The Ultimate College Dorm Essentials Checklist

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On top of the clothes, school supplies, and books you will need in college, there is much else to think about. Living at home, you’ve had all of your stuff and your family’s stuff, but that is about to change. Packing for college can feel overwhelming, but just remember that you can always get the things you forget, so try not to stress too much!

In this article, we’ll break down everything from what you shouldn’t bring to some unexpected things you should bring to college and everything in between. With tips to help move in as smoothly as possible, we have the whole process covered!

When Should You Start Packing for College?When Should You Start Packing for College?

Finding the right time to start packing is key. Packing for college is a big task, but if you start too early, you’ll have more time to think about all the things you might need. While starting too late, say the night before you leave for college, could lead to you forgetting lots of essential things, starting too early can be a problem too.

Before you start packing, you should make a packing list. If you are someone who likes to start things early, feel free to start working on your packing list as early as you want. Make sure you have committed to a school first, though! You don’t want to spend your whole senior year working on a packing list for a climate in which you don’t end up attending school.

In a month or so before you leave for school, you should start gathering all the things that you don’t have from your list yet. This could be stocking up on command hooks and batteries or getting some new sheets to fit your college bed. Once you have a good packing list, you will be able to relax a little bit.

If you are planning on driving to school, you can bring most items you will need and do all the prep work over the summer. If you are flying to school and will be limited in the number of bags you can bring, feel free to pick up things like toiletries and laundry supplies once you get to school. This will save you space in your bags and time in your preparations.

It’s generally a good idea to start packing about a week before you leave. That way, you have enough time to make sure all your clothes, sheets, and towels are clean and dry and that you have everything. If you try to pack everything in one day, it may feel really overwhelming. On the other hand, starting more than a week in advance will limit the things you can use while you’re still at home.

Think of this as a general timeframe you might want to shoot for since so many factors can change this. If you are doing any traveling before you go to college or during the week leading up to your departure for college, you may want to start packing earlier. It all depends on your schedule and what is going to work best for you.

What Should You Bring to College Dorm?

What Should You Bring to College Dorm?

There are some general categories of things that you should make sure to bring. Here are our top categories to make sure you include on your college packing list.


  • Comforter
  • Two sheet sets
  • Pillows
  • Mattress cover
  • Throw Blanket

School Supplies

  • Computer and charger
  • Notebooks and folders for classes
  • Desk organization/storage
  • Basic school supplies (pens, pencils, scissors, ruler, calculator, sticky notes, index cards, tape, etc.)
  • Backpack

Bathroom Supplies

  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Body wash
  • toothpaste/toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Towel
  • Shower shoes (ex. Flip flops)
  • Razor/shaving cream
  • Skincare supplies
  • Shower caddy or tote
  • Hairbrush
  • Sunscreen
  • Basic first-aid kit

Cleaning Supplies

  • Mini vacuum
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Laundry bin or bag
  • Laundry detergent
  • Quarters (if you need them for the laundry machines)


  • Clothes for all seasons (or at least the first semester)
  • Hangers
  • Lots of underwear and socks

Kitchen Supplies

  • Snacks
  • Airtight containers
  • Mini fridge
  • Electric water kettle
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Reusable thermos
  • Dishes and cutlery (don’t go overboard!)


  • Command hooks
  • Desk light and/or bedside light
  • Rug
  • Wall coverings


  • Surge-protected power strips
  • Extra batteries
  • Copies of insurance cards, passport, school registration, car registration, and any other important documents
  • Fan
  • Condoms (everyone should have them)

College Dorm Essentials for Girls

As a girl about to head off to college, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure you bring plenty of. Here are some things you might want to add to the list above, just to make your freshman year the best it can be.

  • Period supplies (pads, tampons, heating pad, pain meds, etc.)
  • Drawer and/or shoe organizer (if you plan on bringing a lot of clothes!)

College Dorm Essentials for Guys

Although there isn’t anything as necessary for guys as period products are for girls, there are a few things you might want to think about including on the list above.

  • Formal jacket, button-down shirt, tie, slacks, belt, and shoes
  • Shaving supplies

How to Pack for College: 5 Tips

How to Pack for College: 5 Tips

Packing for college is overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you break it down into smaller, more manageable steps, packing for college is very similar to packing for any trip. Here are our top tips to help make packing for college as simple as possible:

1. Make a packing list

In order to make sure that you end up with all your dorm essentials for college, a list is key. Creating a packing list is the best place to start. This will give you plenty of time to think about your items and figure out precisely what you want and don’t want to bring with you. You can also check items off your list as you pack them, so you know that you will have them when you get to school and don’t miss packing anything essential.

2. Decide if you are bringing everything or getting it at school

If you are driving to school or your school is located in a very rural area, it may be easiest for you to buy all your supplies, like bathroom and laundry supplies, at home. If, on the other hand, you are flying to school or your school is located in a more urban area, you may want to leave some of the last-minute shopping to do once you arrive at school.

Things like shampoo, conditioner, and laundry soap are heavy and bulky. If either space or weight constraints you, getting items like these at school can be a great option. Make sure you have a list of all the things you will need to purchase once you get to school so you don’t forget anything you might need.

