Not sure what to bring to college? Here is our ultimate college packing list for 2023.
Your first year of college is exciting, transformative, and just plain amazing. But before you get to all of that you have to move in first!
The thought of decorating your dorm, meeting your new roommate, and figuring out how to pack your wardrobe into that way-too-small closet is nerve-wracking. Figuring out all the little details that make home so great and recreating it at school is a whole other story.
When I was a senior, I researched extensively (and I do mean extensively) to figure out exactly what I needed. While you will forget things–I definitely did–this college packing list is a helpful step towards that daunting move.
To help make The Great Pack easier, I’ve broken this college packing list down into categories, and then within each category, I’ve made subcategories. Each item fits into a specific category, much like a giant checklist, which you can print and use as a guide when you start packing.
Get the printable version by filling out this form:
This college packing list for girls is made up of the actual items I packed and used, and if I didn’t, I made note of it.
Just a note: Always check your school’s website before buying larger items to make sure they’re within living guidelines, and consult with your roommate to make sure you don’t bring doubles of everything.
Let’s get to the items! Keep reading to see our ultimate list of things to bring to college.
Table of Contents
What to Bring to College: Dorm Bedding Essentials
Let’s start our college packing list off with the most obvious category, bedding. Don’t forget that most dorm beds are extra long, so regular twin-size sheets won’t fit. Below is a complete list of college bedding essentials.
Also, for more bedding sets to fit every aesthetic, see our full guide to dorm bedding.
1. Mattress Protector
Many, many students have slept on your dorm’s mattress before you, so a mattress protector is non-negotiable. This one protects against allergens and dust and won’t change the feel of your bed.
2. Mattress Topper
Standard dorm mattresses are uncomfortable AF, so a Twin XL mattress topper is a must-have. This one is our all-time fave — it has 4 inches of memory foam and will make you feel like you’re at a 5-star hotel!
3. Two Sets of Twin XL Sheets
Get two sets of Twin XL sheets so you’ll always have clean ones, even when you put off doing laundry. These microfiber sheets are insanely, life-changingly soft and have more than 200,000 positive reviews.
4. Comforter or Duvet
There are so many cute duvets and comforters at stores like Dormify, PBTeen, and Urban Outfitters. This eyelash comforter from Dormify is our fave to match any decor.
Good pillows are key to making a dorm bed feel 10x more comfortable. These cooling gel pillows are a favorite here at CF and you can bring them with you to your first apartment.
If you don’t have satin pillowcases yet, do yourself a favor and invest ASAP. They are the best for preventing wrinkles and helping you wake up with perfect hair every day — no more tangles. This set is only $9 and will change your life.
7. Throws or Extra Blankets
You need at least one throw blanket for guests (or if your room gets chilly). This one is a dupe for the popular Barefoot Dreams blankets at a fraction of the price.
8. Decorative Pillows
Every girl knows you can’t have too many decorative pillows. Get some cute ones that show off your personality, like this heart-shaped pillow.
9. Air Mattress and/or Sleeping Bag
A must if you plan to have guests visit. I like this air mattress because it has a built-in pump, and it’s raised up off the ground, so your guest will feel like they’re sleeping on a real bed.
10. Bed Risers
Optional but really nice to have, bed risers double your storage space in your room. For more convenience, get these 7″ risers — they come with a built-in plug for charging your devices in bed.
11. Dorm Bed Shelf
Another “nice to have” item that makes life 10x easier! The BedShelfie is a genius product we’re seeing all over campus. It has space to hold your laptop, phone, and water bottle next to your bed.
If you want to be extra with your bedding, we’re loving these detachable headboards you can add to any dorm bed for a luxe look. Definitely not a must-have but so cute!
Dorm Decor Essentials
There are a million ways to decorate your dorm, and we don’t have space to get into all of them here. (See our full guide to dorm decor for tons of detailed ideas!)
That said, here are the must-have decor items every girl needs to bring to college.
13. Blackout Curtains (+ Curtain Rod)
Your school may provide blinds or curtains, but I recommend investing in full blackout curtains for the best sleep. I love these ones because they look like high-end linen curtains.
And don’t forget a curtain rod! This one doesn’t require any tools and won’t damage walls.
Every living space needs some greenery — whether it’s real or faux is up to you. This plant is a real one that’s difficult to kill, but Amazon has a great fake plant selection too.
For more options, see our guide to the best dorm plants.
16. String Lights
String lights are pretty much essential; they add such a cozy ambiance to your room! I particularly love these string lights with photo clips — instant wall decor.
For more ideas, see our list of ways to use Christmas lights in your room.
17. Desk Lamp
In college, you need your own desk lamp so you can study at night without disturbing your roommate. This one is so sleek and modern, plus it has a charging port for your phone and a dimmer. It’s everything you could need in a desk lamp.
18. Printed Photos from Home
Everyone gets homesick at some point in their college career, and it really helps to have physical photos of your loved ones where you can see them every day. Print your own with this photo printer that syncs to your phone.
