How to Pack for College:
Best Tips And To Do’s for MomsTime really does goes by so fast. One moment you’re waving goodbye to your little girl as she goes off to preschool. Next thing you know, you’re sending your kid to college. It’s a bittersweet moment that eventually all parents have to go through. We know that it’s hard to prepare for such moments, but we’re here to the rescue! Well not exactly, but we’ve curated an awesome guide to help you pack your kid for college. These are practical tips that moms and kids transitioning to the college life can actually use!
Things to think about before packing for college
Before talking about the detailed tips, there are some things you need to know to help you avoid mishaps (like packing unnecessary things)! Remember the three golden rules below when it comes to packing for college:
✓ Dorm rooms have very limited space - Your child’s dorm room may not even be half of their bedroom at home! Even if a specific dorm room is considered large, your kid will most likely still need to share it with another roommate. Keeping this in mind, packing for college becomes simpler. Remember this so you can avoid packing things that aren’t really necessary, such their popcorn machine or their mini trampoline...
✓ Some items are provided by the school - Most of the time, you don’t need to bring a mini-fridge or study desk. These items are usually provided by the school. If not, they usually rent it out for reasonable prices to students. Research or better yet, ask the school administration which items are provided or can be rented out.
✓ Packing less is the key - With very limited space, packing less is the key. Pack only the essentials. You (or your kid) can buy everything else once settled in. Alternatively, you can mail other forgotten items. But with our guide below, it’s unlikely you will need to!
Tips for moms on how to pack for college
Having a strategy is an absolute must when it comes to packing for college. Below, we have curated a simple how to pack for college guide. To make it easier for moms, we have divided the guide into different sections. Let’s try and have some fun! Your kid is growing up after all.
Clothes & Shoes:
✓ Pack practical and comfy clothes - Advise your kid to pack clothes that they really use. Your kid can always come home on breaks if they do need to switch out clothes or bring back thicker or warmer clothes. Don’t forget to pack sleepwear, lounging outfits and workout attire. Make sure they’re casual but good enough to be worn out!
✓ Pack 2 weeks of underwear - It’s okay to repeat certain clothes but we can’t say the same for undergarments (eek). Pack at least two week’s worth of undergarments - just in case laundry is a struggle for them at first (or always). Laundry is not the most exciting part of college and might need a reminder or two from the peanut gallery.
✓ Pack at least two dressy outfits - For special events, sorority week, job interviews (oh, how fast they grow up), make sure your college kid is prepared by packing at least two dressy outfits. This could be a semi-formal or cocktail dress for girls and a polo shirt or button down for guys. If your daughter or son are planning on joining a sorority or fraternity, make sure they are prepared with a few more dressy outfits for rush week.
✓ Bring 4-5 pairs of shoes - When it comes to shoes, practical is ideal! Pack some casual shoes such as dressy sneakers, sandals and athletic shoes. Also pack one dressy pair of shoes!
EzPacking Tip: Most dorm rooms have limited closet space. You can use EzPacking Cubes as drawers for your kid’s clothes, specifically for undergarments, shirts and shorts. Simply stack the EzPacking cubes on top of one another (or side by side) and store them inside the closet or under the bed. You save both money (cubes are cheaper than drawers) and space (cubes can be stacked in hidden areas).
✓ Buy two sets of bed sheets - Check with the school about the ideal bed sheet size for your kid’s dorm bed (normally twin size). Bring at least two sets of bed sheets (along with pillowcases and blankets) so they will have a set to use when doing laundry. Buying a couple extra pillows is also a good idea for comfy studying or lounging.
✓ Buy a mattress topper for comfort - As parents, we want our kids to be as comfortable as possible. Problem is, most dorm mattresses are stiff and thin already because of years of use. You can pack a mattress topper as a remedy for this situation. On a budget? A thick comforter or blanket can also add additional softness to a dorm mattress!
EzPacking Tip: Store extra bed sheets, pillowcases and blankets in a large packing cube to protect them from dirt or bugs. If you’re bringing a comforter, store it an EzPacking storage cube. No matter where you store your cubes, you’ll surely keep your items safe, clean, and organized!
✓ Toiletry bag / caddy for communal bathroom - Pack your college kid’s toiletries in a small, waterproof bag with handle. Whenever he or she needs to brush their teeth or wash up, they can easily grab the toiletry bag without worries about the products getting wet or lost. Another great addition to a communal bathroom experience is a shower caddy - this can go directly with you in the shower with all your shower items!
