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Pick It Or Skip It — Your Ultimate College Packing Guide

Every collegiette looks forward to one thing on freshman move-in day: finally arriving at her long-awaited dorm room and making it a place of her own. Move-in day is when you are finally free to make your own decisions and start your new independent life on campus. But besides the obvious comforter, towels and school supplies, what do you really need in your dorm room? In order to make the most of your (most likely) tiny and shared space, check out HC’s list of the 12 things you absolutely need in your new home and the seven things to definitely leave behind (sorry, stuffed animals!).

Pick It

1. Breakfast food

Every experienced collegiette knows that you will not want to go to the dining hall every morning to eat before your 8 a.m. lecture, no matter how good those omelets are. You’ll more likely just want a quick bite to eat to get you through an early morning class. So stock up on cheap and nutritious options like Nutri-Grain and Luna bars to keep you awake and full during those pesky early-morning lectures. You could also pick up some oatmeal, cereal or bread and peanut butter at the grocery store before you head to school if breakfast bars aren’t your thing.

2. Black pumps

Your freshman year of college will include a lot of memories from your weekends out on the town. Whether at a house party, a bar or a club, you’ll want a basic pair of black heels that go with every outfit and add a little touch of chic to your look.  But don’t buy heels that are more than four inches tall—remember that you’ll want to be able to walk in them! And make sure they’re not too expensive, either. Some of the places you’ll party might not be the cleanest!

3. Nail polish

When some collegiettes first move in, they think they’ll be in class and the library 24/7. But sometimes, you’ll need to give yourself some “me time” and pamper yourself. And now that you’ve officially achieved “broke college student” status (congrats!), costly manicures are probably out of the question. So bring your favorite Essie colors and manicure tools with you and dedicate yourself to some primping time.

5. Desk lamp

When you first walk into your dorm room, don’t be alarmed; we swear it’s not a dungeon! Most colleges have pretty dingy lighting. But with fun lighting, you can spruce up your room and make it 10 times brighter! A lot of desk lamps, especially at go-to college prep store Walmart, also have organizational features, such as slots for your pens and pencils, space for note pads and even places to charge your phone. Plus, a desk lamp will make those late-night study sessions much easier on your eyes.

6. Tote bag

Every collegiette wants to look cute as they head out to class. So skip the high school backpack and pick up a tote bag that doubles as both adorable and practical. A large tote is a must-have to hold all your class essentials and still make a stylish statement. Make sure the tote you bring has enough space to hold your laptop, charger, notebook, folder, writing utensils, keys and ID, and that it has a strong enough strap to hold all of your supplies securely.

7. Cleaning products

If you are anywhere near the Monica Geller level of neat freak, you will need to buy some basic cleaning products for your dorm room. Mom isn’t around to pick up your messes for you at college (bummer), so it’s up to you to make sure your room doesn’t look like an episode of Hoarders. Buy Lysol to spray down your desk and dresser and keep the germs away, a small vacuum to pick up all the crumbs from snack time that wind up on the floor and Febreze to keep your small space smelling fresh.

8. Medication

Obviously you need to bring any prescription medication you need with you, but don’t forget the basics, like painkillers and cold medicine. These simple meds are often left behind and you don’t realize you need them until a headache leaves you sidelined from class. So be smart and bring everything you think you’ll need to stay healthy at school!

Also, pick up a first aid kit, which you can buy at drugstores, that will carry other essentials for minor injuries, like Band-Aids, gauze and antibiotic ointment. And one more thing: talk to your doctor about birth control. Lots of people start taking birth control during college, and you should start thinking about if this decision is right for you.

9. A full-length mirror

This one goes without saying. You need to check yourself out before you hit the town or head to class, and you need to know how you’re looking as you flip your hair singing to Beyoncé while your roommate is out. Not only are full-length mirrors the best way to check out your outfit, but they can also be a decorative way to fill up empty space on your wall.

10. Command strips and hooks

Ahh, Command strips: the one product no collegiette can live without. Are you wondering how you’re going to keep all of your mirrors, framed photos, decorative lights, and more on your walls? The answer: Command strips and hooks. These awesome little storage helpers can hold up almost anything you’ve got. Other more permanent items like thumb tacks and push pins are banned by some colleges because they damage the walls. Command strips and hooks come in different colors and can hold a range of weights. The best part? If you buy the ones that say “comes off cleanly” on the package, when you take them down, they cause absolutely no damage to your walls. (In other words, your RA won’t fine you for room damage! Yay!)

