The CF Guide to Everything You Need to Bring to College

Solving the age-old question: What do I pack?
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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 try and figure out exactly what I needed. The last thing I wanted was to have to buy it there, or find out I'd forgotten a favorite book or must-have photo, then have to wait for it to be shipped out. 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 it 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. This list is made up of the actual items I packed and used, and if I didn't, I made note of it.

Items that I didn't use, but were recommended, are listed based on situations where you might have a different preference than I did, or if your school provides different things for you or has different rules. Always check your school's website before buying larger items to make sure it's 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.

Bed and Bedding

  • Mattress Protector  
  • Mattress Pad 
  • Two sets of Twin XL Sheets  
  • Duvet and Duvet Cover or Comforter 
  • Pillow(s)  
  • Pillowcases 
  • Throws and Extra Blankets (Perfect for chilly rooms and/or guests) 
  • Decorative pillows  
  • Sleeping Bag and/or Air Mattress 
  • Bed Risers 
grey-americas-eagle-sheets

These make me sleepy just looking at them. 

Don't forget that most dorm beds are extra long, so regular twin-size sheets won't fit. The cozy sheet set pictured here is from American Eagle, but you can also find cute Twin XL sheets at places like Target, Dormify and Bed Bath & Beyond

Decorating

  • Blinds and/or Curtains, if your school doesn’t provide them 
  • String Lights 
  • Desk Lamp 
  • Photos from home 

Organization

  • Hangers 
  • Sweater Organizer 
  • Command Hooks (I used mine to hang hot tools, hats, and purses.) 
  • Mirror, either over the door or for hanging elsewhere in the room. 
  • Clear Storage Bins 
  • Shoe Organizer or Shoe Rack 
  • Jewelry Organizer 
  • Makeup or Toiletries Organizer 
  • Cups for Brushes 
  • Makeup Mirror 
  • Desk Organizer 
  • Shower Caddy 
container-store-makeup-organizer

Pretty and practical for limited desk space. 

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.  

Cleaning

  • Disinfectant Wipes 
  • Trash Bags 
  • Compost Bags (My school provided us with compost bins, but not all schools do.) 
  • Dish Soap  
  • Dish Sponges  
  • Glass Cleaner 
  • Handheld Vacuum  
  • Dish Towels 
  • Paper Towels 
  • Trash Can (Most schools provide this for students, so check before you buy.) 

Toiletries

  • Towels 
  • Hair Towel 
  • Shower Cap 
  • Shampoo 
  • Conditioner 
  • Other Daily/Weekly Hair Products 
  • Brush 
  • Comb 
  • Razor 
  • Scrub 
  • Body Lotion 
  • Body Wash 
  • Bar Soap 
  • Toothpaste 
  • Toothbrush 
  • Floss 
  • Makeup Products 
  • Moisturizer 
  • Face Wash 
  • Any other skincare products you use 
  • Deodorant 
  • Contacts and/or Glasses 
  • Nail Polish Remover 
  • Makeup Remover 
  • Acne Products 
  • Menstrual Products 
  • Makeup Brush Cleaner 
  • Nail Polish 
  • Hair Ties 
  • Bobby Pins 
  • Blow Dryer 
  • Hot Tools 
  • Contact Lens Case and Cleaner

Clothing

  • T-Shirts 
  • Tank Tops 
  • Long Sleeved Shirts 
  • Blouses 
  • Jeans 
  • Pants 
  • Shorts 
  • Skirts 
  • Leggings 
  • Raincoat 
  • Windbreaker 
  • Vests  
  • Winter Jacket 
  • Jean Jacket 
  • Leather Jacket 
  • Warm Sweaters 
  • Cardigans 
  • Sweatshirts 
  • Casual Dresses 
  • Little Black Dress 
  • Going Out Dresses 
  • Underwear/Bras 
  • Socks 
  • Tights 
  • Bathing Suits 
  • Formal Dress  
  • Semi-Formal Dress 
  • Semi-Formal Top and Pants 
  • Formal Top and Pants 
  • Professional Interview Outfit 
  • Professional Work Attire (if needed) 
  • Reusable Tote Bags 
  • Backpack 
  • Purse 
  • More formal clutch or wristlet 
  • Suitcase 
  • Duffle bag 
  • Gloves (depending on climate) 
  • Scarves  
  • Sunglasses 
  • Hats  
  • Belts 
  • Workout Tops 
  • Workout Leggings 
  • Workout Shorts 
  • Running Shoes/Workout Sneakers 
  • Sports Bras 
  • Set of PJ’s for cold months 
  • Set of PJ’s for when it’s hot outside 
  • Slippers 
  • Bathrobe 
  • Boots 
  • Sneakers 
  • Shower Shoes 
  • Flip-Flops 
  • Heels  
  • Flats  
  • Snow Boots (depending on climate) 
  • Rain Boots (depending on climate) 

Note: Clothing is so personal and so much of what you pack is dependent on where you are living. Oh-so sunny Seattle means I recommend lots of boots and a good raincoat, but if you live in Arizona, then snow boots are a waste of space. Reach out to current students and look at the weather before packing your wardrobe.

