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College Dorm Packing 101

Updated on October 6, 2017
DollyHale profile image

Dolly is an undergraduate student attending university to study Political Science and History.

The ultimate packing list for college freshmen

1. Box fan!

No matter where you go to college, whether in South Carolina or Michigan, you'll need one of these bulky bad boys. Especially with the danger of climate change. I have spent one too many nights sweating my pants off because my tiny floor fan was not sufficient.

2. Someway to watch TV:

I thought I wouldn't need TV in college. I was so wrong, the dorm is so little there is only so much you can do without going crazy. Thankfully, I have Netflix on my Mac. But, I do miss watching Harry Potter. Bringing a TV or DVDs that you can play on your laptop is a foolproof way to know you won't go insane while living in the dorms.

3. Command Strips:

I command stripped the crap out of my dorm room. The walls are made of concrete, and you aren't allowed to tac anything even if you could. Command Strips are strong as heck, they can literally hold anything- they're worth the money!

4. Shower caddy:

Especially if you're in a communal setting, but even with a suite, you'll need a caddy to lug around all your toiletries. I technically have two- one for showers and one for brushing my teeth. (I would also get a bath mat for in the dorm to set the wet caddies on.)

5. Flip Flops:

On the topic of showering, you're going to need flip flops (or crocs, if you're into that) for in the shower. The shower stalls are gross to begin with and on top of that you'll be sharing them with from three to thirty other people depending on your bathroom situation. Protect your toes!

6. A robe:

Specifically if you're in a communal setting, you have to undress in your room then head to the showers. Some just wear a towel around their body, but a fun robe never hurts! I got a Victoria's Secret robe from Salvation Army for $7- best purchase I have ever made.

7. Food, food, food:

The food at my school is great, fortunately! But, sometimes you don't want to walk all the way down the street to get lunch. I suggest getting snack foods as well as a few meals- sandwiches, Campbell soups, ect.

8. Winter coat and boots:

If you're in a Northern State it's going to be a tough few months during November to March if you're not prepared. I go to a Great Lakes school which gets sick lake effect winters. We all look like eskimos during the winter. Bundle up! You're better to look silly than to get hypothermia.

9. Highlighters:

It sucks that you have to buy books (rent if you can!) but the cool thing about owning texts is that you can write all over it if you want. I personally use highlighters to outline what I want to put in my notes. You can even highlight in rented books (don't go overboard though), just make sure to verify that you can when you pay!

10. Clorox:

This 12x12 room is your home for seven months, treat it like a house. I clean regularly and it's not that hard- there's not that much to clean. My roommate recently got the stomach flu, but I was vigilant in disinfecting and went about unscathed.

11. A vacuum:

On the topic of cleaning, a little shark vacuum is always nice to have. (I got mine for around $30 at Walmart.) I made the horrible mistake of buying a black rug which picks up every little fuzzy possible and showcases it on it's dark fuzz, I vacuum at least twice a week. (Try avoiding black rugs if possible, they're a nightmare.)

12. Quarters:

Just bring a role of them, it'll be a lot easier to do laundry when the time comes. Also, NEVER LEAVE YOUR LAUNDRY WHILE IT'S WASHING! So many kids will leave for an hour and go back to the washer to see that their clothes were stolen. My friend got $200+ worth of clothes stolen- not a fun time.

13. Holiday Decorations:

At least in my dorm, kids go crazy for the holidays. Halloween is a big hit as well as Christmas. The dollar store is a great resource. Get spooky if you want to, your neighbors will appreciate it.

14. Comfy clothes:

There is a time and place for fancy clothes and class if not one of them. I need business attire for my internships, but in class I wear old high school shirts and sweatpants. No one cares what you look like anymore. Wear what you are most comfortable in.

15. Laptop:

If you can find the money, I highly recommend getting a nice laptop. A Mac is preferred by most students, but something like a Chromebook or Windows is good too. The reality is that going to college without a laptop is extremely difficult. A lot of my classes have online modules where all of the homework is. Of course, you can go to the library and work, but it's difficult to find computers sometimes and they're generally slower than a laptop.

16. Medicine:

I was one of the few smart kids who brought a first aide kit, ibuprofen, cough drops, ect. You will need bandaids at some point. I get headaches all the time. My throat was scratchy last week. You are still human, prepare for the inevitable.

17. Microwave:

If you can afford it, a microwave is a great addition to your little pantry in your dorm. Sometimes you just want some popcorn at 2am.

18. Mini fridge:

This is a must, no getting around it. Sometimes a college will have renting options for a fridge, microwave combo- it's worth looking into. Also check out eBay or Craigslist.

19. Desk organizers:

The desk in my dorm is literally just a table with one huge drawer. Unless you want loose utensils and folders I suggest getting organized. I have a magazine holder for my folders and binders, and a desk organizer for my pencils, pens, highlighters, ect.

20. Tide stick:

If you're like me, you know the struggle of spilling something on yourself at least twice a day. A tide stick is conveniently small and works beautifully.

21. An ice tray:

Specifically for the early and later weeks of school when it's hot outside and even hotter in the dorms, an ice tray is always nice to have. Pop those babies in your drink or eat them alone and it'll cool you right down.

22. Proper lighting:

The overhead lamp the dorm comes with looks like something straight out of a correctional facility. I have a nice standing lamp that has a homey yellow glow to it. Much better than the blaring white light of LED.

23. Black out curtains:

I am a very light sleeper and for that reason, I had a really hard time staying asleep for the first few weeks of college because the windows were only covered by a pair of blinds.

24. One of those back rest pillow things:

They're sick, but I have no idea what they're called. The best time to use this bad boy is whenever you just want to get comfy cozy in your bed but still need to do homework.


This thing!
This thing!

25. Slippers:

I live in my slippers, especially with a communal living style. Who needs real shoes when you can have fluffy clouds of heaven wrapped around your feet?

26. Tupperware:

Bring some good 'ole Ziplock containers with you to school. Smuggle them into the dining hall within your backpack. Get a plate of food, but shovel the contents into the container and then go for seconds. It is completely against the rules, but a great trick that most kids use to get the most out of their meal plan. But, you didn't hear it form me.

27. A salt lamp:

This is propbably the most personal preference of all the list, but salt lamps are amazing. Dorm rooms can get a little musty and in the winter months you can't just throw open a window to filter the air. But, a salt lamp will keep the air must-free and healthy. It has been proven that the air filtration through a salt lamp lowers anxiety and depression too!

28. Some form of seating:

A dorm is small so I'm not saying a sofa, but a nice fold out chair isn't the worst idea. You can't exactly entertain, but if a friend come over and the only options of seating are the bed and a desk chair, it gets a little awkward.

29. A calendar/ planner/ ect.

Staying organized is a 100% must in college. Your schedule is about to get the most hectic it has ever been. The best way to cope with the increased responsibility of a buy schedule is to plan out your days accordingly, let a planner or calendar help you out.

30. A comfortable bed:

Get a nice comforter, invest in some silky sheets, and make sure to get a mattress pad. You are going to be sleeping on an XLong Twin bed for the next seven months, might as well get comfortable. Also, sleep is seldom in college so when you get it make sure it's the best experience possible.


I hope this helps! These are random things I found to be incredibly useful during my time at the dorm. Of course, not all of these are a must have or a necessity for life, but comfort is important while living in the dorms! Ultimately you will know what you need and don't need when you get there! Good luck!


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    • Priya Barua profile image

      Priya Barua 7 months ago

      Wish I saw this before I started college.

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