Ultimate College Packing List for the 2020-2021 School Year

father and son carrying plastic bins toward a college dorm

Ultimate College Packing List for the 2020-2021 School Year

Packing for college may seem challenging or overwhelming, especially if you’re moving far from home. But knowing how to approach the packing process with a college packing list will make packing far less stressful. Knowing what to pack well beforehand can also help you stay within your available student budget. The following guide will provide some advice on how to pack efficiently and what you should include. Use this ultimate college packing checklist as you pack for the next chapter of your life.

How to Pack for College

Before getting everything on your college packing list, consider how you should pack for college. This includes the types of items that are worth taking with you, the best ways to make the most of your living space, and rules that your school has in place for what you’re allowed to bring.

Make Sure You Have the Essentials

While you might want to bring everything in your possession with you to your new dorm or housing, try to limit the number of objects you want and focus more on what you actually need. Items such as bedding and toiletries are far more necessary than any luxury items that might just take up space. Before packing bedding, you should also consider how large your new living space will be, as you may need to buy new bedsheets and covers.

It’s always a good idea to create a checklist of everything you need, which we’ll get to below.

Pro Tip:

If you forget anything or suddenly realize that you want something from back home that you miss, don’t worry. You can request your parents to mail it to you, or you can pick it up on your next visit. Also, include it in your college packing list for next year.

What Should I Use to Pack My Stuff for College?

When packing your items, there are many types of supplies you can use. The following are some tips for supplies and packing methods you can try:

  • Use bins for storing college supplies in lieu of boxes.
  • Break down cardboard boxes and keep them stored in a closet or another space for later use when you’re moving again.
  • Reuse boxes or bins to store certain items in your room.
  • Make the most of the space available in the vehicle by keeping all your heavy items beneath the rest, and keep lighter items such as bedding or clothing in more open areas.
  • Keep similar items in the same boxes to make them easier to sort through.

To expand on that last point, try to mark each box and bin with a number that corresponds with the item number on your checklist. For instance, you may have kitchenware in one box that’s marked “#2,” along with “#2” next to your list of matching items.

How Should I Pack My Clothes for College?

It’s best to settle for enough clothing to get through one or two seasons at a time. When returning home for winter break or another occasion as the season changes, you can take some clothes back and exchange them for others. You may want to consider bringing some formal wear in the event of a job fair, networking opportunity, or a job interview. You can also start by packing some neutral-colored clothes to make coordination easier. If you exercise or use a gym, don’t forget to bring some workout clothes.

Pro Tip:

If you know how to sew, bringing a small sewing kit can help you patch up clothes in an emergency.

Another way to make unpacking easier is to leave all your clothes on their hangers when you’re packing. Once you’re in your room, you will be able to simply remove them from the box and hang them in your closet. This also means you don’t have to put hangers separately on your college packing list! If you don’t have boxes that are big enough to hold your clothes and their hangers, you can use a large bag such as a garbage bag, with the hanger hooks poking out of the top. Using bags to carry clothing may also be best to keep dress shirts and slacks from creasing.

Find Out What Your School Allows and Prohibits

Your school might provide a lot of the supplies that you need, even if the dorms aren’t fully move-in ready. You can call or check the school’s website to find out what you should bring — along with what the school doesn’t allow. For example, if you’re considering bringing a microwave or mini-fridge, the dorm might include a full-sized refrigerator and microwave.

While the school obviously won’t permit any alcohol, drugs, or weapons, other items that some schools prohibit include space heaters and extension cords, which could present a fire hazard. Also, there are some other items that colleges frequently ban, which you should try to leave off your college packing list. If you’re thinking of bringing any furry friends along, you should also find out if your college allows pets.

What to Pack for College: A Complete College Packing List

student in her dorm with bedding, decor, and electronics

Now that you have some idea of what to bring, here’s a complete college packing list to help you bring everything you need. The following items in our college packing list include the essentials and certain luxury items that might be worth bringing. However, it’s up to you to determine which items (and how many) you can bring with you.

Bath and Dorm Room

Items for your bath and dorm room could include:

  • Bedsheets (normally, Twin XL-size sheets fit college dorm beds)
  • Comforters or quilts
  • Mattress pads
  • Pillows and pillowcases
  • Throw blankets
  • Alarm clock (your smartphone may serve this purpose)
  • Ear plugs if you’re a sensitive sleeper
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Tissues
  • Towels (including hand and bath towels, along with
  • washcloths)
  • Under-bed storage bins
  • Shower shoes (like flip flops) to use in a communal shower
  • Basket or shower caddy to carry bathroom supplies

Pro Tip:

If you’re worried about mixing up towels with your roommates, you can write your name in permanent marker on the tag.

