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Packing for College: Off Campus & Dorm Packing List


Are you the type to start an assignment the moment you receive it, or do you have a habit of putting it off till the night before it’s due? Regardless of your propensity for procrastination, packing for college is not something you’ll want to postpone till the night before your moving day, especially if you’re going to college across the country or in a different state.

For the most part, there are common items every freshman will need when they move to college. Whether you purchase these items before you move will depend on how far you’re moving. If you’re moving to college across the country, think carefully about what items you can wait to purchase till after you arrive, and only pack essentials and other items that are easy to transport long distance.

Get started with our college packing lists, including dorm checklists and must-have items for living off campus.

Dorm Checklist: Living on campus

If you’re living in dorms or other on-campus housing, chances are most of your furniture will be supplied for you and your college move will be a relatively simple one. Before you purchase or pack any of the items listed below, double check to make sure your dorm doesn’t already provide one. Most colleges will supply a checklist of what to bring; otherwise, use our dorm checklist to make sure you have everything you need:

Room needs

If you aren’t sure what you’ll need or are moving long distance, many of these items can wait until you arrive.

  • Bedside lamp
  • Alarm clock (for days when you need back up for your phone alarm)
  • Trash can
  • Storage bins, such as under-the-bed storage bins or stackable storage bins
  • Desk lamp
  • Fan
  • Drying rack for laundry
  • Dry-erase calendar
  • Mini toolkit
  • Removable picture hangers and hooks
COLLEGE PACKING TIP: Unless you know for sure how much space you have to work with, you may want to wait till after you arrive to purchase storage bins and other organizational supplies such as bed risers. If you arrive with these items, you run the risk of ending up with supplies you don’t have a need for or bulky containers that won’t fit where you had originally planned.

Desktop and work needs

If you’re going to college across the country, hold off on purchasing these items until after you arrive.

  • Stapler and staples
  • Paper—both lined and blank printer paper
  • Pens, pencils, and highlighters in multiple colors
  • Notebooks
  • Index cards—to use as flashcards
  • Sticky notes
  • Paper clips and binder clips
  • Rubber bands
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Calculator
  • Thumb tacks
  • Desktop organization tools

Electronics

You’ll likely want to bring your own electronic devices from home.

  • Laptop and charging cord
  • Storage devices, such as an external hard drive, memory cards, etc.
  • Portable speakers or bluetooth speaker
  • Cords—HDMI, ethernet cables, etc.
  • Surge protector
  • Extension cords
  • Headphones
  • Laptop lock
COLLEGE PACKING TIP: Buy a power bar and surge protector combination to save space.

Linens and laundry

Linens and laundry items can be especially bulky, and will likely be easier to purchase after you arrive. If you have the space, packing an emergency fitted sheet can buy you some time in case you can’t make a shopping trip right away, you’re due to arrive after stores close, or if stores are sold out.

  • Pillows
  • Mattress pad (optional)
  • Comforter or duvet
  • Sheets and pillowcases—2 sets are usually recommended
  • Throw blankets
  • Decorative pillows
  • Towels—2 bath towels as well as 3-4 face clothes and hand towels. If you will be living in a suite-style dorm that includes a kitchen, you should also pack or purchase dish cloths and towels.
  • Laundry hamper—one that’s easy to carry to and from the laundry room, and ideally collapsible to save space.
  • Stain remover
  • Dryer sheets
  • Laundry detergent
  • Mini sewing kit
COLLEGE PACKING TIP: Check whether your dorm has regular twin or extra-long twin beds before you invest in new sheets.

Toiletries

Toiletries are easy to find and readily available on most campuses, and they can quickly become heavy and cumbersome to move, so if you’re moving long distance for college, consider purchasing these items after you move in.

  • Prescription medications—bring a supply from home to use until you find a pharmacist in your new town.
  • Pain relievers
  • Vitamins
  • Basic first-aid items—bandages, antibacterial ointment, gauze, tape, etc.
  • Shower caddy
  • Shower shoes—you’ll want them in shared showers
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Soap
  • Hair products
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Dental floss
  • Comb or brush
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Blow dryer, straightener, and/or curling iron
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Lotion and moisturizers
  • Makeup
  • Favourite nail polishes
  • Contact lens cleaner and cases
  • Toilet paper (if you live in a suite-style dorm)
  • Thermometer

Clothing

Before you box up your entire wardrobe, think critically about what’s in your closet. Moving away to college is the perfect opportunity to downsize and get rid of the stuff you no longer wear.

When you’re packing your clothes, resist the temptation to pack everything and try to narrow your wardrobe down to items you will actually need.

COLLEGE PACKING TIP: It’s okay to pack some impractical items, as long as you limit yourself to a select few. You never know when you’ll need that metallic shirt or those hot pink leggings for a costume party or themed event.

In addition to your regular wardrobe, pack:

  • Warm coat
  • Scarf, hat, and mittens—depending on where you are moving to
  • 1 or 2 sets of business casual clothes
  • 1 formal outfit
  • 1 or 2 pairs of dress shoes
  • Bathing suit
  • Bathrobe
  • Workout clothes

Important documents

Make sure you pack these documents in your personal vehicle, and keep them handy and easily accessible at all times.

