Essential College Packing List for Girls and Guys: What You’ll Need and What You Won’t

Essential College Packing List for Girls and Guys: What You’ll Need and What You Won’t

1. What You’ll Need 

  • Living Essentials 
  • Kitchen & Cleaning 
  • Toiletries 
  • School Supplies 
  • Electronics 
  • Clothing 
  • College Packing List for Girls
  • College Packing List for Guys

2. What You Won’t Need

  • Living Essentials 
  • Kitchen & Cleaning 
  • Toiletries 
  • School Supplies 
  • Electronics 
  • Clothing 
  • College Packing List for Girls
  • College Packing List for Guys


Whether it’s your first year on campus or the last home stretch to graduation, we’re covering your essential college packing list for girls and guys.  


No matter your year, creating the perfect college packing list can be difficult. You’re often questioning what you should or shouldn’t bring — especially if it’s your first time away from home. Here is your guide to the ultimate college dorm packing list for girls and guys: 

What You’ll Need 

College Living Essentials 

Sheets are arguably one of the most important items on your ultimate college packing list since you’ll use them every single day. Make sure to bring an extra set for those days when they’re in the wash. 


You’ll also need pillows, pillowcases, and comforters. If you’re prone to oily, frizzy hair or even acne, you can try adding silk pillowcases to your list of what to pack. 


You’ll always need an extra set of blankets, especially since they get dirty so quickly. And if we’re being honest, the mattresses that are provided by colleges aren’t usually the most comfortable; therefore, a mattress pad and cover will give you that extra cushion to get a good night’s sleep. 


Even if you’re going to college somewhere where it’s warm, a fan is a must — especially if your space doesn’t have air conditioning. 


What's a college dorm or apartment without a little decor? Just make sure you don’t go overboard with knick knacks. Simple and inexpensive is the way to go. Decorate and hide that cold and dirty dorm floor with a comfortable rug to make sure your space stays nice and cozy.  And for hanging storage hooks and wall decor, command strips are tied for first place with sheets on your college packing list. Even if you think you bought out your local Target, get more. You’ll always need them. 


You should also grab a yoga mat. Although it’s not the first item that comes to mind when thinking of your ultimate college packing list, a yoga mat is a great tool if you hate the gym and love the comfort of working out in your own space. Plus, you can roll it right up and store it under your bed or in your closet. 

Kitchen & Cleaning 

Some dorms or apartments might not allow you to bring your own fridge, but if they do, a mini fridge is a great investment that you can use all four years of college. If you have limited storage for your kitchen products, one set of reusable utensils and one or two reusable plates are all you need for your quick and easy meals. 


You can forget lugging heavy plastic water bottle cases up to your dorm room or apartment. Instead, invest in a heavy-duty reusable water bottle that you can carry with you all around campus. Just like your reusable water bottle, a water filter pitcher saves you money while also saving the planet. 


Spills happen, especially in such small spaces, so paper towels and a multi-purpose cleaner are a must. You’ll also need a collapsible laundry basket, laundry detergent, and dryer sheets; the combo that will have your clothes staying clean and fresh all year long. Add a stain remover to your list too, because you never know when you’re going to ruin your nice shirt at one of the dining halls. 


Whether you have a trash room on your floor or a dumpster near your building, trash bags are essential for disposing of all of your garbage, and a mini vacuum will clean up all the dirt while still staying small enough to store.   


A toothbrush and toothpaste are an absolute must, and a toothbrush cover will protect your teeth from bacteria. You’ll also need a mouthwash and floss, to defend against all that late night snacking.  You’ll also need a few extra bath towels for those days when your go-to towels are in the wash. Opt for inexpensive towels because you’ll most likely throw them away at the end of the year.  


To save space, buy larger versions of your favorite shampoo, conditioner, and body wash or soap so that you don’t have to stock up on multiples of your must-haves. You’ll also need something to store all of your shower essentials, especially if you have a communal bathroom. A portable shower caddy is the best way to keep all your essentials in one place. Speaking of communal bathrooms, you’ll need shower flip flops to save your feet from infections and fungi. Trust us, your feet will thank you later.   


In addition to the usual brush and comb, a hairdryer will come in handy if you need to dry your hair before walking to class. No matter where you go to college, allergy season and cold and flu season will always sneak up on you, so make sure not to forget cold and allergy medication and tissues. 


Don’t forget a first-aid kit either, even in college, you’re bound to fall down and scrape your knee. And whatever you do, don’t forget deodorant. Or sunscreen! No matter where you go to school, rain or shine, sunscreen is an essential item for your college dorm packing list.

School Supplies

Show some school spirit by using a backpack that represents your own college or university. Usually, you don’t know how many notebooks you need until you start classes, but pick up a few notebooks ahead of time so that you’re always prepared. Store some pens, pencils, and highlighters in your backpack and some in your desk, that way you’re always ready to jot down notes.  


