College Living

What to Bring to College: Your Complete Guide to College Packing

Moving into your first college dorm is an exciting experience. But it also comes with the added stress of packing the right supplies and bringing them all to campus.

If this is your first time living on your own, you probably have a million thoughts running through your mind about the entire college packing process.

What do I have to bring? What is my roommate already bringing? What’s the best way to pack my supplies? How do I make the moving process as easy as possible?

Well, it’s your lucky day.

There are many tried and true strategies to making the whole process of moving into your first dorm room a little bit easier.

In this guide, we’ll be overviewing the entire college packing process. From the initial step of purchasing the right supplies to moving into your dorm and decorating before classes officially start.

Top Dorm Room & College Packing List Essentials

The biggest mistake that first-time college students make is bringing too much. For one, think about all the items you use daily and even from time to time.

Now picture storing all those items in a room that’s less than 130 square feet. Then, split that in half if you’re sharing your space with a roommate.

Simply put, there’s absolutely no way that you can bring everything you want and still have an organized and comfortable bedroom.

With that said, here are some items you’ll definitely need to bring.

Decor & Styles

This is probably what you’re looking forward to the most about going back to school. Decorating your new room to fit your personality and style.

  • Posters
  • Pictures from home
  • String lights
  • Area rugs
  • Comforter
  • Tapestries
  • Dry erase or bulletin boards

What to Bring to College for Convenience

These are the items that will make your day-to-day life much easier or somewhat more comfortable. These items can make you feel a bit more at home in your new room.

  • Power strips/extension cords/chargers
  • Laundry baskets
  • Change (for laundry)
  • Fan
  • Desk lamp
  • Microwave
  • Coffee maker
  • Alarm clock*

*Alarm clocks seem dated now, but the truth is your cell phone can be unreliable as an alarm. The battery might drain overnight, it might be on vibrate mode, it’s easy to hit “stop” instead of “snooze,” etc.

What to Pack for Daily Living

These are things you absolutely need to bring. These items should be the first things you make sure you pack.

  • Bedding (sheets, comforter, pillows/pillowcases)
  • Laundry detergent (maybe some stain remover and dryer sheets)
  • Paper towels
  • Water bottles
  • Utensils and dishes (if you plan on eating in the room)
  • Trash can
  • Storage containers

Pro tip: Consider getting some bed risers so you can make use of under the bed storage.

Cleaning & Bathroom Needs

You’re on your own now. That means it’s up to you to keep your room clean and provide your personal toiletries.

  • Shower caddy (especially if you share a communal bath)
  • Shower shoes (aka flip flops!)
  • Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
  • Toilet paper
  • Towels and washcloths (a bathrobe might be nice, too!)
  • Handheld vacuum cleaner
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush, and floss
  • Deodorant, lotions, and body sprays
  • Optional: Simple first aid kit and sewing kit

Don’t forget to bring a good pair of nail clippers, either!


Think about where your college is in terms of weather and temperature. Pick clothes that will protect you from the elements, but also be comfortable enough to sit through a three-hour lecture.

  • Cold weather clothing (jackets, boots, sweaters, and hats)
  • Warm weather clothing (shorts, T-shirts, and sandals)
  • Workout clothing (if your college has a gym on campus)
  • Comfort clothing (sweatshirts, sweatpants, and other comfortable clothing)
  • At least one professional outfit
  • Shoes for all occasions (athletic, warm weather, and formal occasions)

School Supplies

Last but not least, the primary reason you’re here. If you buy these items at the right time of year, you can get incredible discounts and save some cash.

  • Laptop or tablet
  • Notebooks or binders
  • Index cards
  • Pens, pencils, and highlighters
  • Calculator
  • Textbooks for your courses
  • Folders, staplers, and paper clips
  • Printer (saves you a trip to the library!)

Looking for a list that’s a bit more specific? Check out our Ultimate College Packing List for Guys.

Dorm Room Essential Buying Strategies

Buying dorm room essentials is perhaps the most exciting part of going to college. You’ll want to fill cart after cart with brand new supplies to help decorate your space and make it perfect.

But you shouldn’t splurge on new items just yet.

While there are many supplies and items you’ll want to buy new, there are a few items you ought to hold off on buying. By bringing your supplies strategically, you can cut down on time, effort, and money spent.

What to Bring From Home

We recommend that you bring most items from home, but only the bare essentials.

Here are the most important things you should already be packing.

  • Clothing
  • Bedding
  • School supplies
  • Bathroom & cleaning supplies

These are things you know you need. Though you might want to buy more of these items once you move in, having these items will leave you prepared come the first day of classes.

So, what else is there?

What to Buy AFTER Moving In

There are certain items that you shouldn’t buy until you officially move into your new room.

Here’s why.

If you’re living in a dorm room with a roommate, you may have never met. That means you don’t know what they’re already bringing. The last thing you want is to waste space by having two of the same item — especially if it’s large.

On that same note, you don’t know what’ll actually fit into your room until move-in day. Once you and your roommate have both moved in, you can decide together what will fit and what won’t.

Here are some items you’ll want to hold off on buying until after you move in.

  • Television and HDMI cable
  • Gaming system (and maybe a good pair of headphones!)
  • Entertainment system
  • Mini-fridge
  • Major decor items

By living with another person, you need to take their thoughts into consideration. You’ll need to decide together which electronics you want to share.

Note: You may find out that your new roomie snores. Don’t despair — buy a reliable brand of earplugs!