  • Car registration and insurance information
  • Copy of birth certificate and social security
  • Passport
  • Emergency contact information
  • Financial aid documents
  • Banking information and checkbook (if you have one)
  • Health and dental insurance documentation
  • Shipping paperwork and bill of lading, if you are shipping any belongings separately
  • A small lockbox to keep your documents secure

Small appliances

Some dorms allow you to bring your own small appliances, but many have rules and regulations that prevent students from using potentially hazardous appliances. Check your dorm’s rules or find out whether your roommates plan to pack some of these items before you pack them yourself:

  • TV and DVD or Blu-ray player
  • Coffee maker
  • Kettle
  • Microwave
  • Toaster
  • Toaster oven
  • Mini fridge

Household and kitchen items

If your dorm room has a small kitchen or you have access to a shared kitchen, you may also want to pack or purchase:

  • Oven mitts
  • 1 set of dishes
  • 1 or 2 sets of silverware
  • Mug and/or travel mug
  • Can and bottle opener
  • Towels and cloths
  • Dish soap
  • Paper towels
  • Wet wipes
  • Trash bags
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Plastic sandwich bags
  • Food storage containers
  • Air freshener/room spray

Other items

  • Sports equipment
  • Backpack
  • Decorative lights
  • Wall art, posters, and photos
  • Plants
  • Playing cards
  • Earplugs
  • Sleep mask
  • Flashlight
  • Duct tape
  • Tissues
PACKING TIP: Most colleges have poster sales at the start of the year. Instead of packing the same posters you’ve had hanging since you were a high school freshman, which could get folded, torn, or otherwise damaged while you move, budget a bit of money for new artwork.

What NOT to bring to college

When you’re moving away to college, the biggest challenge you’ll face is not to overpack. Here’s what you definitely don’t need to bring along:

  • Anything prohibited by your dorm. Double check what is and isn’t allowed before you start packing. Typically, you will not be permitted to bring: candles, space heaters, hot plates, incense, and anything that could be considered a fire hazard
  • Anything your room comes with. Don’t bother packing anything your off-campus housing or dorm provides, such as a coffee maker, toaster, office chair, or desk lamp. Same goes for anything your roommates plan to bring—if you can, try to coordinate with them before you arrive to limit potential duplication.
  • Your entire wardrobe. Chances are you’ll have much less space in your new closet than you’re used to—in addition to your everyday wardrobe, 1-2 suits or formal outfits and 1-2 pairs of nice shoes should be all you need.
COLLEGE PACKING TIP: If possible, restrict yourself to packing only seasonally-appropriate items—if your college is close enough to home, you can bring new stuff back with you after your next visit home. If you’re a little farther away, it might be worth investing in a new winter jacket when the snow starts to fall rather than wasting precious space packing your bulky parka.
  • Organization tools. There’s no point buying organization tools for your dorm until you actually see how it’s laid out and how much space you’ll have.
  • Hobbies, books, and collectibles. If you are a gamer, hobbyist, or collector, you don’t need to bring all your board games or video games—limit yourself to just your favorites.
  • Pets. As hard as it can be to leave your cat, hamster, or fish behind, dorms do not allow pets.

Living off campus

Unless you’ve rented a furnished apartment, you’ll most likely need to provide your own furniture if you’ve decided to live off campus. In addition to all the items listed above, you’ll also need:

Bedroom

  • Bed frame
  • Mattress
  • Bed linens and pillows
  • Dresser
  • Night table
  • Closet organization

Bathroom

  • Shower curtain and rings
  • Shower mat
  • Plunger
  • Toilet brush and cleaner

Kitchen

  • Dining table and chairs
  • Dishware, glassware, and silverware
  • Knives
  • Pots and pans
  • Cooking utensils—spatula, flipper, whisk, large spoon, etc.
  • Strainer
  • Cheese grater
  • Measuring cups
  • Small appliances—coffee maker, kettle, blender, microwave, toaster oven, toaster, etc.
  • Cutting board

Living room

  • Couch
  • Coffee table and/or end tables
  • Electronics and entertainment equipment

Other

  • Curtains and curtain rods
  • Lamps, including table lamps and floor lamps
  • Rugs, such as area rugs and doormats
  • Vacuum, broom, and/or dust mop
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Hangers
  • Bicycle
  • Power tools

What should you ship from home?

If you’re moving to college across the country or in a different state, getting your belongings from Point A to Point B may pose more of a challenge. Instead of renting a moving truck and driving yourself to college, it may be easier—and more economical—to pack as little as possible into one or two suitcases and purchase any furniture and other bulky items and incidentals once you arrive.

If you have furniture to move, are moving your bed, or need help moving your boxes, consolidated freight shipping services are also a good solution. When you ship your belongings via consolidated freight, they share space on the truck with other shipments heading in the same direction. You only pay for the amount of space your goods take up on the truck, which will save you money and limits your carbon footprint.

Consolidated freight is ideal for:

  • Furniture—couches, chairs, tables, bed frames, mattresses, etc.
  • Packed boxes

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