19. Area Rug
Dorm floors are usually tiled (and cold!), so you absolutely need a good area rug to keep your room nice and cozy.
I love this one because it has a vintage vibe to it, plus it has black in the pattern so any dirt won’t be super noticeable. It honestly looks 10x more expensive than it is!
Totally optional, but a popular way to add a big statement piece to your room (and cover up ugly dorm walls). You’ll see these all over campus!
Dorm Organization Products
This wouldn’t be a college packing list for girls without an organizing section. Desk, closet, and makeup organization are necessary for making the most of a small space. The Container Store has organizing down to a science, but if it’s a bit too expensive for your budget, places like Target or Walmart carry wallet-friendly organizing solutions.
Below, I’ve listed my must-have organizers for every college girl’s room to get you started. If you want to get even more advanced, see our guide to dorm room organizing essentials.
Trust me on this: For aesthetic and organizational reasons, it’s better to invest in a new set of matching hangers rather than dragging your old, mismatched hangers to college.
These velvet hangers grip clothes so they don’t fall on the floor, and they’re thin, so you can fit twice the amount of clothes in your closet. Plus, how cute is the rose gold finish?
22. Sweater Organizer
Drawer space is limited or nonexistent in many dorm rooms, so you will definitely want to invest in a sweater organizer for storing folded clothes in your closet.
This one comes with six shelves so that you can fit tons of clothes on it, and it can be hung on any closet rod. I actually prefer these to drawers because it lets me see what I have at a glance.
23. Command Hooks
A college classic. You will use these all over your dorm room, so buy a couple of big packs and thank me later.
The uses for these are endless, from hanging your blow dryers and curling irons to organizing your hats, necklaces, and purses. I also like to make a designated hook for my bathrobe inside my closet.
24. A Full-Length Mirror
Your dorm might come with one of these (mine did sophomore year but not freshman year), so try and find out ahead of time before you buy one.
25. Clear Storage Bins
Another essential on any college packing list. These clear storage bins are ubiquitous on college campuses because they’re lightweight and allow you to see what’s inside.
I especially like these stacking drawers — they’re perfect for closets or stacking under your (lofted) bed.
27. Jewelry Organizer
Optional (see the makeup organizer at right that has space for jewelry), but if you have a lot of jewelry, it helps to get a specific jewelry organizer.
This jewelry stand is seriously SO cute. It has room for all of your necklaces, bracelets, and rings, and it will look so cute in your room.
28. Makeup Organizer
If you wear makeup regularly (or just want to organize your skincare products), these clear makeup organizers are so helpful!
This one has space for all your must-used products and even has extra drawers where you can keep jewelry (if you don’t want to get a jewelry organizer).
29. Makeup Bag
If you wear makeup, this one is a must because a lot of times in college, you will be getting ready in someone else’s room.
I’m obsessed with this marble print makeup bag that keeps your products organized and can literally fit the majority of your makeup collection.
30. Makeup Mirror
Never trust dorm lighting for doing your makeup! Lighting in the dorms is typically dim, so get yourself a light-up makeup mirror so you can actually see what you look like before you go outside.
Bonus, this thing magnifies 10x, so it’s A+ for doing your brows and any detailed eye makeup looks.
31. Desk Organizer
A dorm desk organizer is a must if you’re like me and you NEED your desk to be clean before you can study. This rose gold wire organizer is so cute!
If you want to get extra organized, I’m obsessed with these clear drawer dividers to keep all of your school supplies perfectly grouped together.
32. Shower Caddy
No college packing list would be complete without a shower caddy!
This mesh one is THE one to get because the material allows water to drain out and it dries super fast. Plus, it has tons of pockets and even has a special clip for your keys — so handy.
Dorm Cleaning Essentials
If you, like me, can’t focus if your room is gross, make sure you stock up on some cleaning basics before you get to your dorm. Below are my go-to cleaning products that should be on every college packing list.
Also, my biggest tip is to sign up for an Amazon Prime Student account (use that link to get a 6-month trial for free!) so you can automatically have cleaning products and paper towels delivered to your door every month. Makes it so easy to stay stocked up, especially if you don’t have a car on campus.
33. Disinfectant Wipes
Pretty self-explanatory. I’m partial to the Scentiva wipes because they literally smell like a vacation.
34. Trash Bags
Again, probably obvious. Get the Tall Kitchen size to fit most dorm trash cans.
35. Compost Bags
My school provided us with compost bins, but not all schools do, so these are great if your school has a composting program.
36. Dish Soap
Method dish soap is my all-time favorite and their Lime + Sea Salt scent smells exactly like Bath & Body Works Coconut Lime.
37. Dish Sponges
Okay, these look funny, but I swear they are the BEST for cleaning even the most-stuck on food off your dishes. Try them — you’ll be a convert!
38. All-Purpose Cleaner
I use this for my desk, my shelves, and even my mirrors and windows because it doesn’t streak. The Peony Mrs. Meyers is the best scent ever!