If you feel that colored pencils and markers are too cool for school, add them to your college freshman packing list anyway. You’ll be surprised how much you need colored pencils and markers for class assignments and projects.  


No matter your major, you’ll most likely have to take a math class, so add a calculator to your packing list. Whether you need one for them for class or everyday use, make sure to include scissors, tape, glue, and a ruler in your must-haves.  


Another must-have is something to store important documents like your driver’s license, school ID, and credit/debit cards. If lanyard wallets are too high school for you, try using a phone wallet that attaches to the back of your phone. 


Even if it doesn’t particularly rain a lot on your campus, invest in a travel size umbrella that you can easily store in your backpack. You might also want to try a pair of blue light glasses to block out the harmful UV light since you’ll use your phone or laptop for almost everything in college. 


Most of your assignments will be done online, so make sure you always have your phone, laptop, and all of your chargers, even if you prefer to take notes the old school way. It’s practically common knowledge that phone chargers have a shorter lifespan than the pizza you bought a few days ago, so always keep a backup charger in case yours stops working at the worst time. 


From walking to class to canceling out your upstairs neighbor’s party, a quality set of headphones are essential. Whether you’re listening to music, audiobooks, or even a lecture, multiple sets of headphones are super important items on your ultimate college packing list. 


In a college dorm or apartment, you’ll need way more outlets than the amount you’ll receive. Power strips will keep your phone, laptop, headphones, and lamps working even when you’ve run out of energy. And you’ll be surprised at how many things require batteries, so bring lots of them.


You’re going to need something to hang up all those clothes, so bring a good amount of hangers. If you share a closet (or if your closet is just way too small), under the bed storage containers are perfect for those extra sweatshirts. 


When it comes to clothing, you can never have enough underwear and socks. Depending on the weather in your college town, bring your favorite shorts, pants, and jeans. Your favorite college t-shirts and sweatshirts make the perfect addition to your ultimate college packing list.  Represent your school while staying comfy! Comfortable pajamas are an underrated necessity, even if you don’t get that much sleep.   


Even if you don’t work out at the gym, workout clothing is great for walking around campus. Let’s be honest, walking to class is a workout in itself. Speaking of walking, having a wide variety of shoes is optimal. This is especially true if you go to school somewhere where the weather can be a bit unpredictable. 


Come winter, jackets are going to be the most important item on your college packing list, especially if it rains or snows a lot at your school. If your commute to class is anything above ten minutes, winter gear is imperative for avoiding frostbite. Sidewalks usually get slippery when it rains or snows; therefore, waterproof boots will keep you vertical on your walk to class. But as soon as the year begins to end, the sun begins to shine, so make sure you have a handy pair of sunglasses. 


College is also the time for internships, so it’s always important to keep at least one professional outfit with you.  

College Packing List For Girls 

Leggings and yoga pants are a sure way to stay comfortable throughout the day. When it comes to accessories, a large purse isn’t realistic when it comes to carrying your things. Opt for a small purse or wallet to carry your essential items. 


Although you might not get around to painting your nails often, bring your favorite polishes just in case you feel like painting your nails. 


Make sure you pack your power strip right along with your hair straightener and curling iron, because there won’t be enough outlets for them all. Space is limited no matter where you go to school, so only bring hair accessories that you know you’ll use. 


Make sure to pack your preference of period products for a few cycles. Plus, if you shave, make sure to add your shaving products to your college packing list. Don’t overload on makeup products just because you think you might use that palette you bought two years ago. Bring your everyday products so that you can easily store your makeup. And don’t forget makeup remover — your skin will thank you later. 


Feel free to bring perfume too, just make sure you pack an inexpensive and preferably plastic option. You don’t want it stolen or broken. 

College Packing List For Guys

Rock your school colors by bringing some tailgating outfits for game day! Wherever you go to school, you’ll definitely need a wallet to carry your important documents. Opt for an inexpensive option so that if it gets ruined, it won’t matter. 


Whether you grow out your facial hair or not, keep a shaving kit or electric beard trimmer on hand. If you use gel, mousse, or any hair accessories, make sure to jot them down on your college packing list. And don’t forget an aftershave or cologne. Everyone wants to smell nice, right?  

What You Won’t Need

College Living Essentials 

Even if you live in an apartment, you most likely won’t have any room for extra furniture. No matter how comfortable that big, fluffy chair looks, you’re going to want to leave it off your college apartment packing list. 


Most dorm and apartment beds are already raised or can be raised, so you can forego bed risers unless your bed can’t be repositioned. 


Leave curtains off of your list, too. Most of the time, dorm windows come with blinds or curtains. Plus, curtains are hard to hang. And unless your space doesn’t come with one, don’t bring a trash can. You definitely don’t need two. 


