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What You Need for College Dorm Life

College Packing Guide for Your Freshman Year and Beyond!

If you think your kids heading off to college for the first time know what they need to pack for their college dorm – they don’t! 

In my mind, what can we do as parents to make that transition just a little easier?

What creature comforts from home can we send and what do we know they need even if they don’t know they need it?

Try asking an 18-year-old about what they want to pack for college and you’ll get something like this (at least from a boy): my Playstation, TV, maybe the old office chair, posters, headphones, football stuff, sheets – um, yeah.  

You won’t get very far.

College Dorm Room Packing 101

Have you started to think about what to pack for college?

If not, I am here to help. This mom is ahead of the curve on packing and supplies because my son heads to college a couple weeks early because he plays football! 

After combing Pinterest, articles on the internet, talking to friends, referring to my son’s college website – I’ve collected all of this college packing information to share with you.

Plus I can tell you that this list WORKS because we were perfectly prepared his Freshman to Senior year. 

Last minute? No problem!

I’ll link to a downloadable master checklist and everything is buyable on Amazon, with quick shipping.

Pin it for Later

Click here to download and print off the packing list PDF.

College dorm room master packing list

Post contains hand selected products, with some affiliate marketing links {full disclosure here} 

College Packing Buckets

Let’s break this down into buckets shall we?  That’s just how my mind works I “bucketize” complex thoughts into manageable pieces. I think I made up that word 🙂

  1. Bedding
  2. Bath
  3. Closet and organization
  4. Cooking/eating
  5. Desk/Office supplies
  6. Technology
  7. Laundry
  8. Walking to class
  9. Love/comfort

Please check with your college to see what is allowed especially related to cooking.

 Also, most colleges won’t allow things to be nailed or push pinned into the wall because it creates damage.

Click here for Command adhesive strips because they will be your best friend, when in comes to hanging anything.

Areas of Dorm Life to Think About


Most colleges provide a mattress that is Twin XL.

Be mindful of this when ordering mattress pads and sheets. To save money bring what you can from home, but especially their favorite pillow!


Usually a communal affair, so you have to think about the fact they have to walk to the shower with their toiletries and stand in a public shower.

Mesh hanging shower caddies are key, so they dry out in between use.

Prevent athletes foot with shower shoes! See if you can spare towels from home to save money.


They are always small, so the more creative you can get with shoe trees, hanging drawers, hooks, etc the better.

Don’t forget to pack extra hangers and hooks. Plus you may want to add a full length mirror. 

There are version that easily hang over the door!


Most likely your kids will be on a meal plan and cooking will be limited to heating things from a mini-refrigerator in a microwave.

Coffee! Yes, with those early mornings a coffee maker with auto on & off are a necessity.

Desk and Studying (you pray)

This area needs some organization for office supplies, maybe some extra shelves, and a white board to keep important deadlines and to-dos front and center.

Plus a desk lamp, so they can study late into the evening 🙂

Another splurge is noise cancelling headphones because who knows what their roommate will be like right?


A BIG category.  

Of course a laptop and a laptop backpack are fundamental. Also, think power and charging things like an iPhone, laptop, running a fan, game stations, TVs, etc.

Plus a small table to act as a TV or game stand or for a microwave.

A storage ottoman was used for not only storing stuff, but to sit on and used as a step stool. It really came in handy!


You hope they do it! This can be a big leap for some kids, so make sure they have done laundry at home and are armed with supplies so there are NO excuses to not wash their things.

Maybe a steamer if they will use it. My son actually does his OWN laundry now!

Walking to Class

Getting to to class takes on a huge importance and comfort is key.

Plan for every type of weather. Of course a packable umbrella will be key and possibly ponchos for outdoor concerts or sporting events.

During Thanksgiving break have them bring home summer things and send them back with cold weather gear to save closet space.

Love & Comfort

This is really up to you, but I’m thinking about sending a few framed photos, rug, posters, a throw blanket for comfort.

Reminders of home and items to make the room “cozier”.

If you think your kids will clean, send some cleaning wipes or a small handheld vacuum. If you have a girl, I bet she may decide to iron without you around?

A NECESSITY IS A FAN! Those rooms get stuffy and stinky!

Dorm Room Decorating 101

Feeling like you have the basic packing items down and are ready to decorate?

I’m here to help with that too! Click here for Affordable Dorm Room Style.

Not on the list, but definitely a necessity is tissue. I

‘ll be packing some tissue for happy and sad tears that I know will flow. Off to enjoy the empty nest again!

Good luck to you and your college student!

Until next time…

Porch Daydreamer


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