Every year, around 3.2 million people head off to college for their freshman year. While this is an exciting time for you or a terrifying time for your parents, there are some practical things to keep in mind.

For example, you must figure out your banking situation. If you bank with a big national bank, there is a good chance you can find a branch or at least an ATM wherever your college is located. If you use a local bank, you may want to switch for convenience and to keep ATM fees down.

First and foremost, though, you must make up a college packing list. NOt sure what should go on that list? Keep reading our guide to the only packing list you’ll need.

Electronics and Accessories

Everyone these days have lots of electronics. Think hard about what you’ll actually need on campus. Odds are good that won’t need a laptop and tablet computer, let alone both of those and an eBook reader.

You want maximum utility value for the least number of items. A few essentials you should take include:

• Laptop

• Phone

• Charging cables/cords

• Headphones/earbuds

Wait, you might ask, why are headphones or earbuds essentials? Remember, you will almost certainly end up with a roommate. If they like music you hate, you’ll want something to drown out the noise.

You should also take along at least one surge protector power strip. That will make keeping your electronics charged a convenient task.

Some students will also bring along a printer. Many college professors will take digital versions of documents, but not all of them. Most colleges have printing services available, but you pay by the page for everything you print.

Office Supplies

You’ll likely do a lot of note-taking on your laptop, but you should still keep some basic office supplies around. Think in terms of things like pens, notebooks, paperclips, folders, and printer paper.


There are always some clothing essentials that should go with you no matter where you go to college. You’ll need:

• Socks

• Underwear and sleep clothes

• Jeans and short

• Shirts

• Light Jacket/hoodies

• Waterproof jacket

• Heavy Jacket or coat

You shouldn’t pack your entire wardrobe to go with you. You’ll likely get a small dresser and a small closet for clothes. You won’t want more than can fit in there.

When in doubt, pack enough close for seven to ten days. Some people will also bring along one nice outfit in case they attend a formal event.

Think slacks, a button, and a tie for guys. Gals should consider skirts and blouses or a dress.

Do not forego the cool weather gear. It gets chilly, even in places like Florida or California.


While college provide bathroom and toilet paper, that’s about it. You should expect to bring everything else you need with you in those terms. The essentials include:

• Shampoo

• Body wash/soap

• Deodorant

• Shaving cream

• Razor

• Flip-flops for the shower

• Toothbrush and toothpaste

You should also keep a small first aid kit with things like headache medicine, bandages, and antibiotic cream.


You will need to bring along your own linens. That means sheets, blankets, pillowcases and pillows. You should also pack at least two or three towels and washcloths.

Laundry Supplies

You can get things like laundry detergent and fabric softener when you arrive at college. You will want to make sure you take things like clothes hangers, a laundry bag or hamper, and a couple of rolls of quarters.

Dorms typically have a laundry room somewhere in the building. While some colleges now use digital washers and dryers that you can pay for with an app or a student ID, some will still have coin-operated washers and dryers. The laundry room may have a change machine, but you won’t want to rely on that always having quarters.

Room Gear

A dorm room is always a spartan affair. You get a bed, a desk, a dresser, and not much else. That means there are a bunch of small items you’ll want to take along to make your life easier.

Consider taking along some plastic, under-the-bed storage bins. They can expand your total storage space a lot.

You should also consider bringing along a desk lamp and a desk fan. The desk lamp will bother your roommate less than overhead lights if you must work late into the night sometimes. You may not get temperature control in your room, so the fan can help if it’s too warm.

If your phone doesn’t always wake you up, you’ll want an alarm clock as a backup. Don’t forget a small waste bin. You’ll need a little trash can and most college dorm rooms don’t come equipped with one.


While you shouldn’t drag every beloved object from your childhood off to your dorm room, you should take along a few keepsakes that remind you of home. For example, you can bring along academic awards or sports trophies from high school. If you have a favorite book or a favorite picture, those can live on your desk or get hung up on a wall.

Do you have signed band posters? One of those can go up on a wall as well.

You can extend this to a favorite shirt, sweater, or jacket. While space is at a premium in dorm rooms, you can always find a little room for a beloved object or two.

Leveraging Your College Packing List

Putting together your college packing list can feel daunting. You must cherry-pick through all your possessions for the things you absolutely cannot live without and the things you need to survive in the dorm.

Adopt a less is more approach with your college packing list. Dorm rooms are very small and you almost always share them with at least one other person. Absolutely avoid taking hard-to-manage items like huge stuffed animals or bulky sports equipment.

Plus, you can pick up non-essentials at local stores.

Looking for more tips on surviving college life? Check out the posts in our Lifestyle section.