A Comprehensive College Dorm Checklist for Leaving Home

Abigail Eun
Abigail Eun

Abigail Eun is a freelance writer and personal finance expert. Through diligent research and continuous learning, she has honed her knowledge in budgeting, saving, investing, and debt management. Abigail is passionate about helping people get their finances in order. She believes that everyone should have access to the information they need to make sound financial decisions. Her goal is to provide clear and concise information that is easy to understand.

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Daniel Kahn
Daniel Kahn
Daniel is the co-founder and COO at Sparrow. Daniel is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a company, working closely with other members of the executive team to develop and implement strategies to support the growth and success of the company.
Daniel was a 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 lister in the Education category.  Daniel was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated from Duke University in 2020.
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Camden Ford
Camden Ford

Camden leads Sparrow’s business operations – everything from product management to business analytics. After graduating Cum Laude from Duke University where he studied Civil Engineering, Camden worked as a Consultant for A.T. Kearney where he worked in their Strategic Operations practice. With a strong background in analytics, Camden strives to deliver data-driven conclusions and insights.

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November 10, 2023

Congratulations on being accepted into college! (*virtual fistbump*)

If you’re leaving home to embrace the “dorm life,” we’re here to help. Our comprehensive college dorm checklist covers everything you should and should not pack as you leave home. 

What are Must-Haves for College Dorms?

When you’re moving into a college dorm room, it’s better to be prepared instead of unprepared. If you think you might need something, take it. You can always throw something out or leave it under your bed, but you can’t always go back home to grab something.

Clothing and Accessories

Consider this: You’ll want to have enough clothes to last you a full week, including pajamas, impromptu going-out nights, and mid-day clothing changes because you dislike your current outfit. Think about the weather of the region you’ll be living in. Is it notoriously cold? Does it snow? Will you be prepared for a rainstorm or scorching heat?

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Pants: jeans, leggings, trousers, sweats
  • T-shirts: blouses, tank tops, regular shirts
  • Pajamas
  • Slippers/flip-flops
  • Sweaters
  • Jackets (Including weather-appropriate ones like a rain jacket and/or winter jacket)
  • Shoes: sneakers, dress shoes, athletic shoes, boots
  • Swimming suit
  • Bathrobe
  • Sunglasses
  • Jewelry

Toiletries, Hygiene, and Beauty

Consider this: College bathrooms are the bane of existence for many college students. You’ll definitely want to remember to pack a shower caddy and shower shoes.

  • Shower shoes
  • Towel (If you want to make laundry day easy, pick a towel color that matches the majority of your clothing. That way, you can throw everything together in one batch, rather than having to do a separate load of towels.)
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Soap/Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Body lotion
  • Face lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Bathrobe (Students might wear their bathrobes to/from the bathroom before/after showering. If you’d prefer to save some space, opt for a 2-in-1 situation – a towel that velcros around you – instead of a separate towel and bathrobe.)
  • Shower caddy
  • Makeup
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Q-Tips
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Contact lens care
  • Tweezers
  • Hairbrush
  • Desk mirror
  • Full-length mirror

Health and Medication

Consider this: You’ll never be as sick as you are in college. Prepare for the worst and keep your immune system strong and healthy by eating nutritious meals, taking vitamin supplements, and exercising.

  • Vitamins
  • Aspirin or another pain reliever 
  • Stomach medication (Antacid, Tums, etc.)
  • Prescribed medication
  • Cough drops
  • Bandages
  • First aid kit


Consider this: Extension cords are a must-have in college. Those dorms just don’t have enough outlets. P.S. Don’t forget to bring all of the chargers for your electronics. 

  • Laptop
  • Phone
  • Chargers
  • Extension cords
  • Speaker
  • Headphones

Bedroom and Laundry Supplies

Consider this: Unless you hire someone, you will have to do your own laundry in college. If you don’t know how to do it, there’s no time like the present to learn. (P.S. A mattress topper will save you in college! I’d suggest investing in a high-quality topper to get a bang for your buck during all four years of college.)

  • Pillows
  • Bed sheets
  • Mattress topper
  • Blanket
  • Laundry detergent
  • Drying sheets
  • Laundry basket (A functionable laundry basket will save you a lot of trouble in college. Ditch the laundry bags. We suggest getting a freestanding laundry basket with wheels.)

Kitchen Supplies

Consider this: Most students rely on the school’s dining hall for their meals. You’ll rarely find yourself having to cook in college, but you will want the basic necessities. 

  • Water kettle
  • Dish soap
  • Cup/mug
  • Water bottle
  • Straw cleaner
  • One spoon (You usually won’t need a whole set of silverware because you can wash accordingly after each use!)
  • One fork
  • One bowl
  • One plate 
  • Mug
  • Sponge
  • Food-storage containers
  • Microwave (Unless your roommate is bringing one)
  • A mini-fridge (Unless your roommate is bringing one)

Cleaning Supplies

Consider this: Your room, your responsibility. You can either bring or buy some cleaning supplies in college to keep your space neat and clean. 

  • Paper towels
  • Hand-held vacuum
  • Swiffer/Broom
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Tissues

Desk Supplies

Consider this: Some things never change (like your back-to-school shopping list). Believe it or not, you’re going to want to pack your highlighters and index cards as much as you did in elementary school. 

  • Stapler and staples
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Pencil pouch
  • Notebooks
  • Folders
  • Index cards
  • Sticky notes
  • Paper clips 
  • Rubber bands
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Highlighters
  • Ruler
  • Desk lamp

Dorm Necessities and Storage

Consider this: Your dorm should look as it did when you first moved in. That means no thumb tacks or any other object that might inflict irreversible damage to your walls. The Command Hooks and Command Strips will save you! 

  • Earplugs
  • Sleeping mask
  • Under-the-bed storage bins
  • Command hooks
  • Command strips
  • Air humidifier (Dorm air conditioners and heaters are known for being pretty dusty. If you’re allergy-prone, this is a must-have.)
  • Umbrella
  • Hangers (The slimmer the better – college closets and wardrobes are usually pretty tiny.)

Important Documents and Items

Consider this: It’s always good to have your important documents on hand (even if they may be a copy). If you’re driving at school, definitely don’t forget to grab your driver’s license, car registration, and insurance. 

  • A copy of your Social Security Card
  • A copy of your birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Credit card(s)
  • Health insurance information
  • Car insurance and registration

Nice to Have Items (as a fellow college student)

  • Yoga mat
  • Compact luggage for weekend travels
  • String lights
  • Coffee maker
  • Filtered water pitcher (If your college doesn’t have filtered water stations)
  • Tide Sticks
  • Bottle opener

What Not to Bring to College

Now that we’ve covered what you should pack, let’s dive into what you should not bring to college.

  • Candles/Incense (Prohibited)
  • Printer (Your dorm probably already has one!)
  • Pots/Pans (Cooking may be unrealistic)
  • Too many books (As a college student, it may be hard to find the time in the day)

Closing Thoughts From the Nest

Use this comprehensive college dorm checklist to help you be as prepared as you can for leaving home and moving into a college dorm. 

Moving out to go to college is a big turning point in your life. Be sure to have grace with yourself and spend as much time as you can with family and friends. Good luck!

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