College Essentials: What to Bring to College

By Stacey Leasca · August 03, 2023 · 7 minute read

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College Essentials: What to Bring to College

Heading off to college is hands down one of the most thrilling times in a young person’s life. It’s the chance to get to know yourself and your passions, close the childhood chapter of your life, and prepare for the future ahead.

But, before you can do all that, you’re going to need to pack.

Not quite sure what to bring and what to leave behind? Don’t worry, we’re here to help with a college packing list that covers all the essentials from dorm room needs to toiletries and beyond.

What to Pack for Campus Life

Hang on — before we dive into this list, we need to discuss the all-important first step every student should take in their college essential checklist planning, and that’s to reach out to your new roommate.

Once you know who that is going to be, it’s a good idea to reach out and get a feel for their likes and dislikes, how your can work together on a decor theme for the room, and if you can split the cost for shared goods, like microwaves, mini-fridges, or any other items you may share along the way.

Once you know what your roommate is responsible for you can get on your way to make your own checklist.

Shower and Toiletry Needs

Packing up for college means compartmentalizing everything in your daily life. And, for most people, their days begin with a shower. Here are a few of the items needed to set students up for a hygienic semester ahead.

Shower caddy: This is a very important base. Because students will likely be sharing communal showers they will need to cart their goods back and forth to the bathroom, so a sturdy caddy is key.

Bathrobe: On a related note, you’ll be traversing back and from the bathroom for showers. A bathrobe makes it easy to cover up.

Washcloths and towels: This isn’t an item students will want to share. Purchase a few matching sets in a unique color so students always know which color is theirs.

Flip-flops: Again, students will likely be sharing communal showers with many other students. Avoid any potential foot fungus with a simple pair of flip-flops.

Toiletries (Shampoo, Soap etc): Keep it clean from head to toe with shampoo and conditioner. For an added bonus, try a shampoo bar, which will dissipate when it’s done, leaving no plastic bottle pollution behind. Pick up your favorite scent before heading off to college so every time you open the bottle you are reminded of the sweet smell of home.

Toothbrush and toothpaste: It’s easy to pick up a simple toothbrush at any pharmacy, but students could also level-up with an electric brush, or even go for a subscription-based brush so they never have to remember when to replace the brush heads.

Deodorant: Students will be living in close proximity to one another, making it important to stay on top of hygiene and smelling nice. Look for a signature deodorant scent before leaving home.

💡 Quick Tip: SoFi offers low fixed- or variable-interest rates. So you can get a private student loan that fits your budget.

School and Office Supplies

Headphones: Yes, headphones can be used for entertainment, but they can also be a valuable tool in a student’s office supply area too. That’s because, again, you will be sharing a small space with another person so finding peace and quiet may be difficult for study and work time. But, it’s nothing a good pair of noise-canceling headphones can’t fix.

Memory cards or USB flash drives: Students will likely need to transport data files from home to printer, to class, or delivered straight to a professor. Have a few of these handy just in case.

Laptop: Though a typically expensive item, a laptop is critical for a college or university education. It’s how students can get their work done in the dorms, in class, or anywhere in between without having to head to the library for free computer use every time they need the internet. Some schools may have recommendations for laptops based on programs and the requirements for processing power or software.

School Supplies: Sure, the high-tech stuff above is great, but make sure to kick it old school too and purchase a few pens, pencils, highlighters, index cards, and notebooks so you can jot down notes, ideas, and more whenever you need to or if your computer runs out of battery.

Thinking about your current study habits can be a good place to start when evaluating what school supplies you’ll need as you head off to university. Don’t forget textbooks!

Surge protector and extension cords: Because there will likely be multiple students using up all the plugs in a dorm room, it’s a good idea to purchase a surge protector and a few extension cords to protect the electricity from overload.

Recommended: College Freshman Checklist for the Upcoming School Year

Kitchen Supplies

Microwave: A microwave can be a college student’s culinary best friend. Find a sturdy one that can handle reheating food and drinks, or even cook up entire meals.

Mini-fridge: Another college kitchen staple is the mini-fridge. Make sure it’s big enough for two roommates and all their in-room dining needs.

Dishes: College students need something to eat off of. Pack up a small collection of plates, cups, bowls, and cutlery before move-in day.

Food containers: Save any leftover goodies with some plastic food storage containers. Keep it simple with a few stackable options.

Coffeemaker: Come on. This is college we’re talking about. College kids deserve to have coffee on tap, but the next best thing is remembering to pack a good coffee maker. Prefer tea? An electric kettle may be your new best friend. Review school policies on having electric appliances in a dorm room.

Room Needs

Under-bed storage: College dorms can be tight. The average dorm room clocks in at just 180-square feet. But, a few key items can make it not only feel a touch larger, it can also make it feel more like home.

Pillows: Take a few pillows to college — a few functional pillows or sleep and another couple of throw pillows for added flare.

Linens: Students should check with their college or university for their dorm room bed sizing, but odds are it’s a twin, or twin XL. Get two sheet sets so students have one to wash and one to make the bed at all times.

Mattress pad: Look, dorm room beds aren’t exactly known for being the most comfortable things on earth. But, an easy way to upgrade student bedding is to purchase a mattress pad or feather bed.

Recommended: College Planning for High School Students

Cleaning Supplies

Going to college means students will now have to fend for themselves, and that goes for household chores too. Here are a few items all students need to get the job done right.

Laundry detergent: Find a favorite scent and stick with it. A good idea may be to find a detergent that works for both colors and whites, just in case the college student in your life forgets the laundry rules.

Vacuum: Keeping a dorm room tidy is easy with a small vacuum. Even a dust buster will do.

Paper towels: Stock up on paper towels to clean up any accidents, or to double as napkins when needed.

Wipes: Keep cleaning simple by purchasing a few canisters of wet wipes and use them regularly to disinfect surfaces.

Recommended: Using Student Loans for Living Expenses and Housing

Preparing to Pay for It All

Looking at this list, it’s clear that getting everything on your college packing list can get expensive. But, rather than stress about if you can afford cleaning supplies, linens, and office supplies, students can financially plan for what’s ahead by looking into all their college funding options, which may include savings, grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

If you still have funding gaps, you may also want to consider applying for a private student loan. These are available from banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Students who have good credit (or cosigners who do) typically qualify for the best rates and terms. Just keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the same protections, such as government-sponsored forgiveness programs, that come with federal loans.

💡 Quick Tip: Need a private student loan to cover your school bills? Because approval for a private student loan is based on creditworthiness, a cosigner may help a student get loan approval and a lower rate.

The Takeaway

Getting ready for college requires a lot of planning, packing, and organizing. To create your ultimate packing essentials list, think about your current day to day routine — what items do you use the most frequently?

It can be helpful to break the items on your packing list up into categories like school supplies, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom so that you can compartmentalize and review smaller pieces at a time. With all your essentials in hand, you can focus on the big picture… like picking the right college major and figuring out how you’ll cover the cost of your college education.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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