This post is all about the ultimate college packing list for 2023. You’ll find everything you need to pack for college this year.
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It’s so easy to over OR under pack for your freshman year of college. There’s SO many things to consider that it’s hard to keep track of everything.
That’s why I decided to put together the ultimate college packing list. I go over EVERYTHING in this list — from dorm essentials, to school supplies, to cute clothes for going out — that you need to pack for your freshman year of college.
This list will show you exactly what to bring to college. Because this college packing list is so exhaustive, I’ve included a clickable table of contents to make it easier for you to navigate.
Table of contents:
Dorm Bed Essentials
Your bed is one of the most important parts of your dorm room! You’re going to be sleeping on it, sitting on it, studying on it, maybe eating on it (no judgements!), so you want it to be as comfortable as possible!
Here’s everything you need to have a dorm bed that’s comfy enough to be a hotel bed.
Getting a comforter or duvet cover/insert that you love is so important to add to your college packing list because your bed is one of the main focal points in your room.
Get a color or pattern that matches your dorm decor. If you really want to have a well-decorated dorm room, make sure your comforter doesn’t clash with your roommate’s!
My favorite places to get dorm comforters:
- Amazon – SO many options and all different price ranges
- Urban Outfitters – Very on-trend
- Dormify – Lots of cute styles and they’re the perfect size for dorm beds
These Amazon sheets have somewhat of a cult following. With almost 100,000 reviews and a TON of cute colors to choose from, they’re a great pick for your dorm bed. Plus they’re only $30!
Having a good pillow or two is absolutely essential for creating the comfiest dorm bed. I think memory foam pillows are the comfiest but bring whatever you usually use at home!
You probably won’t be able to control the temperature in your dorm room. Make sure you pack a few extra fuzzy blankets for those cold late-night study sessions. Bonus: having layers on your bed also makes it feel so much more luxurious.
Trust me, this is an absolute dorm room essential. Most dorm room mattresses are thin, hard, and uncomfortable. An ultra-thick mattress topper will make your bed so comfy and luxurious.
I recommend getting one that is 2″ thick or more for maximum comfort. These are my top recommendations:
- This one is my absolute favorite dorm bed mattress topper. It’s insanely thick and honestly feels like you’re sleeping on a cloud. Seriously, read the reviews if you don’t believe me.
- For a cheaper option, this mattress topper has good reviews and is under $30.
I’m going to be totally honest here – I was one of those students that stole a tray from the cafeteria and shoved it halfway under her mattress. It held my phone, water, and glasses but it was definitely an eyesore.
I recommend getting an actual bedside shelf if you’re planning on lofting your bed. They’re way cuter and a lot more functional.
If you’re not planning on lofting your bed all the way, an extra tall bedside table is perfect for dorm rooms. This one from Dormify is awesome because it has built in charging ports!
Clip On Fan
Dorm rooms get stuffy and you’re going to want to have some air circulation. This fan clips onto your bed so you can stay cool at night.
A bed skirt is a great way to hide everything you have stored under your bed and make your dorm room look a little more put together.
They make special bed skirts for college dorms that are extra long so they work with bed risers.
Dorm Bathroom Supplies
If your dorm has communal bathrooms, these items are all an absolute MUST. Sharing a bathroom isn’t always easy but these essential items will make it much more tolerable.
Shower caddies are absolutely essential for transporting your shower products to and from the dorm bathroom.
I liked having a mesh shower caddy because it allowed for better drainage than the plastic ones. Try to find one with a hook or handles so you can hang it on the shower door instead of having to put it on the floor.
This one is super affordable and checks all the boxes!
Towels are an obvious dorm bathroom essential. This set from Amazon is perfect to add to your college packing list because it comes in a ton of cute colors and it’s very affordable.
The amount of towels you bring will depend on your showering and laundry habits. I brought 3 sets of towels to college and I felt like it was the perfect amount. I liked having three different colors so I could always remember which towels were clean and which ones needed to be washed.
A towel wrap definitely needs to be on your dorm room packing list. This is one of those items that you will be using every single day if you have a communal bathroom in your dorm.
You’re going to be walking down the hall to and from the dorm bathroom every time you shower. It’s so nice not to have to worry about your towel slipping down. It also frees up your hands to carry your shower caddy. Plus then you can use your regular towel to dry your hair!
Trust me, you do not want to be walking around barefoot in a communal bathroom. You have no idea who or what was in there before you and how long it’s been since they cleaned the floors.
Any rubber or plastic shoes will work fine as shower shoes. These ones have holes in the bottom so the water drains out which is perfect for dorm bathrooms.
