The hard part is over. You've survived the grueling application process. You've narrowed your choices down to one lucky college. And you've sent in your deposit.

But, as you wipe the sweat from your brow and pat yourself on the back--you're going to college! And you know where!--it dawns on you: Now you have to pack. What should you bring? Where should you shop? What do you need? What don't you need?

Relax. While packing for college may feel like an overwhelming task, it doesn't have to be. In fact, you might even have some fun with it.

First Things First

Before you run out to your local Bed, Bath and Beyond and make a substantial dent in your college fund, wait for more information from your college first. Or visit your college's Web site for further information about what you'll need for your dorm room.

Most schools will send you a list of the items you need, the items you may want, and the items that aren't permissible (like hot plates or halogen lamps).

It's also important to note the bed size. Many colleges only provide extra-long twin mattresses, so you will have to adjust the type of sheets and comforter you buy accordingly.

Additionally, when your college sends you further information--like the name and phone number of your roommate--it's not a bad idea to call him or her and inquire after the things he/she will be bringing. For example, if your roommate already has and intends to bring a TV or mini-refrigerator, it probably won't be necessary for you to purchase or bring these items as well.

Make Lists, Take Inventory

Common sense will tell you to begin by making a list of everything you need--combine your own list with that of your college, as well as the list of things your older siblings may have advised you to purchase.

Then, survey your house for these items. Sure, that hot pink inflatable chair that you saw at Target looks really cool, but before you start spending, make sure you don't already own something similar.

On that list of yours, mark off the things you already have. Rummage through your basement. Check with your parents--do they really still want that old bean-bag chair? Or perhaps your mom has a stash of plastic dishes that she no longer uses. And that alarm clock of yours certainly won't be used if left at home. Place these items in a "to bring" pile. Your room at home may become more cluttered in the process, but collecting the things you already have and will need at college will help save you both time and money in the long-run.

Once you've exhausted all of your options at home, beat the college rush (read: shop before August) to your nearest all-item store (like Target, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Linens 'n Things, Wal-Mart, etc.).


While your bigger college needs certainly won't elude you--everybody needs sheets and towels, after all--you may not be aware of some of the smaller items that will most likely be useful to you.

That said, don't forget the following necessities, to name a few:

  • posters
  • gummy tack for the wall (make sure it's the kind that doesn't leave a mark)
  • power strip
  • throw rug
  • emergency items (like batteries and a flashlight)
  • shower caddy
  • shower shoes
  • extra blanket
  • sleeping bag
  • cleaning supplies

Clothes, too, are a no-brainer. Though you may want to consider not bringing everything you own, as dorm-room closets can be fairly small. Pack mostly casual wear for studying, and remember that you can always pick up some more seasonal or fancier clothes when home on a break, if necessary. It may also be a good idea to stock up on socks and underwear--the basics--to reduce your amount of laundry loads.

A Piece of Home

Don't let personal or sentimental items get lost in the shuffle of new purchases. Heading off to college and leaving behind your family and high school friends is hard enough as is--and a major transition. Don't make it any harder by leaving the photo albums at home.

Consider bringing photos and frames; perhaps a card or a special letter; even a stuffed animal that you've had since childhood. These things will make homesickness--during those first few days or weeks--that much easier to bear. Plus, with photos and personal touches, your dorm room will feel more like a home--your own home--and less like just a room.

Buy When You Arrive

If you're attending a college that's hundreds of miles from home, you may want to consider waiting to make your big purchases once you're there--during orientation, or before your parents leave. If you plan to buy a TV or computer, for example, instead of shipping them or finding a way to cram them into the back of your family mini-van, buy them when you arrive in town. If you haven't yet seen your room, this may also ensure that everything fits!

Additionally, you may want to wait and buy your school supplies on campus. Again, this could be a great space saver, and your campus bookstore will be fully stocked.

For More Information

Visit Sallie Mae's College Answer for a more thorough "Packing for College" checklist. Note: you will need to complete a free registration to view the PDF list.