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Looking for the best tips, tricks, hacks, and everything you need to pack for college? Here is exactly how to pack for college.

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how to pack for college

Packing for college can be super intimidating and it's way too easy to forget things or leave important things behind. When I was packing everything for college I was super stressed and worried I was going to forget something essential. I ended up making a packing list and writing everything down that I would need. Of course I still ended up having to make a few runs to Target before I had everything I needed for the year but luckily I remembered most of the essentials!

I put together a college packing list of all the essentials that you need to bring your first year as well as the unexpected things you may not have thought of. Hopefully this will help you when packing for college and ease your stress.

If you want specific products, check out my college essentials post where I lay out all of my favorite products that I couldn't live without in college.


This post is all about how to pack for college.


1. Bedding

The biggest part of your dorm room is your bed so you want to make sure you have all the bedding necessary to make your bed nice and cozy! 

Don't forget these things:

  • Mattress Pad
  • Mattress Protector
  • Twin Sheets
  • Pillow Cases
  • Duvet/Comforter
  • Throw Blanket
  • Throw Pillows

2. Bathroom Supplies

Whether you are living in a community bathroom or have your own, these are all the bathroom essentials you need:

  • Bath Towels
  • Towel Wrap
  • Shower Caddy 
  • Makeup Organizer
  • Makeup Mirror 
  • Hair Wrap 
  • Basket for Hair Products 
  • 2 Hand Towels 
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Makeup Remover 
  • Shaving Cream
  • Razor 
  • Loofah 
  • Lotion 
  • Hairspray 
  • Cotton Balls 
  • Toothbrush 
  • Toothpaste
  • Retainer
  • Tweezers 
  • Deodorant 
  • Tissues
  • Sunscreen 
  • Tampons & Pads

3. Cosmetics

Make sure to pack up all your hair products, makeup, and other cosmetics. I will give you tips on how to pack these supplies later on!

  • Nail Polish Remover 
  • Nail Polish 
  • Makeup 
  • Makeup Brushes
  • Perfume 
  • Hair Dryer 
  • Straightener 
  • Curling Iron 
  • Shampoo & Conditioner 
  • Face Wash



Simplify your dorm move with our amazing FREE College Packing List. Fill out the form below to get your College Packing List delivered straight to your inbox!

4. Cleaning Supplies

Because dorms are so small, they will get dirty super easily. Plus, because there are so many people living in dorms, it is easy to get sick.

You want to pick a day out of the week to clean your dorm to prevent this so make sure to pack up these cleaning supplies:

  • Laundry Detergent 
  • Downy Wrinkle Releaser 
  • Laundry Bags 
  • Dryer Sheets 
  • Trash Bags 
  • All-Purpose Cleaner 
  • Paper Towels 
  • Small Vacuum 
  • Disinfectant Spray 
  • Dawn Soap 
  • Air Fresheners

5. Electronics

You will remember your phone and computer but there are other electronics you will definitely need! Don't forget these electronics:

  • Laptop & Charger 
  • Extension Cord 
  • Surge Protector 
  • Calculator & Charger 
  • Sound Machine 
  • 10ft Charger 
  • USB Drive

6. School Supplies

You are packing for college to go to school so make sure you don't forget school supplies! You can always wait until after the first day of classes to see what exactly then buy supplies.

But, I liked being overly prepared so here is what I brought:

  • Backpack 
  • Pencils
  • Highlighters 
  • Pens 
  • Binders 
  • Notebook 
  • Tape 
  • Binder Dividers 
  • Stapler
  • Hole Punch 
  • Scissors 
  • Ruler 
  • Planner

7. Decor

You want your dorm to feel as much like home as possible so make sure you bring decor to decorate with!

  • Bulletin Board 
  • Photos 
  • Picture Frames
  • Side Table
  • Rug
  • Curtains
  • Curtain Rod

8. Medicine

Medicine was one of those things I kind of forget to bring and ended up having to go out and buy after I was already sick.

Make sure to have all of these on hand while living in your dorm:

  • First Aid Kit 
  • Ibuprofen 
  • Allergy Medicine 
  • Tums 
  • Cold & Flu Medicine 
  • Emergen-C
  • Cough Drops

9. Clothing

Clothing can be intimidating to pack because there is just so much to remember. Don't go too overboard while packing clothing to ensure room for new clothes. However, make sure to bring these essentials:

  • Bras / Sports Bras 
  • Tank Tops 
  • Shirts 
  • Sweaters 
  • Sweatshirts 
  • Jean Jacket
  • Cardigans 
  • Jeans 
  • Leggings 
  • Joggers 
  • Socks 
  • Dresses 
  • Tennis Shoes 
  • Sandals 
  • Boots 
  • Rain Jacket
  • Scarves 
  • Light Jackets 
  • Winter Jackets 
  • Jewelry 
  • Hats 
  • Swimsuit 
  • Pajamas

10. Additional Storage

Dorm rooms are super small and it is super easy to run out of storage space. Make sure to bring extra ways to store clothing, shoes, and products.

  • Baskets
  • Under the Bed Storage
  • Velvet Hangers
  • Space Saving Hangers
  • Shoe Organizer



Simplify your dorm move with our amazing FREE College Packing List. Fill out the form below to get your College Packing List delivered straight to your inbox!


