DORM ESSENTIALS: A college freshman’s checklist of everything you’ll need

Moving to a new town can be overwhelming the first time. What can you bring with you? What can you not bring with you? How are you going to transport all of your things there? If your house is close to your university, you’ll probably need to take at least two trips to help you move. However, if you live out of state, it can get a bit more complicated.

Tips to make the move an easier process for you

Do make a comprehensive list of what to bring

If you simply grab random items out of your room, there’s a high chance that you will end up with many things that are not considered essential. Refer to the list below for a general outline of general college essentials you’ll want when you’re in school, and then make your own personalized list. Remember to stick to it.

Don’t bring out-of-season items

You may want to get a jump on packing for your winter holiday and avoid an unnecessarily expensive trip to the store but if you have plans to visit home just before the cold climate really sets in, then it’s better to leave behind bulky winter items like boots and your parka and grab them later. This is also the perfect excuse to swap these heavier clothes for the shorts and sundresses that you will be using more often.

Do not take hanging clothes off their hangers

You don’t have to worry about taking clothes off hangers, folding them, packing them, and then digging them out of the bag and putting them back on their hangers once you’re at school. Instead, gather hanging items together and slip a large garbage bag over them, starting from the bottom. If you want to secure the bag in order to avoid it getting dirty, you can close it shut over the necks of the hangers. Alternatively, you could also hang them in a wardrobe box.

Don’t pack anything that’s prohibited

The vast majority of college and student housing complexes have rules about what is and isn’t allowed to be brought in. Unfortunately, things like your favorite candles, toaster, and yes, even string lights might be on the forbidden list. Before packing, please double-check what items are and are not allowed at that destination. That way, you won’t accidentally pack something that’s not permitted and have to throw it away.

Do have a conversation with your roommate

There are a bunch of college necessities that you’ll only need one of in your room. So if you’re going to share your dorm or apartment with someone, coordinate your packing with them, lest you end up with any duplicates.

Don’t skimp on your toiletries

You must always be prepared for the unexpected and make sure to always have enough for the future. Even if you have the opportunity to get to the store after a while, it is still a good idea to stock up your cabinets and fridge. In order to avoid running out of toiletry must-haves like shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, plan ahead of time and stock up on the biggest bottles you can find. You will definitely be happy that you did.

Do bring a business-worthy outfit

Colleges often bring in HR professionals from different industries to participate in the meet and greet sessions at the campus, as well as interviewing students for positions. In the event that you are afforded the opportunity to meet with one of these professionals, you should have a suit or other professional wear that you can wear. You don’t have to go shopping, but you should bring at least one outfit from your wardrobe that will suffice.

Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA-August 14, 2018- Student moving into the dorms at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Don’t pack any clothes you haven’t worn in a year

It is highly implausible that you will be in the mood to wear clothing items you haven’t used in more than a year for the first time at school. So leave pieces of clothing that you haven’t worn recently and save the luggage space for something more important.

Don’t skimp on the towels

It’s a well-known fact that college students rarely maintain good laundry habits. You know what the problem is; there are a million distractions. But you should always be prepared. Make sure you bring at least three bath towels with you. Unless you are okay with using an unused but poorly-cleaned one.

Do use your storage items as packing boxes

You won’t have a place to store a big suitcase in your dorm room, so don’t bother bringing one with you. Underbed storage and plastic dressers are excellent containers for packing, and they’re coming along with anything else you’ve planned to bring anyway, so they are your best option. It’s important to pack your containers carefully as they can be damaged if not done correctly. Placing sufficient packing tape on the container will make it more durable.

What clothes to pack for college?

Pack in whichever items you like from the latest fashion trend and styles your friends are wearing. There are some staples that should always be in your closet, like jeans and shirts. Placing the right items in the correct sections of your carry-on or backpack is essential for an efficient and organized packing process. Taking the time to thoroughly think about it allows you to pack effectively and take less space in your tiny dorm room or off-campus apartment. 

Some schools provide a list of approved and prohibited dorm items on their websites in the housing section. Before you leave for orientation week, make sure that you have all the necessary documents and paperwork with you. A list of prohibited items will be provided, then.

If you arrive with restricted items, you may be asked to take them back home. You can avoid this awkward situation by checking and following our list.


The most important part of back-to-school shopping is making sure dorm beds feel as comfy, cozy, and clean as your bed at home. Of course, you may be up all night studying, but when you have the opportunity to sleep in on a Saturday, you’ll want to make sure your bed is ready for maximum comfort. 

  • Foam Mattress Pad Size Twin/Twin XL
  • Sheet Set Size Twin/Twin XL
  • Comforter Size Twin/Twin XL
  • Pillows
  • Pillow Cases
  • Throw Blanket (Optional)

Dorm room

Your dorm is your home base for at least an entire year. While it may not feel like home at first, there are many things you can do to make it a place of rejuvenation and relaxation. Take this opportunity to personalize the space and practice your interior designing skills. Rugs are a fantastic way of bringing some color to a living space, posters will give the space character, and a peek of your interests. If you are into painting or drawing as a hobby, take this as an opportunity to give your friends a private art exhibition. 

  • Alarm Clock
  • Floor Lamp
  • Desk Lamp
  • Hangers
  • Area Rug
  • Bulletin/Dry Erase Board
  • Posters/Wall Art
  • Over-the-door Storage Unit
  • Closet Organizer
  • Fan
  • Wall/Full Length Mirror
  • Shoe Rack
  • Trash Can
  • Step-up Ladder
  • Air Freshener Plug-Ins
  • Plastic Storage Bins
  • Curtains


Some college students are put off by laundry, whether it is the loading and unloading hampers or the attention to detail needed to fold clothes afterward. Laundry can be relatively annoying yet necessary.

