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Simplify the transition to dorm life.

After a year of virtual learning, most universities will resume in-person classes this fall. But don’t wait till the week before to gather all of the essentials you’ll need for your new college life.

Young woman with laundry basket

This guide will help you with that essential packing/purchasing list, giving you plenty of time to gather what you need (starting college can be stressful enough without last-minute shopping trips). And by sticking to a list, you’ll be able to avoid those fun-but-maybe-unnecessary impulse purchases. Plus, it’ll mean less to haul to school—and less that might end up in a landfill when you move out.

Here’s what you’ll need (plus a few extra tips to make the most of our campus life) and what you can probably get away without.

What You'll Need


Bedding is essential, especially for making a twin-size bed feel a little more like home.

  • Comforter. A great way to be cozy and customize your room.
  • Pillows. Add comfort and flair.
  • Sheets. Wash every two weeks.
  • Mattress pad. Beneficial for a good night’s sleep on those dorm beds.  

School Supplies

Wait until the first week of school to purchase textbooks—that way you’ll know which ones you’ll actually need. Here’s a list of what you don’t need to wait to purchase. 

  • Backpack. Self-explanatory.
  • Laptop. Easy to carry on campus to classes and the library. Try shopping the online sales for a laptop or consider a 2-in-1 tablet-laptop like a Chromebook.
  • Notebooks. One or two depending on how many courses you’re taking. Or go virtual by taking notes with your tablet.
  • Pens, pencils, sticky notes, and highlighters. To take and organize notes.
  • Headphones. Walking to class will go by much faster, and they’re helpful for canceling out distractions during study time.
  • Chargers. Can’t forget these!
  • Reusable water bottle. Stay hydrated during study sessions.
  • Desk lamp. Helpful for those late-night study sessions.
  • Portable disinfecting wipes. To wipe down those communal desks. 


Cleanliness and sanitation are part of our “new normal.” Make sure you have what you need.

  • Shower caddy. Only carry what you need.
  • Shower shoes. For communal bathrooms.
  • Towels. Have two or three on hand and wash regularly.
  • Toiletries. Only bring what you need.
  • Cleaning supplies. Great for disinfecting.
  • Hand sanitizer. An essential.
  • Tissues. College is a hot spot for the cold and flu.
  • Extra face coverings. These may still be required for classes or other indoor settings. 
  • First-aid kit, including thermometer. A good idea in case you’re coming down with something.


Here are some things to buy to ensure a smooth transition to living on your own.

  • Laundry basket. Plus, it can double as a moving bin. 
  • Laundry detergent. Pods work great and are easily stored.
  • Mini fan. Effective for short-term needs.
  • Clothes. Only for that season.
  • Microwave. For when the dining hall gets old, or you need a boost during a late-night study session. (Your dorm may even have a communal microwave.)
  • Coffee maker and mug. College students run on coffee.
  • Vitamins and medications. Staying healthy is a priority right now.

Remember, the more you move in with, the more you’ll have to move out. A good rule of thumb is to only pack what you’ve been using—if you haven’t touched something in the last year, chances are you won’t need it now.

What You Won't Need

Planning what not to bring to college is equally important as planning what to bring. It’s easier to buy items when needed rather than be stuck with too much.

  • Futon. Hard to move in and out. Consider a chair or beanbag, which are great for extra seating and half the price.
  • TV. Save money and space by watching shows on your laptop.
  • Printer. You’ll usually be able to print on-campus if needed for a low price per page. Check your library or student technology center.
  • Ironing board. Likely not an essential for campus dorm life.
  • Desk and chair. Dorm rooms typically will come with a bed, wardrobe, and desk. Double check to see if you’ll need to bring your own chair or if one will be provided. 

Tips for a Smooth Transition

Moving into college is exciting yet stressful. Here are some tips to make the process easier overall.

  • Review residence hall regulations. Brush up on these to make sure you don’t break any rules.
  • Sync with your roommates. Figure out which items you’re each bringing so you don’t end up with two coffee makers or microwaves.
  • Take advantage of university amenities. Check with the university to see what's provided so you don’t buy more than you need.

Adding some simple yet customized décor can help make a basic dorm room feel a little more like home. Plus, decorating your room can be a gratifying part of the college experience. But it’s the memories you make with the people you meet that stay with you. College is already expensive, so by planning well and knowing what to buy (or opt out of buying), you’ll be set up for a great school year. (And so will your wallet.)

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