39. Lightweight Vacuum
I didn’t get one of these when I was a freshman, and I wish I had! Sophomore year I upgraded, and my room was so much cleaner all the time. At just $29, this powerful vacuum is a MUST-have.
40. Dustpan Set
A simple dustpan and broom set is so helpful for cleaning up small messes around the dorm when you don’t want to bust out the vacuum.
41. Paper Towels
I like to buy the big packs of paper towels on Amazon Prime and have them auto-delivered when I run out.
42. Trash Can
Most schools provide this for students, so check before you buy.
College Toiletries/Bath Products
A lot of this is going to vary depending on your personal grooming habits, but here’s a list of the basic toiletries and bath products you definitely need for college.
You definitely need a set of towels for college. These are the exact towels I have in my house today, and they are INCREDIBLE for the price! So soft and absorbent.
I loved having a robe for walking from the showers to your room (I just hung it up while I showered). I got this SKIMS cozy robe for my birthday, and I practically live in it now; it’s the comfiest robe ever.
45. Shower Cap
For when you need to shower but you’re not trying to spend an hour drying and re-styling your hair, a shower cap is a must.
Obviously, you need shampoo. Redken All Soft is my OG favorite since I have dry hair. It gives my hair so much moisture and smells incredible.
48. Dry Shampoo
Forever a college girl essential — where would we be without dry shampoo? Batiste is my favorite because it works great and is super cheap.
49. Other Hair Products
Include all of your daily and weekly hair products in this category — hairspray, hair masks, and a good heat protectant are musts for me.
50. Hair Brush
Another obvious must-have — a good hair brush will last you forever, and I love that this one is vegan and eco-friendly.
When I was in the dorms, I always kept a detangling comb in my shower caddy to comb through my conditioner while I was in the shower.
Bring your favorite razor and extra blades. The Billie razor is popular on college campuses right now, and they ship new blades to you automatically so you won’t run out.
Buy a big pack of loofahs and swap them out every three months. These ones are only $7 for four.
54. Body Lotion
Bring your favorite. I love this Method body lotion — it smells super high-end while being quite affordable.
55. Body Wash
I like to buy the 4-pack of Dove body washes so I never run out. (They also have Subscribe & Save for these.)
Again, buy a multi-pack of toothpaste for college so you aren’t running to the store last minute.
Toothbrushes are another item to buy in bulk at the beginning of the semester so you don’t run out.
Same thing for floss. Buy a big pack and it will last you all year.
Makeup is a huge category and is different for every girl. Not sure what you need? See our list of college girl makeup essentials to get started.
Bring a good facial moisturizer because dorms are very dry due to the heat/AC blasting. CeraVe cream is my forever favorite and a tub lasts me six months.
61. Face Wash
Another no-brainer. A good gentle face wash is a must-have for every girl.
62. Acne Products
If you have acne, bring your go-to products. This spot treatment is my fave to zap a pimple overnight.
A must-have for everyone! My favorite sunscreen is the La Roche Posay tinted one — it has SPF 50 and gives your skin a hint of color.
64. Other Skincare Products
Any other products you use count in this category. If you aren’t sure what else you need, see our guide to creating a simple skincare routine.
Another obvious one. Native Deodorant is super popular on campus and this one smells like coconut + vanilla.
67. Nail Polish Remover
Don’t forget this if you wear nail polish! I like this one because it’s acetone-free and the bottle is so cute.
69. Nail Polish
Don’t make the mistake I did by bringing all of your nail polish to college. Just bring a few favorite shades you’ll wear a lot and skip the rest.
70. Hair Ties
You can never have too many hair ties! These Gimme ones are crazy popular, and they come in every shade to match your hair.
71. Blow Dryer
For me, a blow dryer is a must-have. I’ve had this Rusk blow dryer for close to 10 years and it’s still as amazing as ever!
73. Contacts and/or Glasses
If you wear them, don’t forget them! And bring at least a semester’s worth of contacts so you don’t run out.
74. Menstrual Products
Whether you use a cup, tampons or pads, don’t forget to pack these.
75. Contact Lens Case and Cleaner
Essential if you wear contacts.
Clothing & Accessories for College
** Here at CF, we’ve already written an entire guide to college wardrobe essentials. We recommend bringing everything on that list, plus the extras listed below. **
When packing clothes for college, remember that much of the clothing you pack is dependent on where you are living. Oh-so sunny Seattle means boots and a good raincoat, but if you live in Arizona, then snow boots are a waste of space.
You’ll need a suitcase for long trips home (winter break) and any vacations you’ll be taking (spring break). This one from Amazon is so pretty and has thousands of positive reviews.
77. Weekender Bag
A weekender bag is a must for weekend trips home or to visit high school friends at their schools.
Everyone has this Calpak one because it fits everything and even has a separate zip pocket for shoes.
78. Winter Accessories (if Needed)
For schools in cold climates, this includes hats, gloves, scarves, and any other winter-specific items to keep you warm.
Sunglasses are essential for me.
