Student Life

Your Guide to Packing for College

This article is brought to you by Uloop, a leading college news and college classifieds resource for off-campus student housing, study abroad opportunities, jobs and internships, college roommates and sublets, tutors and scholarships, student travel, and local services for college students.

By: Elana Goodwin, Uloop

If your student is heading off to college for the first time this fall, you’ll definitely want to spend some of the summer going dorm shopping with them and getting them everything they may need for school.

Before you and your student go shopping, it’s a good idea for you both to come up with a list together of what they think they will need and then consult a college packing list to see if you missed anything crucial — so here is your college packing list guide for future consultation.


Pick bedding that will be durable and that is worth the price since you will also need to buy your student a Twin XL sheet set plus a backup set, pillows, and a mattress topper/pad. Additionally, your student may benefit from you buying them a reading/husband pillow that will help their back and make it more comfortable for them to do studying or reading in bed.

Further, if your student is going to have people visiting them and staying in their room, it may be worth buying an air mattress or sleeping bag for them to keep in their dorm. Lastly, buying an extra blanket in addition to the comforter is a good thing for them to have for their bed, as is a bed bug cover.

Room essentials

Colleges will typically outfit students’ dorms with the basics — a bed, desk, chair, and dresser for each person in the room, and that’s it. Room essentials like hangers, a full-length mirror, and a garbage can are all items you will want to put on your student’s college packing and shopping list. Additionally, buying cleaning supplies for your student to use in their dorm would not be remiss.

Organizers in the form of various-sized containers, some of which to use for under-the-bed storage, will help your student keep their things neat. Lastly, a dorm room doesn’t really begin to feel homey until your student has wall décor — things like photos, a bulletin board, posters, etc., will help them settle into their new living situation and allow them to make it theirs.

Clothes & laundry items

Your student will want to bring clothing to school that is appropriate for the weather, with a focus on more casual and comfortable wear as they’ll rarely if ever need super formal and dressy attire. They don’t need to bring clothing for every season as they’ll likely come home and be able to swap clothes out, plus they probably won’t have room for everything.

They should be sure to bring appropriate shoes for different occasions and weather, such as sneakers and rain boots, and will also want to bring a rain jacket, umbrella, hat, and sunglasses. As far as laundry items go, they should buy and pack a laundry hamper, basket or bags, as well as detergent, stain remover, and of course, quarters.

Food & things

Packing nonperishable foods to have as snacks in the dorm is worthwhile. Foods like popcorn, nuts, instant oatmeal, instant coffee or tea bags, microwavable mac and cheese packets, and ramen will be handy to have for studying or when the weather is bad and they don’t feel like going out to get food.

Additionally, buying a regular mug they can use for hot items in their dorm, a travel mug, plastic silverware, Ziploc bags, and a reusable water bottle will all be things they need and use often.

School supplies

While your student may not need to buy all their school supplies and bring them to school on move-in day, there are certain items they will definitely need for the semester that should be purchased before school starts so they don’t have to worry about not having supplies.

Items like a good backpack, a calculator (and batteries), and a planner will be necessities, as will notecards, notebooks, pencils, pens, sticky notes, highlighters, Sharpies, scissors, paper clips, a stapler, Scotch tape, duct tape, envelopes, and stamps.

Tech gear

It’s essential your student has a decent laptop for school; they’ll use this every day and will need it to be able to hold a charge so they can use it for classes without needing to worry about plugging in. Additionally, your student’s college packing list should include a power strip, extension cords, a surge protector, a USB drive, and headphones.

Bathroom stuff

Living in the dorms usually means using a shared bathroom. Buying a robe, shower caddy or basket, and shower flip-flops will make it easier for your student to use the shared bathrooms and tote their stuff around. They will also need several large towels and other assorted sizes, various regular bathroom toiletries, hand lotions and other creams, hair supplies, etc. Your student should also take some pain reliever with them to have as well as a well-stocked first aid kit.

Thinking about purchasing the items your student will need can be overwhelming and it’s easy to think you have to get them every single item on the college packing list stores may distribute (click here to see what NOT to pack!). So before you start buying them items for school, make your own shopping/packing list and then consult this one to make sure you get them what they need.

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