Originally published August 1, 2014. Updated July 9, 2020 and again June 7, 2021.
Getting ready for your college student’s first year is easier with this ultimate college packing list pdf. It’s a free printable you can use now to know exactly the things you’ll need as a college freshman and throughout your entire college experience.
I’ve sent three of my “babies” off to college and we created this dorm room essentials list to make our shopping much easier. Easier is good because so that you can spend quality family time together rather than stressful shopping time.
There is so much to think about when it comes to packing your child for college. Getting them ready for freshman year can be overwhelming and emotional, making it easy to forget something.
The last thing you want is for your child to get to the dorm and realize something important was forgotten. It’s a good idea to start gathering the necessary items early to reduce stress. The College Packing List will help you make sure you don’t forget any of the things you need for college.
College Packing List
Using the Back to College Shopping List helped us shop sales and save money, which is a huge help with the college budget.
How to print the college shopping List
- Print out your own copy of this Back to College Shopping List. You can access the checklist when you sign up for our newsletter. You’ll promptly be sent an email containing the printable.
- Print it out for your personal use as many times as you’d like.
How to use college packing lists
- Go through the list with your college student and determine how many of each item you have and how many of each item you need to buy.
- Scratch off items that don’t apply to you and add items that you’ll want.
- Then go through and determine which items you already have and check them off.
- We staged college dorm items in the guest room as we acquired them. It kept the rest of the house organized and it was easy to pack the items since they were all in one place.
Things You Need for College
When it comes time for your child to start asking this question, it may seem daunting to gather all the things you need for college. The College Packing List pdf will make it easier for you and your college student to know what to purchase and pack for college life.
Items everyone needs for college that you’ll want to make sure your student fall into several categories.
Bedding and Linens for College
- Bedding – Your student will need bed sheetsfor an XL twin bed, a pillow, a mattress pad, and a quilt, blanket, or comforter for the bed. The vast majority of college dorm beds are twin XL size. Be sure to check so that you purchase the correct size of bedding for the college dorm room.
- Additionally, I always purchased a mattress encasement protector. These provide allergen and bedbug protection in addition to being waterproof. I put this on the mattress first and then a regular mattress pad and then the sheets.
- Linens – Make sure your student has bath towels, hand towels, washcloths, dish towels, and dish cloths. I always send 2 beach towels, too. In addition to swimming, these come in handy for picnics, if they get caught in the rain, and if they just don’t get their laundry done and need a back up.
- Bathroom Supplies – Whatever bathroom situation your student’s dorm has, a shower tote, toothbrush holder, and soap holder are all necessary items.
- I highly recommend a locking shower caddy if your student will be sharing a bathroom. It allows you to lock up your personal care items so no one can mess with them. One of my children had a friend who found blood (not her own) on her toothbrush one weekend.
- You can find more tips specifically for the shower caddy and personal care items.
- Check and see whether your student will need to bring a shower curtain and hooks for the dorm room shower. Some dorm rooms require you bring your own and some don’t.
- Be sure you start your student off with several months supply of personal care essential items, particularly feminine care items. They will be busy with studies and may not be familiar with planning ahead to replenish personal care supplies.
Technology is crucial for every college student in today’s world. Before you purchase anything, be sure to check your college’s specific recommendations and requirements. Also check if your student’s program of study has unique requirements.
Items your student will most like require:
- A laptop
- Surge protector – Find a power strip with the longest cord you can. There are usually few outlets placed in a dorm room and a longer cord gives you more flexibility in furniture placement and your use.
- Printer – While a printer is not required at most schools, it is definitely nice to have for late night papers and projects when you don’t want to leave the dorm during inclement weather just to use a printer.
- Calculator – Your student may require a specific calculator depending upon the course of study.
- Noise cancelling headphones – They are a nice to have item for some students and a must-have for others to be able to focus and study with so many people and distractions around. Your student may also use them to be able to sleep if a roommate snores or there are loud parties down the hall.
- External hard drive or cloud storage – Or possibly both depending on your student’s course of study. Check if your college provides cloud storage for students before making any purchases.
- Ethernet cable – check and see if your student will be able to use it. It’s helpful to have a back up if wifi starts acting up, especially during exceptionally high use times, like finals.
- This free College Technology Shopping List will help you make sure all of your student’s technology needs are taken care of.
General Office Supplies
- School Supplies – The school supplies your student will need will vary depending on what classes he or she is taking and personal preference, but these items are a good starting point: a notepad, pencils, pens, a USB drive, a pencil sharpener, a stapler, scissors, paper clips, and a 3 hole punch.
- I also send clear packing tape, some cards and envelopes, stamps and a couple of gift bags (they’ll forget to buy wrapping paper for the gifts they buy friends).
College Dorm Room Organization
- Storage Items – Bed risers, under-the-bed storage,over-the-door hooks and over-the-door organizers are great ways to utilize the tiny space in a dorm room.
- Dorm Room Items. These are items every dorm room should have: hangers, shatterproof mirrors (having both a full-length and a countertop mirror is nice), a collapsible laundry basket, a mesh laundry bag for delicates, a desk lamp, and a trash can.
- Kitchen Supplies – Your student will need a set of plates, bowls, cups, and silverware for meals in his or her dorm. A sharp knife, can opener, and hot pad will come in handy too.
Unexpected things to bring to college
Items you may not think to pack until that moment your student really needs it.
- umbrella or rain coat – it’s going to rain at some point and you’ll have to walk to class or the dining hall
- flashlight – let’s hope the power never goes out, but….. let’s be prepared, just in case
- sewing kit – there will be a button, a hem or a tear that will need to be repaired. Be sure to give your student a couple of lessons on how to repair basic sewing needs.
- first aid kit– you have one at home, your student will need it at some point and you can even make this easy DIY first aid kit.
- laundry supplies – make sure your student starts the year off with several months supply of laundry detergent and fabric softener or dryer sheets.
- small ironing board and a small iron or a fabric steamer– especially if your student will be making presentations in business clothes
- quality stick vacuum and my free dorm room cleaning checklist – there may be a vacuum in the dorm that can be borrowed, but you often have to spend time tracking it down. It’s so much more convenient to have your own.
- personal safety alarm – it will make you feel better knowing your student has a personal alarm with them.
- alarm clock – an alarm clock with a battery backup can be a life saver when used as a back-up to a cell phone. I highly recommend using a back up alarm, particularly during exam time. Even a small travel alarm clock provides that extra measure of security.
- 100+ Best College Organization Ideas – the best organizing ideas for dorm rooms without much space from a professional organizer and mom of 3 college students
- Dorm Move-in Day Tips – Everything you need to know for your first college move.
- 10 Tips to Prepare for College – what every student needs to know
- 7 Simple Tips for College Students – the basic tips that will make college life easier
- Creative College Care Packages – ideas for every student with a wide range of interests and holiday ideas
Pin for later so you can find this college packing list whenever you need it for younger children or to share with friends.
See all my tips, ideas, printables and care packages in the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.
I’m a mom of 3, a veteran and military spouse. I’ve moved into 20+ homes all around the world. My passion is helping busy people make the space and time for what’s really important to them.