While I own some nicer sunglasses, I honestly get the most wear out of these affordable sunglasses from Amazon. They look much more expensive than they are.
College Laundry Essentials
For many of us, college is the first time we’ve been responsible for doing our own laundry all the time. Here are the laundry essentials that should be on every college packing list.
80. Laundry Hampers
I highly recommend getting two laundry hampers, one for lights and one for darks. This way, your laundry is already sorted when it’s time to visit the laundry room.
These pop-up hampers are super cheap and are foldable so they’re easy to pack.
81. Delicates Bag
So important to avoid snagging your bras on the rest of your laundry and ruining your strappy tops in the wash.
I have this exact delicates bag set and I love that it comes with so many different sizes to fit all of your items. The set is great for travel, too!
82. Drying Rack
Drying racks are not normally something you see on a college packing list, but I love mine, and here’s why.
If you have a lot of delicate items, items that need to be hand washed (you and I both know no one is doing that), the dryer malfunctions, or–heaven forbid–no dryers are free, this baby saves you.
84. Stain Remover
I’ve tried them all, and this Oxi Clean Spray is the absolute best for removing any type of stain.
85. Dryer Sheets
They are not essential, but I like to use these to remove static and add a fresh scent to clothes.
86. Lint Rollers
If you, like me, can’t stand lint on your clothes, buy a 5 pack of sticky lint rollers on Amazon for $15 and be done with lint for good.
87. Sewing Kit
Optional but so nice to have. I did not have one of these freshman year, and it would have saved me so many headaches.
You might not use an iron all the time, but when you have an interview or business casual event coming up, you will need it. Don’t skip this one.
89. Ironing Board
Yes, an ironing board is an annoying thing to bring and store, but you will use it at some point and be glad you have it.
Most college laundry machines use cards these days, but in the off chance the card reader malfunctions (it happens), it pays to have a stash of quarters ready.
Kitchen, Cooking and Food Essentials for College
Even if you have a dining plan, you will want some basic staples to prepare food in your room, so be sure to put them on your college packing list. Trust me, there will be days where you don’t feel like trekking to the dining hall! Here’s what you need to have on hand:
91. Coffee Maker
It’s not college without coffee, so make sure you get a coffee maker. I’m obsessed with this little Keurig — it’s so compact and cute.
Keurigs are great for college because, often, you will only be making one or two cups at a time. This way, you won’t waste coffee, plus it’s ready faster.
92. Electric Kettle
Electric kettles are awesome for tea, oatmeal, and any instant meals or cooking that you need… without having to use the microwave or walk all the way to the communal kitchen.
My kettle was a gift, but this one is highly rated on Amazon.
93. Can Opener
I didn’t bring this freshman year and I was kicking myself! You will definitely buy canned goods at some point (or your roommate will), so bring one and thank me later.
Bonus, this doubles as a bottle opener!
Before you buy this, make sure your school allows them AND that one will not already be provided in your room!
A small microwave is the way to go in college; you will not be heating up large amounts of anything, so keep it compact for the basics.
Again, before you buy, make sure your school allows this and that it won’t already be provided.
A mini fridge is 1000% a must-have on every college packing list. Don’t skip this! And try to get one with a freezer, too (hello, ice cream). To save money, coordinate with your roommate to split the cost.
You definitely need mugs to drink your coffee in the mornings.
These glass mugs are so incredibly chic — you’ll definitely bring them with you to your big girl apartment after college!
98. Portable Coffee Mugs
I am obsessed with my Yeti Mug to keep my coffee hot for hours. (I also use mine for ice coffee in the summers; the ice lasts forever!)
You will see Yetis all over campus; they are SO popular and come in so many cute colors.
99. Reusable Water Bottle
I use this bottle 10x more than my Stanley Cup because it keeps me motivated to actually finish 64 oz a day. Plus, it doesn’t leak in my bag.
You definitely need a set of utensils for eating in your room. If you want something cute, this set of gold utensils is adorable and only $25!
I love the idea of buying a set like this for your dorm — you’re only in college once, so why not get something that’s pretty and functional?
You need dishes for your room, and you don’t need to spend a lot to get the basics.
This 16-piece set from Amazon is under $50 for everything, and it even comes with mugs if you don’t want to buy those separately.
102. Reusable Straws
I have these exact glass straws and I really prefer them to silicone because they don’t absorb odors.
Also, I love that they’re clear — makes it easy to tell that they’re completely clean when you wash them.
Self-explanatory. You will definitely need these so buy a big pack.
104. Snack and Sandwich Bags
I’m trying to cut down on single-use plastics so I have these reusable Stasher bags in a few sizes.
105. Food Storage Containers
You will definitely need a few food storage containers for leftovers.
I really prefer these glass ones to plastic as they don’t get stained or absorb smells like the plastic ones do.
Another obvious one, great for quick breakfasts and late-night snacking. Get a few boxes to keep on hand.
109. Coffee and/or Tea
As mentioned above, I love K-Cups for college. Buy a huge variety pack (this one comes with 100 pods) and treat yourself to new flavors every week.
