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8 Tips To Help You Figure Out What (Not) To Pack For College

For most incoming college freshmen, figuring out what to pack for college can be stressful, to say the least. After all, you’re starting a brand new chapter of your life with people you’ve never met before, and maybe even in a town or state that is foreign to you. It can be easy to get distracted by what you might think are necessities or what other stores are marketing to you. Thankfully, though, there are plenty of ways for you to figure out what you really need so that you don’t overpack or forget the essentials.

Some of these hacks are so simple you probably wouldn’t have even thought of them. For example, reaching out to those that have already gone to college or making a list of what you want to pack are great ways to reduce clutter. Other hacks on this list even come from college TikTok creators (thanks again, TikTok).

Keep reading on to figure out what to pack (and what not to pack!) for college.

Consult your friends or relatives that are already in college

This may be a given, but instead of relying on online sources, try talking to your friends that have been to college to get a good idea of what you’ll actually need.

If you don’t have any friends that are college alumni, try reaching out to family members who have already done the whole college thing.

Coordinate with your roommate

As a freshman, you’ll likely have a roommate. Before buying shared items, like a microwave or trash can, communicate with your roommate prior to moving in. The two of you can discuss who will bring what — which will not only help decrease the amount of clutter you both bring, but also helps ensure that neither of you bring duplicates. 

Check out your college’s website

If you’re confused or overwhelmed about what to pack for college, checking out your college’s website is a good place to start. Most colleges have a recommended list of essentials you should pack, based on what students have brought in the past. More importantly, most schools also have a list of prohibited items that you definitely should not bring (sorry, but you likely won’t be able to bring your hoverboard, bestie).

If you can’t find any packing lists on your college’s website, try checking out The Her Campus Guide to College Life (shameless plug). I was gifted this book when I graduated high school and found it so helpful when figuring out what (and what not) to bring to college.

Try the makeup bag hack

TikTok is a gold mine of creative ideas and hacks. If you decide to bring makeup to college — whether for everyday use or just for special occasions — you’re going to want to try out this hack posted by creator @gracestudied.

In the video, Grace explained to put makeup into another bag and each day over three to four weeks (or before whenever school starts!), place any makeup items you tend to use more into a smaller makeup bag that you will eventually take with you to college in the fall. This will ensure that you don’t forget any of your makeup staples and that you won’t bring any that you just don’t need!

Get multipurpose products

Buying multipurpose products is not only a great way to save money, but also to reduce excess waste in your tiny dorm room.

For example, Amazon has an abundance of desk organizers like this one that have multiple sections to hold your books, textbooks, and other miscellaneous items. Makeup organizers are another great option to save space and keep your skincare and beauty products in place.

When it comes to note-taking, you may want to just get a giant binder or notebook and use dividers to separate all your different classes. That way, everything you need will all be in one place and you won’t have to worry about losing anything or not being able to remember where you put your notes.

Pack your clothes using a vacuum space saver

Though this was something I’d never thought of before, I found college content creator @bremcclary on TikTok and was absolutely fascinated by what she had to say about using a vacuum space saver instead of simply tossing all your clothes into your bag.

According to Bre, she was able to fit her entire wardrobe in one jumbo bag (what kind of sorcery is this?!). Not only is this hack super easy, but it’ll also allow you to bring more clothes than you probably would’ve originally planned. Maybe don’t bring your entire wardrobe (for instance, if you’re going to school in Los Angeles, you likely won’t need a big puffer coat), but this hack definitely helps you save space.

Give the jewelry packing hack a try

Whether some of your jewelry has sentimental value to you or are a reminder of home, there will probably be some accessories you’re going to want to take with you. However, you may be worried about getting your jewelry tangled in your suitcase — thankfully, creator @desisolenberger has a hack for that: packing your jewelry using cling wrap! By doing so, you won’t have to worry about tangling and potentially ruining some of your well-loved jewelry!

Plan and make a list

While it may seem like a given, planning and making a list of items that you use a lot at home will be a good indicator of what you need to bring to college — and maybe even what you can leave behind. By planning out what you want to bring to college with you, you can make sure that you don’t forget anything and maximize the amount of time you have to pack, which will allow you to really think about what you need and prioritize what you want to bring! 

Born and raised in Arizona, Kayleigh Shaw is a Her Campus National Writer. She mainly writes for the Culture section, primarily focused on the latest entertainment news, but will occasionally write about life and career, giving advice to a wide array of readers. Outside of Her Campus, Kayleigh was also a part of Rod Pulido’s Street Team for his debut novel, Chasing Pacquiao and completed social media challenges to promote the book. She also hopes to one day write for Screen Rant and Comic Book Resources. where she will continue to use her love of all things pop culture to her advantage. She also graduated from Glendale Community College in May 2022 with an Associate's Degree in English. When Kayleigh's not working on journalism pieces, she can be found writing poems and short stories, reading, watching TikToks, listening to their favorite podcasts, listening and dancing to Sabrina Carpenter and Taylor Swift, watching movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu (while crying over fictional characters and relationships.) She would live in a library and avoid the rest of the world if she could. She also drinks coffee like a Gilmore and often goes down rabbit holes researching their hyper fixations.