The Ultimate College Packing List: What To Bring to College in 2021

How. Did. We. Get. Here?

Just yesterday she was squealing with delight as I pushed her on the park swing, her little pigtails flying in the breeze.

Today, she schleps boxes up to her second floor dorm room.

Move-in day will be fraught with emotion, tears and a teenage eye roll or two. There’s nothing you can do about that, but this essential college packing list will make your moving day that much easier.

Now that I have multiple move-ins under my belt, I know exactly what things to buy for college freshmen, the things that really are college must-haves and what not to bring to college.

I’ve broken down all the things into four main groups:

  • Must-Have College Dorm Essentials
  • Nice to Have Items to Add to Your College Checklist
  • College Must-Haves to Make it Feel More like Home
  • What Not To Bring To College (or at least double check first…)

This list is long, so grab a cup of coffee and have fun planning!

You can also print out this College Packing List to use as you gather all the things you need for your new college student.

This post may contain affiliate links. My full disclosure policy is sort of boring, but you can find it here.

College Packing List: The Essentials

These are the things that should be on every dorm room checklist for guys and for girls. So make sure these items are on your college shopping list.

Both of my kids went to school out of state so we ordered a ton of stuff online.

When we were shopping for my daughter's dorm room, we shopped at home and then ordered online to have things either shipped to the dorm before we arrived, or used the ship to store service that stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target have. Then it was super easy to stop into the local store to pick up your order.

If you choose to ship to the school, make sure you check with your college because they all have different rules for receiving packages before the semester begins.

If your kid is going out of state and you can't pack up your car and drive there, DO NOT get the ready-made bedding/towel sets that a lot of schools will try to sell you as a convenience.

We ordered the ready-made set with my son because he didn't care what the design was as long as it was blue. The quality was horrible and we ended up having to re-outfit his room his sophomore year.

College Checklist: Nice to Have Items

The items on this list may not be "essential" for your freshman college supply list, but they will make things a whole lot nicer and easier for your college student. Some of these items help organize their small dorm spaces, while others make living in a communal space easier to adjust to.

College Must Haves To Make It Feel More Like Home

This part of the list really depends on your child. These items are things that they can pick out to really let their personality shine and to make it feel more like home.

It's easy to go overboard on dorm decor. They really don't have that much space to call their own so make sure they check with their roommates before you buy things like area rugs and furniture.

Pinterest has tons of ideas on decorating a dorm room if your freshman is looking for inspiration.

What Not To Bring To College…Or At Least Check First

  • Printer: Don’t bring a printer unless your school specifically says you should bring one. Most universities have wireless printers all over campus for students to use. Using the university printer means your student never has to worry about running out of paper, ink cartridges, etc.
  • Refrigerator/Microwave: Check with your school before you buy these. Some schools have restrictions about what you can and cannot have in a dorm room. Other schools require that you rent equipment from the university. My daughter’s school had combination refrigerator/microwave units that they supplied that were the only ones allowed in the dorms.

One More Thing To Remember

Bring some kleenex because you will shed a tear or two.

Move-in will seem like some kind of a surreal dream. You’ll wonder how the last 18 years sped by so fast. While you can’t turn back time, remember that your child is ready and you’ve done your job well. This is what is supposed to happen.

Good job Mom.

I never say “Goodbye”.

Always “See you soon!”

Not that I’m counting or anything.

After all, it’s only 82 days until Thanksgiving.

Want to Remember This College Dorm Essentials Checklist? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest Board and Pass it On!

Photo of a dorm room with orange walls with bunk beds with text that says ultimate college packing list.