7 Things You Need (and 5 You Don’t Need) to Pack for College

As the end of summer approaches, back-to-school season is in full swing. Maybe you’re among the many young adults currently prepping for your first semester of college, which is super exciting—and probably a little nerve-wracking.

You’ve likely already scoured the college aisles at every store within a five-mile radius and have a good idea of what you’re going to bring. Or, if you’re still feeling a little less than prepared in the packing department, check out my dorm life Pinterest board for basic packing lists, creative decorating ideas, and space-saving organization tips.

Having lived on campus all four years of college, I learned what was absolutely essential to bring and what I wish I would’ve left at home. Beyond the basics like bedding, toiletries, and school supplies, I’ve compiled a tried-and-true list of things you need (and don’t need) to pack for college, from my experience as a college veteran. 😉



  • A lamp (floor or desk). Fluorescent dorm room lighting can be harsh, so it’s nice to have a more relaxing alternative.
  • A deck of cards or a board game. A perfect and fun way to build new relationships during study breaks.
  • A first aid kit. A thermometer, Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, Advil/Tylenol, nasal decongestant tablets, and sore throat lozenges. It’s college. You WILL get sick.
  • Ear plugs and eye mask. Because sometimes people run around the halls at 2 AM. And if you’re sensitive to light, having a way to block it out when your roommate gets up before you for their 7:45 class is a lifesaver.
  • Plastic silverware and paper plates. If you’re on a meal plan, save yourself from bringing a ton of unnecessary cooking utensils and bring disposable eat-ware instead.
  • Ziploc bags. Perfect for storing munchies, spontaneous cookie-making with friends, or organizing small items in your dorm.
  • Lots of underwear. Make time in your schedule for laundry now and then, but you can really get by for a while (Febreeze and body spray, anyone?) as long as you have clean underwear.


  • Lots of cooking/eating utensils. Being on a full meal plan my freshman year, I quickly learned I didn’t need all the plates and silverware I brought. A cereal bowl and spoon were totally sufficient!
  • A vacuum. Your residence hall might have a vacuum available for student use like mine did. You can always bring one later or borrow one from someone else if this isn’t the case.
  • Favorite books from home. You just won’t have time to read them, and they take up valuable space on your bookshelf. Write down your favorite quotes to bring along and hang up instead!
  • Bulky furniture. A lot of dorm rooms come with a basic set of furniture. If you aren’t sure if yours will, ask your admissions rep or click around on your college’s website under the “housing” section. Coordinate big items like a futon or mini fridge with your roommate(s) to avoid unnecessary doubles. (My freshman year, my roommate and I both brought a floor lamp, a fold-out chair, and floor fans *facepalm*). Avoid this space-sucking doubling up and communicate BEFORE you load up your car.
  • Over-the-door mirrors and organizers. Some dorm doors come with hooks and towel racks on the back; some won’t close if something is hung over top. Check, if possible, beforehand if over-the-door items are practical for your specific dorm.


At the end of move-in day, chances are you’re going to find something you wish you would’ve brought and something you didn’t really need—no matter how well you packed. Everyone’s needs and decorating preferences in college are different, and only you are going to be able to determine just what to bring along. Still, I hope these tips can help you prepare a little more wisely for dorm room life.

So, don’t stress. Pack thoughtfully, but most of all, be excited for the new experiences and relationships that await you in this upcoming chapter of life. I’m super pumped for you! 🙂

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