What To Take With You to College: An Essentials Guide - Spacer Blog

What To Take With You to College: An Essentials Guide

Okay, first of all. If you’re going to be a college freshman this fall, let us just say congratulations! And yeah, you’ve probably heard that a whole lot of times since you made that huge leap from being accepted to your dream school and actually clicking the “I accept” option on the college admissions website. But believe us, you deserve all of the praise in the world. You are onto big things!

It’s never too early to start your college packing. In fact, if you want to start making your list the evening after your high school graduation party, do it! That’ll give you plenty of time to think about exactly what you want to bring with you to college and what you put into storage should you need it, and you’ll feel more prepared and ready when the day finally comes.

Here’s our ultimate college packing list with all the dorm room essentials you’ll need for your first year. We’re also going to talk a bit about wardrobe and some items that you wouldn’t think to pack. You can add, take off, swap out anything in this college packing list. Make it yours!


The College Checklist For Your Dorm


The dorm room essentials.

For pretty much all of the universities in the US, dorm rooms tend to be on the smaller side. You’re not going to have a ton of extra space, and you don’t want to make the little space you do have feel cluttered. Plus, bringing way too much stuff at the beginning is not going to make for an easy start with your roommate.

So, here are the basic essentials, broken down into some helpful categories.

Basic necessities:

  • School supplies – the main reason you’re here is to, you know, go to classes, right? So, have your parents take you for one last school supply splurge at your favorite store and get all the essentials: a notebook for each class, pens in different colors, mechanical pencils, highlighters, binders, folders.

  • A notebook or tablet – No matter what major you’ll be going into, you’re going to need a solid, reliable laptop or tablet. This is going to be your biggest expense going into college, but it’s also going to be the one that you absolutely cannot live without. Emails to professors, studying sessions, essays, background music for your first dorm room get together are all going to depend on a reliable laptop or tablet. 

  • A durable, unique backpack – One of the big complaints of first years is back pain from carrying a ton of heavy books. Get yourself a quality backpack, and make sure that it doesn’t look like every other one on campus.

  • 2 sets of sheets for the bed – You’ll want one while the other is in the laundry

  • A bedspread and an extra blanket – If you’re generally a cold person, this is going to help prevent arguments over-temperature control in the room

  • A laundry hamper – If you’re fighting for floor space, opt for a laundry bag that can be placed under the bed or in the closet instead of those boxy standing hampers

  • A mesh laundry bag for your delicates

  • Laundry detergent and bleach – And if you don’t really know how to use these, no judgements. Ask someone to go through it with you before you leave for college. Your RA (resident assistant) is going to have no time to teach you how to do laundry

  • Hangers

  • Wall hooks – Great for hanging your keys

  • Under-the-bed or over-the-door storage – Shoes, jackets, sporting equipment will all need creative storage options

  • A phone charger with a super long cord – Don’t fight with your roommate about who gets the bed closest to the outlet

  • Sleeping mask and/or earplugs – Your roommates will have different schedules and one of the hardest parts about sharing a room is learning not to get super angry when you get woken up at 1am before your 8am chem class

  • Lanyard for your keys – It can take a bit of getting used to to carry around keys every time you leave your room, even perhaps to go to the bathroom or laundry room. Having a lanyard that you can hang next to the door and easily hang around your neck will prevent those embarrassing late-night calls to your RA that you locked yourself out, again

  • Gym bag – Most universities offer free gym membership, and you should take advantage! In your gym bag, make sure you include a towel, travel-size shampoo and conditioner, and deodorant so you can fit in a gym session between classes


Dorm deco:

  • Desk supplies – Stapler (literally, all of the staplers will be broken on campus on the day that you have to turn in your final paper. Never fails.), sticky notes, white out, a whole lot of pens and pencils, a desk organizer, go crazy

  • Wall calendar – An absolute must for your new crazy college assignment schedule; it’s also a good idea to post your class schedule so that you don’t get a million texts from your dormie asking when you’re going to be back

  • A couple framed pictures of your fam and friends – Having it close to you lets you know that they’re there for you should you need to talk to them

  • A clippable/mountable lamp for your bedside – There are going to be some nights that you need to read well into the early hours, but don’t want to disturb your roommates.

  • Wet wipes – In a small space, things start feeling messy quickly. You’ll feel much better with a simple wet wipe wipe-down every couple of days.

  • A plate, a large coffee cup (one that can double as a bowl), and a water bottle – Sure, most of your meals are going to come from the dining hall, but every once in a while, you’re going to want a frozen burrito in your dorm room or a huge cup of instant coffee. And, having a water bottle is absolutely necessary. Make sure that you keep your dining ware clean and out of sight when it’s not in use.