A toiletries case is a bathroom essential you don’t want to forget on your college packing list. You don’t want to walk all the way to the bathroom just to realize you for got your toothbrush. Keep everything organized and in one place with a toiletries case.
I like the ones that fold up for college because you can stuff so many items in there and it’s easy to transport. Hanging toiletries cases are also great for dorms and traveling because you can hang them on the door or by the sink while you’re getting ready.
This one from Amazon is super cute, can fit so much stuff inside, and can be hung on the door!
First Aid Kit
Yes, the front desk probably has a spare bandaid. But do you really want to be waiting for the elevator with a giant paper cut at 2am? Trust me, keeping a first aid kit in your dorm room will be so useful.
Whether you do your makeup in the communal bathroom or in your dorm room, having some sort of makeup organization will make your life so much easier.
I really recommend getting an organized portable makeup case. This will make it so much easier to haul it to your friend’s room on game day or home with you on the weekends. This makeup case from amazon is SO cute and affordable and big enough to fit all of your makeup!
This obviously depends on you and your needs but here are some common toiletries that you can add to your college packing checklist.
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Face Wash
- Lip Balm
- Makeup & brushes
Miscellaneous Bathroom Supplies
These are some commonly forgotten dorm bathroom items that should be on your college packing list.
- Shaving Cream
- Cotton Balls
- Nail Clippers
- Feminine Products
- Nail Polish & Remover
- Glasses, Contacts, & Contact Solution
- Hair Styling Tools
Dorm Closet Essentials
If your dorm has a closet, these are some essential items that you should pack to make sure you stay organized.
Velvet hangers are thinner than normal hangers which allows you to hang more clothes in a small dorm closet. They’re also super cute and make it so your clothes don’t slide off like they do on plastic hangers.
These hanger expanders allow you to fit 5x the amount of shirts on one hanger. Such a genius invention and perfect for dorm room closet organization.
Every single inch of space counts when you’re living in a tiny dorm room. I highly recommend getting storage cubes for those random items like snacks, cleaning supplies, makeup, etc.
Hauling your laundry from your dorm room to the laundry room can be a huge pain. Get a laundry basket that rolls or one that turns into a bag for easy transport.
- This laundry basket has wheels for easy transport
- This one has a divider for light and dark colors and a side pocket.
I’m not sure how people can survive without a full length mirror! I always like to check my outfit before I leave for class or a party.
If your dorm room doesn’t have one, an easy solution is an over-the-door mirror. I love this one because it has built in storage for jewelry, accessories, and makeup!
If you have a lot of shoes, a hanging shoe organizer is a great way to save some space in a cramped dorm room. Not all dorm closets have doors though so make sure you check ahead of time!
Storage bins are a great alternative for shoe storage.
Laptops are an obvious essential for college students nowadays. Between online classes, online textbooks, and online assignments, everything you do in college is going to involve your laptop in some way or another.
That’s why I always recommend picking a sturdy laptop that will last you the full four years. I got my Macbook Air in 2015 and it’s still going strong. It’s the same computer I’m typing this blog post on! A good laptop is definitely an important investment for anyone heading off to college.
An iPad or tablet is a good alternative to anyone who wants to cut down on costs. You can buy a bluetooth keyboard to type notes and it functions almost like a regular laptop.
If you’re bringing a laptop, you don’t want to forget a laptop charger on your college packing list! I definitely recommend bringing an adapter extension cable if you can find one. You may not have an outlet right next to you in the library so it’s great to have some extra length!
Speaking of outlets, most dorm rooms do not have nearly enough and they’re always in inconvenient locations.
Having a power strip will allow you to plug in all of the essentials. I like this one because it has built in USB ports too. Pro tip: get a power strip with built in surge protection to avoid damaging your electronics.
Depending on what classes you’re going to be taking, you’ll probably need some kind of graphing calculator. Yes, your phone does the trick for homework but you’ll need an actual calculator for exams!
Extra Long Phone Charger
You may not have an outlet right next to your bed or desk so extra long charging cords always come in handy.
These are also great for studying in the library or coffee shops when outlets aren’t right next to you.
This pack of two is under $15 and works great.
Glitches and crashes happen! Saving documents in multiple places ensures that your grade will never suffer due to technical failures. Make sure to have a flash drive or other external storage so that you always have a copy of your documents.
Headphones are just a life essential for me but they’re especially important in college! I love listening to music while walking to class, studying, or working out.
Some college student favorite headphones:
Dorm rooms aren’t exactly known for having great lighting and ambiance. Get a good desk lamp so you can can actually see what you’re working on.
Portable speakers are perfect for dorm room dance parties, picnics, and beach days. Get a waterproof speaker and you can even take it into the shower!
