Our Full Guide to Packing for College (with Less Stress)

packing guide for college

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  • It’s finally here. You’ve been preparing for this all your life. You’re heading to college!

    While this is supposed to be an exciting event, it can be full of stress and difficult decisions. Where will you live? How will you pay your bills? What should you pack?

    We can’t answer all of those questions for you, but we definitely can help with your packing list. Use this full guide to pack your luggage with less stress so you can focus on the more important details.

    1. Clothes

    How much clothing you need to pack depends mainly on your access to a washer and dryer.

    People who live in dorms and only get to the laundromat once a week need to make sure they have a week’s worth of clean clothes. If you’re lucky enough to have regular washer/dryer access, you don’t need to worry quite as much.

    In general, though, you should have a good supply of clothing so you never have to worry about missing laundry day. When you pack, throw these in your suitcase:

    • T-shirts (at least five of different varieties and colors)
    • Jeans (at least three, preferably five, casual but well-fitting pairs)
    • Dress shirts (two professional shirts, one long-sleeved and one short-sleeved)
    • Dress pants (one pair that goes with both shirts, and a professional skirt if you want one)
    • Shorts (at least two pairs, depending on the weather)
    • Socks (eight to ten pairs)
    • Underwear (eight to ten pairs)
    • A light jacket (or a heavier jacket if you’re in a cold climate)
    • Shoes (a pair of sneakers, a pair of dress shoes, and a casual pair of slip-ons)

    With those items in your wardrobe, you should always be able to throw together an outfit, and you’ll make it to laundry day!

    2. Toiletries

    As you consider the toiletries you’ll bring, think about whether you are sharing a bathroom or will have your own.If you’ve got your own bathroom, you hit the college living jackpot. The sky’s the limit!

    If you’re using a communal restroom, limit your supplies to what you can fit in your travel tote. Not only are you going to have to lug your things in and out of the bathroom, but you want to make sure no one else uses them.Your toiletry supply should always include:

    • A toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Deodorant
    • Shampoo and conditioner (or an all-in-one)
    • Body wash
    • Razors and extra blades
    • Shaving cream
    • A shower caddy
    • Towels and washcloths (at least two of each)
    • Your own first-aid kit and Band-Aids

    Beyond the basics, whatever you use for your beauty and skincare routine can go in a travel tote. Space is probably limited, so until you know how much room you have, try to pack lightly.

    3. Electronics

    Being a student today comes with the expectation that you will not only have technology, but you know how to use it. Having access to a computer can make your life significantly easier!Much of your coursework will be assigned, uploaded, and turned in online.

    If you don’t have your own laptop or PC, you’ll be running to the library a lot. Having Wi-Fi access or at least a hotspot is another convenience you’ll quickly appreciate.When it comes to shopping for electronics, cheaper isn’t always better.

    Your PC or laptop needs to have memory and a fast processor so you aren’t wasting valuable time waiting for programs to load. If you have a smartphone with a lot of memory, you can use it to download apps that could help you with your coursework, too.

    Always have an extra battery for your laptop and a cordless charger for your phone.If you can splurge on a wireless printer, you’ll be the hit of the dorm or study group. Just make sure to find one that has affordable ink!

    4. Supplies

    School supply shopping was always fun when it wasn’t your money buying everything. Now that you’re on your own, you are probably trying to be as frugal as possible, and that’s smart.

    Luckily, there’s plenty of flexibility when it comes to school supplies. Unless you’re on a scholarship, in which case you may have to purchase your supplies at the campus bookstore, you can shop around.

    For anyone on a time crunch with a couple days to spare, Amazon Prime Student is a smart first stop.

    If you don’t have time to wait two days for Amazon, check out the Dollar General store or Sam’s Club. You’ll need a membership to shop at Sam’s, but they offer a collegiate discount. Sam’s will come in handy for all your bulk food shopping needs, too.

    Facebook Marketplace is another way to find free and cheap stuff. Make a post looking for recommendations, textbooks, or supplies, and you might be amazed at the replies. A friend of a friend or a distant relative could have exactly what you’re looking for!

    5. Miscellaneous Items

    The rest of your packing will depend on if you’re staying in a dorm or your own place.

    If you’re in a dorm, there is someone on campus whose job it is to give you tips about what to pack. Make use of them! That’s what they are paid to do.

    In an apartment, you’ll need bedroom furniture, linens, a TV (if you want it), and any decorations you want in your space.

    other valuable tips:

    Limit your mementos to a few photos and your favorite must-haves from home. Unless you’re never going back, you can always get the rest later.

    Don’t forget your kitchen supplies, whether you’re in a dorm or an apartment. You’ll need cups, bowls, plates, and utensils. Grab a Sharpie and don’t be shy about writing your name on everything!


    Packing for college doesn’t need to be stressful. It’s an exciting time when you get to go explore new horizons!

    With this low-stress guide, you won’t have to worry about forgetting the basics. Everything you need for a successful year is right here to help you in your transition.

    Author Bio:
    Ryan Sundling is a group marketing manager at Cardinal Group Management, where he works with The Ruckus on Rio.

    Image Credit: packing guide for college by envato.com

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