No matter how prepared you feel for your freshman year at college, consulting a dorm room checklist ahead of move-in day can help you make sure you didn’t overlook anything. While there are many college packing lists out there, not all of them go into detail, and most of the time it’s the most obvious things that you forget.
Moving into a college dorm room and starting your first year at school is intimidating. For the most part, you don’t really know what to expect. As a result, almost every freshman college student arrives to their dorm room only to realize they overlooked at least a few items. While that’s completely natural, and very common, it still sucks when you realize you’re missing some essentials.
This dorm room checklist will show you all of the essentials you’ll need so you’re as prepared as you possibly could be for college move-in day. Most of it might seem like common sense, but you can never be too careful, especially if you’re going to college relatively far from home.
Young man getting ready for college following a college packing list
What You Need to Know Before You Start Packing
First and foremost, always check the information provided by your school. Some schools will provide their own recommended dorm room checklist, while others leave you on your own to figure it out.
Some colleges have traditional style dorms with communal showers and shared spaces, while others have apartment-style residences. In a traditional dorm, you’ll likely just have a bed, a desk, and a dresser/closet with common rooms and washrooms down the hall. Apartment-style residences are set up like apartments and have private washrooms, kitchens, and living rooms.
To help make packing for school easier on you, we’ve separated some of the lists below into traditional and apartment-style categories. You will know which style you’re moving into well ahead of time, so follow this college packing list to make sure you’re ready for your specific scenario.
Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories
You’re obviously not going to forget to pack clothes. However, since you don’t really know what to expect it’s very common to forget specific types of clothing or not realize you might need a certain type of outfit for your program or an event until it’s too late. For example, a typical college student wears comfortable clothes to class so you may prioritize your yoga pants and sweats, but you may not realize that you’ll need a nicer outfit for presentations, interviews, and other more formal situations.
Here are the essentials that should be on your dorm room checklist for clothing and accessories:
Clothing and footwear:
● Pants and/or jeans
● 1 pair of slippers
● Comfy clothes
● Gym/workout clothes
● Outerwear (coat and/or jacket, vest)
● 1-2 dressy or business casual outfits
● 1 bathing suit (you never know when you’ll need one, but one is enough)
● Rain jacket
● Waterproof shoes or rain boots
● Casual shoes
● 1 pair of dressy shoes
● Flip flops or sandals
● Jewellery (pick just your favourites – leave priceless heirlooms at home)
● Scarves and gloves
● Backpack or book bag
● Purses (try to pick just a few or one of each style you use)
● Face masks
New student packing clothes to bring to their college dorm room
Laundry and Linens
As a college student, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your room and on your bed. From late night studying to Netflix binge sessions, the comfort of your bed is going to be a key aspect of your freshman life in many different ways. Laundry and linens are therefore an important part of your college packing list.
General laundry and bedding supplies you’ll need regardless of dorm style:
● Laundry detergent
● Dryer sheets
● Stain remover spray
● Laundry basket or hamper
● Foldable drying rack
● Clothes hangers
● Steamer (small travel-sized steamers like this one are perfect for dorms)
● Pillow cases
● Sheets (check the size of your bed first – most dorms have twin size/single beds, but your school will provide this information in your welcome package)
● Mattress pad
● Comforter or duvet
● Extra throw blanket
● Face towels
● Body towels
● Mini sewing kit
● Lint rollers (reusable ones are great to have in dorms and, as a bonus, they reduce waste)
In an apartment-style residence, you’ll have a bit more privacy with more utilities in your apartment. However, while you’ve got some extra space, this also means you’ll be responsible for cleaning and stocking your washroom and common areas. Some extra dorm essentials you’ll need for that include:
● Hand towels
● Bath mat
● Shower mat (the anti-slip kind)
● Shower curtain and rings
● Washroom trash can
Food and Kitchen
If you’re moving into a traditional dorm, you’ll want to double-check with your school first to make sure you’re allowed to bring these items. They aren’t necessarily essentials, but will make your life a lot easier by saving you the trip down to the cafeteria every time you want something small.
