What to Pack for College

Packing for a move is overwhelming in most circumstances, but moving to college requires some special considerations. Whatever your arrangement--shared dorm, off-campus apartment, Greek house--your space is likely to be tight, and it's likely to be shared. This guide should help you make the easiest and most intelligent move possible.

Of course you'll need clothes, toiletries, and basic school supplies (notebooks, pencils, backpack, etc.). That much is a given. This guide will focus more on the things you might not think of, but which could make a world of difference in your transition to college life.

Don't Overpack

Very few college graduates look back on their days in the dorm and think, "Wow, I had so much space." Be cautious when you pack. Remember: you can buy things once you get there! You're going to a college campus, not a remote island, and you don't need to bring every single item you'll need for the entire year. It will be easier, take up less space, and be more cost-effective to buy certain supplies (extra binders, pens, planners, etc.) as you need them.

You may have to leave some luxuries at home. Be ruthless as you choose which things you need, and which things you want. Your toothbrush and underwear? You need those. Those 5 extra coats? They may be stylish, but let's face it, you merely want those. You don't have a lot of space to work with, and you don't want to impose on your roommate's space with a bunch of unnecessary stuff.

Some things may be provided by the school, like a desk lamp or even a microwave. Do a bit of research ahead of time and find out what will be provided. A visit to the school's website or a quick phone call to the housing department should answer your questions.

This one's important: coordinate with your roommate! If there's one thing a 12' x 12' dorm room doesn't need, it's an extra fridge. Contact your roomie beforehand and figure out what appliances you each are bringing. Be careful, though. Many college housing facilities have limits regarding the size and electricity usage of appliances. Contact your campus residence life office to make sure you don't bring an appliance that you can't actually use.

Easily Overlookable Essentials

Here are some items which you may not think to bring, but which could make your college transition a whole lot easier:

  • Robe - Most dorms have shared bathrooms and showers. A robe will make that walk back to your room much more comfortable.
  • Shower Caddy - This will make carrying your shower necessities (shampoo, conditioner, razor, soap, etc.) from your room and back a whole lot easier.
  • Shower Slippers - The floors of dorm showers are not renowned for their pristine cleanliness. Some shower slippers will make things much more pleasant.
  • Dishes - A single plate, bowl, cup, fork, knife, and spoon should be sufficient. Keep 'em washed!
  • Can opener - How else do you plan on opening that can of soup?
  • Quarters - A surprisingly hot commodity on college campuses, and invaluable if you plan on doing any laundry. You can get rolls of quarters from your bank or credit union.
  • Laundry detergent and fabric softener - Many campus laundry facilities sell individual packets of detergent in the laundry facility, but you'll save yourself a lot of money by buying it in bulk. Make sure you have a way to bring a small amount down to the laundry machines each time, though; you don't want to have to haul a 20-pound bucket of detergent down a bunch of stairs every time you do laundry.
  • Laundry hamper/basket/bag - This will help keep all those dirty clothes from being piled up on precious floorspace, and will double as a way to carry your clothes to the laundry facilities and back.
  • Febreze - Over time, college living spaces tend to, well, smell a bit funky...
  • Hangers - Thrift stores usually sell big bundles of these, often for less than a dollar.
  • Extra-long sheets - This one's crucial. Most beds in college housing are sized "extra-long twin", and twin sheets will NOT fit them. Double-check with the residence life office and make sure you bring sheets that will actually fit your bed.
  • Sewing Kit - Going out and buying new clothes every time something gets a little hole in it is a big drain of time, money, and space.
  • First Aid Kit - It needn't be overly complicated. Some bandages, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, etc.
  • Small Toolkit - You'd be surprised how often this comes in handy. The toolkit should include a screwdriver (with different tips), a wrench, a small hammer, a tape measure, etc.
  • Cleaning Supplies - Absolutely invaluable. Some paper towels and a cleaning spray (or a few sponges, or some Clorox wipes) can work wonders in that little dorm room of yours.
  • Extension Cords - Power outlets aren't always in the perfect spot. Extension cords are key to arranging your room in the best possible way.
  • Power Strip with Surge Protection - This is very important for safely plugging in your laptop, as well as the plethora of other electronic devices you'll probably bring with you.
  • Thumb drive - You'll be working on a lot of different computers at college. From collaborating on a classmate's laptop to printing out term papers at the library, your thumb drive will see a lot of use.
  • Fan - College housing can get pretty hot n' stuffy in the warm months. A small fan is an absolute lifesaver.
  • Umbrella - You'll sure be glad you have this when it rains the first time.

Don't Bring:

  • Hot Plate - Generally, these are not allowed in student housing due to the fire hazard they pose.
  • Candles - Also prohibited for the same reason.
  • Appliances which exceed the housing facility's size and/or electricity usage limits
  • Really expensive things - The risk of theft is just too high.

There may be things which you want to bring, but which weren't included on this list. That's totally fine, just be conscious of space restrictions and make sure they're worth the trouble of moving them. Some things you may be able to bring later (after a visit home, for instance). Some things are seasonal, like heavy winter coats, which you may not need for a few months. And remember to relax! If you do happen to forget something important, it can be shipped overnight to you, or purchased in your new community.

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