The Ultimate College Packing List

It’s almost that time of year when you need to start making that list and checking it twice. Nope, not Christmas—college shopping season!

We’ve got the ultimate college shopping list for you, breaking it down by the “sections” of your dorm room. When it comes to packing for college, you only want the essentials at first, as you will accumulate a ton over the course of your academic year. Rather than overpacking, we’ve narrowed it down to the “Bare Necessities.”

Bathing Beauties

1. Shower caddy (this will become another appendage)
2. Washcloths and towels
3. Flip-flops
4. Shampoo and conditioner
5. Body wash/soap
6. Facial cleanser
7. Toothbrush and toothpaste
8. Deodorant

Communal showers aren’t so bad, especially when your shower caddy can carry all of the essentials you need (i.e. you won’t be juggling shampoo and conditioner like an inept clown).

Dirty Laundry

1. Laundry detergent
2. Laundry basket
3. Laundry hamper/bag

Yep, the free ride’s over. Mom and Dad are no longer around to wash your clothes for you. If you like dryer sheets, by all means add them to the list, but they aren’t necessary.

Storage Wars

1. Storage bins
2. Hangers
3. Underbed storage

As college students, you will gain the ability to pack a lot of stuff into a small space, so all of those years of playing Tetris will finally pay off. Storage bins are great for storing shoes, outerwear, and other things that don’t always need to be out and about.

The Science of Sleep

1. Pillows
2. Pillow cases
3. Twin-long comforter
4. Twin-long sheets
5. Blanket
6. Waterproof mattress protector (if you’re a germaphobe and don’t like the idea of who’s been in your bed before you)

Typically, most college dorms provide twin-long beds to students, so you want to make sure you have twin-long bedding supplies. Also, a few comfy pillows can sometimes take the place of chairs when friends come over to hang out.

That’s Entertainment

1. TV
2. DVD player
3. iPod
4. iHome stereo

These might not be necessary, per se, but when it’s a Saturday afternoon and you don’t feel like studying, they will seem like godsends. If TV isn’t on your list of essentials, often lounges supply this form of entertainment. Also, talk with your roommate to see if he or she has a TV to bring (you don’t want to have duplicates!).

Fast Food

1. Microwave
2. Mini-fridge
3. Dishes
4. Glasses
5. Flatware
6. Dish detergent
7. Tupperware (for snacks or leftovers)

Chances are if you’re in the dorms you may not have your own kitchen. However, communal lounges tend to have sinks to do dishes and maybe a few ovens to do some light cooking. You want to make sure you have something to eat on if you have an unexpected movie night with your hallmates.

Techno Logic

1. Laptop
2. Surge protector
3. External hard drive

When it comes to on-campus computer labs, you can often utilize the printers they have. So while you may want to add a printer to this list, find out whether there’s free printing on campus. You could save some money (and some space when you pack up your car!).


1. Trash can
2. Dry erase board
3. Mattress pad or egg crate
4. Coffeemaker (if dining hall Joe just doesn’t do it for you)
5. Swiffer
6. Paper towels
7. Disinfecting wipes
8. Sponges
9. Broom and dustpan
10. Batteries
11. Duct tape
12. Backpack
13. Tool kit
14. Umbrella/rain gear
15. Ear plugs (if you have a roommate)
16. Febreze

This list also depends on what is supplied by the college. For example, if your dorm room has carpeting, then you won’t need a carpet (or probably a Swiffer!), but you may need a mini-vac (unless you can borrow one from your residence hall).

Before you even twist the knob to your room, you want to find out from the school what will already be there so you can pack accordingly. It will make the move much easier so that once you arrive to campus, you won’t look at your pile of stuff and think, “Where is all of THIS gonna go?”

What are you including in your college packing list? What would you suggest an incoming freshman bring? Tell us in a comment below.