About the type of dish detergent students use, most don’t pay much attention to the brand. However, keep in mind that investing in an established detergent will pay off since your clothes will last much longer compared to if you would use a lesser effective formula.

This will help you acquire a greater awareness of the benefits of caring for your clothes—a habit that will serve you well beyond your first year in college.

  • Laundry Hamper/Basket
  • Detergent
  • Quarter Rolls
  • Fabric Softener
  • Dryer Sheets
  • Iron
  • Ironing Board
  • Lint Roller
  • Sewing Kit
  • Stain Remover


To maintain your health and beauty is very important, whether you’re in college or not! If your college has a communal bathroom, a shower caddy will make bringing over all of your bathroom essentials possible in a single trip. Also, you should come prepared with a first-aid kit so you can deal with minor injuries like cuts and burns. If your health services office is closed, you can use the equipment to care for injuries by yourself.

Getting a good set of grooming tools may also be beneficial for you. After all, many believe that there is a strong correlation between self-care and academic performance.

For a high GPA in your freshman year, it starts with taking care of yourself first!

  • Shower Caddy
  • Shower Shoes
  • Air Sanitizer
  • Shower Cap
  • Washcloths
  • Bath Towels
  • Bathrobe
  • Flat Iron/Blow Dryer
  • Toilet Paper
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Oral Hygiene Products
  • Shaving Razor
  • Body Lotion
  • Body Wash/Bar Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo/Conditioner

School supplies

Plan and obtain office supplies before classes start to optimize your chances of success. Whether you’re a STEM major or not, there’s a good chance you’ll need a calculator at some point in college. A laptop or a desktop computer is helpful for printing your essays from the comfort of your dorm room or apartment. As an effective study technique, writing notes by hand can improve your understanding of the content and increase your retention of the information. Having a pack of writing pads is a solid investment, especially if you’re in classes that require referring to notes frequently.

Classes will be challenging to adjust to, especially for first-year students, but having convenient supplies will make learning a lot more manageable and enjoyable.

  • Backpack/Tote Bag
  • Calculator
  • Envelopes/Stamps
  • Notebooks/Paper
  • Pen
  • Sharpie Markers
  • Highlighters
  • Planner/Schedule Organizer
  • Index Cards
  • White Out
  • Printer Paper
  • File Folder
  • Desk Organizer
  • Scissors/Stapler
  • Staples/Staple Remover
  • Double-Sided Tape


Students living in dormitories often find their limited space is not a good area for a kitchen. However, there are compact kitchen tools that you can keep in your dorm. If you are not already into coffee and are busy with midterm week, you might change your mind. It can be difficult to get through all your homework without running out, so it’s a good idea to keep a coffee maker on hand.

If you’re feeling fancy, a milk frother can make your morning coffee fix extra special. Bars of granola are great for snacks in between classes. Microwavable meals are also a good option! Grabbing a salad may be an even healthier option.

Meanwhile, your dorm’s kitchen might not be as perfect as your home kitchen, but it doesn’t matter if you choose to make your own snacks. There are lots of options with easy-to-use and convenient-to-store features!

  • Seasonings
  • Plastic Cups
  • Plastic Bowls
  • Paper Plates
  • Plastic Utensils
  • Kitchen Towel
  • Tupperware
  • Water Bottle
  • Ziploc Bags
  • Surface Cleaner
  • Mop
  • Broom/Dust Pan
  • Disinfectant Wipes

Packing boxes close-up

Tech and appliances

While this is not necessary for all college-level courses, a laptop and good internet service are more essential to accomplishing college than ever. Notable with many universities progressing to online learning, it’s crucial to have a device that can keep you connected to your virtual class.

A cable extension with a surge protector may be necessary to keep all of your electronics fully charged, especially in places where outlets may be sparse or where you use a lot of them. A quality headset will provide you with an unobstructed listening experience during online lectures, as well as the level of comfort that comes with the many extra features some headsets offer.

A great mouse is another investment that can save your wrist the pain of using a trackpad all the time. Remember: wireless is the way to go! Sure, these should definitely be on your dorm room packing list, but here are some other things that can assist in making your next school year run smoothly.

  • TV
  • Video Games/Console (Optional)
  • Laptop/Laptop Case
  • External Hard Drive (500 GB+)
  • Mouse/Mouse Pad
  • Headphones
  • Device Chargers/Extra Batteries
  • Ethernet Cable
  • HDMI Cable
  • Mini Fridge
  • Coffee Maker
  • Printer/Ink
  • Cord Organizer

What should you share with your roommates?

There are some things that can actually be smart to share. You can save yourself time, space, money, and energy if you figure out what and how to share your living space with your roommate in a way that’s mutually beneficial. There are many different ways to share your living space with a roommate successfully. It is always best to consider adding or removing items to better meet the needs of your roommate dynamics. 

Young woman standing on her knees on overfilled suitcase, trying to close it.

How to fully utilize your luggage space?

  • Taking the time to thoroughly ponder on it will allow you to pack effectively and take less space in your tiny dorm room or off-campus apartment. Focus on rolling your wrinkle-resistant clothes instead of folding them. This way, you can fit more once you place the items of clothing inside the bag.
  • Stuff the nooks and crannies of your luggage with undergarments, like bras, socks, and underwear.
  • This is a guideline for the number of each article in an established wardrobe: 5 shirts, 4 bottoms, 3 casual tops, 2 pairs of shoes, and 1 dress or suit. It is important to adjust the list to your needs. Don’t forget to add at least one bathing suit.

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