✓ Shower shoes / flip flops are a must - While it’s ideal to opt for a dorm with private bathrooms, that’s not usually an option. Communal bathrooms might not be as dirty as we make them out to be. But as parents, we would rather be on the safe side. Try out this Finleoo Anti-Slip Sandals which are very affordable and can protect your kid from direct contact from possible dirty floor.
EzPacking Tip: The EzPacking clear toiletry bag is a perfect bathroom companion. It has a see-through design and an easy-grip handle. It just makes taking a shower in a communal bathroom less of a hassle!
✓ The basics - When it comes to school supplies, be on the practical side. Does your kid really need all the colors of the rainbow? Purchase only the basics and keep them at a minimum. Believe us, your college kid can thrive during their first few weeks in college with just a few black pens, pencils (who uses pencil in college?), a few notebooks and a highlighter!!
✓ Buy books used / as needed - This all depends on the courses they will be taking. Buying (or renting if possible) is always a great idea. While using a highlighter to mark up their pages is great, your kid can always use other methods (like sticky notes or tabs) to take notes. Giving the book back in good condition won’t be such an issue. We wouldn’t recommend buying all school supplies that you see in the store. Unless the college specifically stated that you need to purchase them, resist the urge to splurge!
✓ A laptop is a must / printer not so much - Schools are technology-driven today so there’s less need for paper books, printed assignments, and a waste of paper. Take advantage of college deals on computers! Summer is always a great time for back-to-school discounts. Do you need a printer you might ask? As our world is becoming more and more “online” friendly, many professors have assignments sent in via email or another system. If your kid needs to print a certain assignment, there are usually printers on campus they can use for free or for a small fee. It’s not worth wasting space in that small dorm!
EzPacking Tip: Nowadays, there’s less need for school supplies especially for college students. Most students rely on technology for studying, even some books can be downloaded onto a laptop or tablet. Keep school supplies at the minimum and only buy as needed.
Food & Kitchen:
✓ Bring two sets of utensils / plates - It’s a good idea to only buy 1-2 sets of plates and utensils. This will help keep the dorm organized and clean. As a bonus, it also teaches your college student some responsibility when he or she needs to wash utensils immediately after use. #WinningAtParenting
✓ Buy a portable water bottle (or two) - Save money (and save the earth) by using a portable water bottle. Keep one with you during the day and keep one in your dorm. We recommend this Nalgene Tritan BPA-Free Water Bottle for a larger size (32 ounce) which is affordable, large and stain-resistant. This Hydro Flask is also another great option (with lots of colors and sizes to choose from), is stainless steel, and stays cold for hours!
✓ Ready-to-eat snacks - Biscuits, granola bars, cereals and air-popped popcorn are ideal ready-to-eat options for college students. Nowadays there are tons of amazing videos showing College Dorm Friendly Microwave Ideas like this one! It’s hard to focus on studying on an empty stomach!
✓ An electric kettle is a good investment - Coffee or tea? An electric kettle is portable and quick to use. It can even be used for making instant noodles, yum! We recommend the Amazon Basics Stainless Steel Electric Kettle, it won’t break the bank but it does the job right.
EzPacking Tip: Lots of dorms have communal kitchens so bringing an individual microwave or toaster is not necessary. Plus, most students opt for a meal plan so cooking every day isn’t something they need to worry about.
✓ Aside from a laptop, invest in a tablet - Tablets are very versatile, they can be used for studying, taking notes in class, browsing the internet or even communicating with mom! If you’re on a tight budget, this Asus ZenPad Android 8-Inch Tablet has mostly positive reviews. You can even attach a keyboard so it can function as a mini laptop for your student when they’re on campus (and don’t want to carry their laptop all day).
✓ Bring a USB drive / external hard drive - The internal storage of laptops can be limited (especially the budgeted ones). An external hard drive is a highly recommended techie tool for backing up files or data. Every few months (or more often depending on the workload), students should back up their computer to the external hard drive. Your kid won’t have any excuse for losing reports or projects! We recommend either the Western Digital Elements Portable External Hard Drive (for Windows devices) or Kesu External Hard Drive (for Apple devices). A USB drive is great for those days you need to be on campus all day but need to print something. Easily copy the files you need onto the USB drive and place it into any computer on campus and print away!
✓ Bring an extension cord - Dorm rooms have limited power outlets most of the time. Bring an extension cord, preferably with several sockets for charging gadgets like this one from Amazon Basics, because kids these days are basically non-stop charging.
✓ Buy a portable power bank - College can be busy, especially when classes go all day and club meetings run until 9pm at night, you most likely be going back to the dorm very often. Carrying a second phone charger with you is smart, but having a portable power bank is ever smarter. It can charge devices while on the go, when you don’t have access to a plug, or during power blackouts!
