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Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

  • after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.
  • after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

You won’t be hard-pressed to find a packing list for your future dorm room — big box stores, countless blogs (OCM included), and even your university all probably have published an exhaustive compilation of things you need to have for a successful first year of college. In reality however, the idea of a some all-encompassing list that will satisfy every student’s needs and desires within every individual college is not entirely doable nor necessary.

There really are only so many things students actually need in college to be comfortable adjusting to a dorm room lifestyle, and yet so many of these lists of so-called “essentials” sport items can easily add up to thousands of dollars when bought all together, a hefty cost to further burden an already exorbitant price tag for higher education.

Packing for college really comes down to the things you need and want. These lines can blur, of course, with certain items categorized as “wants” being necessary to achieve a level of comfort that may, say, help create an environment that will support mental or emotional wellbeing. So while it may be easy to make a quick search online for a premade packing list, you’ll be better set using such a list as a loose blueprint rather than a strict prescription for your actual packing plans.

A better approach is one based on your already existing daily routine. What items do you use everyday? Obviously things like weather-appropriate clothing, towels, and linens should fit this bill. What are things that may not be deemed necessary by others but bring you comfort in times of struggle? Perhaps a larger collection of books or a great sound system to listen to your favorite music make this list.

Tailoring your packing list to your personal routines is the best way to prepare for college life, and while we cannot make a list that will cover everything for you, we have come up with a non-exhaustive collection of things we found to be the most useful during your first year of college along with a few suggestions to prepare you for the moments you need a bit of familiar relief.

Bring Some Bedding (Plus An Extra Set of Sheets Won’t Hurt)

There’s nothing new about our suggestion to bring sheets, but don’t think you have to go overboard with the linens.

Bedding is probably the first thing most incoming first-year students — or, let’s be honest, their parents — think about when beginning the shopping process for furnishing a dorm room. Face it: you don’t want to sleep on a bare mattress, especially the impossibly thin and unpredictable twin XLs that occupy dorm rooms across the country. You have to get your hands on bedding, no matter what.

A lot of packing lists will tell you that you HAVE to get an entire buffet of toppings for your bed, including mattress toppers, an entire stash of pillows and blankets, and a second set of bed linens. Want to be let in on a little secret? You don’t need all of it. Sure, some things will make your bed a little cozier, and by no means is this an endorsement against any of these items, but you really only need a set of sheets, a pillow or two, and a nice comforter or blanket to add to your bed for warmth. 

A bedding pack, such as this chic shibori option from OCM, will do all the work of picking out bedding for you. And you can even have it shipped right to your address on campus! Image courtesy of OCM.

The best advice beyond this pretty sparse list is probably shelling out for the extra set of sheets. It offers a handy bit of wiggle room in the sense of eliminating an immediate necessity of doing laundry, but it shouldn’t be taken as a must, especially if you are on a tighter budget. Beyond these essentials, figure out what you will appreciate and need. Students managing chronic pain, for example, might have to shell out for a mattress topper to get the extra support their bodies need. Plenty of students who don’t need a topper would surely appreciate the added comfort and may decide to purchase one.

The main thing to remember with your dorm room bedding is that it doesn’t have to be overly made up or decorated in any way if you don’t want or need it to be. Treat your bed at school like you treat your one at home — if you don’t care too much about what the thread count of your sheets at home are, chances are you won’t care about it in your dorm room either.

Pack Clothes According to Weather and Wear

You might think you’re going to wear that pair of pants that might look good with that shirt that you might wear if it’s warm enough... but you shouldn’t bring them.

Clothes are probably the most fraught over items making the trip from home to school. You want to look your best and have any clothing item that will bring you confidence or comfort during an exciting, though frightening, time you’ll need both in. A fantastic starting point is to once again begin at home, in your own closet. (The summer before college is also a great time to clear out your closet and create a pile of clothes to donate to someone who will appreciate them more than you currently do.) 

For the fall semester, pack accordingly to the weather you’re expecting at your college’s campus while also considering any breaks that you’ll be able to swap out certain articles of clothing. Obviously this will look very different whether your university is located in LA or Milwaukee. Pack the clothes you actually will need and the shoes you will actually wear (which usually means the ones that are simple and comfortable) — you may be tempted to bring a pair coordinating with every color under the sun, but you won’t need them all.