One more piece of advice when it comes to dorm room decorations: check the rules first. Many universities prohibit the use of certain appliances, as well as candles, extension cords, and anything that will damage the walls or floors. Wait until you know for sure what you can have in your dorm before you go on a decorating spree.

An easy way to spruce up your dorm room without risking a confrontation with your RA is to invest in no-damage wall hooks or adhesive wall tape.

Shower and bath

  • Shower caddy – This can be a simple plastic basket with all of your shower supplies. It’s helpful to have a tray in your dorm room that you can keep it in so that you don’t get the floor wet

  • Toothbrush with a cap – You might find yourself dropping your toothbrush or leaving it on the sink, so having a cap on it just makes sure that no germs touch the bristles

  • Shower shoes – Don’t skip these. Just trust us

  • Separate bags for makeup and before bed products – You don’t want to have to lug a huge bag filled with your eyeliner, lipstick, palette, and makeup remover, face scrub and toothpaste back and forth to the communal bathroom multiple times per day




Now that you’ve covered the essentials, there are some extra luxuries that are going to make your dorm even more comfortable and inviting. And that’s key, especially when you’re having one of those days with five deadlines, and there wasn’t a single shower available this morning, and your roommate is driving you nuts, and the food at the dining hall is finally getting old – the list goes on.

Add these simple elements to make your dorm your own luxury retreat:

  • A robe and dorm slippers – No class? No pants. Lounge around in style.

  • A foam topper for your mattress – No one tells you about the super thin mattresses that plague all dorm rooms.

  • String lights – Nothing says cozy like some soft lighting

  • Essential oils – A little dab on your wrist or a spray on your pillowcase can instantly relax and rejuvenate you.

  • Good quality headphones – There’s nothing like your favorite music and noise-cancelling technology to make a bad day bearable

  • A lap desk for your bed – Sometimes it’s just too much to ask to drag yourself to the library. Study in bed, instead

  • A snack drawer – Filled with all your favorites and do not tell anyone where your snack drawer is. It’s also a good idea to stash a few instant noodles in your snack drawer that you can easily make in the dorm kitchen when the dining hall is closed.


The College Checklist For Your Wardrobe

So far, we’ve talked exclusively about dorm room essentials. But, rarely does anyone talk about what clothes you should be bringing to college. Can it really be true that most students just walk around campus with pajamas and no one really cares about fashion?

Well, in this section, we’re going to talk about your fashion-focused college packing list. It’s the college checklist that will help you prepare for every college experience!

The Basics: Everyday wear


Alright, the image of the college student walking around in pajamas isn’t a myth. There will even be days that you venture out of the dorm in your comfiest flannel pjs. But, you can also incorporate comfort into your everyday wear so that you’re not always leaving your dorm in the same slightly dirty pajama bottoms and wrinkly shirt. Here are a few tips:

  • Invest in stylish comfort – Joggers, leggings, yoga pants, and other trendy sportswear is perfect for going to class looking great with minimal effort. What a time to be alive, right?

  • Graphic tees and university pullovers – Who says you can’t look awesome in a t shirt? There are plenty of ways to dress up a simple top with a nice jacket, and accessories, or you can create the perfect college aesthetic with the basics: t shirt, jeans, white tennis shoes.

  • Tried and true jeans – You know those comfy jeans that you just can’t live without? Bring all of them with you to college. They’re going to be your everyday gems, paired perfectly with tees, pullovers, cardigans, whatever.

  • Simple sneakers, flats, and sandals – You’re not going to have the space for a full sneaker collection, so pick out your favorites. The ones that are the most versatile are going to be the best for your college wardrobe.


Exercise Essentials


Exercising is going to be a vital part of your college experience. It’s going to help you burn off steam, it’s a great way to meet friends, and it’s going to fight off the dreaded freshman fifteen. So, in addition to the workout aesthetic that will go into your everyday wear, here are a few extras to include in your wardrobe:

  • One pair of running shoes

  • One pair of gym shoes

  • Shower shoes to include in your gym bag

  • Lightweight exercise clothes – You want to have enough workout outfits to last between laundry sessions. (And, here’s a tip about workout clothes: don’t let them sit in your gym bag when you get back to your dorm, or they’ll smell terrible when you take them out. Instead, hang them up so they can dry out and won’t get moldy.)


