what to bring to college - duffel bag

EXACTLY What to Bring to College | 2021’s Best Packing List

College Life Made Easy is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

All the things you might ever possibly want to bring with you to college…

Find out exactly what to bring to college and grab a FREE college packing list PDF!

college packing list girl - duffel bag

You and I both know why you’re here, so I’m going to cut right to the chase –

What I have for you today in this post is a college freshman checklist.

Both over and under packing are a worry for most new students, but this list will show you exactly what to bring to college.

Plus, I’ll clue you in on the stuff you can leave at home and just not bring all together.


I want to point out that this a GENERAL college dorm packing list.

The list includes a broad selection of items. Which is why it’s a great a starting point for ideas!

To minimize the risk of anyone accidentally forgetting something important on move-in day, I went over EVERYTHING (room, bathroom, kitchen, clothing, etc.). I made it versatile enough to work as a college packing list for guys and girls.

But, we all have our own personal preferences. Tweak it as needed to make it work for you.

Download the college packing list PDF version by clicking below.

⟶ FREE printable college dorm checklist for girls and for guys!


What to Bring to College

Real quick there are two things I want to explain.


1. * I’ve marked items with an asterisk to indicate that I think it’s a better idea to get these things after moving into your dorm room.

Because those items are either…

  • bulky to pack
  • might spill on your way there
  • may be prohibited by your college
  • you might not need it right away (or ever)
  • it’s a shared item that you should touch bases with your roommate before buying
  • or it’s generally something that’s better decided on after physically being in your new digs (such as organizational stuff)


2. If something is highlighted – that just means that it’s an item that I wouldn’t consider to be absolutely necessary or essential to college living.

They are nice to have, but they’re totally optional items to add to a college packing checklist. These items can make a dorm room more comfortable or make your life a little easier.

Table of Contents

College Packing List

What to bring to college–an all inclusive list for freshman!

First things first, when you’re putting together your own college packing list (girl or guy version):

Make sure you know what is and isn’t allowed in your dorm, BEFORE you start packing.

Each school has specific residence hall guidelines and provides different things (like a trash can or mini fridge) in rooms. Check your school’s website for their recommended packing list as it should tell you what NOT to bring, as well.

Dorm Room

❑ Pillow/s
❑ Comforter
Duvet cover (SO much easier to fit in a washer than a whole comforter)
❑ Sheets (1 set is good, typically twin XL size)
❑ Pillowcases
❑ Desk lamp
❑ Extra blanket
❑ Laundry basket
❑ Snacks* (here are some healthy dorm-friendly ideas)
❑ Hangers*
Small trash can*
Dry erase/cork board
Dry erase markers
Thumbtacks/sticky putty
Wall calendar
Makeup mirror
Mattress pad
Mattress cover
❑ Command hooks
Full-length mirror*
Shoe organizer/over-the-door storage*
Under the bed storage*
Drawer organizers*
Storage ottoman*
String lights
Other decor
Rolling cart*

Hold off until you check with your roommate – 

Blackout curtains

Recommended products
LUCID 3 Inch Memory Foam Mattress Topper - Twin XL Size
Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Laundry Bag Backpack - black
Laundry Hamper Backpack
LiB Bedside Caddy, Original Design | Large Size 9.4" x 13.4
Bedside Caddy
CAXXA 3-Tier Rolling Metal Storage Organizer - Blue
3-Tier Rolling Cart



Which clothing you’ll bring with you to college will depend on different factors.

Like where your campus is located, which seasons you’ll be attending classes, and how you generally like to dress.

Just use your best judgment for your final college packing list decision.

❑ Underwear
❑ Socks
❑ Jeans
❑ Pants
❑ Sweatpants
❑  PJ’s
❑ Shorts
❑ T-shirts
❑ Long sleeve shirts
❑ Formal tops
❑ Tank tops
❑ Workout clothing
❑ Professional attire (1 full outfit)
❑ Belt
❑ Waterproof jacket
❑ Sweatshirts/hoodies
❑ Heavy winter coat
❑ Light jacket
❑ Gloves/mittens
❑ Swimsuit (1)
❑ Casual everyday shoes
❑ Running shoes
❑ Rain boots
❑ Snow boots
❑ Formal shoes
❑ Slippers
❑ Flip-flops/sandals
❑ Sunglasses
❑ Watch
❑ Scarf
❑ Hat

College packing list – girl specific clothing –

❑ Bras
❑ Leggings/yoga pants
❑ Tights
❑ Casual & formal dresses
❑ Skirts
❑ Cardigans
❑ Jewelry
❑ Purse/s
❑ Clutch
❑ Flats
❑ Heels


Desk/School Items

For college school supplies, your class syllabi will give you a more in-depth look at what you need.


I’ve included some general items that are used in most courses. To get the lowest prices on this stuff be sure to take advantage of back-school-sales!