111. Sugar (or Alternative)
Unless you take your coffee black, that is. For dorms, I like packets because they’re mess-free.
112. Hot Chocolate
Obviously, this one is not essential but so nice to have for cozy nights!
113. Salt and Pepper
A no-brainer. Buy a big grinder each of salt and pepper and they’ll last you all year.
114. Any Other Spices You Use
This can include go-tos like Everything Bagel seasoning and any traditional favorites from your family’s cuisine.
115. Instant Meals (Ramen, Mac & Cheese, etc.)
It wouldn’t be a college packing list without Easy Mac!
Seriously, though, stock up on instant meals even with a dining plan because there will be nights when you’re too tired to do anything except open a pack of Ramen.
Below is our general college packing list for electronics. A lot of this checklist is going to come down to your lifestyle and what you will actually use.
For instance, friends of mine didn’t bother bringing a printer — there were so many places on campus to print; it didn’t matter if one was broken. I, however, felt like the printers at my school were unreliable and too far away, so I felt like my printer was a justified buy.
As far as TVs go, I swore by mine, but tons of people do all their Netflix watching on their laptops. It all depends on your personal preferences.
Obviously, you need a laptop for college. Macbook Airs are incredibly popular on every college campus, and I can’t live without mine. It’s by far the best computer I’ve ever used, and I love that it syncs flawlessly with my phone and tablet.
I also love Mac computers because they last forever — the last one I had lasted me nearly ten years without a single issue.
117. Extra Laptop Charger
Do yourself a favor and buy an extra laptop charger. I only had one for the longest time, and my life changed when I bought a second.
Now I have one that I keep at my desk and one that lives permanently in my laptop bag, and it’s made my life so much easier. Plus, if you ever have a problem with one charger, you have a backup ready to go.
118. Tablet or E-Reader
Tablets, specifically iPads, are super popular at college, and they’re so convenient for doing your reading and note-taking on the go.
I didn’t have one of these my freshman year, and now I’m so jealous of everyone who does! It would have made me 10x more organized.
Obviously, you need a phone. I’m an iPhone person, and I can’t imagine my life without it, but I have friends who live and die for Android phones.
Tip: Get a smartphone with a good camera! You probably won’t bring a separate camera to college (more on that in a minute), so this saves you money.
120. Phone Charger (+ a Spare)
Definitely bring at least two phone chargers to college; I was always forgetting mine, so now my extra one lives in my bag forever.
Also, get an extra-long charging cord for your room! Dorm outlets are always weirdly placed (and sometimes there’s only one per room!), so this will help you so much.
121. Portable Phone Charger
It’s nice to have a portable phone charger in your bag in case of emergencies, and for under $30, this is some easy peace of mind you can give yourself.
I didn’t bring this to college, but I wish I had; it would have saved me multiple times during long days of classes.
The best part about these headphones is that their noise-cancellation is next level. Invaluable for the dorms.
If you’re into photography, you may want to bring a camera to college.
125. SD Cards
If you’re bringing a DSLR or other digital camera, don’t forget some extra SD cards!
If you are bringing a film camera, make sure to stock up on extra film so you don’t run out.
127. Extension Cord
DO NOT forget this one! As mentioned before, dorms have weirdly spaced outlets, and my room sophomore year had ONE usable outlet in the whole room!
Get at least one power strip with an extra-long cord and, ideally, bring a couple of these; you will use them.
128. Laptop Case
You definitely need a laptop case to protect your investment.
I love this kit for the MacBook Air because it comes with a case, screen protector, and keyboard cover, all in an aesthetic rose-gray color. (They have a bunch of other colors, too!)
129. Bluetooth Speaker
Not an *essential* per see, but a Bluetooth speaker is super nice to have!
Right now, it seems like everyone has an Echo Pop in their dorm — it’s a Bluetooth speaker that includes Alexa so you can play music, check the weather, and more, all via voice command.
It’s nice to have a smart TV in your room if you want to watch your shows on a bigger screen instead of just your laptop.
I had a TV in my room freshman year, and I loved it, but plenty of my friends didn’t. If you’re fine watching Netflix on your computer, don’t feel like this is a must-have.
131. TV Stand
If you’re bringing a TV, definitely buy a small TV stand to go with it since there’s no way you’re wall-mounting a TV in a dorm.
This cute little TV stand is super cheap and doesn’t require any tools to put together!
132. HDMI Cord
You’ll want an HDMI cord to connect your laptop to your TV if you want to stream video, and they can also be helpful for class presentations to connect your laptop to a projector.
This college checklist item is controversial. I loved having my printer because I’m lazy, and I didn’t want to waste time searching campus for a printer that wasn’t broken.
That said, there are many places on every campus to print, so you can survive college without your own printer.
134. Printer Ink
If you’re bringing a printer, definitely get a lot of extra printer ink. You don’t want to run out halfway through printing an important paper!
135. Printer Paper
Same goes for printer paper. Stock up so you don’t run out at a crucial moment!
