Heading off to college or uni for the first time (or back for another year)? Not sure what you need to pack for college? There’s a LOT to think about, so we’re here to help you out! We’ve compiled all the top essentials and home comforts into a comprehensive packing list for college and university, full of recommendations, to make packing a breeze.
All you need to do now is print of this checklist, grab all you favourite stuff and a few boxes, and get ticking things off!
Use these links to pop straight to the section you need:
- The important bits
- Important documents for college
- Essentials and luxuries for your new dorm room
- College bathrooms: the packing list
- College kitchen essentials
- Tech and electronics for college
- Your college wardrobe: the packing list
- School supplies and stationery
- Miscellaneous essentials and home comforts
- College packing essentials for looking after yourself
- And now to get packing!
Consider this your one-stop shop: all the links below are for great products, for a range of budgets, that we’ve researched just for you.*
And if you’re here looking for inspiration for treating the college student in your life, check out our compilation of the best gifts for college students!
The important bits
Before we get started, here’s a quick list of some important details to take into consideration before you get packing.
What kind of accommodation will you be living in? Student accommodation at your university? College dorms? A shared house with your friends?
Where you’re headed will have a big effect on what you do and don’t need to bring! So before you start packing, grab this list and consider what’s best for your college situation:
- Check what your room and facilities include as standard.
- It’s worth being sure (especially when it comes to bed size).
- Your college or accommodation should provide basic bedroom furniture: typically, a bed, bedside table, desk and chair, wardrobe, mirror, curtains and bin.
- Don’t forget the kitchen and bathroom(s) either.
Most college and uni accommodation will have a list of restrictions, so be sure to check with your dorm about what you can’t bring. Nobody wants to pitch up with bags of gadgets and fairy lights that quickly get confiscated!
Making the most of your space
Space will likely be at a premium, so consider what you REALLY need to take. What’s essential for your lifestyle?
Don’t forget that your college room might be a lot smaller than your bedroom at home: find out how much space you’ll have so you can prioritize space-saving storage if necessary.
- Will you be sharing a room? Is there anything you can share with your new roommate?
- Shared house? Set up a group chat with your new housemates before packing. You can organise bill-sharing, student deals on broadband and energy, and make sure you don’t end up with 7 toastie makers and 35 saucepans in the kitchen.
- Planning to use the canteen? Don’t go overboard with the kitchen supplies!
Staying in your budget
Most students have a tight budget at college, and if that’s you there are some great tricks to making the most of your money.
- Sign up to student discount websites for those all-important deals
- Print out this list a month or so before packing: keep track of what you use regularly in that time so you know what’s essential for you. This is also a great way to pick your favourite home comforts to take!
- … and you’ll discover that you probably have most of what you need already
- Chat with your new roommates so you don’t waste money doubling up on kitchen/bathroom supplies
Whether you find it exciting or terrifying, packing up is an important stage, especially if you’re heading thousands of miles away!
Organized packing might sound boring, but … you don’t want to leave anything essential behind! (And if you do, don’t panic: your parents can post it, and there will be plenty of shops (and the internet) for sourcing replacements.) So grab your college packing list and get organized!
- Make the most of reusable storage solutions! Planning to use some underbed storage in your dorm room? Fill it up for the journey. The same goes for weekend bags and gym bags: max out that space!
- Suitcases aren’t that efficient unless your parents can take them home again. Cardboard boxes are a great idea: you can fold them down and hide them out of sight until the end of the semester
- An easy and crease-free way to pack clothes already on hangers is to poke the hooks through a large plastic (bin) bag to make a DIY suit bag!
- Keep box sizes and weights manageable: there might be a lot of stairs
- Some unis and colleges offer pre-order bedding and kitchen supply bundles, which can be helpful if you have limited travelling space!
Important documents for college
Before you leave, make an easily accessible folder full of all the essentials for registering for a new year at college or university:
- Valid ID (student ID, college ID, and/or passport or driving licence)
- Necessary documentation (check what your college/uni requires!):
- Uni admission acceptance letter and college/course acceptance letter
- Accommodation paperwork
- Financial aid documents: scholarships, bursaries, grants, Student Finance loans
- Insurance docs: health insurance, cheap student contents insurance
- Car registration and insurance (if you can take your car)
- Emergency contacts and important numbers (in case you lose your phone!):
- Not just your parents, think uni support services, your doctor, and bank helplines
- Passport photos
- Vaccination history (speak to your GP or doctor)
- Document(s) with your current address on (this may be needed to register with a local doctor)
- Meal plan card
- Class schedule
- Debit and/or credit card (find a good student bank account)
- Student discount cards (for UK Students: the 16-25 railcard, UNiDAYS, Totum)
Once you’re at college, keep your valuables safe by:
- Keeping your access cards and important documents somewhere secure
- Being aware of who you allow into your room
- Keeping your room and windows locked, and curtains closed, when you’re not there
- Putting expensive items out of view: a small portable personal safe can be a great help
- Keeping your money secure with an RFID blocking wallet clip
- Adding a bluetooth tracking tile to your keys and/or wallet and phone
Essentials and luxuries for your new dorm room
Your new sanctuary: your room! Hopefully you’re feeling excited to create a cosy new home for yourself. And we’ve got all the essentials you may need for your college room covered in the next part of this packing list:
- Bedding: mattress protector or topper, sheets, pillowcases and duvet cover (look for a bedding set)
- You may also wish to take your own duvet and comfy pillows, even if your college/uni provides them!
