A Packing List of Essential Stuff for Your Dorm Room - Colleges of Distinction

Trading Spaces: A Packing List of Essential Stuff for Your Dorm Room

Many families know some of the usual items that a college student should bring, but it’s hard to think of everything. Of course, personal items from home will aid in the transition, but you’ll need more than photos and a teddy bear to get through the year.

Before you buy or pack anything, be sure to check with your school about what items are and are not allowed. Most schools have to be very careful about health and safety regulations, and rules differ from place to place. One school might not allow microwaves; another might have specific regulations about what size of refrigerators is allowed. (See more examples below).

Also, consider talking to a current student about what to pack. They can tell you about the “don’t bothers” and “must-haves” for the residences at your new college. They may even know specifics about your building that will be a real help.

And be sure to carefully complete and review your housing contract. By omitting certain information or sending it back incomplete, this could alter your living situation very dramatically. Once you arrive on campus, you could be locked into a living situation you do not care for simply because of a few errors.

In the meantime, here’s a list to help you start planning your move. Good luck!

Bed and Bedding


  • Sheets. Make sure that you know whether your bed will be regular or extra-long. Many college dorms have twin extra-long beds so you will have to buy special sheet sets
  • Comforter and/or quilts, blankets, etc. Consider bringing sturdy, easy-to-wash items
  • Towels: bath, washcloths and hand towels. Consider marking your name on a tag in permanent marker, especially if you have plain white or other “anonymous” towels
  • Alarm clock
  • Extra pillow(s) if you will lounge/study on the bed.

Health and Grooming


  • Shower shoes, especially if you will be sharing a shower
  • All necessary toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and all grooming/cosmetic) items. Since space will be cramped, consider buying smaller sizes, at least at first
  • Shower bucket/basket/caddy to carry items
  • Women who wear makeup might want a portable makeup kit/box, since it may not be feasible to store cosmetics near where the mirror is
  • Bathrobe (Especially important if the shower is down the hall!)
  • Prescription medicines and copies of each prescription
  • First Aid kit, including basic adhesive bandages, disinfectant, aspirin, etc. (This will cut down on trips to the health center!)

Clothes and Laundry


  • Clothes. Your space will be limited, so only bring what you think you will wear. You can always bring more back to school after your first trip home
  • Weather-appropriate outer clothes. You will probably be walking to class; be sure your coat or jacket is right for the climate
  • Laundry basket and/or bag
  • Laundry detergent, dryer sheets, stain remover stick


  • Posters. You will probably also be able to buy some of these on campus
  • Sticky wall mounts and removable adhesive hooks. Most schools do not allow you to put nails in the walls, so you will need other ways to hang your décor
  • Personal pictures, photos, and other favorite items. Avoid heavy frames, since you may not be able to hang them
  • Curtains and spring rod, if you like them and your school allows them. Some people like this touch in their room
  • Rugs or a piece of carpet if you have vinyl floors, which can be cold and uncomfortable. Check to see if the school allows this

Study Stuff


  • A sturdy backpack or book bag for everyday use
  • Computer and any necessary supplies/accessories. Some schools also offer great discounts on or provide computers, printers and other electronic necessities
  • School supplies, including a calendar or planner as well as basic pens, paper, pencils, notebooks
  • Dry-erase board and marker. You’ll want this so people can leave you messages.



  • Storage for under the bed
  • Other storage or organization units. A few stacking plastic crates will come in handy
  • Folding chairs for cheap extra seating
  • Trashcan and trash bags
  • Lamps. Many schools have special fire-safety rules about the size and power of lamps that are allowed, so make sure your lamps are within regulations
  • Cleaning supplies. Find out what areas you will be responsible for cleaning. If you have a private or semi-private bathroom, for example, you may be responsible for cleaning the shower and/or toilet
  • If you have hard floors, bring a broom. If you have carpet, consider bringing a small, light vacuum. Your floor will get pretty disgusting without it!
  • Fan (box or floor). Depending on the climate control in the building, you may want this to adjust to your individual needs

Electronics and Equipment


  • Multiple outlet surge protectors and extension cords. Check out school safety regulations about allowed cords
  • TV, Stereo/speakers, DVD player, game systems, tablets, etc.

Food and Snacks


  • Small refrigerator. During the first week of school, schools may have refrigerators and microwaves to rent or buy
  • Microwave, hot plate, coffeemaker, etc. Check first–many schools have especially strict safety regulations about these items. Also, find out what communal kitchen space may be available
  • A few unbreakable dishes: plastic cups, microwave-safe bowl, and small plastic food storage tubs
  • A small bottle of dish soap, scrubber, small dishtowel
  • Snacks: popcorn, chips, sodas, etc. Check about food regulations



  • A small and inexpensive tool kit.
  • A large backpack or shoulder bag for possible weekend trips you might take
Tyson Schritter


Tyson Schritter

As the Chief Content Officer of Colleges of Distinction, I get to read about and visit colleges and universities across the country. I'm always looking for admission tips and new and exciting learning programs to share with our college bound community.

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