❑ Lunchbox
❑ Notebooks
❑ Notebook paper
Academic Planner
❑ Or a bullet journal
❑ Binder
❑ Folders
❑ Pens & pencils
❑ Highlighters
❑ Calculator (or just use an app on your phone)
❑ Ruler
❑ Paperclips & binder clips
❑ Sticky notes
❑ Index cards
❑ Stapler & staples
Desk organizer



❑ Birth certificate
❑ Driver License
❑ Student ID
❑ Social security card
❑ Debit & credit cards
❑ Checks
❑ Passport
❑ Banking information
❑ Car registration & insurance information
❑ Medical & dental cards
File box or fireproof safe to keep the documents in



❑ Bath towels (2)
❑ Washcloths (2)
❑ Shower flip-flops
❑ Loofah
❑ Shower caddy (mesh works best)
Shower cap

For rooms with a separate bathroom, you may also want –

Note that most of these are things that you’ll want to chat with your roommate about first. Wait to buy them until after you talk so you can avoid having doubles and save some money.

❑ Hand towels (2)
❑ Hand soap
❑ Bath mat
❑ Shower curtain & curtain rings
❑ Curtain rod
❑ Air freshener*
❑ Toilet scrubber*
❑ Toilet plunger*
❑ Bathroom cleaner*
❑ Pumice stone*
❑ Glass cleaner*
❑ Sponge or scrubber brush*
❑ Toilet paper*
Hanging shower caddy*



Toothbrush & toothpaste
❑ Mouthwash
❑ Body wash or soap
❑ Face wash
❑ Shampoo & conditioner
❑ Hairbrush/comb
❑ Deodorant/antiperspirant
❑ Nail clippers
❑ Q-Tips
❑ Lotion
❑ Face moisturizer
❑ Hair products
❑ Hair dryer
❑ Razor & shaving cream
❑ Medicine – over the counter (like Advil, Midol, Tylenol) & prescriptions
❑ Melatonin
❑ Benadryl or other allergy relief
❑ Band-aids
❑ Vitamins
❑ Eyeglasses
❑ Eyeglass cleaning wipes or cloth
❑ Contacts + contact solution
❑ Chapstick/lip balm
❑ Birth control/condoms
❑ Sunscreen*

College packing list – girl specific things to bring –

❑ Hair straightener
❑ Curling iron
❑ Tampons/pads/feminine hygiene products
❑ Makeup
❑ Makeup remover
❑ Cotton pads
❑ Toner
❑ Face scrub
❑ Body scrub/exfoliator
❑ Bobby pins
❑ Hair ties & accessories
❑ Hair mask/treatment
❑ Nail polish
❑ Nail polish remover
❑ Nail file
Face masks
Wax strips

(Download the FREE College packing list PDF at the end of this post!)


Electronics/Tech Stuff

❑ Laptop, charger, and/or carrying case
❑ Flash drive
❑ Mouse
❑ Earbuds/headphones
❑ Phone charger
❑ 6 ft+ charging cable
❑ Portable speaker
❑ Power strip/surge protector
❑ Batteries
Ethernet cable*
Kindle reader
Portable charger
Extension cord*
Printer paper*
Printer ink*
HDMI cable*

Shared items (coordinate with your roomie) –

Roku/streaming device
DVD player

Recommended products
Power Strip with USB Ports, Bototek Surge Protector with 10 AC Outlets and 4 USB Charging Ports,1625W/13A, 2100 Joules
Surge Protector
COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
Noise Canceling Headphones
LapGear Home Office Lap Desk with Device Ledge, Mouse Pad, and Phone Holder - White Marble
Lap Desk
JBL GO2 - Waterproof Ultra Portable Bluetooth Speaker - Blue
Portable Speaker


Cleaning & Laundry Supplies

❑ Laundry detergent*
❑ Stain remover*
❑ Fabric softener*
❑ Dryer sheets or dryer balls
❑ Paper towels
❑ Small broom & dustpan*
❑ Disinfecting wipes
❑ Small trash bags
Wrinkle spray
Lint roller
Handheld vacuum

Recommended products
Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover, 3 Count
Stain Remover Pens
VacLife Handheld Vacuum, Hand Vacuum Cordless Rechargeable, Small and Portable with High Power and Quick Charge for Home and Car Cleaning, Black & Orange
Handheld Vacuum
Downy Wrinkle Releaser Static Remover
Wrinkle Release Spray


Kitchen Stuff

Water bottle
❑ Coffee mug
❑ Insulated tumbler
❑ Ziploc bags
Can opener
Brita filter pitcher
A few utensils

Discuss these with your roommate before buying –

Electric kettle*
Mini fridge*


Miscellaneous Items for Your College Packing List

❑ Kleenex
Ice scraper (for your car)
Duffel bag
Weekender bag
Board games
Sleeping bag


What NOT to Bring to College (And Why)

Now you know what to bring to college, but what about what not to bring?