Handy Items for College
These are all great to have — and easy to forget! Get these basics and you’ll be thanking yourself.
For putting together furniture or fixing a wobbly chair. Get a reversible screwdriver so you can use it on Phillips or flathead screws.
Make sure you get LED bulbs for your lamps; they last 10+ years so you’ll never have to change them!
138. Command Strips
For when you want to move a hook around or just want to hang something new on your wall, it pays to have extra Command strips on hand.
139. Wall Putty or Tape
This depends on what your school allows, so find out ahead of time. Wall putty is generally a safe bet for hanging pictures, as it doesn’t damage or mark walls.
140. Pushpins or Tacks
If you’re bringing a corkboard to college, these are a must-have. They can also be used to hang items, depending on what your school allows.
First Aid/Medicine to Bring to College
Not the most fun to shop for, but so important to have on hand! Here are the basic medicinal items that should be on every college packing list.
141. First Aid Kit
If you only buy one thing from this section, this dorm first aid kit should be it.
It has just about everything you could possibly need, from first aid items to allergy medicine and hangover relief, with easy-to-understand instructions. SO helpful and a true must-have!
The first aid kit I linked already has band-aids, but if you are clumsy like me, it doesn’t hurt to have an extra box of clear band-aids on your college packing list.
For healing everything from cracked, dry lips to eczema, Vaseline is an OG must-have that should be on every college packing list for girls.
144. Cough & Cold Medicine
For when you are sick on the same day as a really important exam (it’s happened to me), cold medicine will save you. Buy this pack and you’ll be set for day and night.
The first aid kit linked above doesn’t come with a decongestant, so grab a small pack for those sick days.
146. Allergy Medicine
The first aid kit linked above includes a few packs of Benadryl for emergencies, but if you have more persistent allergies, definitely stock up on Claritin or your allergy med of choice.
147. Cough Drops
Again, if you buy the first aid kit above, it comes with these. Otherwise, get a small bag to have on hand.
I mentioned sunscreen in the skincare section above, but it’s good to have a bottle of body sunscreen as well, especially if your school is somewhere warm.
149. Aloe Vera
Aloe is a lifesaver if you, like me, are prone to sunburns at the slightest hint of a sunny day.
150. Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever
Definitely buy a decent-sized bottle of your favorite pain reliever to have on hand; you will definitely use it.
151. Vitamins & Supplements
Bring any vitamins or supplements you take. At the very least, think about bringing a good multivitamin (this one is my all-time favorite) to fill in any nutritional gaps in your college diet.
152. Throat Spray
Not essential, but throat spray is very nice to have in the event that you get sick.
153. Eye Drops
Nice to have if you, like me, get dry eyes from too much computer time. These are the best eye drops I’ve tried, and I love that they’re individually sealed.
The first aid kit above includes a thermometer, but here’s a good digital one if you’re putting together your own kit.
Definitely necessary for taming your brows. Invest in a good pair of Tweezerman tweezers, and they will last you all of college and beyond.
156. Safety Pins
If you love fashion, don’t forget these. Safety pins are fashion lifesavers for everything from broken straps to holding bra straps in place.
157. Medicine for Upset Stomach
The first aid kit linked above comes with this too, but it never hurts to have extra Pepto on hand for the morning after late-night pizza runs.
158. Cotton Pads/Cotton Balls
These are a must for things like nail polish remover, makeup remover, and applying products like toners.
Beyond the obvious ear uses, these are essential for cleaning up mascara smudges and makeup mishaps.
160. Nail Clippers
Self-explanatory; don’t forget these! I like that this two-pack has two sets of clippers for nails and toes.
161. Prescription Medicine
Bring any prescription medicine you’re taking and, if possible, try to get a 3 or 6-month’s supply so you don’t have to bother with refills during a busy semester. Be sure to save your labels so you can refill them if you need to.
162. Retainer/Mouth Guard
Your dentist will be mad at you if you forget this, so make sure it’s on your college packing list.
“School supplies” is a huge category that depends on personal preferences. See our Ultimate Guide to School Supplies for our full detailed guide to this, but here’s a quick list of what you will want to bring:
I always get mechanical pencils so I don’t have to bother bringing a separate pencil sharpener. A big pack like this will last you all semester long.
Everyone has their pen preferences, so buy a big pack of your favorites for the semester.
These Jetstream pens are my ride or dies because the tip is super fine and the ink dries instantly, so I never get smudges on my paper.
This one is just a nice-to-have; I personally don’t use a separate eraser but I also don’t do much writing in pencil. It’s up to you whether you feel you need this.
For everything from to-do lists to leaving yourself reminders on your mirror (does anyone else do this?), post-its are super helpful in college.
I like the lined ones because I hate when my writing slants, and I love the fun colors these come in.
There’s nothing better than a fresh notebook, and I love these Mintra college-ruled notebooks because the covers are so aesthetic.
170. Lined Paper
Definitely get college-ruled paper for maximum note-taking space.
