good to be caught without this vital information in a variety of situations, so be sure to have it at the ready and keep it in a safe place.

Cooking and cleaning

While most of your meals will happen in the campus cafeteria, you’ll still be preparing small meals and snacks in your dorm sometimes. And obviously, dorms get messy, and you can’t leave all the cleaning product purchasing to your roommate. The items in this section are also ones you can choose to purchase after you get to school if it’s easier.

  • Bottle opener
  • Clorox wipes
  • Dish soap
  • Dish towel
  • Duster
  • Laundry soap
  • Microwave-safe bowls
  • Microwave-safe mug
  • Mini broom and dust pan
  • Mini vacuum
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic food storage containers
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Snack baggies
  • Sponge
  • Stain remover pen
  • Swiffer
  • Trash bags
  • Travel mug
  • Water purifier

Dorm food recommendations

This section of our list is a little more up to preference, but these are some good recommendations for easy dorm meals and snacks. The goal of packing food for your dorm is to have a good mix of healthy foods and treats for late-night studying or days you just can’t make it to the café. And as a rule of thumb, you should always stick to foods that don’t expire too quickly.

  • Candy
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Hot cocoa packets
  • Instant coffee or K-cups
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Microwaveable mac and cheese
  • Longer-lasting fresh fruits/veggies
  • Popcorn
  • Ramen
  • Soup (easy-open packages so you don’t need a can opener) 

Related: The Best Student Discounts: Food, Clothes, and More

Utilities and safety

This stuff is all the nuts and bolts you may need for emergencies, general comfort, fixing things, and more. You don’t want to be caught without tools and break something with no way to fix it or find yourself with a headache from all that studying and realize you have nothing to quell it with.

  • Bed risers
  • Duct tape
  • Earplugs
  • Eye mask
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Light bulbs
  • Pain medication (Tylenol, Advil, etc.)
  • Sewing kit 
  • Trashcan (a little one)
  • Small tool kit 
  • Removable wall adhesive
  • Umbrella

Miscellaneous/maybes

These last items aren't totally necessary, but they can certainly make your life easier or more enjoyable. If you have the room, add these to your bags and get ready to have a great time at college!

  • Board games
  • Calendar
  • Fiction books (only a few) or e-reader
  • Portable game consoles
  • Small TV
  • Chair/beanbag
  • Desk organizer
  • Lint brush
  • Throw rug
  • Under-the-bed organizer

Related: 10 Things You Should Definitely Not Bring to College

Did we miss any of the essentials you should be packing for your dorm? Like we said, this isn’t a comprehensive list, and everyone is going to have slightly different needs when it comes to packing for college. Use this list as a guide to make your own essential list. And remember, most things you can pick up at a store when you get there, so pack your most important items first. Happy packing!

Beyond this list, check out our blog How to Effectively Pack for College to learn how to pack everything on this list for an easier move-in day.

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