What to Pack for College: The Essential List

The Ultimate College Packing Checklist!

And by “essential” we mean “probably pack this stuff but double-check your dorm to make sure it’s needed and allowed.” Also, remember to live by the rule “a pair and a spare”! Don’t pack more than you need—and you don’t need much.

P.S. We updated this in August 2016! (Who needs to bring a separate camera, voice recorder, and music player when you have it all on your phone?!) 

School Supplies

  • Backpack or book bag
  • Binder clips (pro tip: can double as snack clips)
  • Binders
  • Bulletin board
  • Correction fluid (aka Wite-Out)
  • Dry erase board
  • Dry erase marker 
  • Highlighters
  • Index cards
  • Notebooks
  • Paper clips
  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Planner
  • Pushpins
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Stapler and extra staples
  • Sticky notes
  • Tape

Dorm Applicances, Electronics, and Accessories

  • Computer (laptop or desktop)
  • Desk lamp (a small one)
  • Ethernet cable (if your school doesn’t have wireless dorms)
  • Extension cord and power strip
  • Fan (a small one)
  • HDMI cable
  • Headphones/earbuds
  • Laptop case
  • Microwave
  • Mini fridge
  • Mouse
  • Mousepad
  • Phone charger
  • Replacement batteries 

Bath and Shower Supplies

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

Bed Linens

  • Blanket or comforter
  • Hygienic mattress protector
  • Mattress pad/foam topper
  • Pillows
  • Sheets (check if you need extra-long)

College Clothing Recommendations

  • Keep it simple: jeans, t-shirts, and sweaters!
  • Closet organizer
  • Comfortable shoes/flats
  • Dress shoes
  • Formal outfit (for fancy social events)
  • Hangers
  • Hanging shoe bag or shoe rack
  • Outerwear (pro tip: pack for one season at a time if you can)
  • Pajamas
  • Professional outfit (for interviews)
  • Rain boots
  • Sneakers
  • Sunglasses
  • Sweatshirt
  • Umbrella
  • Workout clothes

Vital Info

  • Contact info for family and friends
  • Contact info for doctors
  • Health insurance card
  • Personal ID (driver’s license, student ID, etc.)—but NOT Social Security Card 

Cooking and Cleaning

  • Air freshener
  • Bottle opener (for soda, of course)
  • Dish soap
  • Dishtowel
  • Duster
  • Laundry basket/hamper
  • Laundry soap
  • Microwave-safe bowl
  • Microwave-safe mug
  • Mini-vacuum
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic food storage containers
  • Plastic place setting (dish, bowl, cup)
  • Plastic cutlery (knife, spoon, fork)
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Snack baggies
  • Sponges
  • Stain remover pen
  • Swiffer
  • Travel mug
  • Water filter

Dorm Food Recommendations

  • Candy (obvi)
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Hot cocoa packets
  • Instant coffee
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Microwaveable mac and cheese
  • Popcorn
  • Ramen
  • Soup (easy-open packages so you don’t need a can opener) 


  • Bed risers
  • Duct tape
  • Earplugs
  • Eye mask
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Light bulbs
  • Pain medication (Tylenol, Advil, etc.)
  • Sewing kit (a little one)
  • Tool kit (a little one)
  • Wall adhesive (gotta be removable!)


  • Board games
  • Calendar
  • Chair/beanbag
  • Curtains or blinds
  • Desk organizer
  • Full-length mirror
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Lint brush
  • Playing cards
  • Throw rug
  • Trashcan (a little one)
  • Under-the-bed organizer

Did we miss any of the essentials you should be packing for you dorm? Or include something you definitely should not be packing? Let us know in the comments! Oh, and btw, if you haven't found the perfect college for you yet, might we suggest taking a look at our Ultimate Guide to the College Search: How to Find Your College Match?

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