Related: The Pros and Cons of Renting a Furnished Apartment

The Packing Process

The packing process is the most tedious step of moving into college. Not only do you have to physically pack your supplies, but you also need to think ahead to the moving process.

Think about it this way.

Everything you pack, you need to bring with you.

That means somebody will have to carry your suitcases, containers, and boxes to your room. After that, you’ll need to unpack all your supplies and organize them in your place.

If you want to make the moving process smoother, you need to pack strategically. That means only bringing the necessities and using the most efficient packing strategies.

Choosing What to Bring

The best way to decide what to bring is by taking note of what items you use on a daily basis.

Here’s how you can do that.

Over the course of a week, jot down the items you use throughout each day. Also, mark how many times per day or days per week, you actually use them.

At the end of the week, look at which items you use daily, every few days, or weekly. This can help you break down the things you need vs. the items you want to bring.

You can even rank the items in order of how often you use them.

Decide how many boxes or suitcases you plan to bring and pack the daily items first. With whatever space remains in your boxes, start adding the additional items in the order they’re on the list.

Speaking of moving, here are 7+ Clever Places to Find Free Moving Boxes.

Best Packing Strategies

Besides packing the necessities first, you need to figure out how many boxes or suitcases you plan to bring and what will actually fit in your new room.

Here are the best ways of packing efficiently.

  • Roll your clothes. This will help you free up space in suitcases and allow you to bring more clothing items. You might want to pack them already on hangers if your room has a closet.
  • Pack items by type. That means separating school supplies, decorations, bedding, clothing, etc. This makes unpacking a whole lot easier because you know where everything is.
  • Use stackable containers. By using stackable containers, you can keep them in your room for additional storage or stack them inside one another for a later date.
  • Only use containers that will fit in the car. The more boxes you can fit in one trip, the better. Try to use smaller containers that you can stack and separate items with.

By packing efficiently, you can help to speed up the moving process and get settled in well before classes start.

Related: 9 Easy Dorm Closet Organization Hacks

A Guide to Moving In

Now that you’re packed and ready to go, it’s time to plan out the details of the big move. There are a few things you need to think about.

The biggest thing?

How much help you’ll be getting.

By recruiting more people to help you move in, you can transport your supplies more efficiently and speed up the whole moving process.

However, if you’ll be moving into your dorm room alone, it’s still possible to tackle the moving process pretty quickly.

Transporting Your Supplies

If you pack smart, you should only need one trip to get all your supplies to campus. You should only really need one car, SUV, or pickup truck to transport your supplies.

Take a look at these tips for packing the car and transporting your supplies to campus.

  • If you can, fold down the rear seats to create extra cargo space.
  • If you have several people helping you move, split up into two cars and separate your supplies between them.
  • Make sure you have everything with you before you begin your journey. The last thing you want to do is have to turn back because you forgot something.

If you follow these tips, it should be smooth sailing once you get to campus.

Speeding Up the Moving Process

The best way to speed up the moving process is by getting more people to help. With fewer trips up the stairs or in the elevator, you can get all your supplies in your room within a few hours.

Here are some more pieces of advice.

  • Try to get to campus and start moving in before other new students begin to arrive.
  • Without risking injury, bring in as many boxes as you can at a time.
  • Rent a dolly to help you roll more boxes to your room.
  • Don’t begin unpacking until everything is in the room. This will help keep you organized.

Once you have everything moved in, take a break before you begin to unpack. You’ll be extremely tired, and you might want to settle in a bit first.

Dorm Room Decor


Once everything’s moved in, you can finally begin to unpack and get settled in.

If this is your first time on your own, it’s exciting to be able to decorate your room however you want.

There are plenty of common decoration styles to pick from. There are even strategies to help you maximize space and get the most out of your dorm room.

Take a look.

Common Decor Items

We all have our own preferences when it comes to decorations. There may be rules about what you can do when it comes to your new dorm room. Here are a few everyday decor items you can bring to spice up your room without damaging the walls.

  • Tapestries
  • String lights
  • Photo collages
  • Posters
  • Rugs

There are plenty of decorative items you can bring to help design your room the way you like it. These can make you feel as if you’re at home and make you a tad more comfortable in your new environment.

You’re going to be living in this space for almost a year. You might as well make the most of it.

Maximizing Space

If you’re sharing space with a roommate, you’re going to be extremely limited when it comes to square footage. You’ll want to make every effort to organize your room to maximize the space you do have.

Here’s how you can do that.

  • Loft your bed. Most beds in dorm rooms are actually built for this. Lofting your bed will raise it off the ground enough for you to store some items or even put a desk under. This can save you a ton of space!
  • Use storage containers. This keeps all the items you’re not using in one spot. It’ll also allow your room to look less messy

By working to save space, you can add more entertainment and convenience items to enhance your dorm living experience.

Related: What You Need to Know Before Leaving Home.


Becoming a college student and moving into your first college dorm is a life-changing experience. But, there are ways to make the process a little less hectic and a bit more enjoyable.

These are the most important things you need to remember:

  • Remember to focus on bringing the necessities. If you have extra space in your boxes and room, you can afford to bring a few additional items.
  • Wait to buy big-ticket items until after you’ve moved in, discussed with your roommate, and figured out what limitations you have.
  • Pack smart and recruit the help of others to speed up the moving process.

We hope you make good use of this college packing list and congratulations on graduating high school!

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