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Jul 24, 2020
College Life

Whether you’re a freshman or a returning undergrad, these are the must-haves you need to pack!

College packing checklist

Deciding what stays, what goes, and what to buy can be a daunting task for any college freshman. Relax!  We’ve helped thousands of families take the plunge into college life. We’ve compiled the absolute, hands-down best college dorm room checklist to make shopping this summer easier.

Complete college packing list video

We know that through the excitement of preparing for freshman move-in day, everyone is bound to neglect adding at least a few dorm essentials on their college packing list. While our checklist includes the easy to remember supplies like dorm bedding and towels, we’ve also included items only dorm life veterans would remember to bring. Happy shopping!

What to bring to college list
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For Sleeping

College dorm room beds are a pretty standard twin size, which can feel small to those who are used to double- or queen-sized beds.  The goal is to make your dorm bed as comfortable as possible, since sleep plays such a crucial role in your overall health.  

Varsity Collection - 27 Piece Twin XL Bedding and Bath Set

Dorm bed mattresses tend to be firm and not very comfortable.  This is because firm mattresses are more durable than soft ones, and easier to keep clean.  To make your bed a soft oasis, remember to buy the OCM Twin XL Mattress Topper-- it’ll cushion your body in all the right ways after a hard day of school, work, and homework.  Add our Standard Pillows and Pillowcases and Twin XL Sheets, because universities and colleges don’t supply those.  Adding a fleece throw and the OCM Twin XL Comforter for colder nights will feel like a giant hug from Mom while you’re away.  As an added bonus, you can sleep on top of the comforter if you need extra fluff!  

Some other add-ons that you may want to include are: 

  • Extra Blanket
  • Decorative Throw Pillows
  • Bedside Lamp
  • Reading Pillow
  • Bed Risers
  • Clip on Comfort Fan
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For Washing

Washing up in college is a lot like showering after gym class-- it’s not fun to share a bathroom, but it’s necessary.  To make showering and sharing a bathroom easier, make sure you stay organized and keep your items in a shower caddy.  Use a shower tote to carry your towels to the shower and your dirty laundry back to your dorm room afterwards.  And make sure that you wear shower sandals or flip flops while you’re in the shower-- you don’t want to pick up a foot fungus or nasty skin condition from someone else!  A large, fluffy bathroom will complete your basic shower experience, but a word of advice-- don’t use sponges or shower loofahs.  Those things carry germs!  It’s better to buy a pack of washcloths to use once or twice before throwing in the laundry.  They’re easier to keep clean and better for the environment.  

Shower Bundle in Gray with Rose Gold Showaflops

For students who have an in-suite bathroom to share, check in with your roomies to even split up the cost of a bathmat, shower curtain and hooks, trash can and in-shower traction grippers (to prevent slips and falls in the shower).  

Everyone needs to remember their toiletries!  Make sure you have: 

  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Hair Comb & Brush
  • Soap with holder or body wash

Some bonus items to consider: 

  • Shower Resistant Radio
  • Forma Fog Free Shower Mirror
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For Decorating

It’s easy to go through college leaving the walls blank and the room undecorated.  But it wouldn’t be that home-away-from-home that you need it to be!  Giving your dorm room a personal touch with decor that fits your lifestyle and personality is important to your comfort.  If you’re comfortable in your room, it will be the sanctuary for rest that you need it to be.  

Beautiful Wall Tapestry

Consider posters, photos-- with or without frames, canvas art, or wall decals to add your own touch and occupy some of that giant blank wall space. Some more useful or practical ideas include a full-length mirror, area rugs (those bare floors are cold!), or a dry erase board.  Bean bag chairs, ottomans, or pouf pillows create extra seating options for both you and visitors.  

Remember to pick up 3M adhesive products to secure your wall decor, and consider buying a few basic tools-- like a screwdriver, hammer and nails-- just in case you need to make a few small repairs if something breaks.  

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For Studying

The ultimate job of a student in college is to learn.  Learning means going to class, communicating with classmates and professors, doing homework and studying.  To accomplish all of this, you’re going to need supplies.  

A desk lamp illuminates your studying space long into the night, and cork or dry erase boards provide a highly visual way to stay organized and on top of assignments.  And remember all of your school basics: 

  • Notebooks and Binders
  • Pens and Pencils
  • Paper Clips
  • Highlighters
  • Desk Organizer
  • Sticky Notes
  • Index Cards
  • Backpack
  • Calculator
  • Scissors/Stapler
  • Tape
  • Dictionary/Thesaurus
Franklin Desk Riser

Remember to bring your laptop and charger!  In fact, remember all of your chargers-- and keep them neatly wrapped and organized.  Check with Res Life or your university’s website to see if you need to bring an ethernet cord and modem, or if your school as wifi to use.  It’s also a good idea to bring extra usb flash drives to back up your files.  Most colleges provide students with computer labs and stocked printers, but you may want to bring your own anyway.  Sometimes there are restrictions on student printing, and you don’t want to reach your limit and still need to print that last essay.  If you choose to bring your own printer, stock up on ink and computer paper, too.  

