The Essential First-Year College Dorm Packing Checklist

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Use this checklist to make sure you have everything you need for your first year at college. These are just suggestions; be sure to adjust this list as needed for your specific needs and residence hall setup. To save packing time and shipping charges, it might make sense to buy some of these items after you arrive. It might also make sense to pack for one season at a time and switch items when you go home during breaks.

Dorm Room Organization and Storage

  • Bedside lamp
  • Alarm clock/clock radio
  • Mini trash can
  • Storage bins
  • Under-the-bed storage trays
  • Desk lamp
  • Fan
  • Drying rack for laundry
  • Bulletin board and pushpins
  • Dry-erase wall calendar/board
  • Mini toolkit (including screwdriver, hammer, wrench)
  • Picture hangers (double-sided tape for concrete walls)

College Linens and Laundry Supplies

  • Sheets and pillowcases (2 sets. Check with college for size needed — some college twin beds are extra long.)
  • Towels (3 each of bath, hand and face)
  • Pillows (2)
  • Mattress pad (Check with college for size needed)
  • Blankets (2)
  • Comforter/bedspread
  • Clothes hangers
  • Laundry bag/basket
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener and stain remover
  • Lint brush
  • Mini sewing kit

Desk Supplies

  • Electronic storage media such as memory cards and USB flash drives
  • Stapler and staples
  • Printer paper (if you decide to bring a printer)
  • Pens and pencils
  • Pencil holder and sharpener
  • Notebooks
  • Folder with pockets
  • Labels of various sizes
  • 3 × 5 index cards
  • Sticky notes
  • Paper clips and binder clips
  • Rubber bands
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Highlighter pens (multiple colors)
  • Ruler
  • Stackable desk trays (at least 4)
  • Stamps and envelopes
  • Extra print cartridges (if you take a printer)
  • Notecards or stationery

Electronics and Technology for First-Year Student

  • Laptop (printer is optional; there are usually computer labs where you can print)
  • Portable speakers (if you want to play music from laptop/MP3 player)
  • HDMI cord, Ethernet cord for computer (check if your room has wireless)
  • Surge protector
  • Extension cords
  • 3-2 prong adapters
  • MP3 player
  • Headphones
  • Camera
  • Cell phone
  • Charging cords

Shared-with-Roommate Items

  • Audio equipment
  • TV and DVD player
  • Coffeemaker/hot pot/microwave, if allowed
  • Small refrigerator (if one isn’t provided)
  • Area rug
  • Posters/art

Toiletries, Beauty, and Hygiene

  • Antacid
  • Aspirin or other pain relievers
  • Vitamins
  • Antidiarrheal medicine
  • Adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment
  • Cough drops
  • Shower caddy
  • Shower shoes (flip-flops)
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hairstyling products
  • Bath and face soap
  • Travel soap container(s)
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Dental floss
  • Comb/brush
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Hair dryer/straightener/curling iron
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Lotion and/or facial moisturizer
  • Cotton swabs
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Contact lens supplies


  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Pants/jeans/leggings
  • T-shirts/blouses
  • Sweats
  • Pajamas
  • Slippers and/or flip-flops
  • Sweaters
  • Light/heavy jackets
  • Gloves/scarf/hat (and other foul-weather gear as needed)
  • 1 pair of boots
  • 2 pairs of sneakers or comfortable/walking shoes
  • 1 set of business-casual clothes
  • 1 pair of dress shoes
  • 1 swimsuit
  • Bathrobe
  • Eye mask for sleeping

Household and Kitchen Items

  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Lightbulbs
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Plastic storage bags
  • Food-storage containers
  • Dish soap
  • Wet wipes
  • Tissues
  • Bowl, plate and cup
  • Coffee mug
  • Water bottle
  • Silverware
  • Can/bottle opener


  • Umbrella
  • Backpack
  • Sports equipment
  • Backup pair of eyeglasses


What’s a dorm room?

A dormitory or dorm room is on-campus housing for college students, usually referred to as a residence hall. Some large dorm rooms can accommodate two, three, or four students, while others are designed for one person. Some dorm rooms don’t have private bathrooms. Instead, all of the occupants of the rooms in a single hallway have access to one or two shared bathrooms. You can request a private room, but it may not be possible if there are lots of students needing housing.

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What comes in a dorm room?

Typically, a dorm room includes a few pieces of basic furniture, including a bed, desk, chair, and lamp. Some colleges have dorm room essentials in the form of a small refrigerator and/or microwave. Plus, there are individual closets for each occupant’s clothing, shoes, and other items. Although a mattress is on the bed, the student has to supply the sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding items.

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How big is a college dorm room?

The size of a dorm room depends on the number of occupants it can handle. A dorm room for three students will be larger than one designed for one student. Another factor affecting size is the number of rooms in a dorm hallway. If there are 12 rooms in one hallway, the rooms may be small. Alternatively, if there are just six rooms in a hallway, there’s a good chance the rooms will be large.

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How does a college dorm room work?

After letting the college know you want on-campus housing, the school assigns you a room in a dorm or residence hall. Along with your room assignment, the school lets you know the names of your roommate(s) and the official move-in date. Sometimes assigned roommates may communicate before classes start and coordinate what optional room items (such as a small refrigerator or a microwave) each person plans to bring. After arriving and meeting your roommate(s), you each decide which bed you want. On move-in day, you’ll meet the resident assistant or RA. This person (usually a junior or senior) is there to answer questions about the room, the dorm, and the campus.

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