10 Essential Tips to Pack for College
Everything You Need to Know to Pack for College and Make Your Dorm Your Home Away from Home
By Dan Jackman
About 15 million undergraduate students will find themselves back in the classroom at our nation’s colleges and universities this fall, with many electing to live on campus and away from home.
On campuses across the country, move-in day is a spectacle of highly orchestrated activity as students and families race to settle into their dorm rooms and begin their new adventure.
With the average size of a shared dorm room measuring in at just 228 square feet of actual living space, roommates must work through a few major hurdles in a short period. How do we set up the room and how do we fit everything in?
Here are 10 essential tips to pack for college from recent college grads.
- Connect with Roommates
Most colleges and universities will connect you with your future roommate prior to arriving on campus. Discuss what you would like to have in the room and coordinate common items like the mini-fridge, microwave, TV, coffeemaker, etc.
- Student Housing Info
Use the school’s student housing website to get information about your specific dorm and their recommended packing list. You will also want to check your mattress size, a Twin-XL (80”L x 40”W) is standard for dorms.
- Concentrate on Dorm Essentials
Begin with a list focusing on the essentials to pack for college, like bedding and clothing. You won’t need every piece of clothing you own. While your high school t-shirts may be your go-to right now, over time you’ll amass new school gear that you will need space for in your drawers.
A printer may be on your initial essentials checklist, but consider leaving it behind. Most work is now submitted electronically and schools have accessible printing stations throughout campus.
The same goes for school supplies. Wait until you receive the syllabus from your instructor before going out and purchasing notebooks or 3-ring binders.
- Space Saver Bags
Not only do you have to transport your wardrobe to campus, but your dorm closet and drawer space are going to be at a minimum. Use space saver bags with items separated by season. Your heavier winter gear can stay in the space bags to start the year. Better yet, if you are traveling back home during a break in the late fall, plan on switching out your wardrobe while home.
Ensuring everything fits in your car for the move to school can be half the battle. Bulky suitcases and plastic bins not only take up precious space in the car but also in your room. Instead, opt for the ever recognizable and versatile blue Ikea bags to pack for college. Once unloaded, the bags can fold up and store for the year. Better yet, repurpose them as your laundry hamper and carry groceries and other items on the long walk from the parking lot to your dorm room.
Keeping with the theme of functional packing, hanging clothes can go into a trash bag. You read that right. Leave the clothes on their hangers and slip the trash bag over the clothes from the bottom up. Use the trash bag ties to tie the hangers together. This tip will allow you to skip the unpacking and hang your clothes right up in the closet when you arrive.
Fragile items, like picture frames, can go between towels and clothing.
Be sure to take advantage of student discount programs. Many schools partner with computer manufacturers, like Apple, to offer discount programs to use when purchasing computers and tablets. Retailers, like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond, have rolled out a 20% onetime student discount available through the end of August. And in recent years, many states have incorporated sales tax holidays around back-to-school time.
Think about what valuables are necessary to have with you in your dorm room, like prescription medication and your passport, to name a few. You will want to leave behind excessive amounts of cash, expensive jewelry, and other irreplaceable and sentimental items. Consider purchasing a lock box that you can secure in the room.
- In-Store Pickup
If you are driving or flying a distance from home, look into the ever-expanding options for in-store pickup for online shopping offered by retailers. This will allow you to avoid the crowds and out-of-stock items with everything ready for a quick pickup on move-in day.
- Toiletries & Cleaners
Leave your toiletries at home for use when you return to visit. Leaving your toiletries behind will allow you to pack light when traveling home. Include your toiletry items and cleaning supplies in your online in-store pickup cart when you arrive at school.
- Our Favorite Life Hacks from the Upperclassmen
- Command Strips and Hooks: from picture frames to power strips, these powerful tape-like strips will allow you to affix items without damaging walls or surfaces.
- Power Strips with Surge Protection: Look for power strips with USB inputs and longer cords and make sure that it is a surge protector!
- Mattress Toppers: a foam topper can add a bit more comfort to what may be an older mattress, just don’t make it too comfortable.
- Mattress Cover: your mattress may leave much to be desired. You will probably want to consider a zip up mattress cover.
- Bed Suspender Clips: with a mattress topper you may find your fitted sheet slipping off the mattress. These suspender clips will keep your sheets in place until you are ready to wash.
- Bedside Caddy: chances are, you won’t have a nightstand next to your bed. This caddy secures to your bed or mattress to hold your books, phone, and even your water bottle.
Be sure to check your school’s packing checklist for further guidance.
Remember, there is no reason to bring everything you own to school. The goal is to make your dorm room feel like your home away from home, but understand that both your space and stay are limited.
In the end, don’t stress too much if you overlooked something while preparing for move-in. Chances are that you will be within reach of anything you need (grocery store, pharmacy, etc.) in addition to the ever abundant and quick shipping and delivery services.
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