Stuff You NEED to Pack for College

Packing for college can feel confusing! Of course you know what NOT to bring (loads of reading material for all of your “free time,” your childhood stuffed animal collection, your dog and the kitchen sink) but the on-line packing lists are sometimes overwhelming! Let’s break this down into two basic lists: 1) stuff you actually need–for sure. And 2) stuff you might be glad I mentioned (and wouldn’t automatically think of as an incoming college freshman).

Absolute Essentials. I consider myself a minimalist (though there might be some who disagree with this assessment). What I mean when I say this is that there is so much that we actually don’t need for survival and can actually live without. In fact, I would go so far as to say less is more and there is freedom in regularly purging our accumulated possessions. Thinking back to your last vacation should help you narrow down to what is actually needed for basic human existence (which is not much). This will be helpful in formulating a general packing list. Obviously for college you will absolutely bring:

  • Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Bedding and towels
  • Computer/tech equipment
  • Office and school supplies
  • Laundry supplies

Obviously you could make sub lists under each of these headings, but these are some necessary areas to cover. If you’re having trouble generating sub lists, consider going from room to room of your house thinking, “What do I use regularly?” and jot down ideas that come to mind. For example, in the office you might remember how much you love your desk organizer or clip on light. Jot these items down in your “Office supplies” list. In the bathroom you might be reminded of supplies from the medicine cabinet you periodically need such as Tylenol or band-aids. Add these to your Toiletries list.

May I Suggest…. A packing “must” for one student might be a non-essential for another. So much depends upon the specific living situation of your particular campus and dorm. For example, what is the layout of your room? Is there plenty of built-in storage or will you need to “create” storage space? How can you best utilize the space provided? What about your bathroom? Will you share a community rest room and showering space or have your own private facility? If you’re not sure about details don’t hesitate to reach out to your college housing department with questions. For example, it may be helpful to know the measurements of your room, closet, bed, etc. before you head out shopping for bedding and storage supplies.

Along with this, if you know who your roommate will be it’s ideal to compare notes about what you’re bringing so that you can plan accordingly. Non-essentials that still make the “nice-to-have list” may include things like a microwave, mini fridge, coffeepot, handheld vacuum cleaner, small ironing board and printer. Make sure and double check that your college allows these items as some schools have restrictions.

Beyond that, here are some other quick packing suggestions that might not come to mind at first glance. These are items I wish I’d thought of before starting my freshman year:

  • Slip-on shoes, robe and tote/caddy for shower (necessary if shower room is shared)
  • Climate-specific clothing (boots/coat if snowy region, raingear/umbrella if rainy, etc.)
  • Under-bed or over-door organizers for clothes and/or shoes
  • Collapsible luggage (convenient for storage purposes)
  • Ziplocs and/or food storage containers
  • Command tape or hooks (most dormitories do not permit the use of nails or tacks)
  • Comfy mattress topper (you might thank me)
  • Ear plugs (again, thank me later)
  • A few décor items that remind you of home (at least if you’re sentimental like me)
  • A deck of cards (for the occasional late-night study break)
  • Copies of important documentation (social security card, passport, health insurance, car insurance, vehicle registration, etc.)

Trust me when I say this: you don’t need to rent a trailer to haul your belongings to college! In fact, if what you’re bringing can’t fit comfortably (or at least creatively in a car) you’re bringing too much. The above list (as with any list) is just to generate thinking. It’s in no way meant to be a thorough checklist. Above all, if packing for college is becoming a stressful chore, back up and remember it’s supposed to be fun. AND, Target probably isn’t that far away if you forget something. Besides, that’s where care packages from Grandma come in!