Today’s guest post is written and produced by College Prowler, an online network that provides students with scholarships, school reviews, and college admissions opportunities. For news on scholarships, contests, and college life, visit their blog Campus Chat.
written by
Guest Blogger
June 6, 2012

45 Responses to “The Ultimate College Packing List”

  1. Chante'
    June 7, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Great List! Will print off and use while shopping for needed items!!

  2. Jo
    June 7, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Thanks so much for this list! This will make my life much easier!

  3. Lori
    June 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Earplugs. Definitely earplugs. A sleep mask is also helpful.

  4. Shomari Massiah
    June 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    This list was very helpful, thanks.

  5. CJ
    June 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    I guess clothes aren’t important…is this a nudist colony college? Not as comprehensive as you make it seem…

    • David
      June 10, 2012 at 12:40 am #

      @CJ: LOL CJ! The College Checklist apps by Craes, LLC have complete lists of what clothes to bring – separate lists for girls and guys

    • MOM
      July 14, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      Isn’t that a given?

      • MOM too
        July 24, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

        I thought that was a given too – guess that’s why we are the parents LOL

  6. Megan
    June 8, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    Nice list. But I wouldn’t recommend taking things like the vaccum at first or other big items, unless you’re bringing them from home (long distance). Just takes up too much room sometimes.

  7. Olly
    June 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    Awesome list. Definitely helps.

  8. Valentyn
    June 9, 2012 at 1:28 am #

    Always bring a first aid kit. The likelihood of needing it is probably small, but at least various sizes of bandages, alcohol wipes, antibacterial goop, and mild painkillers/anti-inflammatory stuff (ibuprofen etc.). It’ll clear up any small-ish injuries, and let you patch up until you can get to someone to take care of any big ones. You never know when the plastic cutlery is going to turn on you.

  9. rebekah
    June 9, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    wall stuff!!!!!!!!!! (paintings, posters, pics…)

  10. BriAnn
    June 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Awesome list and very helpful!!

  11. Lindsey
    June 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Other things to include are a pendrive/gigstick/memorystick for transport of your files to a computer where you can print. The online site provides free online storage as well. Depending on the college, a bike might also be a good idea if you do not have or want to deal with a car. Other random items are: favorite microwavable mug, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, at least one set of semi-formal clothing (for job interview, etc), extra set of headphones (if you lose them as often as I do), graphing calculator, alarm clock, emergency ramen stash, Advil, thumbtacks/Scotch tape, reusable waterbottle, tiny sewing kit, and sunglasses. Not everything you find will be necessary, but most is hope is helpful.

    • angela
      June 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

      yes you need lotion especially since im black i dont need to get ashy :)

  12. David
    June 10, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    This is a great list! If you want a complete packing checklist as an app there are two great college packing checklist apps for mobile phones and tablets one for girls called “The College Checklist” and another called “The College Checklist for Guys”. Do a search for “college checklist app”

    • Cassie
      June 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      @David Sweet app! Thanks!

      • David
        June 11, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

        @Cassie: You’re cool for checking it out! The developers tweet packing tips as @PackForCollege

  13. Stephanie
    June 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    This is fine if your college is within driving distance. I go to college across the country so I am extremely limited on what I reasonably bring on a plane. I’ve yet to see a list that doesn’t assume we all go to college close to home. I learned the hard way that the post office will become your best friend and that you will learn how to live without a lot of the above items.

    • Megan
      June 13, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      I’m going to college across the country next year! I would very much like some tips and I’m curious as to what you brought for your first year?

      • Whitney
        June 22, 2012 at 9:08 am #

        @Megan: @Megan: @Stephanie:
        I would definitely suggest doing your shopping when you get to your college. Anything you can buy at home can be bought when you arrive! I know that Bed Bath and Beyond will let you put together a list of all the items you want and they will have it ready to pick up at the store near your school.

      • Lulie
        June 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

        @Megan: bed bath and beyond have stores in a lot of diff. states. you can purchase your things online and pick them up at the closest bbb store near your campus……

      • Barb
        July 11, 2013 at 5:51 am #

        If you are going to school far away from home, pack you bare necessities and order the rest of it online shipping directly to you at school.

