The College “Don’t Forget” Packing List

It’s been a little while since I last packed for living in a dorm room, but I thought it was worth bringing up again for you girls heading back to school– or for the moms who read with sons/daughters going back!
This isn’t an all-encompassing list… but rather it’s a list of commonly forgotten and commonly used items for college. Whether you’re going for the first time, or moving in again… double check to make sure you have these things:
Pack more underwear… really, the more the merrier! You’ll be glad you did when you can push out laundry day a little more
– Pack fewer t-shirts and pajamas… t-shirts are handed out like candy on campus so don’t overpack your old high school t-shirts and you really don’t need five pajama sets.
Business suit… you never know when a presentation will pop up or if you land an internship interview, be prepared and ready!
Rain boots… the time you realize you forgot rainboots will be the day you have to walk across campus during a September monsoon. 
Rain jacket… should definitely have a hood!
Puffer jacket… for the seasonally-too-soon cold front in October you weren’t expecting until December.
– Some kind of costume… costume parties are inevitable, just make sure it’s one you’re okay with your grandma seeing photos of on Facebook.
Formal dress… fancy schmancy events do happen from time to time, this way you won’t have to spend a fortune the day before.
Cocktail dress… this should be appropriate for a reception with professors and deans in attendance.
Duffle bag… for a roadtrip to visit your roommate’s parents (home cooked meals….)
Carry-on luggage… when you eventually need to go home for Thanksgiving.
Noise canceling headphones… the library is loud and your roommate chews gum even louder
Playing cards… just good to have.
Checks… sometimes Paypal and Chase quickpay just won’t cut it.
– Medical history/prescription refills… for the Strep throat that the entire dorm gets, replacement contact lenses, and surprise allergic reaction.
– Emergency phone numbers… in hard copy: grandparents, doctors, best friends from home, etc.
– Extra posti-its and index cards… the school supplies you’ll use the most of.
– Extra pillows… pillows make sitting on the floor with friends and studying on your bed better.
– Mattress pad… have you ever actually spent the night on a XL twin without one? It’s not okay.
– 2 sets of sheets… again, the laundry situation…
– Stackable plastic bins with drawers… lifesavers for dorm storage. Two stacks of three drawers for under the bed.
– Bed risers… so your stackable bins will fit.
– Tower fan… because you may be able to control the temperature from in your room, but the building is switched to “heat” until May.
– Tool kit… be the hero of your floor with the Phillips head.
– First aid kit… just to be safe.
– Batteries… half of the things you need require batteries and you won’t know until your mouse doesn’t work anymore.
Wrinkle release spray… LOL, who’s going to actually iron?
– Flashlight… the power will go off at least five times.
– Coffee maker… when you’re inevitably in a rush the next morning.
– 3M Strips & Hooks… space savers and they won’t get you in trouble with the RA during inspections
– Extension cords & Power strip… everything’s gotta charge and there just aren’t enough outlets.
– Duct Tape… something will break and you won’t know how else to fix it.
– Zip ties… because electrical cords everywhere can be a messy nightmare.
– Curtains… you can sleep in without mom making you wake up!
Air freshener… when you need to freshen up but don’t want to do a dorm room deep clean
Slim hangers… more space equals more clothes.
Closet door shoe organizer… great for organizing all kinds of accessories, not just shoes.
– Garment bag… to keep your nice clothes wrinkle free and smelling fresh.
Jewelry storage… little boxes to store in drawers and things to hang your huge statement necklace collection on.
Did I miss something?! What’s something you think is a total “don’t forget” for college packing?

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All of these could not be more perfect! I can't tell you how many of these things I was buying last minute and wish I had my freshmen year (wrinkle release spray and a first aid kit?! haha)

Annie Belle


I leave for college in 3 weeks and I need all the advice I can get! This was super helpful. Thanks, Carly!

Sydney L.

Such a good list! I'm heading back to school in a few weeks and might be consulting with this one again.



Loved this list, I'm going to forward it to my brother who is going to be a freshman this fall!

One thing that isn't on this list which I think is essential is a little sewing kit. I was the superhero of the dorm when I could sew buttons back on for people and fix ripped hemlines with my sewing kit I picked up from Bed, Bath & Beyond.

