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What to Bring to College: The Ultimate Packing List

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Moving into the dorms for your first year at college is a big deal. Beyond parental emotions and tears, deciding what to bring to college can be overwhelming: there are sheets, books, a toothbrush, a laptop, clothes — and lava lamps.

Okay, you probably don’t need to pack a lava lamp.

The key to making sure you don’t forget any of the essentials is by breaking down what you need to pack into categories: bedding, room basics, dorm workspace, ‘kitchen’ essentials, first aid, and toiletries.

Some of the bigger items in these categories, such as an area rug or mini-fridge, are best to work out with your future roommate ahead of time — you’re probably not going to have space for two refrigerators.

Here are some other tips when determining what to bring to college:

Bringing the Bedding

Good bedding is essential

When you’re in the dorms, perhaps dealing with your first shared living space, your bed is your sanctuary. And sleep comes at a premium. So, doing everything possible to have the most comfortable bed setup is worth the money and the effort.

In general, you’re going to want to choose sheets, blankets, and a comforter that is easy to wash. This means no beading, tassels, or specialty fabrics. 

The pattern or motif you choose is, of course, entirely up to you. However, don’t forget that every guest that comes into your room is going to see them. 

It’s up to you if you want your SpongeBob SquarePants sheets to be a conversation starter or if you’d rather get to choose your own topic of conversation when having friends over for the first time.

Your college bedding packing list:

  • Sheets — two sets. Just make sure you know what size mattress is in your dorm room before buying anything — it’s usually an XL twin.

  • Comforter.

  • Pillowcases — two sets.

  • Pillows.

  • Mattress topper.

  • Under-bed storage container — depending on the furniture arrangement in the room.

  • Clip-on lamp for reading after lights are out.

  • Air mattress or sleeping bag — in case friends come over or you go on a trip.

Rolling Out Your Room Basics

Whether you like it or not, what you decided to bring to college ends up being a reflection of your personality — one way or another. The photos, posters, and gear you choose say something. 

In many ways, this is great. It allows you to stock your room with little bits of conversation starters, from your favorite books to souvenirs from your travels.

Bottom line, what you bring to college is going to end up being a blend of what you absolutely need — such as soap — and what you want.

Your college room packing list:

  • Area rug — check with your roommate about this ahead of time or buy it together after you get to town.

  • Beanbags (or some other type of seating for guests).

  • Full-length mirror.

  • Over-the-door storage — figuring out where to keep your stuff is half the battle in a dorm.

  • Television — again, best organized with your roommate.

  • Posters, pictures, and decorations.

  • Additional lighting — all-white Christmas lights can add a nice touch to a room.

  • Storage tubs.

  • Dry-erase board and a bulletin board.

Wrangling Your Workspace

Depending on what kind of student you are, you might end up spending a lot of time at your desk in your room. Others find that they work best in study halls or the library. So, plan your packing list accordingly.

A large part of setting up your workspace is getting your electronics in order. Just 10 years ago, it was a very different world deciding what to bring to college. Now, most of what you need for your workspace boils down to having the right technology.

Even if you don’t think you’ll be spending too much time at your desk, it’s best to at least have some of the basics there to help you stay organized.

Your college workspace packing list:

  • Laptop.

  • Laptop case.

  • Mouse — you probably don’t want to be doing all your school projects with the trackpad on your laptop.

  • External hard drive — you should be saving most school work to the cloud somewhere but having copies on an external is also a good idea.

  • Printer — you’ll have access to a printer at college, but it can be a lifesaver to have one in your room, too.

  • Printer ink.

  • Printer paper.

  • Cell phone.

  • Noise cancelling headphones — who knows what your roommate will be like. Make sure you can find some peace and quiet in your room when you need to focus.

  • Portable speakers.

  • Surge protectors.

  • Extension cords.

  • Calendar.

  • Desk chair (this might be included in a furnished dorm room).

  • Desk lamp.

  • Waste basket.

  • Stationary.

  • Folders.

  • Folder organizers.

  • Writing utensils.

  • Scissors.

  • Rulers.

  • Stapler.

  • Staple remover.

  • Three-hole punch.

Setting Yourself Up with Snacks

Like most freshmen, you might be forced into a meal plan or at least plan on having most of your meals at one of the cafeterias on campus. Even if that’s the case, you’re going to quickly find out that — depending on the weather — there are times when you really aren’t in the mood to leave you room for a bite to eat.

Of course, a George Foreman Grill would be ideal, but they’re not allowed in most dorms. Instead, plan on packing what you’ll need to prepare and eat food that’s either cold or coming out of a microwave.

Your dorm room food preparation packing list:

  • Microwave.

  • Bowls and plates.

  • Mug.

  • Water bottle.

  • Ziplock bags.

  • Utensils.

  • Chip clips.

  • Can opener.

  • Dish detergent.

  • Dishes.

  • Dish towels.

  • Single-serving blender.

Don’t Forget First Aid

There will be some sort of first-aid kit on your dorm floor. However, it’s always a good idea to have some of the essentials in your own room. 

You don’t need to stock a tourniquet, but some bandaids and Benadryl are good to have on hand. It’s possible to buy a pre-packed first-aid kit at Target or Walmart or any sporting goods store. However, you can also make your own.

Your dorm first aid packing list:

  • Bandaids.

  • Aloe vera.

  • Antibiotic cream.

  • Birth control/condoms.

  • Cough drops/lozenges.

  • Eye drops.

  • Feminine hygiene products.

  • Hand sanitizer.

  • Hot/cold packs.

  • Lip balm.

  • Nausea relief.

  • Pain reliever.

  • Sunscreen.

 Don’t forget to pack any prescribed medication you might need.

Taking Along Your Toiletries 

Depending on the setup of your dorm, you might be lucky enough to have a suite situation, where you only share your bathroom with a few other people. Or, you might be sharing a bathroom with a whole floor of people. In either situation, you’ll want to be able to keep your toiletries compact, mobile, and on hand.

Your dorm toiletries packing list:

  • Towels — pack at least two.

  • Shower caddy.

  • Body wash.

  • Loofah or washcloth.

  • Shampoo.

  • Conditioner.

  • Hair products.

  • Toothbrush.

  • Toothpaste.

  • Dental floss.

  • Deodorant/cologne/body spray.

  • Razors.

  • Shaving cream/aftershave.

  • Shower shoes — any flip flops will do the trick.

Final Thoughts — What to Bring to College: The Ultimate Packing List

There is a lot to think about when you’re deciding what to bring to college. Ideally, you’ll coordinate shopping for bigger ideas like TVs or area rugs with your roommate(s) before moving in. 

If you do forget anything, it’s easy enough to find what you need near campus. Many schools organize Target or Walmart runs for students living in the dorms during the first week of classes — just in case there is anything else you may need.

All this moving got you thinking about summer storage? Contact the storage experts at Bargain Storage.


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