Dorm Decor Essentials
Here’s the fun part — decorating your dorm room! I loved coming up with unique ways to decorate my dorm room. Here are some of my most popular posts about dorm room decor:
- Dorm Room Wall Decor – 10 Ways to Decorate Your Dorm Room Walls
- Boho Dorm Decor | Everything you Need to Create the Boho Dorm Room of Your Dreams
Throw pillows are a fun way to add a pop of color to your bed or futon. Just make sure you don’t go overboard! You’ll need room to store them when you’re sleeping in your bed.
My favorite places to find throw pillows:
- World Market – Tons of different patterns and colors
- Amazon – Cheap and something for everyone
- Urban Outfitters – A little pricy but so cute and trendy
Curtains & Curtain Rod
If you’re a light sleeper and get woken up easily by the sun, blackout curtains will be an absolute dorm room essential for you.
Hang them with these no-drill curtain rods. PERFECT for your college dorm room.
A cute rug is a great way to add some texture and color to your dorm room.
Plus, dorm floors/carpets can be pretty disgusting and you never really know how well they were cleaned before you moved in. An area rug is a great way to cover up the gross dorm floors and make the whole room more cozy.
Tapestries are an awesome damage-free way to add a huge pop of color and design to your dorm room. They’re cheap, lightweight, and easy to remove when you move out.
Pick a tapestry that goes with your theme and it will tie the whole room together nicely!
Dorm room lighting is usually pretty harsh and fluorescent. Adding some cute fairy lights can create nice ambiance and help fill in a blank wall.
I loved turning off the overhead lights in my dorm and just relaxing with the string lights on. We love some functional dorm room wall decor!
Dorm Cleaning Supplies
All Purpose Cleaner
All purpose cleaner is definitely one of the top essential dorm cleaning supplies because it’s so versatile. Use it to clean your dresser, desk, door handles, sinks, countertops, etc.
If I had to pick just one cleaning product that is a dorm room essential, I would pick disinfectant wipes.
Wipes are a quick, effortless way to keep your dorm room clean. Just wipe down any hard surfaces a couple times a week. Trust me, you’ll want to have disinfectant wipes in your room at all times.
This is obviously a must have cleaning item! You’re going to be doing your own laundry in your dorm room so make sure you get laundry detergent right when you move in. Remember to get one that’s compatible with all types of washing machines because you never know what kind they’ll have in your dorm building.
Dryer sheets actually serve multiple purposes. Yes, they make your clothes smell good and keep them soft. But you can also stick them in your dorm vent as a quick air freshener! I always prefer natural products and I love this scent from Seventh Generation.
Your dorm may or may not have a vacuum that you can rent out but usually it is big and clunky and a pain to haul it up to your room.
Having a compact vacuum cleaner in your dorm room saves you a ton of time and sanity. This one is $30 and works really well.
Clean up your spilled coffee, use them as a napkin, cover things in the microwave, dry your hands with them, etc. Paper towels are super versatile and definitely a dorm room essential.
Even if you don’t have a kitchen in your dorm room, you’re going to want to keep a little bottle of dish soap around. I had a few dishes and cups in my dorm room for snacks and coffee and I would clean them with my dish soap in our communal sink.
Scented Trash Bags
Your dorm will probably come with a small trash can, but you’ll need to provide your own trash bags. Scented trash bags will cover up the scent of whatever you’re throwing away. Your roommates will definitely thank you for bringing these!
A lot of dorm rooms have pretty bad airflow which can leave them smelling a little musty. A good room spray isn’t a substitute for cleaning but it can definitely help mask some unidentifiable odors. You can also do a little spritz on your linens to keep them smelling fresh.
Dorm Kitchen Supplies
Having a mini fridge was great for keeping snacks and drinks in my dorm room. It allowed me to keep healthier options like fruits and vegetables. Just make sure your dorm room doesn’t already have one before you buy!
- This one is reasonably priced and doesn’t take up much room ($113)
- This mini fridge has a built in freezer which is so convenient for dorm rooms ($210)
Pro Tip: Get a mini fridge caddy to store snacks and utensils. It hangs over the top of your mini fridge and has little pockets for all of your kitchen stuff.
Such a perfect way to utilize otherwise unused space!
When you’re running late to class or pulling an all-nighter, you can’t always run to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee. Having a small coffee maker in your dorm room lets you make a good cup of coffee anytime.
This mini Keurig is the absolute best dorm room coffee maker.
Some of my favorite K Cup flavors:
Paper Plates & Bowls
You’re not going to want to be doing dishes all the time. Plus you don’t have a ton of space to keep a dish set in your room. Get a few packs of paper plates and bowls to make your life way easier.
