How to Pack for College: Our Top 10 Tips

how to pack for college

Going to college for the first time is exciting. But packing probably won’t be. And if you haven’t lived away from home before or in a dorm room, you’re probably not sure what to prioritize bringing with you. Living in a dorm requires different things you probably didn’t need to have while living with your parents. How do you pack for college when you haven’t been there before? To make packing a breeze, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips on how to pack for college, helping you prepare to have the best first semester.

How to Pack for College: Our Top 10 Tips

  1. Don’t Bring All Your Clothing at Once

    Unless you won’t be going home for any breaks, don’t pack and bring all your clothing for the start of the semester. Even if you have the vehicle space to move them, you probably won’t have the dorm space to store them. Most schools have a mid fall break before Thanksgiving, and you can grab your winter coat and boots then. However, if you’re going to school somewhere like Colorado or any northern state, you’ll probably want to bring some warmer pieces of clothing in case of early snow.

  2. Communicate with Your Roommate

    Talk to your future roommate about who’s bringing what when it comes to large, shared items. You’ll only need one microwave and mini fridge, possibly a box fan, trash can, broom and dust pan, etc. Determine if you’ll split the price of each thing or if each person will supply one or two items themselves. The second option is probably best, as there’s no guarantee you’ll be rooming together after this year.

    Bonus Tip: Elect someone to bring paper plates and bowls, plastic cutlery, and napkins. You’ll be thankful to have them when you want your midnight bowl of cereal or your dinner leftovers from the restaurant you went out to.

  3. Pack Enough Toiletries

    If you won’t have a car on campus and aren’t sure of the nearest drug store or grocery store, bring enough toiletries to last until you go home again. Bring several bars of soap or bottles of shower gel and get the biggest bottle of shampoo you can find. You don’t want to run out and beg to borrow your roommates until you can get to a store.

    Also make sure you bring a shower caddy. If you’re living in a dorm, you’ll have to share a bathroom with at least one other person. There usually aren’t shower shelves, and if there are, you shouldn’t leave your items all over as common courtesy. With a caddy, you can easily bring all your shower items in and out without juggling bottles, a change of clothes, and your towels.

  4. Bring a First Aid Kit & Medicines

    Stock up on a first aid kit and regularly used medications like ibuprofen, antacids, and anything else you take every now and then. Your college will have a health and wellness center where you can get these medicines, but they’re only open certain hours. If you can’t fall asleep due to a pounding headache, you could end up tossing and turning until morning unless someone else on your hall can help you out.

  5. Pack an Essentials Box

    Even if you’re packing light, pack an essentials box of things you’ll need your first night and morning on campus. Things like your toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, towel, pajamas, and a change of clothing. You might get to campus and have your unpacking delayed by new friends or an event you didn’t know was happening.

    If you’re not sure where to start with your packing essentials box, we have a separate post with great ideas to help you get started.

  6. Don’t Forget Shower Shoes

    If you only glean one thing when learning how to pack for college, it should be this: Always bring your shower shoes. You do not want to shower barefoot in a dorm bathroom.

  7. Pack an Interview Worthy Outfit

    You never know when you’ll need it. Most colleges have a center where you can practice job interviews. Some finals require a presentation and a business dress code. Or you might end up with a job interview you’re thankful you prepared for. Just bring one, just in case.

  8. Consider Extra Bedding

    Dorm rooms are small. Besides your desk, your bed is the only place for you to lounge. Bring a few extra pillows to lean back against without having to feel the hard bed frame or concrete wall. And the mattress most college dorm beds come with is relatively flimsy. It’s all right, but it’s nothing super comfortable. Since you could spend years sleeping on a mattress like this, consider investing in a mattress topper to make the bed a bit more comfy.

  9. Pack Cleaning Supplies

    Things will get dirty, and you’re going to want cleaning supplies on hand for any cereal or sticky drink spills. It’s a good idea to have some cleaning wipes, towels, and a cleaning spray on hand.

  10. Pack Smart

    Dorm rooms don’t have a ton of extra storage space. Think about how you’re packing your items. Cardboard boxes will just be recycled, and you’ll have to get new ones each time you move in and out of the dorm. Plastic bins used for packing can be stored under your bed or used to hold your towels. You can “cheat” your way into having a night stand by purchasing a sturdy plastic tower with drawers and packing lighter items inside for moving.

    If you haven’t seen inside a dorm room on your campus, ask student housing what kind of furniture will be there. Some rooms only have bunk beds. Some have rooms where the beds can be separate or be put into bunks. Others have beds where you might be able to raise the bed off the floor a couple of feet, giving you plenty of extra storage space. Find out what’s there and plan accordingly.

Now that you now how to pack for college, it’s time to get moving. You may want to utilize a moving company to make your move much less stressful. We at Moving U & Junk U believe we’re the movers for you. We provide packingmoving, and junk removal services. Whatever you need help with, we’ll tailor our services to meet your needs. Looking for us to only move the bulky items into your dorm? We can do that. Are you interested in a hands off, full service packing and move? We can do that too. Our professionally trained, friendly movers are here to make your life easier on moving day so you can focus on a fresh, well rested start to your semester.

To get your free estimate for packing, moving, or junk removal, give us a call or text at 484-301-2442 or email us at

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Moving U & Junk U is a full-service moving and junk removal company located in the Greater Philadelphia Area, Reading, PA, and Dayton, OH

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