Finally, you can see it winking at you just over the horizon: college. The moment you worked toward for years. You can finally leave those late nights pouring over college app questions and AP test guides behind you. You obtained the obligatory college sweatshirt and you feel ready to go—but are you? With the first days of college upon you, you just need to prepare for one more thing: the, uh, actual college part. Whether you consider yourself a leave-it-to-the-night-before or a color-coded spreadsheet packer, you’ll need a bit of guidance when it comes to packing for college.
If you chronically overpack—or consistently under-pack—look no further than these suggestions on what to bring and what to leave behind for college.
The bedroom necessities
Ah, yes. The Twin XL college dorm bed. For many freshmen, moving to college equals a mattress downsize. Don’t worry. There’s plenty of ways you can ensure your college bed feels just as comfy—okay, yeah, comfy enough. First, you’ll want a mattress pad or mattress topper. It’ll give you an extra bit of cushiness, and while they come in a range of prices, you can usually find some in the below $30 range. Next, you’ll want to find a duvet and one to two sets of sheets (having two can make throwing them regularly in the laundry an easier task). And don’t forget the pillows!
But wait—there’s more. For your bedroom items you’ll also want to think about storage. You’ll probably want to wait until you see your dorm in-person to purchase most of these items, but it never hurts to start thinking ahead. A good rule of thumb: you can never skimp on the command hooks. Whether you need to hang tote bags, scarves or a jacket, command hooks are your best friend. If your college doesn’t provide beds with pullout drawers, you should look into some under the bed storage. You’ll also want to think about getting a book cart. These serve as a great way to store books for class, books for fun and any other miscellaneous items. Oh, and don’t forget the laundry basket.
Making your dorm your own
Okay, you got your duvet, you got your under the bed storage. Now comes the fun part. Tragically, many college dorm rooms offer nothing more than bland, white walls with no character in terms of design. On the bright side, that means you can make it your own. Look around your room at home. Which posters on your walls would you like to take with you? Maybe you’ll do a little online print and poster shopping. You should also consider some fairy lights—with the usual harsh overhead lighting of dorm rooms, you’ll probably want an alternative light source late at night. Remember those command hooks I mentioned? They’ll come in handy here when hanging your string lights.
You might also consider a few items to make you feel less homesick. A good one is an extra blanket from home—not only will it make your bed nice and cozy, but you’ll find it comforting to bundle up in if you start to miss home. Other good items could include photos of your friends from home and your family. Alternatively, a throw pillow from your home could also spruce up your bed space and become a comfort. You may feel grown up, but no one’s ever too old to miss home.
The kitchen situation…
When it comes to freshman year of college, the kitchen situation really is a mixed bag. At some schools, freshmen have access to a small kitchen within their dorm. Others have a communal kitchen within their residence halls. Still others have no kitchen at all and find themselves haunting the dining halls. No matter what category you fall into, you’ll want to consider a few kitchen related items.
First, we’ll start with the non-kitcheners. Even if you don’t have access to any form of a kitchen, you still might want a few food-related items at your disposal. If your university doesn’t already provide a microwave and minifridge, you could talk to your roommate about going halfsies on those appliances. Another good item, if your college allows it: a toaster. Remember that book cart from the bedroom necessities section? The top shelf makes a perfect spot for your toast-making station.
If you do have access to a communal kitchen, you probably won’t want a ton of cooking items. Instead start with one of each—one pot, one pan, one baking tin if you’re feeling adventurous, one silverware set, one set of plates and one (to two) bowls. If your kitchen features within your apartment itself, then you could consider a few more items depending on your cooking preference. An air fryer, for instance, never makes a bad choice, especially when you find yourself with little time to cook extensive meals.
For you closet
First things first: you need hangers and, if you wear jewelry, should consider command hooks for hanging necklaces and bracelets. Okay, now that we got the technical stuff out of the way we can get to the important part—the clothes. If you’re like me, your problem with overpacking really shows in the wardrobe department. A good way to ensure you don’t pack too much—but still pack what you need—is to set limit goals for yourself. How many t-shirts do you realistically wear in a week? How many sweatshirts? Pants? Then, try not to go over those limits. Another great way to plan out this portion: lay out your wardrobe to get a rough idea of what outfits you’ll wear each season. Midwest and East Coast students will tell you it pays to remember your winter outfits while packing for school during the summer. (And yes, that Hawaiian shirt you stole from your dad will actually come in handy).
Now here’s a list of school supplies that’ll feel more familiar. You’ll need all your standard items, of course. A pack of pens, some mechanical pencils. Ask yourself whether you’ll handwrite your notes or type them. Will you need notebooks? A binder? When it comes to desk and office supplies, you can usually just buy based on your usual system of school supplies. You might also consider a small throw pillow for your desk chair, depending on how much the furniture purchasers at your university hate comfortability.
Last, but definitely not least, you can’t forget the bathroom supplies. You’ll need a shower caddy of course for carrying your shampoo, conditioner, body wash and loofa back and forth between your bedroom and those communal showers. Speaking of communal showers, you’ll definitely want some shower shoes. You’ll thank me when you avoid the scourge of Athlete’s foot. For those with communal bathrooms, you might also consider designating a travel bag or a small box for your toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, deodorant and other toiletries.