Useful Starting Tips When Packing for College

We’re about one month away from the first wave of “goodbyes.” And chances are, if you or one of your friends is headed to a college with a semester system, you’re beginning to find the packing process just a tiny bit daunting. It’s difficult to still enjoy a healthy immersion into your summer when attempting to figure out what you’ll need for dorm life. Hopefully this list of tips can give you a decent starting point.

Read your housing regulations

When trying to sort out what you should bring, it always helps to know what you shouldn’t. Every college will vary when it comes to their dorm policies, but all should have a list, likely on their housing page, spelling everything out. Items like coffee makers and toaster ovens tend to (unfortunately) be prohibited.

Find out what the room comes with…

This information should also be fairly accessible via your college’s housing website. You don’t want to lug around anything that will already be there. Every dorm will be fitted with a standard amount of furniture, usually along the lines of a bed frame, a desk, and closet space/drawers. Some schools provide waste bins – others leave that to you.


…and see if upgrades are worth your time

After knowing what you will be starting out with, you may want to opt for additional furniture pieces, or pieces of better quality (a comfier desk chair, for example). Before you get too far into your Pottery Barn magazines though, take some time to check out how your school handles the extra stuff. Most dorms will not keep large furniture pieces for you over summer breaks (so you’ll have to find storage for it later, ship it back to your house, or sell it off at the end of the year). It’s also rare for them to remove any standard furniture pieces at your request; bringing in a cushier chair is perfectly fine – you’ll just have to figure out what to do with the rock hard wooden one they had there waiting for you.


Evidently, you’ll need to know what the size is of your bed. Picking out a duvet or comforter can be one of the most exciting parts about personalizing a dorm; just think twice about choosing something white. Over the course of the year, your bed will not only become a place for sleeping, but also one for snacking, studying, hanging out… It’s going to get dirty – and the darker the color, the less it will show.

Most students also bring mattress pads to add comfort as well as two sets of sheets (if you only have one, you’ll find yourself pretty sad on laundry day). Another thing to scope out is your under-the-bed storage space. If you have room, make sure to take advantage of it; wheelie bins are a good way to go.

Check for A/C and heating


This one will be more or less relevant depending on, one, where in the country you’re going to school and, two, how renovated your dorm building is. It’s far more common for older buildings to have heating over A/C; if you know that from August through October the air will feel like soup, you probably want to look into buying a portable fan.

Consider electronics

One of the big decisions you need to make is if you will want a refrigerator and/or microwave. Every now and then, they can be provided in a dorm floor’s community kitchen…though they can still quickly turn into “use-at-your-own-risk” appliances.

On a similar note, there will likely be some form of entertainment in your dorm’s lounge/common room area. It’s completely up to you, though, if you want to bring a personal television, printer (highly recommended), gaming console, etc. A power strip may prove pretty useful too if you’re thinking of decking out your space.

Talk with your roommate

No one needs two mini-fridges. Actually, allow me to rephrase: you will not be able to fit two mini-fridges. Reaching out to your roommate is a must when it comes to dividing up who is buying and providing what. Plus, you could always try to color coordinate your throw pillows.


(Note: there is about a one in ten chance that your room will stay this put together…)

You don’t necessarily have to bring all of your clothes in the fall

If you’re moving somewhere with seasons, don’t feel as though you need to schlep all of your boots and coats and scarves with you (only to have two months of humidity left). Thanksgiving break is the perfect opportunity to go home and swap out your shorts and tank tops for warmer alternatives.

Remember the bathrooms…

If you don’t have the luxury of your own bathroom (like 99% of freshman), you might want a robe and a shower caddy for when you make the trip across your dorm floor. Also: shower shoes. Bring them.

…and also your own food cravings

In all likelihood, you will be on a meal plan, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for munching on snacks (or turkey legs). Having even a couple of plates, bowls, and sets of silverware can save the day. They’ll stop little messes from becoming big messes the next time you bring leftovers home or order takeout.

Make use of thorough online lists

It’s amazing what you can find on the Internet. Tons of the popular stores (perhaps most notably, Target and Bed Bath & Beyond) offer detailed checklists that oh-so-conveniently link up to the particular items on their website. If neither of those floats your boat, merely typing “college checklist” into your search bar will put dozens of other options at your fingertips.


Stay tuned for a follow up post about the best ways to move, ship, and buy your college necessities!


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  • Elise Gout

    Elise writes articles for the Magoosh SAT blog to help teenagers during an exciting time in their lives. Despite residing in Southern California, where she attends San Dieguito Academy high school, she has no surfing abilities whatsoever; it’s actually rather sad. She is your typical senior high school girl who sword fights daily, and is pretty much convinced that bananas are a food sent from heaven. Elise will attend Columbia University next fall to study environmental science.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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2 Responses to Useful Starting Tips When Packing for College

  1. Lauren Shaw November 17, 2015 at 6:16 am #

    My daughter is accepted in NYU. I am so glad that I have found your article! I am surprised that there are so many things to be considered. Greetings!

    • Kristin Fracchia
      Kristin Fracchia November 17, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

      Congratulations to your daughter!! Glad it was helpful!

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

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