Professional Events


Inevitably, you’re going to be applying for internships, on-campus jobs, or other professional opportunities (even some fraternities and sororities require professional dress for their events), so you’ll want a few key professional pieces. Here are some ideas:

  • Non-wrinkle power slacks – Choose neutral colors so that you can match them with an eye-popping top. You likely won’t have access to an iron, so make sure they’re non-wrinkle

  • Two or three nice tops – You might be called in for a second interview, in which case, it’s fine to wear the same bottoms, but you’ll want a few different tops

  • Walkable dress shoes – As a freshman, you probably won’t have a car. So, get some dress shoes that aren’t going to kill you if you have to walk across campus for your interview


Weekend Styles


This is where your wardrobe is really going to shine. Friday nights on the town, Saturday music festivals, Sunday picnics – you’ll want to save your trendy outfits for these extracurriculars.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Cozy fall wear – Most likely, when you get to college, it’s going to be the start of fall, which means plenty of trendy fall outfits. Get yourself a great pair of boots, some nice scarves, and some cardigans or sweaters that can be mixed and matched with a few different outfits. Fall is also the time for those wonderful college football games, so make sure you have a few outfits that will look great with your university jersey.

  • Going out clothes – College doesn’t take place inside the library at all times, so make sure to pack some clothes for going out. Whether it’s to go on a date, to a mixer, or even just out dancing with friends, you’ll want a few outfits that will keep up with a long night, and make you look and feel great.

  • Summer wear – Eventually, the weather will turn, so make sure to stock up on sundresses, skirts, shorts, sandals, capris; they’ll all be perfect for a casual day out

  • Jackets, jackets, jackets – A good jacket can transform an outfit, and you should have a few in the lineup. A light leather jacket will get you through most social events, and a jean jacket is also essential. Other than that, you might invest in a light fleece, rain coat, or other heavier weather jacket for those chilly days (for those of you heading South for college, we envy you! It’ll be warmer, but you’ll still want something for when the temperature drops below 70 degrees.)


The finishing touches for your wardrobe


An important thing to remember about the clothes you pack for college is that, in reality, it’s not a huge deal. Being in college is nothing like being in high school. No one is going to say anything about the fact that you’re wearing your favorite, tattered old sweater to class and no one will mind if you don’t have the latest trendy jeans. If by any chance you bring a little too much with you, you can always put it in storage nearby so that you can access it whenever you need.

What you’ll realize is that people in college are dressing not to impress others, but to explore what they like. So embrace your own freedom of expression, and wear whatever you want! Also, pack plenty of underwear. You will always come dangerously close to running out.

Items to capture your college experience


Okay, freshie (we might as well help you get used to being called freshie now), you’ve done it! You’ve put together the ultimate college packing list that covers all of the basics: dorm room essentials, school supplies, luxury items, and even your wardrobe.

There’s nothing left to pack, right? Well, we’ve got one more suggestion for you. You’re about to start an experience that everyone has told you over and over again is going to be some of “the best years of your life.” And what better way to start out that journey than with a couple of tools for you to capture the memories?


Here are a few extra items that will help you make the memories last:

  • Journal – It may feel like you have no time to sit down and write a journal, but even five minutes here and there is going to help you remember this very special time in your life. Choose a small, lightweight journal – it can even be a simple notebook – that will fit easily into your backpack or purse. That way, you can pull it out any time – on the bus, waiting for the professor to show up, waiting for your coffee at the coffee house, etc.

  • Polaroid Camera/Polaroid Camera printer – Yeah, yeah, everyone is going to be taking a million pictures with their phones and they’ll be posted onto social media and captured forever. But, how often do you really go back through your social media and look at the photos from the past? Now, think about how different it is to hold a physical picture, or stack of pictures, in your hand. With a Polaroid camera, you and your friends will create snapshots of college life that you’ll treasure for years to come. You can hang them up in your dorm room or send some home to the family. Guaranteed they’ll be hanging up on the fridge when you come home to visit.

  • Letter-writing stuff – When it’s 2am and you just can’t focus on studying anymore, take a break and write a letter to a friend or family member. It’ll help you beat the studying block and keep you connected to your high school friends. It’s also a great way for you to put your experience into writing, and you’ll actually remember more from college by putting it into words.


You’re all set!

It’s time to pack up your bags, say “see you soon” to your friends and family, and get onto your next adventure! And hey, if you forgot to pack something, don’t worry! It’s just an excuse to take a trip back home and have your family cook you your favorite meal (and maybe even get some free laundry in!)

From Spacer, we want to wish you all the luck in this exciting transition! Share this ultimate college packing list with friends and let us know on Twitter which university pullover you’ll be rocking this fall!