3. Pick the suitcases or boxes to pack in

Are you packing your things in suitcases or boxes? Think about what will be best for you to transport to school and what will be easiest for you to store at school. You can also send extra boxes or suitcases back home with whoever is dropping you off after you have emptied them. Whatever you end up picking, make sure you have enough room for your stuff and enough room in your car to get them all to school.

4. Pack!

Now comes the packing process. Packing can be simple as long as you have all your materials in one place and have a precise list to follow. Once you have put something into its box or suitcase, make sure you check it off your list, so you know that it has already been packed. This will make it easy to see what you still have left to pack.

5. Label every container clearly with your name

Remember that everyone else is also moving in on the same day that you are. It will likely be chaos. Make sure that every bag, suitcase, or box you bring is clearly labeled with your name, dorm name and number if you know it, and phone number. That way, if anything gets lost in the transition or left in a parking lot, someone can get it back to you.

What Should You Not Bring to a College Dorm?

What Should You Not Bring to a College Dorm?

Although there are tons of things that you do want to bring to college, there is an equally long list of things you should not bring to college. Some of these items might even be on some dorm essentials lists, but be careful what you trust. While a few of these items might be ok at some schools, many won’t fly at most schools.

Extra furniture

If you spend enough time looking online for dorm essentials for freshmen, you’ll find plenty of lists with furniture on them. While this is an excellent option if you are going to be living in a townhome or apartment that you need to furnish, most dorms won’t have enough room for any extra furniture. Most college dorms will have just enough room for the furniture that the school provides for you.

Things like plastic sets of drawers might fit in your dorm room, but these items are easy enough and cheap enough to pick up at a store near your school. Bringing a fold-up seating option might be possible, but don’t bring anything big until you know precisely how much room you will have in your dorm room.

Cooking equipment

Check your school’s rules before you commit to bringing any food-related equipment to college, as most schools have strict rules about this. Most colleges will let you have a mini fridge, a microwave, a coffee maker, and an electric water kettle in your room, but that is about it. You can get in big trouble at most schools for having a hotplate or other cooking implement in your dorm room.

Heating Elements

Most schools have rules limiting these items, from space heaters to electric blankets. In general, your dorm room will have some type of heat source that the school deems to be enough to heat the room. You will get in trouble for bringing items like a space heater or electric blanket, so don’t even bother trying.


Anything that has an open flame, like a candle, is usually a big fat no at most schools. Things like this can become a significant fire hazard, so schools tend to be pretty strict about this. Even having an unburned candle can get you in trouble at most schools, so make sure you find a different way to make your room smell good. Many students have found that incense oil diffusers or plug-in room fresheners work great in small spaces. Just make sure that whatever you choose does not involve an open flame.

Too many linens

At home, you might have three or four sheet sets that fit your bed but bringing that many sheet sets to college will only take up storage room. The same goes for towels and other linen closest type items. Having two sets is plenty; sometimes, you can even get away with one set if you are really on top of your laundry. Remember that you won’t have much storage room, so don’t go overboard with packing.

Dos and Don’ts of Packing for College Move In

Dos and Don’ts of Packing for College Move In

From the time you start packing to you’re done moving into your new dorm, a lot needs to happen. There are many things that you should do and many things you should not do during this process. Here are our favorite things to help minimize the stress of packing for college and moving into college:

Do make a packing list to follow. Making a packing list is the best way to pack all the essentials and minimize all the extras. Having the list will also make the process of packing a whole lot smoother for you and anyone who is helping you.

Don’t feel the need to throw everything from your room in. You probably have lots of random moments and decorations in your room at home, but you don’t need to take all of that to school with you. Take some decorations, but limit the random clutter you bring with you since you’ll just spend the whole year cleaning it up anyway!

Do label everything! Make sure that every bag, box, and suitcase coming with you to school has your name, phone number, and even your dorm number printed on the outside. This really minimizes the chance of things going missing.

Don’t show up before they are ready for you. If your college says that move-in starts at nine, don’t show up at eight am and expect them to be ready for you. Remember that the people helping out with move-in day have to be ready for you. Make sure you are respectful and understanding since a lot has to happen in one day.

Wrapping Things Up: The Ultimate College Dorm Essentials Checklist

Packing for college is an extensive process, and it can feel overwhelming, both physically and emotionally, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. From figuring out what to pack to knowing how best to pack it to making move-in day simple, there is a lot to think about. Think of packing for college as packing for a new adventure, and remember that if you do forget something, you can always have it mailed to you.

Leaving for college can be exciting if you know how to manage the stress that can come with it. Knowing how to make a list and stick to your list is essential to making this process smooth and simple. Not only will following our tips and tricks help you make the packing process go by with minimal stress, but it will also allow you and your family to come to terms with the fact that you are leaving without causing extra stress.

If you’re looking for a way to keep your personal items safe, check out this guide for the best dorm safes.

> Is a Dorm or an Apartment Cheaper for Students?

> Pros and Cons of Living in College Dorms

> What is a College Dorm Like?

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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