Pack Up for College

Before you receive your dorm-room key, decide what to take with you to campus. If you underpack, you can arrange to get your missing stuff easily enough, whether you end up buying it or having it shipped from home. Conversely, when you overpack, you can't escape it. Besides being a sign of inefficiency, the unused stuff takes up precious space and creates a mess. At the end of the year, you either have to lug it all back home or store it. Many students just throw it out, accounting for all the overflowing dumpsters parked outside of residence halls every May.

What to leave behind

If you didn't wear it, read it, watch it, listen to it, or use it at home, you probably won't do so at school. The only exceptions are items you absolutely need at school that you may not need at home, such as weather-specific gear.

Other leave-behinds include:

  • Valuable jewelry

  • Anything irreplaceable or easily broken

  • High-energy electrical appliances (microwaves, air conditioners, hot plates)

  • Candles (check for possible religious exemptions)

  • Pets

What to take


  • Plenty of the kinds you wear every day

  • At least one semiformal outfit

  • Casual shoes, sneakers, dress shoes

  • At least 10 days' worth of underwear

  • Socks (dress and sport); hosiery

  • Sleepwear

  • Weather-appropriate clothing, including, if necessary, a heavy coat or jacket, mittens/gloves, hat, earmuffs, scarf, boots, rainwear

  • No matter how warm your campus is: a sweater/sweatshirt, windbreaker, and a pair of jeans and/or sweatpants for cooler days

  • No matter how cold your campus is: T-shirts and shorts-your dorm might be hot all the time

  • Hangers

  • Swimwear

  • Flip-flops, bathrobe

  • Gym attire

Food and Food-Related Items

  • Nonperishable snacks (peanut butter, crackers, pretzels/chips)

  • Case of bottled water; powdered drink mix

  • Mac and cheese mix, noodle-soup packets, breakfast cereal

  • Fruit, dairy products, soda, jelly, cheese (hold off on buying perishables until you're close to campus)

  • Microwave, if permitted

  • Paper plates, cups, plastic utensils; two sets of "real" utensils, bowl, plate

  • Tea, coffee, sweetener, creamer, and coffeemaker, if permitted


  • Personal hygiene items; a bucket to carry it all to the shower

  • Comforter, pillow, two pillowcases, four sheets

  • Towels; beach towel, if needed; washcloths

  • Backpack

  • Pens, pencils

  • Alarm clock-radio

  • Telephone with answering machine, or cellphone with voicemail

  • Rolls of quarters for laundry

  • Laundry detergent, stain remover; laundry basket or bag

  • Iron

  • Can opener, cookware, plastic water pitcher

  • Umbrella

  • Fan

  • Duct tape

  • Power strip/surge protector

  • Laptop; printer; paper

Touches of home

  • Posters, photos

  • Decorations