– Kelsey

Laura Kathleen

Omg as a 24-year old in the working world this makes me sooo nostalgic for college! Another piece of advice, don't buy all your textbooks in advance, wait to get the syllabus and see if you need it or its just "recommended reading" if its just recommended find out if its just a passage or so (happens often) and read that passage in the library. BOOM you just saved $200.

Samantha Kay

I love dorm stuff! This is an excellent list! Rain boots was probably my most used purchase for college. Especially because our college was in a huge pit so it flooded constantly.

Madeleine B

I wish I had this list when I headed to school last fall! But remember Tide-to-Go pens! They were a lifesaver when I didn't have time for laundry or didn't want to waste money for a load on one item. Thanks for this Carly!

Rebecca Hawkins

Makeup bags – you know you have a bunch of these from gifts/freebies over the years. They make great "go bags" for chargers, cords, and flash drives, as well as keeping other small contents corralled in your bag (reference CP's "I wish I had a ____" kit).

Detergent/Color-Safe Bleach pens – because stains happen, inevitably hours before you can return to your dorm. (Sorry, Madeleine, you posted just before me!) Dryel even makes one now for dry-clean only clothes.

I've been out of college almost 15 years (OMG!) but the necessity list stays the same! Good luck out there!



Something I forgot about when I moved into my dorm (granted this was almost 10 years ago!) was a first-aid kit as well as a stock of Tylenol, ibuprofen, and cough medicine. Cuz when you get sick or injured, you don't have time or energy to run to Walgreens.

Also, however much clothing you are taking, CUT THE AMOUNT IN HALF. Dorm closets are TINY and you aren't going to wear it all anyways.

alaina shea

I got a little $15 baby vacuum for college and it was a lifesaver! Especially being a girl with hair that seems to shed endlessly, it was a must to make the floor seem just a bit more nice and clean. My friends loved to borrow it too! Definitely a good idea!

Zoe Diaz-McLeese

I would have loved to have a Keurig when I was living in a dorm! Luckily a lot of my sorority sisters have them, so I'm covered, but when I was running late and didn't want to wait for coffee.. a Keurig would have been so nice!


Kayla B

This list was great! I'm a college senior, and I definitely would've appreciated this list. My main advice would be to pack less clothing in general. You end up wearing a few different versions of the same thing most of the time, anyway. Also, bring clothes you can layer, because one building will be freezing and the next will have you sweating. 😉

Gigi @ Dolce and Gabriella

All awesome items. I'd add…a small Brita water pitcher so you can keep water in your room that tastes good (it's so easy to get dehydrated when there's not a tap *right there* that you can fill up your water bottle at…) and a microwaveable bowl for ramen and other microwave meals.

Love, Gigi
Dolce and Gabriella

Ally Blanck

Buy shampoo, conditioner, razors, q-tips, whatever, in bulk before you go to school. Yes it will take up more room, but you'll save yourself a lot of money and frustration when you run out! Depending on where your campus is, it can be a pain to get and incredibly expensive (your bookstore will likely have some stuff, but it'll be a rip off).

Also bring some different sized Tupperware containers to put in things like snacks (my freshman dorm had a problem with ants), or anything you don't want loose (crafts, school supplies, whatever). They even make kinds that are expandable and can be stored almost flat!

amy h @ leopardspot

I would say a first-aid kit packed with all of those things your mom has at home but you don't think you "need"… I called my mom so often from Walgreens because I needed "Dr. Mom" advice!

I'd also suggest extra bins/boxes – collapsible ones are easy to find and easy to store when you don't need them! I liked having some on hand to corral some random messes that popped up from time to time or to hold a stash of goodies I got after a visit from my parents.


I just recently also did a post on a college packing list! There are so many things you don't even realize you need until you get to school and if you don't have a car it can be hard to lug things around on a bus so it's best to be prepared!


Alexis Dignan

Thank you for this! I forgot so many things my freshman year. I never even thought of bringing a business suit- I'm so happy I didn't need it! Don't forget Clorox wipes! It's the easiest way to clean and disinfect surfaces, and they're disposable.

Also, shower shoes; as in a cheap pair of rubber flip-flops from Old Navy. NEVER step foot in a dorm shower without them on!