The closet space in most dorm rooms is on the sparser side, meaning that a smarter closet is better than an extensive one. Maybe this means packing a minimalist closet that houses only the articles that will get the most wear and bang for their buck. You may even begin a journey towards a more sustainable closet that backs away from the appeal of fast-fashion in favor of high-quality, ethically made clothing. And trust us, you’ll thank us for packing lighter when you don’t have to haul a 50 pound bag full of shirts you never even wore when you move out. 

You May Need to Rethink Your Bathroom Routine

Because of communal bathrooms, your entire bathroom routine will need to be adjusted.

The dormitory bathroom is one of the most dreaded aspects of college. Horror stories of disgustingly kept showers and remnants of fellow students (hair being the tamest among the other more unsightly bodily fluids and residue) seem to exist in every circle in the country. While we cannot attest for all colleges, we can strongly guess that you probably won’t encounter anything too bad. If you’re lucky, you might have a private bathroom of your own, but for most kids, communal style bathrooms are the norm.

When thinking about what to pack for the purpose of your bathroom, it’s best to (once again) start with the basics at home. You’re obviously going to need a couple of towels — how many bath and hand towels is up to you based on what you can afford and how often you can hold yourself to doing laundry. You should also invest in a pair of shower shoes (protect your feet!) and shower caddy.

Get ready to become familiar with shower caddies and shower shoes, two things included in this extremely useful bathroom bundle from OCM. Image courtesy of OCM.

The rest of your bathroom necessities come down to you — mark down the medications, soaps, toothpastes, flosses, mouthwashes, toners, or any other toiletry or product that has found its way into your routine… and pack it! (For students traveling by plane, it’s best to buy these things at a store or pharmacy closer to campus.)

While we haven’t included items such as toothbrushes, razors, or specific essential toiletries due to their being pretty obvious necessities, it can be easy to miss over the obvious items in your life, so do not forget about them!

Pack Smarter and More Intentionally With School Supplies

Unless specifically called for, you can get by without the bells and whistles that come with the painstaking school supply lists of your elementary schooldays.

There seem to be two types of students out there: those who organize meticulously by color and folder and sticky note to a point of methodical execution and those who… don’t. By this point in your schooling career, you should know where you fall in this spectrum and therefore have a general idea about what you need to do well in your classes. Some students do better with all-in-one organizers, others with individualized folders and binders for specific classes. Some with plain wooden pencils and ballpoint pens, others with a rainbow of gel pens with a singular purpose for each.

Regardless of how your organization is carried out, you’re going to want to bring a bag or backpack, some sort of writing utensil, a place to take notes, and a place to store handouts and readings. These, on top of all of you required course texts and maybe a laptop or tablet, will prove to be about as much as you’ll want to haul around when you’re walking across campus to an early morning class.

Other Dorm Room Needs You May Want to Pick Up

By now you should know that packing lists for college are not one-size-fits-all catalogs. Here are a few other things you might want to consider squeezing into your luggage or car.

The first thing all first-year students moving to a campus that falls victim to high temperatures ought to do before moving in is checking to see if their dormitory is air-conditioned. If not, pack a fan. Unless you’re unusually fond of the heat, you’re going to want a fan to circulate the air and keep you cool throughout the day. The second thing is to pack a surge protector — outlets are prime real estate in your dorm room (you’re going to realize that a lot of stuff needs to be plugged in).

This Frigidaire oscillating fan will become your best friend if you’re living in a climate that gets hot and your dorm is not air-conditioned. Image courtesy of OCM.

From there, the decorating part is pretty optional. There’s nothing else you’ll really need considering dorm rooms come pretty well-furnished. A mini-fridge is a good idea if you have the space, though you’ll want to check with any roomate(s) to ensure you don’t end up in a room that’s occupied by as many fridges as there are people.

Bring the decor that will make you feel at home while, the things that will bring you joy during the almost inevitable lows that you experience when transitioning into a completely new environment. A music major may opt for a keyboard with a nice pair of headphones and an english literature major might want to bring an e-reader or collection of books to work through alongside required texts.

Packing for your dorm room will almost always result in items forgotten or deemed unnecessary. No list is individualized enough to meet your personal needs, so use this (and any other list you consult) as a framework of where to start. The only thing required of colleges at the end of the day is you and your brain. (But having just those things will certainly come with a lot of complications!)

Be okay with the potential of forgetting something or not packing perfectly — it will never be done. Do your best, and have fun with packing. It might require a bit of introspection and consideration, but that extra bit of mental work will pay off in the end when you’re happily situated in your new home, ready to take on the new chapter of your life.