12. Bed Tray

college packing list

Because dorm beds are so high, using a side table can be difficult. I used to love working while sitting on my bed but I hate having to just sit my computer on my lap. I ended up getting a bed tray to set my computer on while I worked. This also came in handy when I wanted to eat a snack on my bed or set water on.

13. Wrinkle Releaser Spray

Bringing an iron and ironing board is not only inconvenient but also totally unnecessary. Buy some Downy Wrinkle Releaser bottles to instantly remove creases from clothing with just a couple of sprays. This is an essential that I recommend to all freshmen packing for college!

14. Over-the-Door Mirror

what to pack for college

I completely forgot to bring an over-the-door mirror my freshman year and it was the biggest inconvenience. Make sure to bring a mirror to put on your door! You can find these from Bed Bath and Beyond and Target for pretty cheap! Amazon has them as well but they are usually way more expensive so check local stores first.

15. Moisture Absorber

Because dorm halls are usually older, they tend to get musty and damp. I didn't even think about this until I moved in so I'm sure a lot of people didn't either. My dorm was so humid that my mirror fogged up and my clothes were literally damp. Definitely buy moisture absorber packets or a dehumidifier to keep your room dry and prevent sickness!

16. Tool Kit

Make sure to bring a tool kit to your dorm room! This comes especially handy during move-in and throughout the year when you need to fix things in a pinch.

17. Ear Plugs Or Sound Machine

If you are a light sleeper, earplugs or a sound machine will become your best friends when it comes time to going to bed. 

My dorm was next to a train track that ran every hour so I always used my sound machine at bedtime my freshman year. If your roommate is bothered by the sound machine, you can also use ear plugs. You can buy a large pack like this one for cheap from Amazon that will last you the entire year. These are also great if you are trying to sleep while your roommate is watching TV or playing music.

18. Rain Boots And Umbrella

When you are thinking of how to pack for college, think about what the weather is like where you plan to go to school! If it is rainy, definitely bring a pair of rain boots and an umbrella along. I forgot rain boots my first week and ruined a couple of pairs of shoes because of it. 

19. First Aid Kit

You want to make sure to bring a first aid kit to school. Include everything from blister bandaids, Neosporin, and Advil. First aid kits are great in a pinch and are definitely something you will need to pack for college.

20. Costumes

Date parties and themed events are a huge part of the college experience so costumes are something you need to bring that you may not have even thought of!

21. Blow Up Mattress

When I was thinking about what to bring and how to pack for college it totally slipped my mind to bring an air mattress. A blowup mattress or extra mattress pad is so helpful to have around if you plan on having friends visit you at school. The dorm beds are small and I promise it isn't fun to share them. 

22. Command Hooks And Extra Strips

You usually can't use nails to hang things up in dorm rooms so having command hooks is the next best option. Make sure to pack these and extra strips before moving in so you can get right to decorating!

23. Reusable Water Bottle

Constantly buying plastic water bottles is not only bad for the environment but also so expensive! Make sure to pack a reusable water bottle like this one to save money and keep your water cold much longer on the way to class.

24. Portable Charger

The worst thing ever is having your phone die when you need it so packing a portable charger is pretty much a necessity. Having your phone die during a night out is so frustrating and inconvenient especially if you use your phone to get into your dorm.

Keeping a portable charger around will ensure your phone never dies while out and about and will be a lifesaver if the power goes out in your dorm.

25. Phone Wallet

As a college student, you will lose things super frequently while walking to class or out at the bars. Definitely buy a phone wallet and put it on the back of your phone to keep your student ID, debit card, and extra cash in!


26. Use Storage Bags To Pack

These are the exact storage bags I used when moving into my dorm and absolutely loved them! They were not only great to pack but also came in handy when I wanted to store extra bedding, clothing, or shoes under my bed. I would definitely recommend these when you pack for college!

27. Use Trash Bags To Cover Hanging Clothes

Use this college packing hack:

This trash bag trick is my absolute favorite college move-in hack! If you want to know how to pack for college when moving hung-up clothes, this is the go-to way. 

Separate sections of your hanging clothes and cover each section with a trash bag. I originally did this by tearing holes at the top but looking back at it would have been much easier just to use the opening and handles. I used this packing hack when I moved into my college dorm and every time I moved apartments, it made things so much easier!

28. Pack With Vacuum Storage Bags

Vacuum bags are the easiest and most compact way to pack clothing, bedding, or any other large items. I packed all of my bedding and large jackets in vacuum bags and it ended up saving so much space in the car when I moved in and back home. 

These are also great to keep around to store seasonal clothes under your bed without taking up a bunch of space.

29. Shoe Storage Containers

Shoe storage containers are a great way to move shoes that can also be used as under-the-bed storage once you are all moved into your dorm. Plus, keeping your shoes in storage bags will prevent them from getting any of your other clothes muddy or dirty.

30. Use Ziploc Bags To Pack Cosmetics

When packing, make sure to put all cosmetic items like lotion, shampoo, soap, etc. in Ziploc bags. This will prevent anything from spilling onto clothes and keep all your products contained in bags!



Simplify your dorm move with our amazing FREE College Packing List. Fill out the form below to get your College Packing List delivered straight to your inbox!

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