How to Pack for College: Your Ultimate Dorm Checklist

Julissa Treviño Updated on August 10, 2018

If you've never lived alone or with a roommate, it can be hard to figure out what kind of stuff you need your first time living away from home. And in particular, a dorm room situation is unique, not only because you'll probably be bunking with a stranger, but because you often have limited space and rules around what's allowed. 

In this checklist, we're listing everything you'll need and want (and what you should leave at home) your first year in a dorm.

dorm-551541-edited

Must-have

Clothes

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Pants
  • Shirts
  • Sweats
  • Pajamas
  • Slippers or house shoes
  • Sweaters or sweatshirts
  • Cold-weather gear (hats, mittens, scarves)
  • Sneakers
  • Boots
  • Dress shoes
  • Business/formal clothes
  • Swimsuit
  • Workout clothes
  • Jewelry
  • Robe 

Documents

  • Credit/debit cards
  • License
  • School ID
  • Car registration/insurance info
  • Health insurance card
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Copy of social security card
  • Passport
  • Emergency contact list
  • Financial aid information
  • Class schedule
  • Monthly budget
  • Meal plan card

Electronics

  • Extension cord
  • Headphones
  • Camera
  • Cell phone
  • Chargers for every device
  • Laptop
  • Laptop case
  • Cables (HDMI/ethernet)

School supplies

  • Pens/pencils
  • Sharpener
  • Notebooks
  • Folders
  • Index cards
  • Sticky notes
  • Stapler, rubber bands, tacks and tape
  • Stamps
  • Envelopes
  • Postcards
  • Backpack

Bathroom

  • Prescription meds
  • Aspirin
  • Vitamins
  • First aid kit with bandages, alcohol and antibiotic ointment
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair styling products
  • Body wash and hand soap
  • Face wash, moisturizer and other skincare
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Comb or brush
  • Flat iron, curling iron or other hair syling tool
  • Razors and shaving cream
  • Body lotions or oils
  • Cotton swabs
  • Sunscreen
  • Make-up
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Birth control
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tweezers
  • Contacts/solution
  • Eye glasses
  • Toilet paper
  • Cold and flu meds
  • Decongestant
  • Deodorant

Linens

  • Two sets of sheets 
  • Towels (shower and beach)
  • Washcloths
  • Hand towel
  • Pillows (sleeping, throw, reading)
  • Mattress pad
  • Foam topper
  • Blankets/comforters/duvet (don’t forget one that you can bring to outdoor events)
  • Hangers
  • Laundry basket
  • Stain remover pen
  • Detergent
  • Dryer sheets

Furnishings/decor

  • Lamps for desk or bed
  • Calendar/dry erase/message board
  • Fan or space heater

Food

  • Local snacks and food items you can only get at home

Recreational

  • Yoga mat
  • Journal
  • Religious texts and books to read for fun
  • Musical instruments
  • Art supplies
  • Luggage for weekend travel
  • Bicycle (plus helmet and lock)

Safety

  • Safety whistle
  • Flashlight

Other

  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • All-purpose cleaner or cleaning wipes
  • Wet wipes
  • Tissues
  • Dish soap
  • A few kitchen utensils and plates
  • Dish towel
  • Mini toolkit (including screwdriver, hammer and wrench)

Nice-to-have

 Clothes

  • Location-specific gear, like rain gear, snow boots or hiking boots
  • Baseball or sun hat
  • Going-out clothes and shoes
  • Jewelry organizer

Electronics

  • Wireless mouse
  • Laptop stand
  • Keyboard
  • E-reader
  • Tablet
  • Speakers

School supplies

  • USB drives/external storage
  • Highlighters
  • Scissors
  • Ruler

Bathroom

  • Loofah
  • Hand mirror
  • Bug spray
  • Face masks and other products
  • Allergy meds
  • Antacid
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Cough drops

Linens

  • Lingerie bag
  • Lint brush
  • Mini sewing kit
Furnishings/decor

  • Storage options (under bed, cubes, in closet, etc.)
  • Pictures/art for walls
  • Bed risers to lift you bed higher so you can use the space underneath for storage
  • Hanging/string lights
  • Plants

Recreational

  • Gym bag
  • Hammock

Other

  • Oven mitt
  • Mini broom with dustpan
  • Light bulbs
  • Vacuum
  • Iron/ironing board (if you’re into wrinkle-free clothes)
  • Small fridge
  • Umbrella

Leave at home

Clothes

  • Clothes you rarely wear even when you're at home
  • Too many of the same items

Electronics

  • Stereo
  • DVDs and other entertainment
  • TV
  • Hot plate/microwave

School supplies

  • Printer and paper

Bathroom accessories

  • Shower mat
  • Bathroom rug

Furnishings/decor

  • Clock
  • Mirror
  • Air mattress 
  • Essential oil diffuser/air freshener

Food

  • Anything you can buy from your new place

Recreational

  • Sleeping bag and camping equipment
  • Additional sports equipment, unless you're an athlete

Other 

  • Coffee maker
  • Duplicate items
  • Kitchen gadgets you won't use

Don't forget

  • Extension cords
  • Extra batteries
  • Shower shoes
  • Ear plus
  • Shower caddy

Looking for more ways to prepare for life at college? See our Introvert's Guide to Dorm Living

 

About the Author
Julissa Treviño

Julissa Treviño is a writer and journalist based in Texas. Her work has appeared in BBC Future, CityLab, Columbia Journalism Review, The Dallas Morning News, Racked, Teen Vogue and other publications. She enjoys traveling, playing with makeup, biking and trying new food. Follow her @JulissaTrevino. Read more by Julissa Treviño

Best Banks for Private Student Loans in 2017. Get Your Rate.
Win Tuition
Article Topics
Additional Resources

Recommended Student Loan Lenders

Lender Rates (APR) Loan Types Terms Eligible Degrees Eligible Loans  
3.69% - 12.07%1 Variable & Fixed 5 - 15 years

Undergrad & Graduate Student & Parent Learn More

View Disclosure

Lender Rates (APR) Loan Types Terms Eligible Degrees Eligible Loans  
4.12% - 11.85%1 Variable & Fixed 5 - 15 years*

Undergrad Students Learn More

View Disclosure

Lender Rates (APR) Loan Types Terms Eligible Degrees Eligible Loans  
3.72% - 9.82%1 Variable & Fixed 5 - 15 years

Undergrad & Graduate Students Learn More

View Disclosure

Lender Rates (APR) Loan Types Terms Eligible Degrees Eligible Loans  
4.68% - 9.77%1 Variable & Fixed 5 - 15 years

Undergrad & Graduate Students Learn More

View Disclosure

Lender Rates (APR) Loan Types Terms Eligible Degrees Eligible Loans  
4.04% - 12.09%1 Variable & Fixed 5 - 15 years

See Examples

Undergrad & Graduate Student & Parent Learn More

View Disclosure

Lender Rates (APR) Loan Types Terms Eligible Degrees Eligible Loans  
3.83% - 12.11%1 Variable & Fixed 5 - 15 years

4

Undergrad & Graduate Students Learn More

View Disclosure

Comments

Do you still have a gap to fund your education?

If so, check out these 6 featured lenders:

Find your best option