Here are some helpful items to take with you to your traditional college dorm:
● Electric kettle
● Mini fridge (some dorms provide these for you or let you rent them, so double-check before you invest in one)
● Water bottle
● Travel coffee mug
● Ziplock bags
● Filtered water pitcher or Brita pitcher
For an apartment-style residence, you’re going to need to bring a lot more kitchen essentials in addition to the ones listed above. The first thing you should do is check with your roommates if you’re able to connect with them on social media or by email ahead of time.
● Dishes (plates, bowls, and mugs)
● Toaster or toaster oven
● Coffee maker
● Can opener
● Pots and pans
● Pizza cutter
● Chip clips or bag clips
● Baking trays
● Kitchen knives and utensils
● Oven mitts
● Strainer (the collapsible kind is easier to store and takes up less space)
● Pot holders
● Paper towels
● Dishwashing brushes or sponges
● Dish drying rack
● Dish towels
● Dish soap
● Cutlery and silverware
● Food storage containers
● Tin foil
Lastly, here are some good food essentials to stock up on and have on hand no matter which type of dorm you’re living in:
● Peanut butter
● Non-perishable snacks (popcorn, nuts, trail mix, etc.)
● Condiments and seasonings
● Granola bars or protein bars
● Instant oatmeal
● Hot chocolate
● Salt and pepper
A college dorm room facing the street with a view of the city out front
Electronics are a key part of student life and should be on every dorm room checklist. However, some electronics are more essential than others.
In general, here are some essential electronic items you’ll want to pack:
● Laptop and charger
● Computer mouse
● USB storage sticks
● Printer and ink (just a small basic model will do)
● Power bar
● Alarm clock
● Portable speakers
● Extension cord
● HDMI cord
● Phone chargers (it’s a good idea to invest in a longer 10-foot charging cable for your phone since you won’t know where the outlets will be)
● AA batteries
● AAA batteries
● External hard drive
In traditional-style dorms, you don’t have a lot of space for electronics so try to stick to the above list. If you’re living in an apartment-style residence, you should double-check with your roommates about which electronics everyone is bringing just like you would with your kitchen supplies.
Here are some non-essential but good to have electronics items you may want to consider bringing to an apartment-style dorm:
● TV (some college dorms provide these and some don’t, so check first)
● Gaming consoles
● DVD player or streaming box
Regardless of whether you’re a freshman living in the dorms, sticking to off-campus housing, or you’re a seasoned senior student coming back for your final year, these school supplies are always essential and should be with you every step of the way. Depending on your program, some of these items may not be as necessary, so we’ve added an asterisk to anything in this list that is program-specific.
Don’t forget these school supplies:
● Printer paper
● Lined paper
● Planner or agenda
● Post-it notes
● Stapler and staples
● Printer paper
● Index cards
● Pencils and a pencil sharpener
● Desk trays or organizers
● Rubber bands
● Paper clips
● Graph paper*
● Rubber bands
● Scientific calculator*
● Pencil holder or cup
● Desk organizers
● Pencil case
● Geometry set*
Freshman woman waiting to move in to her dorm with her suitcase by her feet
Toiletries and Personal Care
Every good college packing list should include toiletries and personal care items. You use many of these items every day, so you’re not as inclined to forget them, but you’d be surprised how often things like shampoo and deodorant get overlooked in the excitement of packing.
General toiletries you’ll need regardless of your residence style include:
● Shampoo and conditioner
● Nail polish remover
● Soap and/or body wash
● Face wash/cleanser
● Body lotion or moisturizer
● Beauty care items (scrubs, exfoliants, etc.)
● Hairstyling products
● Brush or comb
● Hair dryer
● Curling iron/hair straightener
● Razors and shaving cream
● Beard oil
● Cotton swabs
● Nail clippers
● Makeup mirror
● Glasses or contacts and contact solution
● Shower cap
● Dental floss
● Feminine hygiene products
Traditional dorms use communal showers and washrooms, which comes with pros and cons. On the pro side, you don’t have to clean your bathroom. However, on the other hand, you’re sharing a shower with an entire floor so you’re going to need a few extra items to make sure you’re prepared. Some of those extra essentials include:
● Shower shoes
● A shower caddy to carry your supplies to the showers
Health and Wellness
One of the bigger shockers you might experience when you start life as a college student is managing your health completely on your own. If you get sick, no one is going to be there to take care of you or stock your medicine cabinet except for you.
