Tips for Parents

Packing for College: the Ultimate Packing Lists to get your Student Organized

As students prepare to begin or return to college, making sure they have everything they need to be successful can be challenging.

But now as you wipe the sweat from your brow and pat yourself on the back — your child is going to college! Then it dawns on you — What should they bring with them? Where should you shop? What do they need? What don’t they need?

Relax. While packing your student for college may feel like an overwhelming task, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you might even have some fun with it.

We’ve compiled the Ultimate Packing Lists for coordinating with roommates, avoiding too much clutter, remembering the essentials, and choosing what to bring with them and what to buy — so that you can get your student off to school and ready to learn! Read more for tips and tricks to ease the headache of the big move.

Plan and Prepare
Before you run out to your local stores and buy everything they’ll need, first wait for more information from their college — or visit the college’s web site for further information about what they’ll need for school.

Common sense tells you to begin by making a list of everything they will need — combine your own list with that of the college, as well as the list of things others may have advised you that they’ll need.

Then, survey your house for these items. Save money by making sure you don’t already own something similar.

Lastly, if they’ve gotten their roommate information, they should discuss what each has to bring — no need for multiple mini-fridges or TVs, when space is already limited!

You will be inundated with handy college packing lists — and sales offers from nearly every store — to help you remember things your child’s needs for college life. This may seem obvious, but there are really only a few things that they’ll need at college — but many things they’ll want to bring. If they’ve lucked out with a huge dorm room, you both have much more liberty in deciding what goes with them. One piece of advice: Don’t overpack! They’ll end up being stuck with stuff they won’t use, and it will take up precious space that can help keep them organized.

Clothes, of course, are a no-brainer. Resist letting your child pack everything they own, and remember that they can always pick up some more clothes when home on a break, if necessary. It may also be a good idea to stock up on socks and underwear–the basics–to reduce their laundry loads.


Regardless of their room size, here are some must-haves, in no particular order:

    • Computer/Laptop. If it’s at all possible to buy one or borrow one, do it. Most colleges have pretty good computer facilities that students can use for free, but they’re often crowded and noisy, and not in their own room. If you have a choice, opt for a laptop — they can bring it to class, the library or outside, and can have more options of where to work.
    • Extra socks and underwear. Doing laundry is expensive and a pain. Students can always rewear jeans and sweaters more than once, but clean underwear and socks are a must!
    • Flip-flops. Using communal showers equals foot fungus, an unattractive yet common problem in dorms.
    • Climate-appropriate clothes. If possible, try to pack only what they’ll need for the season and climate they’ll be living in. There is usually not a lot of room for extra clothes, especially bulky sweaters or excessive shoes. They can always trade clothes at home during winter or spring break.
    • Storage bins. Stacking things is the way to go in their dorm room. A variety of storage bins are available at most stores.
    • Group games. Board games, cards and video games are a great way to make new friends and are perfect for breaks and downtime at school.
    • Home reminders. Bring things that remind them of home, such as a few pictures or posters. These things will make homesickness — during those first few days or weeks —- that much easier to bear. Plus, with photos and personal touches, their dorm room will feel more like a home and less like just a dorm room.
    • Dictionary and thesaurus. Although most computer programs have a thesaurus built in, the paper versions still have many more options.
    • Lamps. Get a cheap halogen or desk lamp — most grads still can’t part with theirs. But before you go out and buy one, make sure their college doesn’t consider certain types a fire hazard.
    • Clothes hamper. They will need something roomy and something they can easily carry when it is time to do laundry.
    • First-aid kit. Just in case.

The following comprehensive checklists can help you and your student get it all together. There’s no need to have or pack everything on the list. Print it out and let it help you remember items that many forget.

Ideas taken from:

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