11. Day-to-night tops

As a new collegiette, you probably won’t be hitting the mall or shopping online as much as you did in high school, and your bank account will definitely be dwindling. That’s why you need some cute tops that will easily make the transition from appropriate for class to fun for a night out. “I would recommend bringing some jewelry and adding that to the outfit to transition into night: statement necklaces, bangles, dangly earrings,” says Anna, a senior at Marist College. 

12. Wonder Hangers

One of the great joys of freshman year is figuring out what to do with a space the size of your closet at home. But what do you do when your college closet is even tinier? Like, really tiny. You buy versatile hangers that will conserve space and make organization easy! Try Wonder Hangers that will make your gigantic wardrobe fit in your closet and stay wrinkle-free. Wonder Hangers triple your small closet space by allowing for more slots to hang your clothes on. Instead of cramming your outfits into the closet, they’ll fit in easily and be more pleasing to the eye.

Skip It

1. Clothes that aren’t in season

We were just talking about how itty-bitty your new closet will be, so don’t overstuff it with your winter coat and cozy sweaters when you move in during August or September. Keep your closet filled with the essentials for the current season and then swap them out for cold-weather clothes when you go home on break. The same goes for shoes; no knee-high boots in August! Only keep a few cold-weather items for the next season in case of extreme weather early on; you can trade your sandals for your boots during fall break.

2. Stuffed animals

Sure, one stuffed animal is fine and can be a nice reminder of home. But your entire ’90s Beanie Baby collection is excessive. Not only will your roommate think it’s weird, but you can bet people will be turned off by a litter of stuffed animal puppies on your bed. So keep the majority of the stuffed animals at home and bring one (if any) for sentimentality.

3. Your whole novel collection

Sadly, there will be little to no time for reading for pleasure in college. You will be so inundated with textbooks and mandatory reading that the idea of reading a book simply because you want to will seem foreign. Make sure to keep a list of all the books you want to read during the semester, because you will definitely have the time to catch up over winter break and during the summer (rereading the entire Harry Potter series for the 10th time can wait until break). Until then, stick to what your professors tell you to read.

4. Stationery

Although it’s such a sweet idea to think that you’ll send long letters to your besties from home, this often isn’t the case. You’ll find it’s so much easier and quicker to shoot a text to your friend or Skype him or her. Skip the stationery and instead make sure you have a webcam, because at the end of a long, hard day, what you’ll really want is to see your best friend’s familiar face.

5. Old high school textbooks

You know all those textbooks your teachers gave you? And those Barron’s books you bought to prepare for AP exams? Save some space in your dorm and make sure you leave those at home. Your college textbooks will be much more in-depth and cover more information than anything you had in high school. Props to you for hoping the extra books would come in handy, but most collegiettes will find that they’re just not helpful when it comes to their college workload.

6. High school apparel

Most likely, your new “school uniform” will consist of your new college sweatshirt and some comfy sweats or yoga pants. Don’t regress by bringing every high school sports and drama club T-shirt and hoodie you own. Of course, you can still bring one or two high school shirts to throw back and be proud of your past (after all, it’s your amazing high school experiences that helped you get admitted to college!), but don’t bring every item in your drawer. College is about moving forward and embracing the future, not holding onto your high school glory.

7. Old-school stereo systems

Besides the fact that it’s 2018 and huge stereo systems are completely unnecessary, blasting tunes in your room is a clear signal to your RA that something’s probably up in your dorm (noise complaints can get you into trouble). Avoid people thinking there’s suspicious activity going on (and remain friends with your neighbors by turning down the noise level) by opting to bring a small portable speaker that’ll also do you the favor of charging your iPhone or iPod. That’s something everyone in your hall can get on board with.

Now that you’ve taken all this in, you pre-collegiettes should have a better idea of what you need (and don’t need) to bring to college. But maybe even more important than all of the material items—be sure to bring confidence and an open mind in order to start the best four years of your life on the right foot. Have fun!

Nicole Knoebel was the President and Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Marist and is a former National Contributing Writer for Her Campus. She attended Marist College and majored in English (Writing) and minored in Journalism. Nicole has been an editorial intern at Marie Claire, Us Weekly, Seventeen and ELLE and spent a semester living in New York City to test out the Carrie Bradshaw life (minus the Manolos). You can follow her on Twitter at @nicoleknoebel!