How to Pack Your Belongings for College

Four Parts:Selecting the essentialsSelecting other itemsPacking your belongingsSettling in

When packing belongings for college, you'll need a system for ensuring you have all the essentials and a few special items too. It's also helpful to know how to transport it all safely.


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    Contact your roommate beforehand if you can. That way, you can both figure out who brings what, rather than doubling up on the same shared items. For example, she might bring a TV and a coffee maker, while you bring the microwave and refrigerator. Also check to see what items the campus already provides, and what you are allowed (and not allowed) to bring. Once this is all squared up, you're ready to begin choosing the things and packing.

Part 1
Selecting the essentials

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    Choose the clothes first. Ensure that you have essential items that can be mixed and matched with each other, to increase the extent of your campus wardrobe. Keep everything casual, neat and comfortable, and prefer easy-care items over the more challenging fabrics and styles.
    • A few good pairs of jeans/shorts, plenty of basic tops that you can layer, shoes that you can walk in, a good coat/jacket, plenty of clothes to lounge around in your dorm, old tee-shirts, and socks. Also, bring shower shoes or flip flops for shared bathrooms.
    • Extras: Scarves, swimsuit, heels, jewelry, and belts.
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    Know what special occasions might be coming up. This can help you work out whether you need a suit or special dress for these occasions now, or whether you can drop back home and collect them later in the term rather than having to take up valuable space in your dorm room now.
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    Choose grooming or bathroom items you can't or wouldn't buy regularly. For example, your hairbrush, your current toothbrush, your makeup brushes, etc. For things such as new toothbrushes, shampoo, toothpaste, floss, etc., just buy them as you need them; no need to stock up now unless they're frightfully expensive wherever you're headed.
    • If you have medication, ensure that your doctor has provided you with sufficient scripts for renewals.
    • It's a good idea to turn up with a basic set of typical bathroom items, such as headache tablets, one tube of toothpaste, a chapstick, sore throat gargle, fungal cream, Band-Aids, etc.
    • Check out online store options for buying in the things you need. This may prove cheaper than lugging around supplies from home that take up precious space in your room.
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    Pack room items that are essential. Some of the things that you will likely need include:
    • Sheets and pillow covers. Include a comforter and a blanket.
    • A portable hamper or laundry basket for toting dirty clothes to the laundry and clean ones back. Laundry detergent is helpful to have too. If you use dryer sheets, throw a few in.
    • An alarm. This might be on your phone/digital device, a standalone clock or some other means. Be sure to have one!
    • Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones; this will help you to stay focused when your roommate is noisy or snoring.
    • A bundle of quarters. These will be useful for all manner of machines that take your change.
    • Basic cooking items, such as a microwave-safe bowl and plate, a microwave-safe mug or cup, a spork, a few utensils, an electric jug, etc. Always find out in advance what is provided as part of your room, to save yourself from carrying unnecessary items.
    • A refillable water bottle, so that you can enjoy tap water and save your precious pennies. It can also be useful to bring along a pitcher for cold water, one with a lid that can be placed in the refrigerator.
    • If your room has its own bathroom, find out in advance if it needs a shower curtain. Definitely bring along a bathmat or two, and some towels/ face washers/ hand towels.
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    Bring your laptop or other word processing digital device. These are rarely "optional" nowadays, so you'll need to invest in something if you don't already have a word processing device. Used reconditioned laptops are very affordable and come with guarantees if you buy from a reputable seller.
    • Don't forget chargers, extension cords, power packs, etc. that are needed for all digital devices, including your phone.
    • Add a sticky name label to all of your digital devices, along with a phone number or email address in case of loss. Record all serial numbers somewhere safe, in case of theft or loss.
    • Many dorms and colleges have computers available for student use. If you don't want to take or purchase your own computer, find out what the computer availability will be at your college, including all-hours access for those late-night essay finishes.
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    Pack some stationery. If you have special items you'd like to have with you, pack these. Take advantage of summer sales to stock up. Always consider whether it's easier to stock up once on campus or before you leave home though; for example, if your parents are driving you to college, it may just be easiest to stock up during a specific outing with them once you arrive.
    • It is always a good idea to have a pair of scissors, some tape and a stapler and staples. Also grab a few recycled envelopes and note paper from your home stash; leaving notes will become a commonplace activity on campus and these come in handy.

