Today we are sharing our college packing list – everything you actually need.  We’ve included all the essentials you will really use plus a FREE printable checklist.

college packing list displayed on clipboard with pencil holder, magazine bin and backpack

Have these catalogs made an appearance in your mailbox yet?  Because it’s that time of year!  If you have kids that are heading off to college this fall now is the time to start getting them ready for their big move.

four store catologs displayed on white table

When my oldest son, Jake, went to college almost 3 years ago I was a mess!  To avoid my own feelings I dove into planning his dorm room and getting him everything he could possibly need.  I may have mentioned that I do love to shop so this didn’t feel like a chore to me.  Even though, I had visions of the two of us walking through the aisles of Target and IKEA with our college packing list.  Haha!  That was far from reality!

You can download our college packing list from our subscriber printable library by clicking here or on the button below to sign up.

   Click Here to Access Your Free Printable!

Jake dealt with his own feelings of nervousness about starting college by completely avoiding the process.  So that left me to pick out almost everything for him.  While I shopped, he avoided getting ready by working during the day, spending time with friends at night and even vacationing with his best friend’s family the week before moving into his dorm, not coming home until the day before he left.  That left me stressed…and sad.  But don’t worry…it all worked out just fine!  And I learned that everyone deals with change & their emotions differently.

black backpack with college packing list laying on top

Figuring Out What to Bring

As you can imagine there are many college packing lists out there and it can be overwhelming.  Many will guide you to spend lots of money on unnecessary items your student won’t use.  How do you know exactly what they will need?  With Jake’s help, we will share what you actually need to make a dorm room feel like home.

The summer after graduation I used our dining room for storing and sorting everything we purchased.  It was a mess but it kept me busy which was exactly what I needed!

dining room with college packing spread out on table and piled on floor

You can download our college packing list from our subscriber printable library by clicking here or on the button below to sign up.

   Click Here to Access Your Free Printable!

Linens

You can find some great inexpensive comforter sets at your local home decor stores.  Remember how uncomfortable most mattresses are in college dorms?  I was happy we also purchased a zippered mattress protector to cover the nasty mattress my son was given.  Seriously you guys…. it was covered in stains…so gross!  We then added a mattress pad cover and a memory foam mattress topper to help make that bed more comfortable. Yup…three layers before we even put his sheets on!  Call me crazy but both of us are germaphobes.  Ok, maybe he got it from me but we are who we are, am I right? 😂

So anyway back to the bed…we added the sheets that we got from Target.  He brought his pillows from home and a throw blanket a friend make him as a graduation gift.  A bed rest pillow was very helpful for reading or doing homework on his bed.

I recently checked out some great displays in HomeGoods and TJ Maxx.  Take a look at these…

college supplies displayed in homegoods

Sometimes the extra long length needed for the dorm room beds can be hard to find.  At the end of this post, I’ve shared some great options from Amazon that can be delivered right to your home or even to the dorm!

display of bedding and towels in homegoods store

Your student will also need towels.  I’d recommend 2 bath towels, hand towels, wash clothes and a beach towel.  Dorm rooms are small!  There isn’t a lot of space for extra linens.

display of towels in homegoods store

Storage

And speaking of small spaces…smart storage is great to add to the dorm room.  If you are able to fit rolling drawers, baskets or shelving units…they can store school supplies, cleaning items, toiletries, shoes & clothing or even food & snacks.  The Kallax shelf unit from Ikea with fabric bins worked great for Jake and didn’t take up too much space.  A super inexpensive plastic rolling drawer unit stored toiletries and fit perfectly under his sink.  Here are some other fun storage options I saw in HomeGoods!

display of rolling carts in home goods store

Baskets and bins can be used for everyday necessities on counters, dressers or desks.  How cute is that “dorm sweet dorm” box?

display of baskets and storage boxes in home goods store

And look at these options for storage…especially for girls…so fun!  Desk accessories like a pencil cup and paper sorter come in handy to keep your student’s desk space organized.

display of desk supplies and baskets for dorm room in homegoods store

Decor

Bulletin or cork boards are great to display pictures or mementos.  Don’t forget some decorations to personalize the space.  My son only brought two framed pictures, the photobook and graduation memory book we gave him for graduation.  Once he was moved in we ordered flags for his favorite football team and his new college from Amazon to hang in his room.  Flags are a great option to hang because they are lightweight and can easily be tacked to the wall.

An area rug also helps make the cold dorm room floors cozy.  And a chair, beanbag or even a futon if space allows is nice to have in the room for other seating options rather than people sitting on the bed.

display of baskets and bins for dorm room in homegoods store

First Aid Kit

Probably more for my peace of mind, I put together a first aid kit since I wouldn’t be there if he didn’t feel well.  We tried to include things he may need if he got sick or hurt away from home like Advil, cold medicine, Neosporin, etc.  I stored everything in a simple plastic shoe box.

clear box filled with first aid supplies

Once we checked off everything on our college packing list, we loaded up the car…clothes, linens, school supplies, room decor, storage bins, cleaning supplies, toiletries and more!

back of car packed with bins & bags for moving to college

You can download our college packing list from our subscriber printable library by clicking here or on the button below to sign up.

   Click Here to Access Your Free Printable!

We made it through the move-in day and we drove home with an empty car and tears rolling down our cheeks.  It was a really hard adjustment for all of us…but we did it!  Our son made it through his 1st year living in a dorm and really enjoyed all the friendships he made.

He has helped me compile a complete college packing list – everything you actually need!  He didn’t include any of those extra things I bought because I thought he’d need them and he really didn’t use them.  But he did include a few items that he didn’t think he would need even though I said he would…like a Brita water pitcher (cases of bottled water are expensive and heavy to carry back to your dorm) and a fan (yup…those dorm rooms can get hot).

picture of family of five after moving son in dorm room

College Packing List – Everything you actually Need!

You can download our college packing list from our subscriber printable library by clicking here or on the button below to sign up.

   Click Here to Access Your Free Printable!

college packing list on clipboard with notebooks and pencil holder

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I’ve found some items on Amazon to help in preparing for college that you can order to have delivered right to your house or dorm!

Good luck on move-in day…and don’t forget the tissues.  Hugs to you friend!

Other College Ideas:

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7 Comments on College Packing List: Everything You Actually Need

  1. As a mother of 4 who has 3 through college and one a junior next year…..

    LOOOONG cords on everything you buy, chargers, cable cords, plugs etc.

    Be sure and include a digital thermometer to the first aid kit because whats the first thing you’ll ask when they call and say “I don’t feel good”? Also include two cans of chicken noodle soup, a box of saltines and a few Gatorades – so they have it here until a friend can pick up some more.

    Make sure the bedspread and pillows are easily washable – bedding gets really gross. I remind mine to bring there’s home at Fall, Christmas and Spring break

    • Those are great tips, Sharon! I love the idea of sending them with some food supplies in case they’re sick! And you are so right about the bedding. Thank goodness my son is kind of picky about his sheets and would wash them every few weeks, but the blankets were in dire need each break!

  2. Speaking of bedding, since going to college my daughter loves quilts. In the dorm, the bed serves as a couch, study corner, laundry folding table, etc. The comforter stuffing would get bunched up or flattened, while her quilt always looked great. Plus they tolerate laundering well. At most stores there seem to be more options in comforters, but she found some great quilts at Stein Mart.

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