Here are some of the essentials you should have with you in college to prepare for any of the possible health concerns you might, and likely will at some point, go through:
● Small first aid kit (travel ones work great)
● Pepto Bismol
● Benadryl or allergy medication
● Band aids in multiple sizes
● Medical tape
● Bandages and gauze
Man and woman helping each other pack for college following a college dorm checklist
Household, Cleaning, and Storage
As a young adult moving out of the house and off to college for the first time, you’re likely going to experience a reality check when you realize how many household items you actually need. It sucks having to spend your money on these things, so check as many of them as possible off your checklist before you get to move-in day.
General household, cleaning, and storage items needed for any type of dorm:
● Bedside table lamp
● Desk lamp
● Garbage bags
● Trash can
● Lysol wipes
● Under bed storage boxes
● Desk chair (if your dorm doesn’t supply one)
● Floor length mirror (check if your dorm has one, and if not, look for an over-the-door one)
● Extra light bulbs
● Air freshener
● Shoe rack
As we mentioned above, in an apartment-style residence, you have a few more responsibilities for cleaning and maintaining your personal and communal spaces. In this case, you’ll need the following extra items:
● Bathroom cleaning supplies
● All-purpose household cleaner
● Toilet paper
● Toilet brush and/or plunger
● Mop (Swiffer Wet Jet mops are affordable and easy to use)
● Rubber gloves
Bright dorm room ready and clean for college move-in day
Here are a few miscellaneous items for any style of dorm that you will want to have with you in case of an emergency, during difficult weather, or if you have a specific hobby:
● A flashlight and batteries (incase the power goes out)
● Mini toolkit with essential tools
● Safety pins
● Duct tape
● Sports equipment if you plan on joining an intramural team
● Musical instruments (if you have smaller ones that travel easily)
● Bicycle and bicycle lock
Important Personal Items
These personal items should always be with you in your dorm room:
● Driver’s license or other ID card(s)
● Health card
● Social insurance card
● Emergency contacts list
● Banking information (you’ll need this for your student loan)
● Any prescriptions you take (if you can, see if your doctor will give you an advanced supply so you can avoid running out while at school)
● Rolls of coins for laundry machines
● Vaccination records or medical records that apply
● Car insurance and registration (if you’re bringing a vehicle)
● Credit and debit cards
Since these are important documents, you may want to consider purchasing a small lock box or mini safe with you to keep them secure, especially in communal dorms where people may be coming in and out.
Comfort, Entertainment, and Self-Care Items
While you might argue that these items aren’t considered essentials like the rest of this dorm room checklist, self-care and comfort are a core part of your wellbeing. If you aren’t managing your own self-care during your freshman year, you may find yourself falling victim to the first-year burnout that many college students face at any level of education.
Some of the core elements of self-care include personal care, socialization, and fulfillment. These items can help you with those aspects while you live your best dorm life:
● Mini diffuser for essential oils
● Yoga mat for meditation sessions
● Board games (try to pick smaller sized ones that won’t take up a lot of space)
● Playing cards
● Basic recreation equipment such as a frisbee, soccer ball, football, or basketball
● Sleep mask
● Himalayan salt lamp
● Adult colouring books and pencil crayons or markers
● Handheld massage roller
● At-home spa supplies such as masks and peels
● Cooling gel pillow
● Blue light blocking glasses
White college dorm room with bottom desk and bunk bed
Dorm Room Decor Checklist
Decor items are not essential, but are a really great way to turn your drab college dorm room into a space that feels like your home. In fact, they’re included on most college packing lists because they can be a key way of personalizing your space, making you feel more comfortable, and helping with homesickness.
Most college dorms have a few regulations and restrictions for how you set up your decor – for example, some dorms don’t permit the use of nails or anything that will damage the walls. Make sure you read those rules first before buying anything.
