A young Asian woman is surrounded by other packed boxes as she packs a stack of books into a cardboard box

Navigating the path to college is a significant milestone, and it’s perfectly normal to feel a mix of excitement and nerves. It’s a time to make friends, learn new things, and live on your own. But before you can enjoy your new adventure, there’s one big job to do: packing.

Choosing what to bring to your dorm room or campus apartment may seem daunting, especially since this will likely be your first time living on your own. In this ultimate guide, we will provide you with a comprehensive college packing list as well as helpful preparation tips to make your transition smooth and stress-free.

Clothing and Accessories

Clothes and accessories that you can wear to class are some of the most essential items to bring to college. But incoming freshmen should also pack a few outfits to wear for more formal or professional events. Though you may be tempted to pack your entire wardrobe, keep in mind that dorms have limited storage space. It’s best to only bring clothing you see yourself wearing on a regular basis.

Must Haves:

  • Weather-appropriate outfits
  • A professional/formal outfit
  • A pair of comfortable walking shoes
  • Plenty of underwear and socks
  • Pajamas and loungewear

Personal Care Products

Toiletries and other personal care products are often forgotten when packing for college. Much like with clothing, consider the limited storage space and only bring toiletries you’ll use regularly. Here are some recommended essentials:

Must Haves:

  • A first-aid kit
  • Shower caddy
  • Bathing products such as shampoo, soap, and a loofah
  • Oral care products
  • Medications
  • Hair care products
  • Deodorant

Traditionally, college freshmen share communal bathrooms with other residents on their floor that are cleaned by custodial staff. If you’re sharing communal bathrooms, the best way to carry your toiletries is with a shower caddy. If you have a private bathroom, you may need to bring additional supplies and set up a cleaning schedule.


The next category on our college packing list is all about bedding. Before buying bedding products for college, double-check the size of the mattress provided in your dorm or apartment. Most dorms will supply a twin or twin XL innerspring mattress, which may not be very comfortable. Many college freshmen find a memory foam mattress topper a great investment to improve their sleep quality.

Must Haves:

  • Sheet set
  • Mattress topper
  • Pillow(s)
  • Duvet, comforter, or blanket

Cleaning and Laundry Products

Now that you’re moving out of your parent’s house, you’re fully responsible for keeping your dorm clean and your clothes washed. As such, you’ll need to bring essential cleaning and laundry supplies. Here are a few essentials to pack:

Must Haves:

  • Laundry basket and hamper
  • Laundry detergent
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Dish soap and sponge
  • Duster
  • Upright or handheld vacuum

Kitchen Items

Most of the food you can expect to eat during your first year of college will be from dining halls and on-campus restaurants. But it’s a good idea to bring some basic kitchen items for eating snacks, leftovers, and easy meals in your dorm room.

Be sure to check your residence hall’s guidelines on bringing appliances and mini-fridges. Some appliances pose a fire hazard to residence halls, and students will be punished if they’re found in their dorm.

Must Haves:

  • Mini fridge
  • Silverware
  • Reusable plates and bowls
  • Napkins

School Supplies

Incoming freshmen should set themselves up for academic success with the right school supplies. Your methods for taking notes and organizing assignments are completely up to personal preference. However, many college professors are moving toward fully digital assignments and course resources, so it’s a good idea to invest in a personal laptop.

Must Haves:

  • Backpack
  • Pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Organization tools such as planners, folders, and binders

Miscellaneous Items

Here is a short list of items that would be helpful to bring to a college dorm that have not already been mentioned:

  • Trash can and bags
  • Towels
  • Clothes hangers
  • Personal fan or space heater (if allowed)
  • Cell phone chargers
  • Wall decorations
  • Umbrella
  • Important documents

How to Effectively Pack for College

Now that we’ve covered all the items you should bring to college, we’ll share some essential tips for the moving process.

Organize and Label as You Go

For any big move, it’s important to stay organized. It’s best to start your packing process early so you can group similar items instead of throwing things together at the last minute. Labeling also goes a long way as you begin unpacking and arranging your dorm.

Figure Out What’s Provided

As you are packing, double-check the provided furniture and amenities included at your residence hall or campus apartment. Most university housing websites provide this information along with pictures of the room’s standard layout. This may influence what you choose to bring to college and how you plan to arrange and decorate your bedroom.

Bring One Season at a Time

Many college students take the opportunity to visit their parents for the holidays and throughout the semester. Use these visits as opportunities to exchange one season’s clothes for another as the year goes on.

If your college town doesn’t receive snow until November, don’t bring your heaviest winter clothes when you move in during August. As you are bringing your winter clothes with you to college in the fall, take your summer clothes to your parents’ house to optimize space.

Make Your Dorm Feel Like Home

College freshmen are bound to be homesick, being away from their families for the first time in their lives. Making a dorm room more like home is the best way to feel comfortable by yourself in a new place.

Before moving out, print out photos of your friends and family to display in your dorm room to remind you of good memories. Bringing comfort items from home, like a childhood toy or handwritten notes, is another great way to feel grounded in new surroundings.

As you can see, packing for college takes much effort and consideration. The packing process can seem intimidating, especially if you are navigating moving to college for the first time.

Here at Capitol North American, our team of local movers is highly familiar with the process of college relocation. Our experienced team will handle your belongings with care, ensuring a smooth start to your college adventure. Visit our website to find out more.

The Ultimate College Packing List & Prep Tips