- Blankets for warmth (although electric blankets are often considered a fire risk)
- Weighted blanket for anxiety relief
- Coat hangers (because there’s never enough)
- An easy-to-carry laundry basket/bag
- Laundry airing rack
- Small standing mirror
- Alarm clock
- Desk reading lamp (bonus storage and charging space!)
- Earplugs and a sleep mask (to adjust to those shared dorm rooms!)
- Closet organizer (to make the most of your storage space)
- Desk fan
- Desk organizer and storage
- Lap desk for working comfortably in bed
- Underbed storage boxes or vacuum storage bags (great for transporting your stuff to college AND once you’re there!)
- If permitted, a set of bed risers will also give you lots more underbed storage space!
- If you don’t have a nightstand provided, a storage cart or bedside caddy are a smart multifunction storage solutions
College bathrooms: the packing list
Ah the wonders of a shared college bathroom! Make sure you’ve got an easy system for carrying what you need:
- Bathroom supplies bag or shower caddy for bathroom trips
- Flipflops for communal bathrooms/showers
- Towels: bath towels, hair towel, hand towel (find out if there a sink in your room)
- Dressing gown
- Toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap, deodorant, and a loofah
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and floss
- Hair brush, hair dryer, straighteners or curling tongs
- Make up and remover, facewash and moisturiser in a portable bag
- Nail clippers, nail files and tweezers (nail care set)
- Tissues, cotton swabs and Q-tips
- Shavers or razors and shaving cream
- Menstruation products
- Contraceptives, birth control and an STI testing kit (your college may provide these for free)
- Any other personal supplies: contact lens solution, spare glasses
- If your accommodation doesn’t provide them: toilet roll and cleaning supplies
College kitchen essentials
The key with creating a good packing list for your college kitchen experience is knowing what your situation will be!
What is provided by the college (toaster, kettle?), and what are your roommates willing to split the cost on? Are there any restricted items (microwave ovens, deep fat fryers)? Any electrical items need to be PAT tested or less than two years old.
How much cooking are you planning on doing? If the answer is not a lot, consider how many of these you really need:
- Student recipe books! Some good ones are: Nosh for Students (also the vegetarian version), The Hungry Student Cookbook, and Super Easy One Pound Meals
- Small cutlery set
- Small dinnerware set (plates, bowls): microwavable ones are a good idea
- Glasses and mugs (a stackable set is a great space-saver), enough for friends too!
- Small set of cookware: lidded saucepans, a frying pan and/or a wok
- If you’re a keen cook, you might require set of utensils: spatulas, ladle, peeler, grater, tongs, measuring jug, baking trays, (collapsible) strainer/colander
- Tea towels and oven gloves
- Chopping board and general-use small sharp knives
- Bottle opener, corkscrew and can opener, pizza cutter
- Microwave-safe tupperware, foil, cling-film or beeswax food wraps for storing leftovers
- Airfryer or instant pot for easy no-mess cooking (if permitted!)
- Microwavable popcorn popper
- Reusable water bottles, travel coffee cup or a thermos flask
- You may want a mini kettle or coffee machine for your room (if allowed!)
- Food items to keep you going through the first week (especially favourite cupboard items and teabags!)
- If your accommodation doesn’t provide them: washing up brush/sponge, washing up liquid, bin bags
Tip: Make sure to mark your own items if you’re sharing a kitchen, to avoid any ownership disputes!
Tech and electronics for college
You probably already have the tech essentials from this packing list, but perhaps you want to liven up your college experience and get socializing!
Having your own laptop will be a huge help to your study time, as shared library resources are often busy, and will keep you mobile and streamline taking notes in lectures. It can also cut the need for a TV (and TV licence).