Here are some basic decor items you may want to consider bringing:
● Sticky tack or Command hanging strips
● 3M hooks
● Art prints
● Plants or fake plants
● String lights
● Washi tape
● Throw pillows
● Bulletin board or white board (check if this isn’t already supplied)
● Area rug
● Bean bag chair (if there’s room)
Good to Have, But Not Essentials
No good dorm room checklist would be complete without a few extra suggestions that might make your life more fun while at school, like decor or fun gadgets. Of course, these are technically luxuries you don’t need, but they’re small enough to enhance your life if you can afford the extra purchase.
Extra non-essentials that will make your life a little easier (or more fun) include:
● A magnetic paper towel holder (like this one) you can attach to your mini fridge
● Bluetooth shower speaker with suction cups
● Closet organizer
● Over-the-door storage unit
● Microwave popcorn popper
● A microwave rice cooker (like this one) to avoid needing extra appliances
● Polaroid camera and film so you can capture memories and use it as decor
● Laptop tray for working in your bed
Aerial view of college essentials including a laptop and backpack
What Should You NOT Bring to a College Dorm?
No dorm room checklist would be complete without listing some items that you should NOT bring with you and would be better left behind. Some of these items are just not necessary and will take up too much space in your small college dorm, while others are actually prohibited and will get you in serious trouble. While this list will give you a rough idea, always check with your school’s rules to look up which items aren’t allowed on your college campus.
Items you should keep off your dorm room checklist for legal or safety reasons, college rules, space requirements, or money saving purposes include:
● Pets (even small ones like goldfish)
● Illegal substances
● Anything that could be considered a weapon
● Hot plates (most colleges forbid these in your dorm room)
● Out-of-season clothes
● Bulky furniture
● Candles and incense
● Sentimental items or priceless valuables
● Knick Knacks or your collections that take up a lot of space
● Space heater
● Textbooks: don’t buy them ahead of time. Wait until you get your syllabus for each course during the first week of school.
Female student rolling a suitcase on college move-in day
Quick College Packing Tips For New Freshmen
As you work your way through your college packing list, keep these tips in mind:
● Pack for one season at a time. You’re going to be home for the holiday break and can swap out your fall things for your winter things then.
● Buy snacks, toiletries, and non-perishable items in bulk before you go. It’ll cost a bit more money up front, but the cost per item is cheaper this way and you’ll be set for a while – possibly even until your next trip home. If you know someone who has a membership to Costco, Sam’s Club, or Wholesale Club, ask them if they’ll take you.
● If you’re living in an apartment-style residence, try to get in touch with your roommates before move-in day through social media. This way, you can arrange who will bring which items for shared spaces so you don’t end up with 3 microwaves and 5 sets of dishes.
● Bring something that reminds you of home. Every freshman student will get homesick at some point in time, and that’s completely normal. Don’t be afraid to toss your favourite teddy bear, stuffed animal, family photo, or cozy blanket in your suitcase to give you a comforting reminder of home when you feel homesick.
Other Resources to Have in Your Back Pocket During Freshman Year
As you follow this college packing list and get all of your essentials together for your new, exciting dorm life, it’s important to remember the things you don’t have to physically pack as well. Adjusting to your freshman year will take a bit of time, and it’s good to have some resources on hand to help you get used to this new environment and academic world.
Here are some great resources from our team at Homework Help Global that you can use as a reference and a guide:
● 25 Ways to Save Money in College: These tips will help you stick to your budget and even pocket a little extra cash as you enjoy your freshman year.
● An Open Letter to First Year Students: This letter features seasoned advice from people who have been in your shoes.
● The Best Student Resources on the Internet: Bookmark these online resources to help you in a variety of aspects of your dorm life, from time management to note taking and more.
● Academic Writing Ebooks: This collection of ebooks, written by our team of academics and scholars, features step-by-step detailed guides on how to write essays.
● Tips to Survive Your Freshman Year: More seasoned advice from people who have been in your shoes and want to help you adjust as easily as possible, so you can enjoy your time at school from the minute you move in.
Male student sitting in a college dorm doing homework on a laptop
Add an Essay Writing Service to Your Dorm Room Checklist
As you head off to your next big adventure, it’s helpful to have some essential resources up your sleeve to help you manage your time and adjust to a new environment. In addition to the resources we listed above, our essay services help students across the world manage their course load and take the stress out of going away to college.
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