This is all:

Stuff to bring to college that you can get along just fine without. Or at the very least, I suggest waiting until you’re moved in to get these things.

Now, of course:

What not to bring to college is a subjective topic. I strove for my ultimate college packing list to be inclusive, but everyone is different.

This list is just here to give you some general guidelines.

Here are items that students often don’t end up needing/using, or even can’t have at college:

❑ Textbooks
❑ Window AC units
❑ Bed risers
❑ Sewing kit
❑ Iron
❑ Ironing board
❑ Alarm clock
❑ Light bulbs
❑ TV
❑ DVD player
❑ Printer & printer supplies
❑ Pets
❑ An excessive amount of decorative pillows
❑ Dishes & utensils

Some of what to bring to college was listed in earlier sections and that’s because some items are debatable. Some students might want to have them and some will find them completely unnecessary.

It all just depends on preferences and lifestyle.

If you want to know WHY I’m suggesting leaving these things off of your college freshman checklist, read on below.


The reasoning for skipping this stuff…


Of all the freshman mistakes there are to make, buying textbooks ahead of time is the biggest one you’ll want to avoid.

Textbooks are not required on the first day of class. Go to class first to find out which ones you’ll actually need for each course.

And at all costs, DON’T pay full sticker price at the campus bookstore. Textbooks can always be found for cheaper elsewhere.

Window AC Units

Plain and simple, these are almost always not permitted in dorms.

Bed Risers

Dorm room beds sit pretty high off of the ground, to begin with, so chances are that you won’t even need these. But if you do want the extra height, it’s easy enough to get a set from a local retailer (like Target).

Sewing Kit

The likelihood of actually needing to use this item is low. If a button does end up coming off, box stores have mini-sewing kits for cheap.

Iron & Ironing Board

If you’re like me, you never iron your clothing anyway. Plus, a wrinkle releaser spray will do the trick for less effort.

Alarm Clock

While it’s important to make it to class on time, buying an alarm clock can be an unneeded expense when your phone already has an alarm function.

Light Bulbs

These can break in the college move-in day process, but mainly I think you should hold off on buying light bulbs until you need them.

There’s no reason to keep some lying around when you can pick a pack of light bulbs at most stores.

TV & DVD player

With limited dorm space, a TV can make your small room feel cramped. Instead of bringing a TV, stream your favorite shows on your laptop, table, or phone.

But if you still end up wanting one, you do you! Because they’re bulky to pack, it’s a good idea to pick one up after you’ve moved in.

Printer & Printer Supplies

On campus, there will be places where you can print. Plus, some colleges let you print out a certain number of pages for free as a student.

Find out your school’s printing policy before making up your mind!


Sadly, unless you’re lucky enough to be attending a pet-friendly college, furry friends are banned from campus housing.

Too many decorative pillows

Just try to not go overboard, you still need a place to sleep!

Dishes & Utensils

If you have a meal plan everything you need for eating will be in the cafeteria. Keeping around some paper or plastic ones makes clean up quicker anyway.



Final thoughts on what stuff to bring to college…

I believe that solves the mystery of what to bring to college!

I covered just about everything that should be considered when creating your own college freshman checklist, and even what not to bring college.

But, if you’re worried about forgetting something important when move-in day rolls around…

I made a printable version to help keep it all fresh in your mind. Download the college pack list PDF below! ↓

Free printable dorm checklists


Did I miss any big stuff for this ultimate college packing list? Are there any things to bring to college that wish you had or hadn’t brought?


More helpful articles for college freshmen:



Free printable college packing list, one for girls and one for guys! This freshman checklist lets you know what you really need, what's optional (but nice to have) and things to not bring to college. Click to read and download the PDF! #college #collegetips #freshman #freshmantips #freshmanadvice #millennials #backtoschool #collegelife #student #studentlife

The ultimate college packing lists for guys and girls. All the stuff you'll ACTUALLY use in a dorm room as a freshman. Grab the free printable PDF by clicking! #college #collegetips #freshman #freshmantips #freshmanadvice #millennials #backtoschool #collegelife #student #studentlife

Exactly What to Bring to College as a Freshman Girl & Guy


  1. I love this post so much!! Thank you for going through all the things NOT to bring because it can be super confusing whether it’s worth it to bring a printer, TV, etc. I wish I’d read this before freshman year because it would have saved me a lot of stress lol.

    I actually just published a post on how to survive your first week on campus. Packing is its own challenge and then there’s all sorts of other questions that pop up during that first week. Here’s the link if you’re interested: https://thecollegescribe.com/how-to-survive-your-first-week-on-campus/

    Also thanks so much for organizing your list with the highlights and asterisks. Super helpful!

    1. SO glad you found this list helpful, Clara! Your Q&A post is perfect for easing some of those first week of college nerves. 😊

    1. Hah, I did forget to include socks on the printable checklists! Thanks for catching that, they have been updated now. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *