Top Do's and Don'ts of Packing for College

Before you start obsessing over how many pairs of socks to pack, read these tips for packing for college.

Starting college can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, and a major part of that is moving into your dorm. Deciding what to pack can be hard too, so here’s a list of do’s and don’ts when deciding what to bring to your new dorm.


  • Do check out your dorm setup ahead of time. How big is the room (and your half of it)? Will you have separate beds or bunks? What kind of shelves, drawers, and/or closets are there? What else does the dorm come with and what’s available in the common rooms? Can you move the furniture? How many outlets are there? What’s the bathroom situation: semi-private in your dorm or communal? Knowing exactly what your dorm room looks like is a big factor on what you can bring.
  • Do communicate with your roommate if at all possible. Ask what they’re going to bring and see if there’s anything you can share. It’d be really inconvenient if both of you showed up carrying a minifridge!
  • Do check and double-check your college packing list and make sure it fits your living situation. For example, if you have a communal bathroom, you might need a shower caddy and flip-flops. But there’s no point in bringing that stuff if you have a private bathroom—and the less stuff you need to pack, the better.
  • Do bring school supplies. It’s easy to forget you're going to college to take classes! You’ll need pens, binders, etc. And this makes sure you don’t need to buy the expensive stuff at the campus bookstore.
  • Do invest in comfortable bed sheets, blankets, pillows, and a mattress topper. A good night’s sleep is way more important than you think it is.

Related: What to Pack for College


  • Don’t bring anything that will take up a lot of space. Dorm rooms are usually small to begin with, and remember you’re sharing it with another person. Giant TVs may look cool but will just be a nuisance taking up so much of your space. (Besides, that’s what Netflix on your laptop is for!)
  • Don’t buy appliances that your college already has. If a printer or microwave is available to you somewhere close by, don’t bring one for your room.
  • Don’t bring anything that you can’t easily bring back home. (*cough* Ikea furniture *cough*) Your room isn’t your room forever, and you will have to pack all of it up again. So don’t bring any permanent fixtures.
  • Don’t decorate your dorm with a lot of unnecessary trinkets. A poster or picture frame or two is fine so you don’t get homesick, but you shouldn’t bring everything in your home bedroom with you to college. If it has no purpose or real benefit, it’s better to leave it at home.
  • Don’t pack your whole wardrobe. It’s almost guaranteed that you won’t have enough space for dozens of dresses, shirts, pants, and shoes. You’re better off grabbing what you need a season at a time and swapping out weather-appropriate clothes when you go home for breaks or holidays. (If you live really far away and won’t be going home, these packing tips for international students might be helpful too.)
  • Don’t bring a bunch of the same thing. Live by the rule “a pair and a spare.” This goes for backpacks, bedding, etc. You don’t need a full stock in your dorm.

This is just a basic list of things you should keep in mind when packing for college. The most important thing to remember is there’s not a lot of space! Do have fun, don’t go overboard, and try to remember the things you actually need.

Related: Making the Most of Your Dorm Space 

Haven’t found the perfect school (and perfect dorm) to move into yet? Don’t worry: find college your here.

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About Therese Castro

Therese is a high school student from Texas who loves writing—all kinds of writing—more than anything. She believes that opinions and advice should be shared and that important social topics should be talked about.


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