School Resources

What to Pack For College: Full Guide + Checklist



Last Updated: Feb 25, 2022

If you’re heading off to college for your freshman year, or you’re a parent about to wave a child off to their new home on campus, the packing will be just one of many things on your mind. Planning what to pack may not be your top priority, but don’t procrastinate, because the worst thing you can do is leave it until the last minute! Use this guide to help you anticipate what you’re going to need to pack, identify items you might need to buy, and what you should consider leaving at home.

How much should you pack for college?

Before you start packing, you should establish a ballpark idea of how much you can actually take with you. This will be different for everyone but consider the following factors:

  • What type of accommodation you’ll be living in and how much space you’ll have. If you’re sharing a dorm, you’ll have less room for your own things than, for example, if you’re renting an apartment.
  • How you’re traveling. The number of boxes, suitcases or bags you can take with you will be limited by the mode of transport you’re using.
  • How far away your college is from your current home. If your home is relatively close to your campus, you can easily return to pick up any items you realize you can’t do without.
  • How much do you actually want to carry with you? You don’t need to max out. This is the beginning of an exciting new phase in your life, and some people use this as an opportunity to start off with a clean slate.

Van loaded full of student's possessions ready to move to the university.

What are some college essentials?

Once you have that ballpark idea of how much you’ll be taking, start identifying the absolute must-haves. If you’re looking for more detail, make sure to check out our list of college dorm essentials. Some of the most important items you’ll need include the following:

  1. Furniture
  2. Electronics
  3. Bedding
  4. Toiletries
  5. Kitchenware
  6. Essential medications
  7. Clothing
  8. Documents

A College Packing Checklist

Work through this checklist, broken down by category, to get you started with your packing. You may not have space to include everything on this list, and you may not need to bring everything on this list with you. Don’t fret—you’ll be able to pick up some items on campus or at a nearby store! It really depends on what amenities and stores are easily accessible from your campus:

Furniture and decor

  • Desk
  • Office chair
  • Lamp
  • Rug
  • Clothing rail
  • Hangers
  • Anything you want to hang on walls (posters, photos, etc.)


  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Headphones
  • Portable fan
  • Humidifier/dehumidifier
  • Chargers

Bedding, towels, and paper products

  • Bedsheets
  • Comforter
  • Pillows
  • Pillowcases
  • Bath towels
  • Hand towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Tissues
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paper towels

Toiletries and bathroom equipment

  • Shampoo
  • Shower gel or body wash
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Skincare products
  • Cosmetics
  • Feminine products
  • Makeup bag
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Hairdryer and other hair styling appliances
  • Hairstyling products
  • Brush
  • Comb
  • Shaving equipment
  • Nail clippers
  • Small mirror
  • Shower mat


  • Plates
  • Utensils
  • Mugs/cups
  • Glasses
  • Pots and pans

Safety and medications

  • Prescription medicines
  • Pain medication
  • Allergy medication
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid kit

Clothing and laundry

  • Underwear
  • Socks (including thick socks for winter, in cold climates)
  • Shoes (for all seasons)
  • Pants
  • Shirts or T-shirts
  • Sweaters
  • Dress clothes
  • Gymwear/sportswear
  • Coat or jacket
  • Winter clothes
  • Detergent
  • Laundry basket
  • Dryer sheets


  • Driver’s license
  • Health insurance ID
  • Social Security card
  • Any documents relating to your college enrollment

Woman Unpacking Boxes in New Home

How to pack: tips & tricks

You’ll have some decisions to make about what you’re going to use to transport your belongings to your new college. As mentioned above, the type of baggage or packaging you use will be influenced by how you’re traveling, but some of the most common approaches include using:

  • Collapsible cardboard boxes: Some cardboard boxes can be broken down, stored flat, and reused again, which can be useful when it’s time to move out!
  • Storage bins: These can also be useful for storage once you’re set up in your new home.
  • Luggage: This may be more appropriate if you’re flying or taking a train or bus to campus.

Try to store similar items in the same place, and remember to label or attach a tag to each item. Following these tips will save you a lot of trouble at the other end as you begin to unpack! If you’re extremely detail-oriented, score extra organizational points by adding a note on your packing checklist to remind yourself which piece of baggage you packed each item inside.

Avoid overpacking

If in doubt, pack less! Check to find out if there are any limitations on what you can bring to your new accommodation, and just don’t risk bringing more than you’ll have space to store. You can always start with less and have your family put anything you really need in the mail. Many of the above items could even be left behind if you know there will be a store nearby your campus. And don’t forget, you can always order what you need on Instacart and have it brought straight to your new place!

Stock up on your college essentials with Instacart

As you work through your packing checklist, you’ll probably identify quite a few items you need to buy. Relax, because you can save yourself a visit to the store — or avoid making stops at multiple shops — and go straight to Instacart! With Instacart, you can browse thousands of items and stock up on all those dorm room essentials while you get on with packing and labeling your belongings at home. Instacart’s shoppers are primed to receive your order, work through your shopping list efficiently and deliver your items to you on the same day you place your order!



Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,400 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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