Top 10 Items That Should Be on Your College Packing List

July 23, 2019

College is the first time most young adults find themselves living away from home for an extended period of time. The prospect can be daunting on many levels—for both first-year students and their parents. Not only will students be responsible for managing their own studying habits, but they’ll also have to clean up their bedrooms and do their laundry. That’s a lot.

And on top of that, what should you bring to campus, anyway? Nobody wants to overpack, but you don’t want to have to go shopping for the things you’ve forgotten to bring right away, either. To help make sure you’ve got everything covered, we’ve put together a list of our top 10 things that should be on every student’s college packing list.

1. Tool Kit

A set of nozzles on the screwdriver (Fli by verchmarco, on FlickrA set of nozzles on the screwdriver (Fli” (CC BY 2.0) by verchmarco

Homes need upkeep. Just because you live in a residence hall that’s owned by your college doesn’t mean you won’t need to fix things on occasion. From adjusting the height of your bed and tightening loose screws on hinges to simply hanging posters, you’ll need to be prepared. A basic tool kit—one that includes things like a hammer, several screwdrivers (at least one flathead and one Phillips), measuring tape, nails, Allen wrenches (also known as hex keys), an adjustable wrench, a level, and maybe a pair of needle-nose pliers—will definitely come in handy. Most home improvement stores stock these basic kits, often marketed as “household” tool kits. By the way, stick a roll of duct tape in there, too—it’s great for a wide variety of temporary repairs.

2. Door Stop

A doorstop may be the single best investment you make for college, as it serves two important purposes. First, it allows you to prop open your dorm room door, inviting neighbors to poke their heads in and say hello. And, you can use it on the inside of the door as an extra security measure to prevent your door from being opened. You can pick up a heavy-duty rubber doorstop for a buck or so at any home improvement store.

3. First Aid Kit

First Aid Case - Credit to https://www.s by Semtrio, on FlickrFirst Aid Case – Credit to https://www.s” (CC BY 2.0) by Semtrio

If you’re able to keep a few basic health items around, you might be able to avoid visits to the campus health center for minor issues. Be sure to include things like Band-Aids, Neosporin, cough drops, cold medicine, Imodium, antibacterial hand gel, Dramamine, ibuprofen, a thermometer and any allergy medication you typically need for seasonal allergies. You may also consider rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and a pair of tweezers.

4. Fans

Fan by Leonid Mamchenkov, on FlickrFan” (CC BY 2.0) by Leonid Mamchenkov

One of the joys of shared living space is that you can’t always control the temperature of your room. So, having a few fans around can be extremely helpful on warm days, as well as during those stuffy nights when the lack of circulating air can be stifling. Invest in at least one clip-on fan and one rotating desktop or stand fan. As a bonus, any white noise generated by the fan may also help you sleep better.

5. Backrest Pillow

Studying by Aaron Jacobs, on FlickrStudying” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Aaron Jacobs

There are days when you may almost live in your bed, whether sick, cramming for a test or just catching up on your favorite Netflix shows. A comfy backrest pillow can help protect your back and neck while propping you up both in bed or on the floor. A wide variety of online and physical stores sell an assortment of different backrests: plush, Sherpa, memory foam and so much more.

6. Earplugs / Eye Mask

Blue Contour Eye Mask For Sleeping by, on FlickrBlue Contour Eye Mask For Sleeping” (CC BY 2.0) by

Even the best roommate has quirks. If that quirk ends up being snoring, you’ll be happy you brought a pair of earplugs. Ditto for the sleep mask you rolled your eyes at your mom about when she insisted you take it with you. Neither earplugs nor a sleep mask takes up a lot of room while packing, but both can make a massive difference in the quality of your sleep—and your sanity.

7. Sound-Reducing Headphones

Studying by ropaisus, on FlickrStudying” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by ropaisus

A good pair of sound-reducing headphones will let you lock out all unwanted noise until you’re ready to let it in again—exactly what you need to stay focused on projects or for tuning out noisy neighbors.

8. Power Strips

Old Power Strip by Tony Webster, on FlickrOld Power Strip” (CC BY 2.0) by Tony Webster

It seems everything we own these days runs on electricity, but dorm rooms offer very few wall sockets to plug them into. So, take along a good-quality power strip. Yours should have a built-in surge protector to protect your laptops, phones and tablets from electrical surges. Just make sure the ones you buy have at least an 8-foot cord, and a 15A (amp) rating to accommodate all your devices.

9. Command™ Strips

command_strips by, on Flickrcommand_strips” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by
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Whether you’re prohibited from putting holes in your dorm-room walls or the walls made from materials (like brick or concrete) that make it impossible to use nails or tacks, we’ve got the solution for you: Command™ Strips. They come in a variety of shapes, strengths and sizes, which means you can pick up picture hanging strips as well as some hooks for your jackets, a bathrobe and towels. Some even come in designer finishes, so you can have even have brushed nickel hooks that look at little more stylish than the ubiquitous white ones.

10. Flashlight

flashlight by SSC-Aviation, on Flickrflashlight” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by SSC-Aviation

“But I have a flashlight on my phone!” That will no doubt be your response when your parents try to give you a flashlight to take to school. But if the power goes out, you’ll be happy you don’t have to use your phone’s precious battery to get any studying done. Just don’t forget to buy batteries.

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