Here’s a tip: if you have a job interview and your shirt needs to be ironed, use or borrow a hair straightener to gently flatten out the wrinkles. Otherwise, you’ll never need to use an iron. 


Candles are almost always prohibited from dorms or apartments, so you can leave those at home. Try an oil diffuser or room spray if a nice-smelling room is a must for you. 


Throw pillows are cute in theory, but not good for function. You’ll wind up throwing your decorative pillows on the floor since you’ll have zero space for them on your bed. 


With such little storage space make sure not to pack the items off of your college packing list with bulky luggage. Or if you do, make sure to send the luggage back home. 


Although playing your guitar or keyboard on a lazy Saturday night sounds fun to you, you’ll likely never have the time to play your instrument of choice unless you’re a music major. 


If one day you’re running late and forget to lock your door, you’re going to be so grateful you didn’t pack anything that’s valuable to you. A precious heirloom? An expensive watch? Leave it at home. And while bringing your pets to tailgates may seem fun, taking care of them while juggling your course load won’t be. Think long and hard before you pack your pet and head to school!

Kitchen & Cleaning

The probability of you cooking is slim to none, but on the off chance that you might whip up your favorite home-cooked meal, you can always use the pots and pans in the communal kitchen. While bringing your entire mug collection seems like a fun reminder of home, just one or two mugs and cups are more than plenty. 


Don’t bother with cases of plastic water bottles either. Most colleges have water bottle filling stations located around campus so you’ll never be without water. 


You most likely won’t have the space to store things like a toaster or blender, so scratch big kitchen appliances off of your ultimate college packing list. 


While cleaning is essential in a college dorm room, a full size vacuum is just too big and bulky to justify. For messes that a mini vacuum just can’t pick up, you can borrow a full-sized vacuum from your floor or building.  


A collapsible laundry basket stores much easier than the traditional hamper you most likely use at home. When you’re finally done with your laundry, it’ll easily fit in your closet or under your bed, whereas a non-collapsible laundry basket takes up too much space. 


You’ll only really need a few bath towels unless you’re really bad at doing laundry, so don’t bring too many bath towels. You can also scratch a scale off of your college packing list. If you need to know your weight, you can look for spots around campus like a gym or student health office.   

School Supplies 

Everything is online these days  — even your flashcards. There are many websites that offer online flashcards or other study tools, so don’t bother with paper index cards. Depending on your classes, you might not even need to use that much paper. Therefore, you most likely won’t need to use a stapler, either.  


Just like index cards, there are many different websites that offer ways to keep up with your assignments and tasks, so don’t bring a physical planner. 


If you have noisy roommates or neighbors, you won’t be studying too much in your space. Instead, you’ll be utilizing the study areas around your college, so you won’t really want to bring your own laptop stand. You won’t need a lapdesk either, as studying in your bed can have negative effects on your sleep schedule. 


Cross a desktop computer off of your college packing list. You might not have enough desk space and you can’t beat the convenience of bringing your laptop wherever you go. 


If you’re deciding between an extension cord and a power strip, go for the power strip. Extension cords are a fire hazard and might not be allowed in your dorm or apartment. 


Bringing your own printer isn’t necessary either since a lot of school work takes place only online. If you need to print something, there should be many printing locations all around your college.


Although everyone says you can never have too many shoes, you can definitely have too many shoes in college. You only need a few pairs of versatile shoes, so don’t overdo it. 


Speaking of overdoing it, a good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t worn an item of clothing since the beginning of high school, you won’t start wearing it in college. Remove it from your college packing list.  Unless you know you need formal attire for your major, you won’t need it. All you need is a few professional pieces for internship season. 


Speaking of seasons, make sure to pack accordingly for them. If you go to college someplace cold, forget the swimsuits.

For the Girls 

Unless you need them for an internship or your major, scratch high heels off of your college clothes packing list. You definitely won’t be wearing them to walk to class. 


You won’t wear your expensive jewelry, either. If you’re afraid of anything being stolen, leave it at home. Leave the big purse at home, too. You’ll quickly find smaller purses are much more conducive to the college lifestyle.

For the Guys

Even if you just bought the latest expensive, hyped-up sneakers that you’re dying to wear around campus, you might want to leave them at home for fear of them getting ruined — especially if the weather is usually unpredictable. 


Be cautious of bringing anything too nice to school. Things can easily get stolen in college, so leave any valuable watches or jewelry back at home. 


If you occasionally like to play sports with your friends, leave any basketballs, baseballs, or any other sporting equipment at home. You can usually rent any equipment at the on campus gym.  

Packing the Essentials for College

Perfecting an essential college packing list can be tricky — especially if it’s your first year. Craft your first ‘what to pack for college list’ by bringing what you find necessary and take our advice on what you will and won’t need. Regardless of what you have, you’re sure to have the ultimate college experience! 

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