EzPacking Tip: Keep all cords and chargers organized in an EzPacking small packing cube.
✓ Detergent pods & fabric conditioner - When buying detergent, always go for pods. They are much easier to handle in the laundry room (and less messy!) Fabric softener sheets are also a great idea. Leave both the pods and the softener sheets in the closet, and grab a few right before you head to the laundry room!
✓ A collapsible, mini laundry bag is a must - A week’s worth of clothes can be heavy especially with typical laundry baskets. The EzPacking travel laundry bag is a better option since it is lightweight and can be folded up when not in use. It’s perfect for a quick run to the laundry room, especially if you only have a few items to wash!
✓ Cleaning supplies - If your student is lucky enough to have their own bathroom (not communal), pack some basic cleaning goodies. Multi surface spray, mirror cleaner, a mini broom, sponges, plus a toilet bowl cleaner are must haves. Remind your kid that these are not for decoration, but actual tools for cleaning their dorm room. Good luck...
✓ Dishwashing soap and sponges - If they will have a sink or mini kitchen in their room, pack some dishwashing soap and sponges. Don’t forget to buy a sponge holder for hygiene purposes!
✓ Disinfecting wipes are a must - This Lysol Disinfecting Wipes are perfect for sanitizing table tops and other surfaces in the dorm room. After a few weeks, they’ll learn the meaning of dust accumulation and thank you for those wipes.
✓ Trash bin and mini garbage bags - Most dorm rooms come with a mini trash can, but it’s a great idea to buy an additional small trash can. These things fill up quickly so two is a must! Also, don’t forget to purchase small trash bags, too.
EzPacking Tip: Place 10 pods and 10 sheets in an extra small packing cube and have supplies for a few weeks! Bring the cube with you to the laundry room for extra convenience.
✓ A mini desk lamp is ideal - For late night studying, a mini desk lamp (or bedside lamp) is perfect for rainy days and late nights. This can also lessen arguments between dorm roommates. When one roommate wants to sleep and the other needs to study, simply use the lamp instead of the ceiling light. #GoodRoomate
✓ Make a DIY first aid kit - The essentials such as Advil, Tylenol, antihistamine, and antacids must be packed along with bandaids, bandages, tweezers, etc. Check out our own DIY First Aid version here!
✓ A mini sewing kit - For small holes or tears, teach your kid how to sew them instead of throwing the clothes away. Purchase a small sewing kit like this one, which can be easily be kept in a desk drawer or first aid kit.
✓ DIY cute cosmetics kit - This is mainly for college females but can be super useful. Pack a separate cosmetics kit, including face, hair and nail essentials. For boys, they usually only need a comb and a few razors. You can also separate essentials into smaller compartments, like this Hair Essentials Packing Cube.
✓ Organize school documents into one binder - All school documents, enrollment applications, registration papers and the likes can all go in one binder for easy access and organization. Folders are also a great idea, but labeling these can take some time and effort.
✓ Bike or scooter for campus transportation - Since your student is going to be spending most of their time on campus, it’s really impractical to bring a car. Instead, a bicycle or scooter is more ideal, environment friendly and economic!
EzPacking Tip: Each student has his or her own individual needs. This post serves as a guide for you, but feel free to tweak it according to your student’s specific necessities, personality and of course, their courses in school.
What’s the best way to pack for college?
So you’ve completed our “how to pack for college guide”. What else do you need to know? Of course the next step is actually packing and moving these items from your home to college. If the college is just few hours drive away from home, you can pack these items in cardboard boxes. Pack similar items in respective boxes and label them accordingly. For extra organization (and cleanliness from dust) you can also use EzPacking cubes to pack similar items together before placing them inside the cardboard boxes! For fragile or breakable items, use some bubble wrap.
Is college a flight away? You have two great options: either pack items into cardboard boxes and have them shipped to the college OR pack minimal items into a few suitcases and buy the rest there! You can also opt for a combination of these two methods. Either way, make sure you’re organizing these items into packing cubes (especially clothes, toiletries and less delicate stuff). All electronics and values must be packed in their carry-on bag.
Need all this awesome info in one document?
Download or print our What to Bring to College Packing List here!
Packing for college shouldn’t be a stressful event for you (or your kids). Ease the process by guiding your kids with what to pack and what not to pack. But let them make the final decisions (within reason) - they are adults now after all!
Remember the three golden rules that we mentioned at the top:
1.) Dorm rooms are tiny
2.) The school provides most items
3.) Pack less than you think
Also consider investing in The Complete Bundle, a variety of different-size packing cubes you can use during and after the college move.
If you’ve made it this far, good job mom, you’re a superstar! Now you can stop reading and actually start packing!