I’m more of a notebook person than a binder person, so I didn’t use mine much. That said, it’s good to have in case a class requires you to use a binder.
I recommend bringing a four pack of binders to start with freshman year. You can always get more if you want a binder for every class.
Again, I used my notebooks more than my binders, but it all comes down to how you organize your notes.
How cute are these little clear folders? I love that they’re plastic and snap completely shut to keep your documents protected in your bag.
Whether you’re doing math, arts & crafts, or designing posters, you’ll want a ruler at college.
Again, you might not think you’ll use these, but you’d be surprised. Scissors are helpful for craft projects and opening packages when you shop online.
176. Tape Dispenser
This minimalist acrylic tape dispenser looks modern and will go with any type of decor.
You’ll spend half your life savings on textbooks, so don’t leave them off your college packing list.
Other/Miscellaneous College Essentials
Here are some other miscellaneous items that should be on every girl’s college packing list.
178. Eye Mask
I highly recommend this, especially if you have a roommate. There may be times when your roomie wants to study while you want to sleep, and a good eye mask is a lifesaver in that scenario!
Even more important than an eye mask, IMO. Earplugs will save your life if you have loud neighbors or a roommate who is on an opposite schedule. I’ve found the silicone ones to work the best.
I’m someone who NEEDS a fan to sleep well. Even if you don’t sleep with it on, though, a small fan helps a TON if your dorm doesn’t have A/C (many don’t) or just gets crazy hot when the heat is on.
181. White Noise Machine
I didn’t bring this freshman year, and I really wish I had! A white noise machine is so nice to have, especially if you, like me, are sensitive to noises when you’re sleeping or studying.
182. Beach Towel
For laying out on the quad on nice days, definitely bring a cute beach towel with you! I love these ones because they fold up super tiny to fit in any bag.
184. Art Supplies
Optional but nice to have if you’re crafty or artistic. This could include paints, sketch pads and pencils, pastels, etc. Just don’t go too crazy; dorms are small.
I personally brought gel pens for decorating my notes and planner.
An obvious essential if you’re going to school in Seattle or Boston, but not so much if you’ll be in Tucson. (Check weather averages before you go!)
Personally, I love bubble umbrellas — they’re so cute and make it easy to see where you’re going.
186. Yoga Mat or Sports Equipment
You *probably* won’t need it but a flashlight is important to have in an emergency. (Power outages do happen!)
188. Pepper Spray
Note: check the rules at your school and in your state before bringing this as it’s banned on many campuses.
I didn’t bring pepper spray to college and I (luckily) never felt like I needed it, but many women feel safer having it. This one is a very personal choice.
189. Personal Alarm
A personal alarm is a great alternative (or accompaniment) to pepper spray; it emits a super loud sound and flashing lights to alert others to your location.
You can get a six-pack for just $20; one for every bag.
A small safe is helpful if you’re bringing anything valuable to college and/or have roommates or lots of people in and out of your room. It’s recommended if you’re going to school in a major city.
I didn’t bring this to college, but I know people who did. It just comes down to what will make you feel most comfortable.
192. Bike (& Bike Accessories)
I didn’t bring a bike to college, but many people do. If you’re bringing one, don’t forget to pack accessories like your lock and helmet.
193. Religious Materials
For students who practice an organized religion.
194. Musical Instruments
Many students bring musical instruments to college. If you’re one of them, don’t forget any accessories you need, like extra strings, sheet music, reeds, tuners, etc.
Documents/Papers to Bring to College
Last but not least on our college packing list for girls, we have documents and papers — these are all pretty self-explanatory and important. Don’t forget them!
195. License or Photo ID
196. School ID
You may not get this until you arrive at school.
Important if you plan to work or do any international travel while at school.
198. Checks, if you have them
You’d be surprised at how many times you will be asked to write a check.
199. Copies of Insurance
Think health insurance card, any car insurance you carry.
200. Financial Aid Documents
201. Bank Documents
202. Medical ID or Medical Documents
203. Papers associated with a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal
204. Car Registration
(If you are bringing a car to school.)
205. Car Parking Pass
206. Copy of Birth Certificate
207. Copy of Social Security Card
Bonus: Tips & Packing Shortcuts for Bringing Your Stuff to College
Now that we have your list of what to bring to college, I’d like to share some packing tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to make your move to college easier.
These tips will give you more time to focus on making new friends or reconnecting with old ones during your first few days back on campus.
1. Make a serious list.
In addition to our list above, make a list of the things you use every day! It doesn’t have to be radically organized or detailed, but keeping an ongoing list of your living essentials will help prevent those “oh no!” moments once you’re back at school.
So start with the basics: Think of your typical day and write down everything you use in that day, from shampoo and conditioner to eye-makeup remover and hair ties. Keep the list somewhere central, like your desk or car (or make it on your phone), so you can add to it over the next few weeks. Whenever you remember something random that you’ll need at school, add it to the list (my stapler!).
2. Resist the urge to overpack.
This will be no news to you upperclassmen, but if you’re a freshman, take this advice to heart: While it may be tempting to stuff every item you own into your suitcase, you DON’T want to overpack for college!