Make sure you get a durable travel mug so you can bring that coffee to class with you. My favorite travel mug is this one from Yeti. It keeps your drinks hot for the whole day and it’s insanely durable.
I’ve had this one from Ello for a few years too and it’s cute and affordable.
Either grab a few sets of silverware or a pack of plastic utensils. I’m in love with this cheap silverware set. It’s the perfect size for a dorm room, includes reusable straws, and it’s under $30.
A water bottle is a major college essential. Get one that will keep your water cool forever like a hydroflask, YETI, or Klean Kanteen. I’ve tried all of these brands and they’re all amazing.
Containers for Snacks/Leftovers
If you like to bring snacks for class, keep a few containers in your dorm room. You can clean them pretty easily and they’re better on the environment than ziploc bags.
Sometimes the tap water in your dorm doesn’t taste the best. If you have a brita filter pitcher you can fill your water bottle up with great tasting water any time. If your mini fridge is big enough you can even store it in there.
School Supplies for College
While you’re getting all your dorm stuff together, don’t forget you’ll actually be attending classes too! Here are some important college essentials for class that you need to pack.
You can go a few different routes with which backpack to pick for college. You can go the sturdy and durable route or go for something a little more stylish! I’ve linked a few options for each type.
- Osprey Questa Women’s Laptop Backpack: Osprey makes incredible backpacks. I had an Osprey backpack in college and it still looks brand new!
- Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack: Fjallraven is another one of my favorite backpack brands. They’re cute and trendy but also very durable and can hold more than you’d think.
- North Face Borealis Backpack: North Face makes really sturdy backpacks. They’re very popular and they last forever.
I am a firm believer in keeping a planner at all times, but especially in college! You can plan for your future assignments and keep all of your social events organized.
Focus on your homework and not your messy desk. A desk organizer is absolutely essential for keeping all of your supplies in one place.
Miscellaneous School Supplies
- Pencils & Pens
- Sticky Notes
Dorm Furniture Essentials
If you can fit a futon in your dorm room, I highly recommend you do so. Whenever you have friends over to your room, they’ll have a comfy spot to sit.
I love this one because it’s affordable and the faux leather is perfect for wiping up spills.
You can also put bins under your futon for more storage. Here’s some perfect storage bins:
[RELATED: 23 Best Dorm Chairs for College Students]
A storage ottoman is a dorm room essential because it serves so many purposes. It can be extra seating for when friends visit, a footrest for your futon, and an extra storage spot (so important). I loved putting my extra blankets in there when they weren’t in use.
My roommate had these storage cube shelves in our dorm and I was so jealous of the amount of storage she had! You can buy cute storage bins for these at Target or on Amazon.
College Clothing Essentials
Here’s a basic list of all of the different clothing items you’ll want to include on your college packing list. Keep in mind, your dorm closet will be pretty tiny so you’re not going to want to bring every clothing item you own. Stick to the essentials!
- Workout Clothes
- Tank Tops
- Rain Coat
- Winter Coat
- Light Jacket
- Going Out Clothes
- Rain Boots
- Snow Boots
College Clothing Basics
These are a few clothing essentials that should be on every college packing list. These are basic items that I think every student should have!
First of all, you’ll likely need a few different coats and jackets for the school year. A long puffer jacket is an ESSENTIAL if you go to school anywhere where it’s cold in the winter.
A cute leather jacket is another essential for any closet. It goes with absolutely everything and it looks so effortlessly cool!
Another essential that just about everyone forgets to pack for college is a rain jacket. No matter where you go to school there will be bad weather at some point! A rain jacket ensures you don’t show up soaking wet to class.
Everyday College Shoes
A good pair of white sneakers, some black boots, and a pair of durable sandals cover pretty much all occasions. White sneakers are also super trendy right now so you’ll fit right in.
Cutest Clothes for Going Out
These are some ideas for cute clothes to add to your college packing list for going out to parties, the bars, etc.
Everyone has their own unique style but these pieces are super on trend right now and are what a lot of college girls are wearing this year.
Going Out Tops
Going Out Dresses
Miscellaneous College Essentials
This is one of the things I forget to pack every time I travel or move! You definitely want to add an umbrella to your college packing list. Get something cute to brighten up those gloomy days.
Duffel bags are so useful for moving into your dorm room. I recommend keeping one or two of them in your room for when you go back to visit home.
Petty theft is more common than you may think in dorm rooms. Keep your valuables safe by locking them up in a lock box or safe while you’re out of your room.
Board games are so fun to keep in your room for when you have friends over on a rainy day. Just make sure they’re small enough to stash away somewhere!
So there you have it — the ultimate college packing list! This took me FOREVER to write so I really hope it’s helpful for you.
If you’re looking for more college posts, check these out: