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Back to School Main What to Bring? A College Checklist

What to Bring? A College Checklist

Getting ready to head to college or to send off your new college grad? It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of getting everything one could possibly need ready for an entire semester at college. Whether the school is across the country or a few miles from home, the move to dorm life does beg the question: What to pack?

We asked the experts for a list of college essentials and boiled it down to this simple college checklist. Use this guide before loading up the car, and move-in day will be as easy as finding cute coeds in Poli Sci (well, hopefully).

Personal Items & Storage

  • Clothes: Having to fit an entire wardrobe into a confined, shared space can be challenging, so use closet organizers and nesting clothes hangers to free up space for other items like laundry supplies.
  • Bedding: “In close, shared spaces, it's important to have your own unique space that reflects your personality,” says Charlene Jimenez, an adjunct creative writing professor at Rio Salado College in Tempe, AZ. Pack your favorite set of sheets, blanket, comforter, pillows and a bed skirt to hide items stored below the bed. Check with the college’s student affairs office or the dorm’s residential advisors to see if specific bedding sizes (like extra-long twin sheets) are needed.
    Pro Tip: Don’t have room under the bed for storage? Think again. Just prop it up on risers and stow under-bed bins or crates filled with extra shoes, cleaning supplies or K-Cups for your Keurig®.
  • Toiletries: A lucky few students have dorm rooms with private baths. Most students share with a suite or entire floor of other students. Schlepping shampoo and towels back and forth is part of the routine, so stock a caddy full of must-haves (hair supplies, soaps, razors, etc.), grab those shower shoes and robe, and enjoy communal living.


  • Computers: Laptop computers are a must-have, but leave the printer at home. “Campus will be full of them, and you probably won’t have space for one anyway,” says Brian Kearney, a senior public relations major at Rowan College in Glassboro, NJ. Laptops also double as TVs, so no need to bring a hulking flat screen.
    Pro Tip: Research the college’s computer requirements — some are more restrictive than others.
  • Accessories: Power strips and charging stations, USB flash drives and earbuds or headphones ensure work gets done whether it’s in the dorm, the library or the hip new coffee shop. Mobile phones do double-duty as alarm clocks, scheduling calendars and radios, thanks to desktop speakers. But smartphones aren’t welcome everywhere on campus. Some professors don’t allow them in the classroom and one school, Wyoming Catholic College, has banned them outright. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your school’s specific rules.

Other College Supplies

  • Pens and Paper: These days, most students take notes on computers, but they will put pencil to paper at some point. Believe it or not, these items are still college essentials. “Make sure you have the basics,” says New York-based author and college student Julie Zeilinger. That includes notebooks, pens, pencils, sticky notes, paper clips, a stapler, scissors and other materials “you feel you objectively don’t need in the digital age, but then always end up needing.”
  • Kitchen Supplies: Eating won’t always happen in the dining hall. Pizza and study breaks usually go hand in hand, so Zeilinger suggests keeping plastic plates and utensils around. If being a foodie is part of your campus dream, mini fridges, microwaves and coffeemakers are must-haves.
    Pro Tip: Don’t plan to bring a toaster oven or a George Foreman grill — those are banned at most schools. If you’re not sure what’s allowed, ask the resident advisor or admissions office.

“There’s one basic rule parents and students should keep in mind: Minimalism is key,” says Zeilinger. “And never underestimate the extent to which being well-organized will not only make their lives easier, but may very well make their academic experiences more efficient.”

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