The Ultimate College Packing List For Freshmen


Packing is stressful, but nothing is more stressful than putting together a college packing list, especially for your freshman year. There is so much you just aren’t sure of! It is inevitable that you will over-pack for your first semester of freshman year and come home for Christmas with dusty boxes that you kept under your bed for months, untouched. It’s better to be over-packed than under-packed, but hauling boxes and bags in the heat of late August to your dorm room on the 8th floor will get tiring very quickly, trust me. Therefore, in order to help you out we’ve created the ultimate college packing list for freshman below!

There are many college packing guides circulating the internet to help you, but most of them are way too extensive with trivial items! (Yes, you could need a lint roller at some point down the road, but you don’t need to pack one for your first week!) Keep reading and feel your stress melt away with our ultimate college packing list for freshmen – items you will certainly need for college that you might have not yet thought of!

*Helpful hint: Join Amazon Prime (students receive a free 6 month trial) for free 2 day shipping on all your back to school items!

School Stuff

Book Bag

You’d think this would go without saying, but you’d be surprised. I recommend a larger backpack (for when you need to pull an all-nighter at the library and haul several textbooks and your computer across campus) as well as a shoulder bag or tote bag when just going to class. You can also use your backpack when you’re heading off campus to visit friends.

Day Planner

For anyone who thinks day planners are old fashioned – You’ll thank me later when all your assignments seem to merge together and you can’t think straight. Also, it is proven that the act of writing applies words to memory better than typing into a phone.

Calculator

You never know if you will need this; but many professors don’t permit students to use their phones as calculators during exams and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

3 Hole Punch

You’ll want to keep all your school papers organized in a binder or notebook instead of an over-stuffed folder.

Stapler

You will need to staple your papers and assignments! Yes, the library has these, but what if you don’t have time to go to the library? You can’t guarantee your classroom will have a stapler since many professors rotate classrooms per course.

Index Cards

An extremely versatile school supply object. You can use these for note taking, studying, flash cards, presentation speech notes, reminders, etc.

Tip: If you already have a hole punch, invest in a couple small metal key chain rings to keep all index cards together.

Highlighter Pens

You will definitely need highlighters in college. More likely than not, you will need to take extensive notes and prioritize complex text.

Folders

Although it is better, in my opinion, to keep the bulk of your papers organized with a three-hole punch notebook or binder, invest in a couple inexpensive folders for important sheets or documents you might need to carry with you on a semi-constant basis. Especially for the first semester of school, you might need to keep a print out of important reference sheets (your class schedule, your course syllabuses, a map of campus, etc.,) with you at all times- better to do so in a light folder rather than a heavy binder.

gold foldersKate Spade gold folders at Amazon

Notebooks

This should go without saying, but many students don’t know that most professors actually do not permit laptops in class during lectures. You will need to take notes in class…the old fashioned way…or not…

Pens and Pencils

Like I mentioned previously, some professors don’t allow note taking on computers in class, so always make sure to include these on your college packing list!

Post-It Notes

These will come in very handy.

Think: When you need to leave reminders for yourself, messages for your roommate, stick notes inside a textbook, mark important pages in a notebook…

Scissors

Like a calculator, you never know when you will need this supplies object and don’t want to be stuck without one. Although you may not use it that often, you will need a pair of scissors at some point or another (like snipping all the tags off your brand new dorm decor). Best to be prepared!

Sharpies

You will need a Sharpie for marking certain things that you want to stand out and don’t want erased.

Think: Your shower caddy, a school sweatshirt that is identical to your roommate’s, etc…

Scotch Tape

You will need tape for various things, from hanging posters in your dorm room to fixing ripped notebook pages. Double sided tape is always really useful for decorating!

Tip: You will also need duct tape. Duct tape is helpful for hiding bulky electronic cords in your dorm room, labeling boxes and bins, securing things in place, etc. (You can get all cool kinds of patterns these days!)

Electronic Stuff

Laptop

Whether you go the Lenovo route or the Apple route – you will need a laptop in college. From late night papers, to Facebook study breaks, to submitting online assignments; these days you basically can’t survive college without a laptop. Definitely one of the most important items for your college packing list!

