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 themselves, their passions, and prepare for the future ahead.
But, before they can do all that, they must close the childhood chapter of their lives, step away from their parents and into independence, and decide what to pack from home and what to toss on the way out the door.
Not quite sure what to pack? 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 their new roommate.
Colleges and universities will often provide contact information for students living together in dorms in advance of the school year. Once a student receives it, it’s a good idea to reach out to their new roomie to get a feel for their likes and dislikes, how they can work together on a decor theme for the room, and if they can split up any common or shared goods costs for things like microwaves, mini-fridges, or any other items they may share along the way.
Once a student knows what their roommate is responsible for they can get on their way to make their own checklist.
Shower and Toiletry Needs
Packing up for college means compartmentalizing everything in a student’s 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 a student’s favorite scent before heading off to college so every time they open the bottle they 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. Help the student in your life find a signature deodorant scent before leaving home.
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, they 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 students can jot down notes, ideas, and more whenever they need even if their 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.
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.
Tupperware: Save any leftover goodies with some Tupperware items. 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.
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.
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.
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 student loan options, possibly even including a SoFi private student loan.
Related: How to Save Money in College
Students, frequently along with a cosigner, can apply for a private student loan with SoFi in a matter of minutes, so they can spend their time focusing on all the fun parts of college planning instead.
In the interest of full transparency, private student loans should be looked at as an option after applying for federal student aid. Federal student loans, grants, scholarships, or work-study should be pursued first.
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 worst comes to worse, you can pick up any lingering items you forgot after you move in.
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