Whether you plan to live in the dorms or in an apartment near campus, there are a number of things you are going to need when you go to college. I could go into a long detailed list of every single item, but the truth is that the details are going to differ with each individual. Besides, you already know you need socks, underwear, and a toothbrush. So I am going to give you some of the basics and then some things you may not have thought about before.
Clothes & Shoes
What you might not realize is that your days of dressing up for class are over. Pack your favorite comfortable clothes and shoes because you are going to be doing a lot of walking. Trust me, you don’t want to be rushing to your next class in a pair of dress shoes or stilettos. Do pack some nice clothes for formal events and job interviews. But don’t expect to be put together every day. Leave that for someone who has the time.
Don’t forget to pack some workout clothes and athletic shoes so you can head to the gym or go for a run in your spare time. As always, it’s important to maintain your physical health while you are working on your education.
Don’t forget your jacket, winter coat, and rain gear. Hoodies are usually a favorite for college students because they are warm and comfortable and easy to wash. They also come in a wide variety of designs and styles, so you can choose the ones that are right for you. You might even feel compelled to buy a college hoodie to represent your new school.
Trust me on this. You NEED storage containers. You are going to accumulate so much stuff while in college. You need a place to store your things. Storage space in dorm rooms is extremely limited. Find storage containers that stack or that easily slide underneath a bed.
Shower Caddy & Supplies
In addition to the usual towels, shampoo, and razor, bring a shower caddy and some shoes for the shower. These shoes can be as simple as a cheap pair of flip flops. But if you are living in a dorm on a hall with many other people, you want to keep your feet covered. On a similar note, bring a bathrobe that you can wear back and forth from the shower.
Microwave & Mini Fridge
Depending on your dorm rules (check with your school first), you’re going to want a microwave and mini fridge. If you’re on the campus meal plan, yes they will give you food. But where will you turn when you need a late night snack? If you don’t have your own car, then you won’t be heading to McDonald’s for some fries during your late night study session. Trust me. You want that mini fridge and microwave.
TV & DVD Player/Game System
Also, if you are an entertainment junkie, bring a television that is small and easy to carry and maybe a DVD player and some DVDs. You can also bring a simple game system (don’t bring something worth a lot of money. Stealing happens.)
If you don’t have a television or don’t want to bring one – don’t worry. Many communal lounges often have TVs, and there will be plenty of things to do on campus to keep you occupied.
Desktop or Laptop Computer & Tablet or E-Reader
While it is possible to get by in college without your own computer by using the library and computer labs, things will be much simpler if you bring your own desktop or laptop. Many classroom settings allow students to take notes on their laptops or tablets, and you can be sure to store all of the educational materials you need on your electronics. I recommend that you use a laptop rather than a desktop because the laptop can be carried and used anywhere that you wish to do your work – even outside!
Some classes even allow you to download the textbook to a tablet or e-reader so you’re not stuck lugging around a pile of books.
Don’t forget to pack a camera (or a phone with a great working camera). You are going to make a lot of memories in college, and the pictures you take will be the perfect way to reminisce on your time there.
Purchase and pack extra chargers for all of your electronics. The last thing you want is for your laptop charger to be damaged and all of your work to be lost.
Flash Drive/External Hard Drive
In the same vein, make sure you take one or two flash drives or external hard drives and make sure to back up all of your work. I have been that student whose computer crashed at the end of a large project without saving work. Always, always back up your work. If something happens to your computer, you still have the work saved and can go to the library or computer lab to retrieve it.
This is an optional one, but I found it very valuable. Get your own printer. This is suggested out of convenience more than anything. You can certainly print your work at the library or computer lab, but when you are running late and rushing an assignment (which, let’s face it, will happen at some point), having your own printer is an invaluable resource.
You will need a comforter, sheets, pillowcases, mattress pad, etc. All of these will need to be in twin XL because that is the size of most dorm mattresses. If you are getting an apartment, you’ll need the whole bed and can purchase any size bedroom supplies you want.
Copies of Important Paperwork
This paperwork might include your birth certificate, social security card, passport, car title, etc. I say “copies” because things get lost in college. Whether you live in a dorm or an apartment, college life is chaotic, and you are continually surrounded by people you barely know. If you must take your important documents with you to college, open a free checking account at a local bank and rent a safety deposit box for the originals. Also make sure to keep your copies in a safe place in your dorm or apartment.
This brings me to the next item:
Whether it is a fireproof lockbox or a small combination safe, purchase a small, inexpensive safe in which to store your important documents and cash. Keep the keys on you at all times, or keep the combination secret. Be sure to put your safe in an inconspicuous place.
You need one of these. It can be paper or electronic, but whatever you choose, make sure you have something to help you stay organized. You will have many assignments to complete, even within the first week of classes, so you need something to keep track of everything. There are many organizational apps available for phones and tablets and websites that help you stay organized. Personally, I am a fan of the handheld, paper day planners and calendars so I can open them and see what I have to do at a glance.
Desk Organizer/File Box
You will need something to keep your work straight. A small desk organizer or file box will help you to effectively track pending and completed class assignments and notes. Once the semester is over, you will easily know what you can keep and what can be thrown away. Also, don’t forget the usual notebooks, binders, pencils, and pens.
Some dorm rooms have reading lights, but others do not. Get a small lamp that doesn’t take up a lot of space and emits enough light to work by. This is especially important if you have a roommate, and you need to be up late working while he sleeps.
These are necessary out of respect for your roommate. You need these if you plan to listen to music while you work. Not everyone is going to like your music. The more considerate you are of others, the better. After all, you will be living with these people for at least four years.
Living with a roommate or on a hallway with many other people can be distracting. There will be times when you need peace and quiet. Ear plugs or headphones will help you in that quest.
Who knows when you will want to take a spontaneous weekend trip with your friends? College is about the experience, and having a travel bag handy will mean you get to experience new and exciting things whenever you’re ready.
Whether you will be living in an apartment or dorm, it never hurts to have some basic cleaning supplies to help you keep your living space livable. Bring a small vacuum that is easy to store, some carpet cleaner, a few dust rags, and some disinfecting wipes. Don’t forget the disinfecting wipes. Trust me.
It’s true that most campuses are well lit at night and that many flashlight applications on phones work just as well as the flashlights themselves. But bad weather can cause campus outages, and cell phone batteries drain quickly. Carrying a small flashlight that fits inside your bag (with extra batteries!) can assist you in many types of emergencies.
First Aid Kit
And I don’t just mean some Band-Aids and Neosporin. A first aid kit is important, especially if you play sports or are extremely active. Even if it is never used, it is never a terrible thing to have.
Pepper Spray (if it is legal in your state)
Hopefully it is not something you will ever need, but if your state mandates allow it or if you can get approved to carry it, get yourself some pepper spray. Check with your school policies to determine if you are permitted to carry it on campus. If you are, it can be a great safety and self-defense asset for both men and women.
This might sound like a strange one. Aren’t there maintenance departments at college? Yes, but if you have your own apartment, you will inevitably need to fix something. And it is handy to have even in the dorms.
This is a basic list of things to bring with you to college along with the things you already use for your day-to-day life. What you should not bring is anything of high value such as expensive jewelry, designer clothing, or large amounts of cash. The goal with packing for college is to streamline and simplify your environment and your experience. Take only the things you need, and make sure you know where the nearest department store is located, just in case you forget something.