‘Hotspot’ Device or Ethernet Cable

There is just no telling what the WiFi at your school will be like, especially for the first few weeks when you are trying to get used to the WiFi and hooking all your electronics up. What do you do if you need to submit an assignment at midnight and your internet server is down in your dorm? An Ethernet cord or “Hot Spot” device is handy because you know you can always have internet access as long as you bring one of these along.

Power Strip

You will need a power strip for all of your electronic devices. There probably aren’t as many outlets in one small dorm room as you would think. Not only do you need an outlet to plug in your computer and printer, but don’t forget the need to hook up your cell phone charger, television, desk lamp, fan, hair dryer… you get the point…

Tip: Duct tape the power cords to the back of your bed’s headboard or desk (or even along the wall under your bed) to hide the cords.

Extension Cord

Remember all the cords I reminded you of in the previous tip? Bring an extension cord to be sure that you can always reach them.

Printer, Ink, Paper

Your school inevitably will have printing stations, but when you’re late for class and remember you need to print out that assignment last minute, you’ll be thankful you have a printer in your room.

Headphones

Necessary for when you work out, are walking to class, or need to block out the sound of your roommate snoring or the heavy breather studying next to you in the library.

USB Flash Drive

It’s always safer to also back up your presentations and school work on a tangible device rather than solely relying on the ‘cloud’ or the internet to save your work.

TV

You will need a TV in your dorm room. Even if you don’t watch that much TV or only do so on your laptop, what do you do when your friends come over to watch the Oscar’s and everyone is trying to crowd around your small laptop screen? Awkward.

Speakers

…Because listening to music on a computer is just not loud enough when getting ready for a night out with your friends. A must-have for the college packing list.

Chargers and a portable charger

Don’t forget your chargers for all your necessary electronic devices! Always carry a portable charger or charging case with you in case your phone dies and you need to call an uber or meet up with people.

Dorm Stuff

Bed Side Fan

Dorm rooms are hot. A small fan is completely fine for cooling you down and also drowning out the sound of the rowdy kids in the room next to you or your snoring roommate.

White Board

Really handy so you can leave notes for your roommate or friends, or when you need privacy in the room and can alert everyone. A decal white board is even cheaper and easy to put up and remove without damage.

Desk Lamp (and extra bulbs)

This is necessary if you want to stay awake and do work at your desk or in bed while your roommate goes to sleep early.

Full Length Mirror

Hang on the back of your room or closet door.

Curtains/Curtain Rods

Perfect for privacy and shade. If your school already has hum-drum blinds, you can still install curtains for a homey touch. (It makes a difference.)

Closet-Shoe Hanger

Hang on the back of your closet door. Perfect not only for shoes, but anything else! Toiletries, jewelry, snacks, etc.

Laundry Basket or Tote

Either will do.

Tip: Laundry totes are easier for slinging over your shoulder when traveling across campus to the laundromat. But a basket is easier to slide in and out from underneath your bed when changing each day.

Door Stop

Dorm room doors are heavy! A door stop is not only useful when trying to get some fresh air in the room but NECESSARY when moving in and out of your dorm.

Tip: Keep your dorm room propped open whenever you are in you room! It’ll make it easier to make friends on your hall.

Bedding Stuff

Extra-tall bed risers

Absolutely crucial. Dorm rooms are small enough as it is and your bed will take up a lot of space. Bed risers not only make your bed look more appealing and high-up, but you will have the entire space under your bed for extra storage.

Underbed storage

This is where the bed risers are necessary. These containers are slim enough that you can stack two on top of each other! Keep extra t-shirts, bulky sweatshirts, or anything else you need in these bad boys.

3-Drawer storage

Extra storage is something you will definitely need. The 3-drawer tiered storage is a godsend because it can fit in most dorm closets, and if it doesn’t you can use it as a bedside table or extra surface top.

Comforter and bedding

You will be cold without a comforter, plus it also adds some cushion to your sleeping space! You can get Twin XL bedding but your bed will look a lot more cozy and plush with a Full size bedding and the comforter will hang more on each side.

So you can either get a comforter (make sure it’s light as dorm rooms run hot) and a duvet cover (which makes it easy to take off and wash in the laundry) or a bed in a bag set. Don’t forget to check out theses 20 awesome bed in a bag sets you can get on Amazon Prime.

boho bedding

Xtra long bed sheets

Your dorm mattress will most likely be extra long. Regular sheets will be too short. But even if your mattress isn’t extra long, the extra long sheets will still fit in if you tuck them in. These are a definite for your college packing list!

