The complete and only college packing checklist you’ll ever need

Did you know that roughly 19.6 million people attended college in 2019? All of those students mean a lot of moving and a lot of potential for forgetting important items.

Luckily, a good college packing checklist can help you remember to bring what you need and want. Then, you’ll be able to look forward to your first college semester and not worry about buying things at the last minute.

Read on to learn what you should bring to college.


First, you need to have a good place to sleep after all of your classes. If you’ll be living on campus, you don’t need to worry about getting a bed.

However, you will need to bring bedding, such as:

  • Comforter
  • Sheets
  • Mattress topper
  • Pillows
  • Pillowcases

Make sure you have enough pillows to be comfortable but not too many where they take up a ton of space. Before buying these supplies, you should also ask your college about the mattress size so that you buy the right items.

It can also help to bring some tools in case you want to adjust the height of your bed when you move in. Your school may have tools you can use, so ask about that as well.

Bath supplies

Another essential section of any college packing list is some bath supplies. You will need some toiletries to keep yourself clean and healthy when going to college, including:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Face wash
  • Body wash
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Towels
  • Robe

If you’ll be using a community shower, you may also want to pack shower shoes. That way, you don’t have to walk down the hall or use a group shower barefoot.

Also if you have a community shower, you should pack something to store all of these items. You’ll be able to bring the bag down the hall instead of trying to hold everything in your hands. That’s especially important if you have to walk a long way.

First aid kit

Odds are, your college will have a student health center. However, you should still pack a first aid kit with some of the basics, such as bandaids, a thermometer, and over-the-counter medications.

Hand sanitizer, cold packs, and antibiotic ointment can also come in handy. You can either find a first aid kit that’s ready to go, or you can make your own kit.

If you or a roommate has an allergy, be sure to include an Epipen. Whoever has the allergy will need to provide it, but you should make sure to have everything you need. Additionally, for those who require regular medication, 7 day pill organizers can be a lifesaver. These organizers are designed with compartments for each day of the week, ensuring that your pills are neatly sorted and easily accessible.

Another thing to keep in the kit is a list of phone numbers for the student health center and local hospitals. That way, you don’t have to search for that information if you get really sick.

Clothing and accessories

Next on your college packing list, be sure to bring clothing and accessories. Consider where you’re going to college to make sure you pack for the right climate.

For example, if you’re heading up north, you may want to bring a coat and snow boots. But in the south, it makes more sense to have clothes for warmer weather.

You should bring clothes to wear to regular classes, work, and special occasions. Of course, don’t forget to bring a good selection of shoes but not too many pairs so that you can save on space.

If you wear jewelry, makeup, or watches, you’ll want to bring those items. And everyone should have at least one pajama set to wear in the evening.

Closet organization

Your first year of college, you may not have a ton of space. Because of that, you want to choose some closet organization supplies that will maximize the area you do have for storing your clothes.

When shopping for hangers, look for thinner ones since you’ll be able to fit more of them in a smaller space. You may also want to get a hanging closet organizer to use for shoes or smaller clothing items that don’t need their own hangers.

If you don’t have space for shoes, consider getting a special shoe rack. It can go under your clothes in the closet, so you’ll be able to keep more pairs in the same space.

Laundry supplies

Along with all of your clothes, you’ll need stuff to do your laundry. Of course, this means choosing a good basket, bin, or bag. A laundry bag is particularly useful since you can carry it with one hand.

You’ll also need to decide if you want to use powder, liquid, or pods for your laundry detergent. Pods are more convenient, but they can have issues if they don’t fully dissolve.

If you plan to use them, be sure to also bring dryer sheets and fabric softener. Some colleges include laundry in your room and board, but if not, you’ll need to bring quarters to pay for laundry.


Your first college semester can be stressful, but bringing some decorations may help alleviate some of that. Consider packing things like:

  • Posters
  • Art prints
  • Photos
  • String lights

Put the decorations up over your bed and desk to make your space feel more like home. If you want, you and your roommates can even coordinate a theme for the decorations to make the whole room more cohesive.

However, just decorating your side can keep you from feeling like you’re in a stuffy dorm room. That way, you’ll be able to relax after a busy day or week, and you can enjoy yourself.

Dishes and cooking tools

Even if you have access to a dining hall, consider bringing dishes and cooking supplies. You never know when you might get hungry after the dining hall closes. And if it’s storming out, you might not want to walk across campus for food. Pack items such as:

  • Cups
  • Bowls
  • Plates
  • Water filter pitcher
  • Microwave
  • Mini-fridge

Be sure to check with your college to determine what appliances you can and can’t bring. You’ll also want to message any roommates about these things to decide who will bring what.