Make sure you keep a wall calendar around and an alarm clock-- we know that most people use their phones these days, but back-ups are always a good idea and what if your cell phone dies in the middle of the night or breaks?  You still need to wake up on time for class!  

And don’t forget a killer backpack or messenger bag-- gotta have enough room for those massive college textbooks! 

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For Cleaning

You’re a young adult now-- it’s time to clean up after yourself.  Mom’s not there to do it for you!  Don’t let clutter and dirt make your dorm room a place you can’t stand to occupy!  

Most dorm rooms have bare floors that aren’t carpeted.  A broom and dustpan and a Swiffer Sweeper-- or a knockoff brand-- will keep your floor spic and span.  A waste basket and trash can liners are necessary, and don’t forget antibacterial wipes to keep germs at bay!  

Cinch Laundry Hamper

You’re the only one responsible for doing your laundry, too.  Stock up on detergent and dryer sheets-- and if you use it, fabric softener-- and remember to stock up on quarters or load money onto your laundry account.  Check with Resident Life to see how to pay for your laundry.  Have a drying rack with you too-- it can save money on the drier, and you’ll need it to preserve your delicates!  It’s also not a bad idea to include an iron and a mini ironing board, but check to see if your dorm’s laundry room has these first.  Again, it’s a simple call to Res Life or a click on the website to check before move-in day!    

And remember basic cleaning products like disinfectant wipes and glass cleaner for your furniture and mirrors.  No sense in spreading germs or trying to see your reflection through dust and grime!  

For Organizing

Stay organized and channel your inner Marie Kondo with OCM storage ideas.  The armored trunk stores tons of stuff, and doubles as an end table or stepping stool. 

Armored Storage Trunk in Silver

Hanging closet storage is perfect for preserving space, and under-the-bed storage boxes save on space while keeping your out-of-season blankets and clothes close at hand.  See our article on how to KonMari your dorm room for more ideas!  

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For Playing

Playtime is not just for toddlers-- everyone benefits from the stress release of playing.  However, your definition of fun and games has probably grown up with you.  If you’re a gamer, remember to pack your favorite games and any equipment-- like a gaming system-- you may need to play them.  A TV and DVD player-- if you have the room for it-- can go a long way towards making you feel like you’re watching movies at home.  However, modern computers and streaming services can help you save the space those items would take up for other things-- like textbooks or a charging station.  

Double-check to see if you’ve packing a few surge protectors-- trust us, regular strip outlets just won’t cut it!  You may also need an extension cord or two to make your furniture arrangements work, and pack back-up batteries for anything that requires them.  

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For Eating

Most colleges and universities provide their students with meal plans and food options.  However, these are not always open 24 hours a day, and sometimes you just get hungry at midnight!  Keeping some food and kitchen supplies on hand is always a good idea-- just make sure to check with your college about any restrictions.  For example, most colleges won’t allow electric burners or hotplates in the dorm rooms.  Sometimes dormitories are equipped with kitchenettes, which is lucky.  

Some kitchen basics to consider include at least one bowl, cup or mug, plate, and set of silverware so that you can eat like a human being anytime you want.  Dish soap, towels and dishcloth-- avoid sponges that can accumulate germs-- help with cleanup.  A dorm-safe refrigerator is a must-have to keep food from going bad, and to keep some basic groceries around to help avoid midnight orders of pizza or takeout.  Most dorms do not allow coffee makers, so check first before you bring one with you!  You do want to consider a water filter pitcher, though, as well as a can opener and reusable containers.  

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Personal Supplies

Finally, you need to include supplies for self-care and medicine in case you get sick.  If you take any prescriptions, make sure that you either have enough to get through a semester or you have a pharmacy nearby that can refill them for you.  It’s also a good idea to keep a list of your allergies and prescriptions both in your purse/backpack and tacked to your dorm room wall in case of emergencies.  

For minor illness, keep a first-aid kit around and include a thermometer and some basic over-the-counter medicines.  Your college or university probably has a nurse or student health center, but they won’t always be open.  

You’re also going to need some self-care time, so packing a small kit with anything that serves that purpose is a good idea.  This could look like face masks, shower fizzies, fragrant room sprays, and tea.  

And finally, make 100% sure that you have copies of super-important documents!  These might include: passport/visa, atm or debit card, credit cards, social security card, and your birth certificate.  Have a list of all important numbers for family members, and remember your checkbook and driver’s license or state ID.  Keep all of this in a fire-and-water-safe lockbox.  And keep it locked!  

Oh yes.. And an umbrella or two and a flashlight aren’t bad ideas, either!  You never know what the weather will be like-- or if the power will go out!  Consider a few LED battery-powered candles, too.  You probably can’t have the real deal, but the ambiance is lovely and if they are a lovely light source during power outages.  

Download the list here for easy printing, and take it with you when you shop.  Check it off as you pack it, so you don’t miss anything!  

Have a great year at college!  

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