Laundry

  • Laundry Hamper or Bag 
  • Delicates Bag 
  • Drying Rack (I found mine super helpful for delicate items.) 
  • Detergent 
  • Stain Remover  
  • Fabric Softener 
  • Lint Brush 
  • Sewing Kit 
  • Quarters 
  • Iron  
  • Ironing Board 
drying-rack

A drying rack was amazingly helpful for my delicate and hand wash items. 

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. This drying rack from Target is highly rated, per the reviews. 

Medicinal Items

  • First Aid Kit 
  • Band-Aids 
  • Vaseline  
  • Cough and Cold Medicine 
  • Decongestant 
  • Allergy Medicine  
  • Cough Drops 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Aloe Vera 
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever 
  • Vitamins and Supplements  
  • Throat Spray 
  • Eye Drops 
  • Thermometer and Covers 
  • Tweezers  
  • Safety Pins 
  • Prescription Medicine  
  • Refill Prescription Information 
  • Retainer/Mouth Guard  
  • Medicine/Relief for Upset Stomach  
  • Cotton Pads/Cotton Balls 
  • Q-Tips  
  • Nail Trimmers 

Kitchen, Cooking and Food

  • Coffee Maker 
  • Hot Water Kettle  
  • Can Opener  
  • Water Filter Pitcher 
  • Microwave (If the school allows it and is not provided) 
  • Mini-Fridge (Again, if the school allows it and is not provided) 
  • Mugs 
  • Portable Coffee Mugs 
  • Reusable Water Bottle 
  • Utensils  
  • Dishes  
  • Reusable Straws 
  • Napkins 
  • Snack and Sandwich Bags 
  • Food Storage Containers 
  • Bulk Snacks 
  • Popcorn 
  • Cereal/Granola 
  • Oatmeal  
  • Coffee and/or Tea 
  • Milk/Dairy-Free Alternative for Coffee and/or Tea 
  • Sugar 
  • Hot Chocolate  
  • Salt and Pepper 
  • Other Spices used often 
  • Instant Meals, like ramen and mac and cheese 
electric-kettle

This was my favorite grad gift. 

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 at Bed Bath & Beyond.  

Electronics

  • Laptop 
  • Laptop Charger 
  • E-reader or Tablet (I didn’t bring one, but many students have them) 
  • Phone 
  • Phone Charger + a spare 
  • Portable phone charger 
  • Headphones + spares 
  • Batteries 
  • Camera(s) 
  • SD Card 
  • Film, if you have a film or Polaroid camera 
  • Extension Cord 
  • Laptop Case 
  • Speakers 
  • TV  
  • TV Stand  
  • HDMI Cord 
  • Printer 
  • Printer Ink 
  • Printer Paper 

Quick note: I found that I didn't need a camera, or a TV, and the school printers were fine. There were so many places on campus to print; it didn't matter if one was broken. Some students, however, may feel like the printers at their schools are unreliable, too expensive, or too far away and feel like it's a justified buy.

As far as TV's go, some people swear by them, but I did all my Netflix watching on my laptop. It all depends on your personal preferences.

Documents

  • License or Photo ID 
  • School ID 
  • Passport 
  • Checks, if you have them 
  • Copy of Insurance 
  • Financial Aid Documents 
  • Bank Documents 
  • Medical ID or Medical Documents 
  • Papers associated with a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal 
  • Car Registration and Insurance, if you are bringing your car to school  
  • Car Parking Pass 
  • Copy of Birth Certificate 
  • Copy of Social Security Card 

Handy Items

  • Screwdriver  
  • Lightbulbs for lamp 
  • Command Strips  
  • Wall Putty or Tape, depending on what your school allows 
  • Pushpins or Tacks 

School Supplies

See our Ultimate Guide to School Supplies, plus items for your desk.

and finally......

Other/Miscellaneous

  • Eye Mask 
  • Earplugs 
  • Fan  
  • White Noise Machine, if you prefer noise 
  • Comfort Movies or Books (but not too many!) 
  • Beach Towel 
  • Bike and Bike Accessories, if you are bringing one 
  • Board Games and Cards  
  • Religious Materials 
  • Musical Instruments 
  • Art Supplies  
  • Umbrella 
  • Yoga Mat or Sports Equipment 
  • Flashlight  
  • Pepper Spray (Check the rules at your school and state.) 
  • Safety Whistle  
  • Safe  
  • Wall Clock or Alarm Clock 
  • Diffuser and Essential Oils, if your school allows it 

What do you think?

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 alarm, don't plan on doing yoga, and only need to pack three pairs of shoes that's awesome! Take the list and tailor it to your personal needs.

Let us know if this 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!

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