The Ultimate College Packing List: Dorm Room Essentials

April 12, 2024

When you start college — or return for another year — you’ll need to bring a lot of college school supplies with you. If you’re staying at home to attend a local college or take online classes, you’ll still need several things to help make your school year successful.

Suggestion: Don’t procrastinate getting the things you need!

Students often scramble to shop for college supplies last minute, and your selection might be limited. Additionally, you may forget important items if you wait until just before the school year begins.

Instead, you can create your shopping list now and start looking for the items you need. What items should be on your college packing list? Here’s a useful breakdown of college essentials for your dorm room.

A Sturdy Backpack

For the first day of college, you’ll need a backpack for carrying your books and supplies around campus — and it will certainly be one of your most-used (if not beloved) essentials. So, don’t skimp on quality! For example, look for one that’s sturdy yet not too heavy, as you’ll probably already carry a lot of weight.

You can also choose one that’s roomy enough to tote around everything you need — such as your laptop — with the right number and size of compartments and pockets. You can use this Backpacks Buying Guide to find a backpack that will fit your needs.

But don’t overlook aesthetics. You’ll carry your backpack everywhere, so you want to pick one that you’ll feel good slinging over your shoulders.

College Essentials for Your Dorm (or Apartment)

Are you living on campus or in a nearby apartment? You’ll want a list of supplies for your college dorm or apartment. Here are some items to think about adding to your college dorm checklist:

  • Mini fridge. Some dorms may supply these, or you may need to bring your own. A mini fridge is great for storing all of your snacks and drinks.
  • Kitchen supplies. Bring the basics: food storage containers, Ziploc bags, plates, cutlery, glasses and an insulated coffee mug.
  • Storage containers. Especially with how small most dorm rooms are, storage containers are often essential for keeping your things organized. Consider a plastic storage bin that can slide under your bed. A rolling storage cart can keep your books, papers, or other supplies in one place.
  • Closet organization. In addition to clothes hangers, consider bringing hanging closet organizers, collapsible storage bins, and shoe racks to keep your closet tidy and maximize space.
  • Small appliances. These include a coffee maker, microwave, portable garment steamerfan, and humidifier. Check with your college to learn of any restrictions or rules they may have regarding appliances in dorms or apartments.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting supplies. Dorm rooms can get dirty, so don’t forget basics like cleaning wipesall-purpose cleaner, dish soap, and hand soap. Air fresheners and fabric deodorizer can keep your room smelling nice. A handheld vacuum can also be useful for cleaning up small messes.
  • Trash can. You may need to bring your own trash can and trash bags to your dorm room, which will be necessary to toss things out and keep your room tidy.
  • Laundry supplies. Most dorms offer a communal laundry room, so be sure to stock up on laundry detergent, stain remover, and laundry sheets so you always have fresh clothes. You’ll also want to bring a laundry bag since you’ll probably have to tote your laundry around. Most importantly, don’t forget some money to use the washer and dryer!
  • Shower supplies. If you’ll use a shared shower space, you may need more than your usual toiletries and a bath towel. Consider bringing a shower caddy, shower shoes, and a robe.
  • Desk lamp. Putting a lamp on your desk can make it easier to burn the midnight oil and get work done. A desk lamp or bedside light can be especially helpful if you need to pull an all-nighter while your roommate sleeps.
  • Dry-erase board and dry-erase markers. Magnetic dry-erase boards and markers can be a great way to note important reminders and are handy for dorm room communications.
  • Bed sheets, comforter, pillow, and mattress topper. Sleeping well is important for staying focused in class and doing well on your college exams. A nice pillow, comfy bed sheets, mattress pad, and a warm comforter are must-haves for your dorm room bed. Make sure you check the size of the bed in your dorm before buying!
  • Comfortable desk chair. College is known for homework — a lot of homework. You’ll be spending a lot of time studying at your desk, so investing in an ergonomic office chair for your dorm can be a great idea. Consider a cool gaming chair if you also like to spend free time hanging out and gaming in your dorm with friends.
  • Dorm decor. Your room is an expression of yourself. Decorating your dorm room can go a long way in making it feel like home. Consider adding a cute area rug, custom posterscanvas photo prints, pictures, or even some decorative string lights. Don’t forget to bring something to hang up everything, like painters tape or 3M Command hooks and poster strips.
  • Mini tool kit. A mini tool kit may come in handy for minor fixes and assembling. Basic tools to include are a screwdrivers, pliers, wrench, and hammer.
  • First aid kit. Some essentials may include antacids, painkillers, bandages, cold and cough medicine, and antiseptic cream.
  • Water bottle. Staying hydrated is important, so don't forget to bring a refillable water bottle. Find one that is easy to carry and easy to clean.