      • Marie
        July 12, 2013 at 8:25 am #

        Take a look at the website “” lots of my friends have used them for cross country shipping.

    • Sharon
      June 14, 2012 at 8:02 am #


      Stephanie: I ordered online from Bed Bath & Beyond and Wal-Mart and had items shipped to the store nearest my school (which is across country from my home). You may even be able to ship your online order directly to your dorm address.

  14. Rachel
    June 12, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    Plunger! Even though you may want to believe you will never need one, when you do, it might be a little embarrassing to have to ask someone else.

    • Marie
      July 12, 2013 at 8:28 am #

      Excellent advice!!! Never thought it until you mentioned it, thanks!

  15. Moving Services Maryland
    June 14, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    A shoe rack is good too! These can go in a closet or on the back of a door and really store a lot of shoes in a small amount of space.

  16. Samantha
    June 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Don’t underestimate curtains! The dorm I will be staying in does not come with curtains and I’m not some kind of early bird either. Sun-cancelling or just light ones will do to sabotage any unwanted sunlight. Also invest in a few locks for a bike or storage box that you don’t want anyone getting in to! I actually received locks as a gift, not knowing what I needed them for at first.

  17. kennedi webb
    June 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    thanks that helped alot and thanks to all the other people that commented extra stuff i might need it was very helpful !!!!

  18. T. Girl Tot
    June 28, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    Thanks alot for the help! Will come to great use! It helped alot!

  19. Faith
    June 30, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Target!! My daughter is going 8 hours away for college and will be in a small town. Fortunately, there is a target!! She will share a suite style dorm room with 3 or 4 other girls so I told her to hold off on buying things like a mini microwave or DVD player until she gets there- if all four girls bring a microwave – what a waste! So, she will be stocked with her personal essentials and target gift cards galore!! Great ideas, everyone!!

    • alfreada
      July 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm #


      faith im just curious, as to where your daughter is attending. My daughter also will be attending an apartment style dorm rooming with 5 other girls, two per room, so your suggestion is a great one.

      and yes to the publishers of this list, you have helped me in having a college shower for my daughter, this list is priceless…love it!

  20. Nwakaego
    July 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    Thank You so much everyone for this WONDERFUL list. My mom and I have been on panic mode towards what to purchase for college. This list is a GREAT relief. Thanks again everyone and Zinch!

  21. Samantha
    July 18, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I was able to tour my dorm room while at orientation and noticed that my closet, while it had doors, they were mirrors on the outside facing to room so any light in the room was reflecting EVERYWHERE and am going to get a set of curtains to put up over my closet so that this does not happen at night when i am trying to sleep. Might be something to consider if anyone else has a similar situation.

  22. Haeley
    July 18, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    An alarm clock of some kind, laptop case/sleeve for protection in the event of a clumsy accident, and if you live in the south a FAN, it gets way too hot for comfort.

  23. Rainbow
    August 13, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Never underestimate the small things. Speaking from experience, don’t ever forget the nail clippers and scissors.

  24. Jennifer
    August 15, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    Very helpful list. Thanks everyone. How about some basic school supplies: printer paper, lined paper, notebooks, binders, index tabs, post-it flags, post-its, pens (blue/red/black), highlighters, pencils (#2 and mechanical), erasers, pencil sharpener, paper clips, stapler, tape. hole punch, index cards, ink cartridges, desk lamp, envelopes & stamps.

  25. nelehjr
    July 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    This was kind of a common sense thing…

  26. Momma
    August 21, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    All of the above comments included lots of helpful items. I would add one thing: Toilet paper! Dorm or off campus apartment, after 6 years of moving my younglings, I have yet to find a college that provides it! (unless you’re in a communal-type living facility, I guess). Also add shower curtain and first aid kit, including over the counter cold remedies. When you get sick, you don’t want to or have time or energy to go running to the store. Have a great year!


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