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What to Bring (and Not to Bring): Best College Packing Tips from Real Students



With everything else in the world happening right now, college packing hacks are probably not your top concern on your Back-to-School: Corona Edition priority list. But with UVA confirming its plans to bring students back on Grounds this week, packing for college is still a very real thing. Figuring out what to bring to college and what to leave at home for the first time is stressful enough without adding the uncertainty of being sent home at any minute. In hopes of making your packing experience as stress-free as possible, we asked real UVA students what they're glad they brought, wish they brought, and regretted bringing to their first year of college.

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  • Multiple reusable masks. UVA gives first years 2 masks, but seeing that you have to wear them basically everywhere except for your room and you're technically supposed to wash them after each use, you're gonna need more than that. There's no such thing as bringing too many masks.

  • School supplies from home instead of buying the overpriced notebooks from the bookstore

  • An extra long phone charger that reaches your bed from the inevitably awkwardly placed electrical socket.

  • Extra storage. Dorm rooms are small and don't come with a lot of storage space, so it's helpful to bring extra storage units that you can stack (take advantage of vertical space!) However, the rooms are only so big and there does come a point that more storage just takes up more space that you don't have.

  • First aid kits are so helpful when you have a splitting headache or paper cut and don't want to wake up your RA for Tylenol and a bandage past midnight.

  • A rolling laundry basket so you don't have to carry your month's worth of laundry between buildings.

  • Scissors and a stapler! Somehow everyone forgets these!

  • Multiple pairs of headphones/earbuds and an extra charger

  • Extension cords!! So helpful when your dorm has 2 sockets for each person.

  • Small trash bags. You'd think the school would provide them, but alas.

  • More than one pillow and an extra pair of sheets.

  • Hangers. Easy to forget, but a total necessity.

  • Noise canceling headphones to drown out your snoring roomie or your hallmates that won't stop singing Taylor Swift the night before an exam. [bf_image id="q6e8eu-1zboq8-fe7fx6"]

  • A step stool if you're short and/or your bed is lofted

  • A shower caddy that drains

  • A bathrobe so you don't have to walk down the hall naked in a towel.

  • Shower shoes. I don't know how people forget this but someone always does. Trust me, you do NOT want your feet to touch anywhere in those showers.

  • Bottled body soap. A bar of soap is hard to store (you usually end up putting your shower stuff in the closet) and you will 100% drop it in a clump of someone else's wet hair.

  • An extra chair/bean bag if you have room (although you hopefully won't be having people over to hang out in your room this year).

  • Fans, especially if your dorm doesn't have AC. A fan that clips to your bed is SO great on hot September nights.

  • An umbrella and rain boots. Charlottesville gets a lot of rain and has weirdly bad drainage, so one storm often turns the roads into rivers.

  • Tissues, because even if you don't get COVID, you'll probably end up with the First Year Flu.

  • Sunglasses!

  • Gloves, assuming UVA doesn't send us home before October. Charlottesville falls are BEAUTIFUL, but your hands will get a bit nippy.

  • Plug-in string lights, not battery powered. The batteries die and there's a 100% chance that you'll forget to replace them. Also, UVA is paying for electricity, so take advantage of it!

  • Batteries and a flashlight (always good to have)

  • Thumbtacks! Command strips are great in theory, but they rip the cheap paint off the walls. Just rub a bar of soap over the hole to fill it when you're done. (However, some dorms only have cinder block walls and thumbtacks aren't an option).

  • A moon cactus, if you want a plant. They're low maintenance and pretty hard to kill. Keep in mind, cacti were also brought up on the "regret bringing" list because they can attract fruit flies.

  • Snacks! Especially now that social distancing is bound to be difficult in dining halls, you may want to avoid that risk some days and just eat in your dorm. Also, having food in your dorm is super helpful for when you're hungry late at night or don't have time to run to the dining hall.[bf_image id="qg1rol-end2yo-4b9cak"]

  • A mini-fridge and microwave, for aforementioned snacks and dorm meals.

  • A Brita pitcher so you don't have to drink the dorm bathroom tap water (it's fine to drink, it just always tastes a little off and is never cold).

  • An electric water kettle to make tea, ramen, etc.! So helpful on cold mornings.

  • Cutlery and plates. You don't need a bunch, one or two plates at most (throw in a piece of Tupperware for good measure), but having something to eat with isn't something you think about until you're trying to eat ramen with a pencil.

  • A reusable water bottle. You won't understand how you ever survived life without it.



  • Too much junk food. Before you know it, you'll have gone a month without a fruit or vegetable, completely surviving on dining hall pizza and your 2 am Oreo stash.

  • Perishable foods. No, you aren't going to drink milk every day, and yes, it will go bad in your fridge.

  • Too much Tupperware/dishes. They're good to have, but don't bring a whole family set with you. There's not a ton of storage and you just won't need 12 clean plates at once.

  • Poster putty. It just doesn't really work.

  • Too much winter gear. Though gloves and a coat will come in handy if we actually make it to fall, you definitely don't need a ski jacket, multiple winter hats, etc., and they're bulky to store.

  • A laptop case. You won't use it. Instead, invest in a sturdy backpack with a laptop sleeve that will last you all four years.

  • Too many clothes. This was the thing that everyone said they regretted bringing. You may want to pack for every occasion, but keep in mind that 1) you're in college and will most likely wear Nike shorts and an oversized T-shirt every day and 2) we're in a pandemic, you're not going to any balls. Even if we weren't in a pandemic, you still probably don't need your prom dress. People also bring way too many shoes when they really only end up wearing 2 or 3 pairs. [bf_image id="q7tatc-46543s-byx0x"]

  • Your high school T-shirts. On the topic of clothes, it needs to be said that you don't need to bring every shirt you have. Even more importantly, don't bring all your high school T-shirts. No one cares if you went to TJ, or if you were on the varsity soccer team. You usually get *so* many free T-shirts as a first year anyway that not having enough shirts won't be an issue.

  • Party shoes. Yes, you'll want to have a pair of shoes you can get dirty, but don't bring party shoes. Why? Because parties are canceled, read the room.



Happy packing!

Hi! I'm Summer! I'm a fourth-year biology major at the University of Virginia, and President/Campus Correspondent for HCUVA. I love HC because it elevates the female voice and provides a platform for my passions in an awesome #girlsquad community! I hope you enjoy my articles as much as I enjoyed writing them. Thanks for checking out my page, and happy reading!
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