Odds are, you can’t have more than one microwave per room. Plus, having roommates means you can split the cost of those appliances between multiple people.

Other household items

You’ll also want to bring some other general household items to have on hand when you need them. Having paper towels is great to use when you run out of plates or if you need to clean up a small mess.

Other cleaning supplies to have include a cleaning spray, disinfectant, a vacuum, and a broom and dustpan. You should also pack some trash bags to use throughout the year.

If you have a suite with your own bathroom, you should also bring your own toilet paper. Even if you have a communal bathroom, bringing toilet paper means you don’t have to use the cheap stuff, but you will have to take it to and from the bathroom.

Think about the supplies you and your parents use around the house. Then, add those items to your college packing checklist.

Electronics and entertainment

College doesn’t have to be all work and no play. To give yourself something fun to do, bring some electronics and other entertainment items.

You may want to bring a TV, but be sure to coordinate this with any roommates you have. If you like playing video games, you can bring a gaming system or two.

Of course, you’ll also want to bring a phone and your laptop as well as a tablet if you have one. Be sure to also bring chargers for all of your portable devices.

While it’s not necessary, power strips allow you to extend access to power. You may not have many outlets in your room, so power strips also give you more spots to plug in your devices.

School supplies

Of course, no college packing checklist would be complete without school supplies. If you aren’t bringing a computer or tablet for entertainment, you’ll need one or both for your schoolwork.

You should also pack or purchase items such as:

  • Notebooks
  • Binders
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Headphones or earbuds

Depending on your major, you might also need to purchase special tools or software. For example, design majors might need graphic design software, and music students will need to bring their instruments.

It’s not necessary, but you can also bring a printer with paper and ink. Then, you won’t have to deal with going to the library or facing a printing limit that your school might impose each semester.

Calendar or planner

A smart student will also bring a calendar or a planner to keep track of classes and activities. For example, maybe you want to read about Phi Beta Kappa and join the organization.

Certain groups and clubs may have specific meeting times. Be sure to keep track of those events so that you don’t miss the deadline to apply for membership to a group.

If you plan to have a part-time job, you’ll want to use a calendar to track your shifts. The same is true if any of your classes require you to attend events outside of class time or offer those events for extra credit.

You can get a dry erase calendar to put on your wall so that you see it every day. Or if you want to take it on the go, get a small planner that you can throw in your backpack.

Personal documents and necessities

You may not think of personal documents as part of a college packing checklist. However, you will be away from home, and your parents might not be able to bring you these things when you need them.

Be sure you bring your driver’s license or state ID as well as your student ID for the university. You should also pack your health insurance card, social security card, and your car registration and insurance.

If you might travel abroad, even for a short trip, you’ll want to bring your passport. And if you’re studying somewhere that gets a lot of rain, or even a bit of rain, be sure to pack an umbrella.

You should also bring any prescription medications that you need to take. And don’t forget to research local pharmacies where you can fill those prescriptions if you can’t go home before you need new refills.

Cash and cards

Your first year of college can be stressful and expensive. Whether you forget to bring something or need more of it, you’ll need to have money to pay for those things.

Of course, you can bring a credit or debit card so that you can pay for almost anything. However, you may want to bring a small amount of cash when you first move into your dorm or apartment.

You may not be able to find a local bank or ATM for a while, or you may not have time to go to it. So having some cash when you move in can help you prepare for things like delivery tips or splitting costs with a friend.

Storage supplies

Another valuable part of your college packing checklist is stuff to use for storage. Most college dorms and apartments don’t have much storage space, so you need to work with what you have.

Try to bring bins you can fit under your bed or on the shelves in your closet. You can even find storage furniture, such as small ottomans, so you have a place to sit and a place to put things.

Look for storage supplies that hang over your door as well, such as a shoe organizer or a makeup organizer. Those items won’t take up much physical space, but you’ll still have room for all of your belongings.

If you don’t trust your roommates, you’ll want to look for storage bins with locks. That way, you’ll be able to access what you need without worrying about others getting in there.

How does your college packing checklist look?

Your first year of college can be exciting, but don’t let that excitement affect your packing. Instead, be sure to create and go over your college packing checklist before and after you move in.

Then, you’ll be able to make sure you don’t forget any crucial items. Instead, you can unpack, relax, and meet new people before classes start.