Personal Care Products

Some items to bring for health and grooming purposes could include:

  • Bath soap or shower gels
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Deodorant
  • Comb or brush
  • Hairdryer and curling iron
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Dental floss
  • Shaving kit
  • Portable makeup box or kit
  • Lotions and cosmetics
  • Q-tips
  • Cotton swabs
  • Loofah
  • Travel soap container
  • First-aid kit
  • Nail clippers
  • Handheld mirror
  • Air freshener
  • Air purifier
  • Bathroom cleaning supplies for a personal bathroom
  • Scale
  • Shower mat
  • Heating pads
  • Prescription medications along with copies of the prescription

Clothing and Laundry Supplies

Some clothing and laundry items to consider may include:

  • Shirts
  • Socks
  • Pants/jeans
  • Underwear
  • Shorts
  • Pajamas
  • Bathrobe
  • Jewelry
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Loungewear
  • Sportswear
  • Shoes
  • Boots
  • Sandals
  • Business wear
  • Dress shoes
  • Swimwear
  • Belts
  • Scarf and gloves
  • Watch
  • Iron or steamer and ironing board
  • Suitcases or bags
  • Laundry basket or bag
  • Laundry detergent
  • Stain remover stick
  • Dryer sheets
  • Bleach and fabric softener
  • Lint brush
  • Quarters for laundromats

School Supplies

Don’t forget to include plenty of items for school on your college packing list, including:

  • Backpack or carrying bag for your books and other supplies
  • Laptop or tablet and accessories
  • Planner or calendar
  • Binders
  • Paper, pens, and pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Whiteout
  • Highlighters
  • Notebooks
  • Ruler
  • Sticky notes
  • Paperclips
  • Stapler and staples
  • Calculator
  • Envelopes and stamps
  • Markers
  • Mouse for the computer to use at a desk
  • Desk storage
  • Headphones/earphones
  • Index cards
  • Whiteout
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Printer and paper
  • Hole punch

Room Decor

To help improve the look of your room and make it feel more like home throughout the school year, consider certain decor items such as:

  • Posters featuring your favorite movies, musicians, or concepts
  • Sticky wall mounts and adhesive hooks if nails aren’t allowed
  • Personal photos with light frames
  • Area rugs or temporary carpeting for hard floors
  • Seating for guests
  • Desk lamps
  • Floor lamps
  • Trashcans
  • Bedside table
  • Desk chair
  • Fan
  • Curtains
  • Bulletin board or whiteboard with dry-erase markers
  • Closet organizer
  • Stepladder
  • Bed risers
  • Over-the-door hanger for coats or other items

Electronics

Some electronics you may include in your college packing list might be:

  • Desktop computer or laptop
  • TV
  • DVD player
  • Speakers or stereo system
  • Tablet
  • Gaming consoles
  • HDMI and other cables
  • Chargers (including a spare cell phone charger to carry in your backpack)
  • Surge protector or power strip (if allowed)

Foods, Beverages, and Kitchen Supplies

Some college packing list items to consider for the kitchen include:

  • A small refrigerator (if the dorm doesn’t have one)
  • Microwave
  • Coffee maker or electric kettle (if allowed)
  • Plastic cups
  • Coffee mugs
  • Glasses
  • Water bottles, disposable and reusable
  • Scrubber
  • Dish soap
  • Dishtowel
  • Napkins
  • Paper towels
  • Silverware or plastic ware
  • Tupperware
  • Foil
  • Paper or microwave-safe plates
  • Ziploc bags
  • Pots and pans
  • Oven mitts
  • Can openers
  • Chips
  • Popcorn
  • Soda
  • Cereal
  • Soup
  • Granola bars
  • Condiments
  • Sandwich meat
  • Bread

Other Items for Your College Packing List

Some miscellaneous items to consider bringing may include:

  • Toolkit
  • Large bag or backpack for trips
  • Driver’s license
  • Car registration and insurance
  • Student ID
  • Debit and credit cards
  • ​Health insurance card
  • Social security card
  • Forms for financial aid
  • Flashlight
  • Umbrella
  • List of emergency contacts
  • Safety pins
  • Bike and bike lock

Including most or all of these items in your college packing list will help ensure you’re prepared to face the school year. Remember, you can always shop on or near your campus for extra supplies as needed. If you end up with more things at the end of the school year than you can easily take home, there are plenty of storage options for college students you can consider. Not only will that help make the end of the school year easier to manage, but you’ll also have an easier time packing for the next school year.

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