Part 2
Selecting other items

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    Pack items that you'd like to have but aren't necessarily essential. Before doing this, be absolutely sure you have the room for them, both in your bags and at your destination. Also take into account security or fragility concerns before taking valuable items with you. Some of the "nice-to-have-but-not-necessary" items include:
    • A small fan for your room if it's likely to be hot.
    • Trash bags, for clearing away all of your trash.
    • Cleaning products. An all-purpose spray is a good cleaner to have handy, along with such things as Clorox wipes, a spray bottle for water, etc. Find out if it's easier to purchase these supplies when you arrive though.
    • A lamp. While it's not essential, if the dorm doesn't provide one and you like to read in bed, this can be an important asset for comfortable and easier reading, especially if your roommate wants the overhead light off.
    • Clear storage organizers can be a helpful way to store clothes and bits and pieces. Look for stackable ones that make the most of the space in your dorm room.
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    Take some food. Don't think that you can rely on your meal plan. Most cafeterias close around 8 or 9, and you don't want to waste a meal when you could just eat a light snack.
    • Use the internet to find out what the local stores provide by way of food, and how easy (or difficult) they are to reach. Do they have the food you like? Use this research to guide what you stock up on at home.
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    Include some decorative items. Your dorm room will be your home for the coming year or so, so making it feel cozy will help you to feel more "at home". Adding a few decorative touches can enhance an otherwise generic room space.
    • Take along some posters or a tapestry to hang on the wall. A large poster or tapestry can cover up a lot of dull wall space.
    • You might also consider making a collage for the wall, one that grows as the year goes on, by sticking up a large piece of mostly blank paper, with a pretty border and some sayings, then add to it as the year goes on, with more sayings, photos, scraps of paper, mementos, etc. By the end of the year, you'll have a fabulous keepsake.

Part 3
Packing your belongings

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    Obtain some good packing. If you are able to drive your belongings to your dorm, or your parents are driving you, you have more options than those catching a plane, train or bus. Boxes are a huge help, as you can pack a lot into them and they will fit easily in the car. You can get some free at grocery stores. (Drive to the back of the store and you'll normally see a pile of boxes ready to be picked up by trash services.)
    • If you are traveling by public transportation, use sturdy and reliable suitcases. Find out what the maximum weight and baggage allowance is, to avoid nasty surprises. If you need more than what is allowed with your ticket, find out what the costs are for unaccompanied baggage or for freighting the additional items by courier. Keep in mind that everything you take has to also come back with you, unless you plan on donating items at the end of the year.
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    Pack clothes with a mind to keeping them in good condition. Transporting clothes by folding in boxes can be messy, and your clothes will wrinkle. Try gathering a handful of your clothes by the hanger and keep them together with a rubber band. Cover everything with a trash bag and then pack you clothes last in the car. This way, when you move in, just take off the rubber band and trash bag and you clothes are ready to be hung up.
    • If packing in a suitcase, try to roll as many items as possible. This makes for better usage of the space and can prevent wrinkling.
    • If taking a suit, use a suit-pack. Do you really need that suit though?
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    Try to organize everything by category. For example, don't put your sheets and cleaning supplies in the same box. Try to keep such things separate.
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    Take off all the wrappers, plastic stickers, etc., from new products. That way, you won't have to take everything apart when you're moving in and then have to find somewhere to dispose of it all. Remember to wash new sheets, towels and other cloth items before you move in.

Part 4
Settling in

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    When you're ready to move in, try waking up as early as possible to get to your dorm as soon as you can move in. Hundreds of other students will be as busy as you, so it's nice to be a little ahead. This way, you have all day to unpack, and time after to explore your new environment.
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    Take your time setting up. You may find it takes the first week before you're happy with where everything will be for the rest of the term or year. And always be open to moving things around or changing layouts, etc., if you find things aren't working as well as they could be. Aim for efficient use of space, comfort and privacy for you and your roommate.


  • Follow a list for packing; a list will reduce your concerns that you have forgotten something. Check it off as you pack.
  • Start packing several days beforehand; that way, you won't forget anything. Pack your car the night before.
  • Collect coupons before you travel. You can use them the next time you go grocery shopping. You might not think it saves that much money, but it really does. When you have to buy shampoo, soap, food, etc., you can end up saving $5 to $10, and this all adds up in time.
  • Pack bigger items in the car first, such as the refrigerator. This will ensure that you won't be trying to shove a large item into your car at the last minute. If you're spatially challenged, ask a family member who is good at working this out to help you.
  • If you're in the USA, get a Kroger/HEB/CVS/etc., card. There are no strings attached, the cards are free, and they will save you money when shopping at those stores. There may be similar cards available in other countries.
  • If you're taking your car to school, you might considering packing your car, and also your parent's car, so that you get double the space and they will be able to help you move in. They'll also need to be prepared to help you move it all back at the end of your stay too.
  • You don't need to tape the top of your boxes as you do when you're moving into a new house. Make the packing/unpacking process as simple as possible, so that your parents will leave and you can finally play!

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Categories: Campus Life