Pillows/pillow cases

I recommend bringing two pillows to sleep with and at least one larger pillow or sham, not only for decoration, but for propping yourself up in bed. Two sets of pillow cases are enough.

Mattress Topper

You’ll need the extra inch of softness, plus it is more hygienic to use one. So do yourself a favor and add this to the college packing list.

Bed bug cover

Better safe than sorry…

Dining Stuff

Brita Filter

Not totally necessary, but sometimes water can taste noticeably different if you have been drinking the same kind of water at home for the past 20 years. Plus, if the only way you’ll drink tap water is through a Brita filter, purchase one! You’ll save tons of money (and space) from not constantly restocking plastic water bottles.

Refrigerator

You will need a mini fridge for snacks and drinks!

Microwave

Depending on what your college allows. (One roommate can bring a refrigerator and the other can bring a microwave.)

Plastic silverware/plates/bowls/cups

There is no use for bringing real silverware or dishes and detergent. You won’t be eating in your dorm room as much as you think, so just make things easier for yourself and stick to plastic.

Ziploc bags

Great for packing snacks for class and organizing small items.

Food containers

Gearing up to spend the next ten hours in the library? Better bring Tupperware packed with lunch!

Chip clips

You don’t want your snacks to go stale!

Mugs

A mug or two for tea or coffee is all you need.

Water Bottle

Only need one of these. Great for a water glass on your bed side table, or to take with you to class and the gym.

Bottle opener

Nothing is worse than when you are craving an ice cold (fancy) beer and can’t get it open.

Non-perishable snacks

Box of non-perishable snacks to keep under your bed. Some of my go-tos:

  • Ritz crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned soup
  • Tea
  • Easy mac
  • Ramen
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Granola bars
  • Water flavor packets

Clothing Stuff

Pack whatever fits your personal style, but keep these 5 tips in mind when packing clothes.

Tip #1: Gather up all the t-shirts you are planning to bring to school and cut that pile in half. Everyone I have ever talked to (including myself) packs way too many t shirts. Bring a few to sleep in and a few to work out in and you’ll be fine.

Tip #2: That formal dress you think you might need at some point or another? You probably won’t. Worse comes to worst, you can have your mom overnight mail it. Not worth taking up room in your closet.

Tip #3: Keep bulky sweaters, sweatpants, jackets and sweatshirts in a storage bin under your bed. They take up a lot of space in a closet!

Tip#4: Store scarves and gloves or mittens (if you will need them) in the sleeves of your coats to save space.

Tip #5: PACK FOR THE SEASON. Even if you live far away from your school, you can have your parents mail you clothes you will need later in the year. No use in over packing with heavy jackets if it is still warm out.

Decorating Stuff

Thumb tacks

These are extremely essential. They are so versatile. You can hang twinkle lights, photographs, posters, your keys, anything you want on these! They leave barely noticeable tiny holes and can pierce through plaster. They also eliminate the large gaping holes from nails or the nasty, sticky residue from “wall putty” that might as well scream “you’re definitely not getting your security deposit back.”

Washi Tape

Use Washi tape for hanging, as well as decorating! Check out a video tutorial here!

Posters

You will want posters to decorate your boring dorm room walls!

Pictures from home

You will be homesick at first. Print out pictures at a pharmacy or copy center for $0.30 a picture to remind you of family and friends.

Area rug

Also not necessary but will DEFINITELY give your room a homey touch. Amazon has a great selection of relatively inexpensive smaller floor rugs!

Twinkle lights

Adds a cozy feel to your room. (Remember thumb tacks!)

Cleaning Stuff

Paper towels

Necessary in case of spills and messes. These and Lysol wipes are all the cleaning supplies you’ll need.

Handheld vacuum

No one has space for a large vacuum. This little guy may not seem totally necessary at first, but you would be surprised at how much dust accumulates in a dorm room.

Disinfecting wipes

No need for an entire bucket of cleaning supplies. Bring a container of Lysol disinfectant wipes, and that’s all you will need to wipe down your furniture and surfaces.

Swiffer

For picking up what your Lysol wipes can’t. (Think: 3-day old Bud Light spilled on the floor.)

Air freshener

An air freshener that sprays every 3 hours is also a nice touch and will keep your stuffy dorm room smelling fresh.