Here’s why: If you’re moving into a dorm, you’re going to have limited space (often VERY limited space), and until you get there, it’s hard to judge just how small that space is going to be. So focus on packing what you know you need, and maybe one or two extras that are special to you (like photos or CDs).
For clothes, it helps to figure out when your first visit home will be (Thanksgiving? Christmas?) and only bring stuff you’ll wear before that date. If you’re going to be gone for a few months, it’s a good idea to bring some of your fall and winter wardrobe now. But, if you’ll be heading home in a couple weeks, just bring your summer clothes for now and switch it up when the temperature drops.
3. Declutter your stuff before you pack!
There is no getting around the simple fact that it is much easier to get it together once it is already together!
You should always start your packing by going through all of your stuff. Analyze what is worth keeping and what you keep around just for show — and be ruthless.
We have a full guide to decluttering tips so be sure to check that out for full details. But here are a few more helpful tips to help you determine an item’s worth:
- Have you worn it or used it in the past year? Chances are that if it has been forgotten, it will most likely stay forgotten.
- Is it a good memory or just garbage? Notes and ticket stubs can be nice to keep, but if you’re going to hang on to them, I recommend using a scrapbook to keep them organized. Also, you can consider taking pictures of random memory items so you can look back on them without physically keeping them around.
- Do you REALLY need it? What is this item’s purpose in your life? If you can’t answer this, it might be time to let it go.
4. Keep Clothes on Hangers
You’ll save lots of time moving in if your hanging clothes stay on their hangers so all you have to do is fill your closet once you get there.
I separate my clothes by type (short sleeve shirts, dresses, skirts, etc.), punch a small hole in the top of a garbage bag and slip the clothes into the bag with the hanger hooks coming through the top of the bag.
5. Pack Bedding in Your Pillowcase
When you pack your bedding, it’s a great idea to slip the fitted sheet and top sheet inside the pillowcase so that you know everything is together and easy to grab when it’s time to change your sheets!
6. Pillows in Plastic Bags
Pack pillows in plastic bags in order to squeeze as much air out of them as possible.
No need for vacuum bags — extra large Ziploc or other sturdy plastic bags will do just fine. Just make sure to squeeze the air out of your pillow then seal the bag.
On the other hand, if you have delicate furniture or boxes to pack, sometimes it’s best to leave the pillows fluffy and use them as natural padding.
7. Pack Your Purses Like Luggage
I find that it works best to pack as many things as I can into bags I’ll use during the semester.
Keep in mind the fact that any boxes you take with you will need to be either stored or thrown away, so it’s a good idea to fill up as many everyday bags as you can.
For instance, fill your backpack with all your school supplies, your suitcase with all your jeans, and a purse with all your makeup.
Just make sure everything that can spill is tightly closed and put in a plastic bag first!
8. Secret Weapon: Cling Wrap
Cling Wrap is truly my packing secret weapon. Surprising, right? It works like a dream. Use it to:
- Keep mini plastic shelving units (like the ones to hold accessories and hair bands) together by wrapping them in Cling Wrap.
- Remember these jewelry storage ideas? Get everything organized at home and then wrap it up with Cling Wrap to keep it organized on the way to school.
- Shelving units that require assembly can be held together in transit with Cling Wrap. I use this for both my kitchen shelves and my closet shoe racks!
9. Be Smart About Packing the Car
Put heavy items on the bottom and build up from there. Once you have the big things in place, use softer items like clothes and bedding as cushioning between bulky items.
10. You will probably forget something. If so, don’t panic.
Trust me on this: There’s practically nothing you can forget to bring that can’t be fixed one way or another. Beg your Mom to Fedex your favorite going-out top to your dorm, convince a friend from home to visit you for the weekend with your hair straightener in tow, borrow your new roommate’s printer (pitch in for ink and paper!) until you can get home to grab yours, or, if all else fails, go out and buy whatever you’re missing.
There are always ways to get what you need, so while forgetting something might be annoying, it’s nowhere near the end of the world.
It helps to be prepared and take time when thinking of everything you need to pack, but don’t stress yourself out; stress will only make you more likely to forget something important. As long as you stay calm and be creative, you’re guaranteed to survive your back to school journey, even if all you remembered to pack was clean underwear (but, please don’t let that be the case!).
What do you think of our ultimate college packing list for girls?
Don’t forget to get the printable version of this list by filling out the form below:
Hopefully, this is helpful as you head back to school and makes an overwhelming task easier by breaking it all down. Obviously, everything is subjective, and if you’ve never used an HDMI cord, don’t plan on doing yoga, and only need to pack three pairs of shoes, that’s awesome! Take the college packing list and tailor it to your personal needs.
Let us know if this college packing list for girls helped in any way. Keep this and our other Back-to-School guides bookmarked in the weeks to come, and keep an eye out for more! Do you have any must haves that I missed? What must-haves are you bringing to school? Let’s chat in the comments!