What You Need to Bring

Packing for life in a dorm

Packing up to go to college is a time of mixed emotion for students. The excitement of starting a new phase of life is tempered by the sadness of leaving home. Luckily, the sadness tends to melt away pretty quickly once you get to your residence hall and meet the people you’ll be living with. That is, unless you’ve forgotten an important item.

Most college residences provide a bed, desk, dresser, desk chair (usually poor quality) and curtains, so you don’t need to worry about bringing those things. You’ll be responsible for everything else, though. Not everyone will bring the same things (some people can’t live without a hair dryer, while others shave their heads), but there are many things that everyone needs. The items on the lists below cover the bare essentials, plus a few luxuries that most students consider to be essential.

The Basics

You’ll need these items for day-to-day life:

  • Clothing (be prepared for all weather, focus on comfort more than style and remember: you can never have too many pairs of socks and underwear!)
  • Hangers
  • Backpack
  • School supplies (notebooks, pens, pencils, calculator, etc.)
  • Dictionary and thesaurus
  • Desk chair (bring one with good support because the one provided will probably not be sufficient, especially considering how much time you will spend sitting in it)
  • Desk lamp
  • Alarm clock
  • Calendar or daily planner
  • Bulletin board
  • Fan (your room might be hot)
  • Umbrella
  • Room decorations
  • Sleeping bag (a good portable bed for overnight guests)
  • Health insurance information
  • First aid kit (including band-aids)
  • Pain medication (Tylenol, aspirin, etc.)
  • Copies of your prescriptions
  • Contraceptives (condoms, birth control pills, etc.)

Bed and Bath

We all need to sleep and stay clean, so you won’t be able to live without these things:

  • Pillow
  • Two sets of sheets and pillowcases (keep in mind that most dorm beds are extra-long twins, which are about 80 to 84 inches in length)
  • A warm blanket (your room might be cold)
  • Bath towels and washcloths
  • Shower shoes
  • Toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothbrush, deodorant, lotion, etc.)
  • Shower caddy (a bag or basket that you can use to transport your toiletries to and from the bathroom)
  • Laundry basket
  • Laundry detergent
  • Loose change (for the laundromat)


Sure, you could eat with your hands. But do you really want to? Bring along:

  • Forks, knives and spoons
  • Plates, bowls and cups (plastic is preferable, since it’s less likely to break)
  • Mini-fridge
  • Microwave
  • Non-perishable foods (canned soup, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese mix, instant coffee, cereal)
  • Can opener


These days, it seems like everything is powered by electricity. College life is no exception. You’ll definitely want to have items like these:

  • Computer (make sure to bring the manuals, software disks and cables)
  • Printer (bring extra ink cartridges)
  • Television
  • DVD player or VCR
  • Stereo (make sure to bring headphones)
  • Video game console
  • Power bar (consider getting one with surge protection)
  • Extension cord
  • Two- to three-prong adapter

Before you begin packing, talk to your future roommates (most colleges will give you their contact information) and find out what they’re bringing. There’s no need to have two can openers in your dorm room.

Don’t Bring

Unfortunately, there are some things that you just can’t bring with you to college. Leave these things at home:

  • Appliances that your school doesn’t allow (some schools forbid hot plates, microwaves, etc.)
  • Pets (fishbowls are usually permitted)
  • Weapons
  • Valuables (leave the diamond jewelry at home)
  • Clothing you won’t wear (you have limited space)
  • Halogen lamps, electric heaters and candles (most colleges consider them a fire hazard)
Advertiser Links for School Supplies
[what's this?]