person struggling to pack belongings into full car trunk
Student Storage

What To Actually Pack for College

Tips and must-haves you should add to your college packing list and why these items are so essential to dorm life.

It’s your first time leaving home and staying somewhere new long-term. It’s exciting, but also intimidating, especially if you aren’t sure exactly what you should bring. Consider these tips to help make packing for college and settling in a breeze.

Person struggling to pack belongings into a very full car trunk
Photo by @priceline


We know it sounds obvious, but a sturdy backpack with lots of storage space and pockets is crucial for any college student. Depending on the size of your campus, you may be lugging your laptop, textbooks, and notebooks across long distances daily and the last thing you need is a sore back or shoulders. Also, consider a bag with a mesh pocket or strap for a clip-on water bottle.

Eclectically decorated corner of a dorm room with a cozy looking bed piled with pillows and blankets
Photo by @ocmcollegelife


Make decorating your dorm room fun by picking out new pillows, bedding, linens, and extra blankets. Add in a mattress pad to alleviate lumpy or extra firm dorm mattresses. You’ll thank yourself later. And definitely invest in some low-cost bed risers to enhance your under-the-bed storage space.

Safe or Lockbox

We want to feel secure in our own living space and one way to do that is to bring along a small safe, lockbox, or even a portable storage chest with a lock. Different people are often filtering through shared rooms, so it’s imperative to store valuables, like your wallet, jewelry, and personal documents, out of sight and protected from any potentially sticky fingers.

iPad with a keyboard attachment sitting open. An iPhone is laid on top of the keys and apple pencil sits in front
Photo by @appleiblog


Your laptop and phone are essential for balancing your studies and your social life. But also consider a TV or gaming system to help unwind or entertain when friends visit. Check with your roommates to see what they’re bringing, and avoid packing duplicate systems you won’t need. Make sure not to forget any chargers! Buy a surge protector to prevent electrical burn-out, and so you and your roommate don’t fight over limited outlets.

White Noise Machine

Living in a dorm can be noisy at times and in order to ensure a good night’s sleep, a white noise machine might be helpful. A small desk fan is doubly beneficial in that it offers background noise and air flow on warmer nights. Those small rooms get stuffy fast, especially if you’re on an upper floor. Headphones or ear plugs can also help if you’re an especially light sleeper (or your roommate snores). Just be careful not to sleep through your alarm!

A shower caddy filled with shower and oral care supplies sitting next to a stack of washcloths
Photo by @organized31


While bringing your own towels and bath robe is a given, it is also highly recommended to invest in a low-cost shower caddy and a pair of shower shoes. The latter might sound a bit weird, but they sure beat walking around a communal bathroom or hallway barefoot. These are usually just a pair of rubber flip-flops or slip-on sandals, which can be found for less than $10. A shower caddy is a great storage solution for bathroom supplies, like your toothbrush, razor, soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Also consider purchasing or putting together your own first-aid kit. Toiletries are one thing you can’t  overpack.


Now, we aren’t suggesting bringing along a full kitchen’s worth of items, but adding some basic supplies to your college packing list will definitely come in handy. A few small cups, bowls, and plates, or microwave-safe containers, as well as cutlery that can be easily reused are crucial for any dine-in meals or snacks. If your room doesn’t come with a mini fridge and microwave, work with your roommate and split the cost to rent them for the year. Bring along a dish towel, sponge, and small bottle of dish soap, so you can clean and store your dishware right away and prevent bad odors from lingering in your room.

A Person pulling an article of clothing out of a hamper to place in an open washer
Photo by @arthouse76248

Laundry Supplies

If you didn’t do your own laundry at home, chances are you’re going to learn fast. And there’s a laundry list of supplies you’ll need to pack for college. For starters, invest in a sturdy hamper that is either collapsible or has handles and wheels to cart your belongings to and from the laundry room. If you’re lucky it’ll be on the same floor as your room and make for an easy trip. We recommend a vertical hamper to save on storage space. Detergent and dryer sheets are a must, but don’t forget stain remover, a lint roller, and wrinkle release spray. A drying rack is also a good idea for hanging any items that shouldn’t go through the dryer, or won’t dry no matter how many times you run the cycle…


Dorm rooms are not known for being spacious. It’s vital to maximize your space to the best of your ability using storage containers, hanging racks, or whatever else suits your fancy. Check out our blog post on 10 Quick Dorm Organization Tips for ideas on how you can better organize and store your belongings when packing for college.

While this isn’t a full college packing list, and certainly not all essentials, it’s a good start and plenty of things to consider. College can be a lot, but it’s also supposed to be one of the best times of your life, so don’t stress, be as prepared as you can be, and have fun. And when the semester is over, place any items that can’t make it home in a convenient self storage unit.

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