All purpose cleaner

Necessary for everything!

Detergent

Don’t bother with liquid detergent when you can just use the pods. Dryer sheets are helpful to relieve static from your clothes as well.

Scented trash bags

You’ll thank me later.

Small trash can

You will need a trash can, just make sure it is small and easy to hide away.

Tip: Only dispose of papers and wrappers, refrain from tossing liquids or food in your trash can. (Think insects and foul odors…)

Bathroom Stuff

Plastic shower caddy

If you buy a fabric shower caddy it will get moldy and gross in no time.

Bathrobe

Maybe not as necessary for the guys, but girls may need a little extra coverage when walking down the dorm hall after a shower.

Shower shoes

Crucial unless you want to catch Athlete’s foot …or worse. Any cheap flip flop or sandal will do. Old Navy $5 flip flops never fail in this case scenario.

Shower towels (2)

If you don’t normally use two towels, bring an extra instead in case one is in the wash or your friends invite you to the pool or beach.

Wash cloths

Pack several smaller towels for when you need to wash your face at night and don’t feel like lugging your large towel to the bathroom.

Personal Stuff

Hair dryer

Unless your school is uber-fancy, these aren’t provided in the bathrooms.

Straightener/curling iron

Don’t forget either of these babies – they’re not exactly cheap to replace!

Razor and shaving cream

Tip: Wipe down and your dry razor after each use. If this is stored with your shower caddy you don’t want it to stay sopping wet with bacteria every day.

Brush or comb

Don’t forget these necessary hair tools! Your new roomie may not feel comfortable sharing.

Shampoo and Conditioner

Invest in the large bottles so you don’t need to go out and buy more as often.

Hair products

Again, you never know when you’ll get the chance to go shopping. Better to be prepared!

Deodorant

Don’t be the smelly kid in class, c’mon.

Floss

If you don’t floss every day, START NOW!

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

Your roomie definitely won’t ever share theirs…

Mouthwash

Even a few travel-sized containers will do!

Cosmetics

What if your favorite product store isn’t close to your campus?

Nail clippers and file

You might forget this when packing and realize too little too late! Don’t overlook this item, because chances are you won’t be able to afford monthly pedicures on a college budget.

Body wash

It is easier to keep a bottle rather than a bar of soap in your shower caddy.

Tweezers

You will need tweezers… also not something you are going to want to borrow from someone else…

Q tips

Versatile for applying makeup, cleaning your keyboard, cleaning a scraped knee from a drunken tumble last Saturday night.. wait what?

Other Stuff

Rain boots

You don’t want to be caught without a pair of these guys!

Umbrella

Keep a small umbrella in your backpack for if you get caught in the rain walking across campus.

Gym bag

Keep your smelly gym bag separate from your weekend or school bag.

Computer lock

A computer lock is useful for when you are at the library and need to run to the bathroom really quickly leaving your laptop unattended.

Duct tape

An all-purpose tool you will definitely need at some point.

Medicine

You never know when you suddenly feel ill in the middle of the night…or that massive hangover hits you hard on a Wednesday morning before class.

Weekend bag

You don’t want to pack a suitcase if you’re only traveling for two days!

Where to Buy

If you go to Bed, Bath & Beyond and CVS for all the college supplies on this college packing list, you are probably not going to have much money left in your bank account for when you actually arrive at school. Be smart about where you shop. Many items can be found for less than half their retail price on Amazon, Target, or Walmart. Homegoods, TJ Maxx and Marshalls are also great places to shop for household essentials. The Dollar Store is perfect for any plastic wear, trash bags, etc. Costco and BJ’s are also great sports to shop for any food you may want to bring.

When to Buy

Packing for college is definitely not something you want to leave for last minute. Your mom is probably nagging you about what you need her to go out and get. Instead of mumbling “I don’t know,” stick to this college packing list, and make a fun afternoon out of shopping! Decide what is essential for you to buy, and what is not. (Maybe older siblings already have some of these essentials.) You are going to want to hit the stores earlier in the summer, before the back-to-school rush when there is nothing else left on the shelves.

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Do you have any more suggestions to add to this college packing list? Share in the comments below!
Featured image source: familyfaithandfridays.com


Anisia Lundberg

Anisia is an editor for Society19. She studied English Literature and Journalism Media at the University of New Hampshire and Regent’s College London, UK.

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