- Mobile (if you’re not tied into a family contract, check to see if you can get any student deals)
- Laptop, case, accessories and an ethernet cable for a reliable internet connection
- Laptop cooling pad
- E-reader or tablet
- Printer, ink and paper (although it’s likely there’s be some available in the library or your department)
- Voice recorder for recording lectures
- USB sticks and/or a portable hard drive for backing up your work
- Wireless headphones or airpods
- Portable bluetooth speaker
- Games consoles (get bonding over multiplayer games!)
- Power: make sure you’ve got all the necessary chargers, power extension leads, surge protectors, power banks and batteries – plus spares!
- Log-in info for streaming services you subscribe to
- Mini fridge for your dorm (if allowed)
- International students might need some socket adaptors
- If you’re allowed a TV, a USB TV stick (Chromecast, Amazon Fire) could be a great choice
Your college wardrobe: the packing list
Time to raid your wardrobe! Tempting as it may be, there’s no need to bring everything, just 1-2 seasons of clothes. Cover these essential groups (and consider formalwear for events and interviews carefully!):
- Pjs and loungewear
- Clothes for class
- Footwear: shoes, boots, formal shoes, slippers, trainers
- Smart clothes (including suits and ties, cocktail dresses, black tie)
- Sportswear and swimwear (plus a gym bag)
- Accessories: belts, jewellery, watch
- Don’t forget the little things: tights, sunglasses, extra handbags/clutches
- Outerwear: raincoat, winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves
- Fancy dress costumes for parties!
- Your college gown (if needed, these are a feature of some UK universities!)
- You’ll also need: laundry detergent, stain remover pens (and for communal laundries, coins for the machines)
- You may also want: an iron and compact ironing board
P.S. If you fancy a wardrobe refresh, look for retailers offering student discounts.
School supplies and stationery
This is a section where it pays to know what supplies you really find helpful when you’re studying. (Think: What have been my essentials throughout high school?) Otherwise, you might find yourself in three years’ time with 3,000 sticky notes you’ve never used…
- A comfy, roomy backpack for class
- Student planner or wall calendar – set it up before starting class to save some stress!
- Stationery: pens, pencils, whiteout, ruler, eraser, sharpener, highlighters/makers
- Pencil case
- Scissors and rolls of tape
- Index cards for making flashcards
- Stapler and staples and/or hole punch
- Course textbooks
- Paper: sticky notes and flags, notebooks and printer paper
- Document storage: folders or ring-binders]
- Or go paper free: with dry erase sticky notes and a smart notebook
- Bulletin board, corkboard or whiteboard (with dry-wipe erasers) – plus drawing pins if needed
- Envelopes and stamps
Miscellaneous essentials and home comforts
And now to make your new college dorm room feel like home, here’s our packing list for all the stuff that makes it yours! (Plus a few more essentials to keep you comfy.)
- Mementos: Photos of friends and family (get free prints with Snapfish or Photobox), lightweight frames, posters
- Acceptable adhesive like command strips (check what’s permitted!)
- Small suitcase or weekend bag
- Sports equipment and/or a yoga mat
- Bicycle, helmet, lock and padlock
- A couple of your favourite books
- Your favourite bedding from home
- Religious texts
- Musical instruments
- Additional décor: rugs, cushions, fairy lights (if allowed!)
- Plants or fake plants (if allowed!)
- Pack of cards or other board games such as Cards Against Humanity or Exploding Kittens (for drinking games!)
- Over-the-door hooks to maximise storage space
- Mini/hand-held vacuum
College packing essentials for looking after yourself
Getting sick is miserable even when you’re at home. So make sure you’ve got what you need to get through any illnesses (like freshers’ flu!) with as much comfort as possible!
This section of our packing list also includes all the handy tools you might need in an emergency or to stay safe at college or uni:
- Small first aid kit (including plasters, antihistamines)
- Small sewing kit for emergency repairs, plus extra safety pins!
- Hot water bottle
- (Prescription) medication, inhalers, painkillers and vitamins
- Sunscreen and bug spray
- Flashlight (torch) – or flashlight-stungun combo (for safety after dark!)
- Swiss army knife
COVID-related supplies and planning
Although pandemic-related precautions have eased significantly, it’s still worth being prepared in case you catch Covid-19 or need to plan an emergency trip home!
- Vaccination card (or medical exemption from your doctor)
- Face masks
- Hand sanitizer
- Anti-bacterial spray or wipes
- Extra supply of your routine prescriptions
- A list of nearby medical providers (that accept your insurance)
And now to get packing!
That’s a wrap on this comprehensive packing list for college and university! It’s pretty long, I know, but with a copy of this list you should be armed for every eventuality!
So print it out and start considering now what are the essentials for you and your lifestyle and budget!
And if you’re hankering for some of the more expensive items on this packing list, but just can’t quite afford them, why not direct your family to our collection of the best gifts for college students?
And above all, good luck and have fun at college!
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