Before you buy dorm room supplies, check with your college or dorm management to find out what items will be available to you and what you’re allowed — or not allowed — to have. For example, some dorms may have communal microwaves and prohibit students from bringing their own.

Photo credit: Dormify

Technology and Accessories

You’ll want to line up the right technology to maximize your study time. A laptop will be key for taking notes in class, writing papers, or coursework. But here are other technologies to consider putting on your college supply list:

  • Computer mouse. A wireless mouse is a must, even if you have a laptop with a built-in pad — speeding up your study and coursework time. You can pair your mouse with a comfortable mouse pad.
  • Flash drive. It’s very handy to store and transport large files you need on a usb flash drive, to print at the library, for example.
  • External hard drive. This will give you extra storage. If you run out of room on your laptop, move files and photos to a hard drive.
  • Cords, cables, and surge protectors. Keeping your devices powered is essential. Stay connected with power and surge strips and HDMI cables, ethernet cables, and USB cables.
  • Printer. Many courses now accept digital copies of papers. That said, certain professors may still ask for a hard copy, so a printer may come in handy. Remember to pack extra ink and paper for the printer.
  • Wireless router. If you live in a dorm, fast wireless internet is probably provided. Otherwise, you may need a wireless router and modem for your apartment or other living quarters.
  • Calculator. Depending on your coursework, you may need a scientific calculator. But even a basic calculator can be useful for crunching numbers in a pinch.
  • Laptop cable lock. There are often many people around you. Use a laptop lock as a deterrent for would-be thieves.
  • Headphones. Tune out the distractions of dorm life with a new pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Bluetooth speaker. What’s college without rocking out and having fun with friends once in a while? A Bluetooth speaker brings your jams with you wherever you go.

Other Supplies

Don’t forget about all the everyday college school supplies that can simplify college life and studying. Here’s a supply list for college:

  • Notebooks. To stay organized, you’ll probably want at least one college-ruled notebook per course. Color-coding them can help you easily tell them apart.
  • Academic planner. Keeping track of when assignments are due or various academic and social events can be greatly aided by a planner and a wall calendar. The best college planners are those designed for college students.
  • Pens and highlighters. You’ll want ample writing utensils that make note-taking and coursework easier. Consider getting different color pens and highlighters.
  • Desktop organizer and pencil cup. Staying neat and organized is one of the first steps to college success. You can keep everything on your desk in place with a desk organizerdesk shelf, and pencil cup.
  • Drawer organizer. Use a drawer organizer inside your desk to keep all of your supplies separated and accessible. Stock it with desk essentials like tape, paper clips, binder clips, sticky notes, and scissors.
  • Folders and binders, and paper clips. These will help you keep papers organized. Various binders and file folders are available in different styles and colors to fit your needs.

What Not To Bring To College

You’ll likely have limited space when moving to college. To help make the most of your dorm room, here are some items you may want to reconsider bringing:

  • Too much clothing. You’ll want to have enough clothes for different seasons and occasions but try to avoid bringing your whole wardrobe as it will likely be unnecessary and take up space.
  • Irreplaceable items. Sentimental items like a special gift from a loved one may not be a good idea to bring to your dorm. Dorms can often be busy and shared with roommates, meaning some things can get lost or misplaced more easily than at home.
  • Large book collections. While books are valuable for studying, bringing an extensive book collection can take up a lot of space. Consider using e-books or the college library instead.
  • Too many cooking utensils. A few cups, plates, bowls, and utensils can be convenient in your dorm but try to avoid bringing too many, as you can simply wash the ones you have before reusing them.

These items are just the basics. Everything you need will depend on your living situation, coursework, and how you spend your free time. For example, you might want to bring some entertainment items to your dorm, such as a gaming console and gaming headset.

Important tip for incoming first-year college students: It is a good idea to get in touch with your roommate(s) ahead of time and run this list by them. Make sure that you don’t duplicate items to avoid cluttering your room.

Once you start school, your life will get very busy quickly. Buy the things on your checklist for college now so you can focus on your academic life once you’re there.

All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is,” and neither the author nor Office Depot warrants the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.