how to pack for college

Packing for College 101: Comprehensive Guide with Printable Checklist

Preparing all your things to head off to college can be an exciting and transformative time in life, yet the process of packing everything up may feel overwhelming and burdensome at times. Whether you are a freshman moving into a dorm for the first time or a returning student looking to streamline your packing process, being organized will be key to make this tedious process easier.

It is for this reason that AP Pro Moving has put together this comprehensive guide to make a difference in your packing experience. This guide on how to pack for college is designed to help you navigate this important task with ease, using practical tips and tricks, and a printable checklist as your best ally. Keep on reading this article to make the best out of your college move.

Considerations before packing for college

Leaving your house to go to college is a significant milestone, but before you start packing, it’s essential to consider several factors to ensure a smooth transition into your new space. From understanding your dorm room dimensions and your roommate agreements, preparation and organization can make all the difference in your moving experience. 

When thinking about how to pack for college efficiently, this article will provide you with the insights of our expert movers into a smooth and effortless transition. Moreover, AP Pro Moving offers the moving services you need to make your college relocation possible. 

how to pack for college
In order to know exactly how to pack for college, it is necessary that you stay organized and put together a useful checklist.

How to Pack for College Dorm

Downsizing your possessions and favorite items to bring and fit into a college dorm can be more than a daunting task. With a shared and limited space, the need to bring only the essentials for both, study and daily living, becomes a crucial plan of action for packing and making your college transition smoother.

Without a doubt, understanding what to bring and what to leave behind can make all the difference. We recommend you start by checking the college website for items that might be prohibited in the dorms, and what your roommate is bringing along. In this way, you won’t be taking unnecessary items with you. Also, it is key to rely on a trustworthy packing checklist to make sure you are not leaving anything important behind.

What to Pack for College: A Complete College Packing List

To help ease the transition into your college life, we’ve compiled a complete college packing list that covers all the essentials you’ll need for your new home away from home. We suggest you start with the basics and build your list up as you go.

Personal care

  • Bath essentials, including soap, shower gels and shampoo and conditioner.
  • Daily hygiene items like your toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, dental floss and mouthwash.
  • Shower essentials, including towels and shower shoes.
  • Don’t forget to prepare a portable first aid kit that you could keep at reach if needed.


  • Twin XL bedsheets and a comforter.
  • Pillow and pillowcase.
  • Earplugs if you are a light sleeper.


  • Backpack or carrying bag.
  • Laptop or tablet with their accessories.
  • Notebook and a pencil case with the writing essentials to take notes in class.
  • Planner or calendar to keep track of the things you need to do and project due dates.
  • Consider getting a desk lamp for your desk, it will be a game changer for long study hours.

Clothing and other living essentials

  • Hangers and closet organizers for your clothes.
  • Clothes according to the weather conditions.
  • Shoes, including a pair of comfortable sneakers.
  • Storage boxes are always a good call to maximize space, specially if they are foldable.
  • Power strip.
  • Portable charger.
  • Batteries.
  • Room decorations like photos, posters, and a cozy throw on can make your room feel more like home. 
  • Essential documents like your ID, health insurance card, and any financial aid paperwork. 


  • A plate, a mug, and utensils.
  • Reusable water bottle.
  • Reusable tote bags for your shopping.
  • Tupperware is also helpful when you need to store food, or carry snacks in your backpack.
  • A microwave or min fridge can be useful to have in your room, yet you should check if there are rental options available in your university.

Cleaning and laundry

  • Dish soap and sponge.
  • Dish towels.
  • Laundry bag or hamper.
  • Laundry detergent.

Be sure to download our useful printable checklist to make your college packing experience the easiest one!

What not to pack for college

When preparing for college, it’s essential to pack wisely to avoid cluttering your dorm room with unnecessary items. First and foremost, refrain from bringing excessive amounts of clothing. Dorm closets are typically small, so focus on versatile pieces that are comfortable, and that can be layered and mixed. 

Similarly, leave books you won’t need for classes behind to save space. Your university will surely have a library you can go to consult any kind of reading you may need. Packing only the essentials will make your move easier and your dorm room more functional. Moreover, don’t forget to be mindful of the college’s banned items, as these are commonly potential fire hazards, which can put you and your roommates at risk. Some banned items may include the following:

  • Some cooking appliances.
  • Electronic cigarettes.
  • Candles.
  • Fairy lights.
  • Electric blankets.
how to pack for college
When thinking about how to pack for college, it is needed that you leave the things you don’t need behind.

Other College Packing Tips

When preparing for college, it’s essential to think beyond the basics, and be as prepared as possible to avoid stress and forgetting something essential back at home. These are other college packing tips we consider you can get inspired by to make your college move a little bit easier.

Pack your bags by category

When preparing for a move, it is always helpful to sort clothes and items by category. This step might seem unnecessary to some, but we assure you it will save you headaches in the near future. When packing, and more importantly when unpacking, having items sort by category will help you find things more quickly and also put them away in an organized way. This will save you time when needing to settle at your new dorm, and it will also make you feel more comfortable and at home in your new space.

Leave everything you don’t use often behind

One of the best tips when it comes to moving is to leave everything you don’t often use behind. Sometimes we get tempted to take things just in case we might need them, but, spoiler alert, if we don’t use them at home, we won’t use them elsewhere. Leave clothes and items you don’t use behind, or consider donating them or gifting them to someone else before leaving to college. In this way, you will be repurposing that long-lost, long forgotten item in your home.

Consider using vacuum sealed bags

This is another packing hack that can really make your moving experience, and your life, easier. Using vacuum sealed bags to pack your clothes is the best way to save space in your suitcases and bags. But, that’s not all! Vacuum sealed bags can be easily repurposed once you arrive to college, as you can use them with your comforters, which usually tend to be chunky and occupy space in your closet that you may need for something else.

Settling Into Your New Home

Moving into a new space, and specially into your new college dorm, can be an exciting endeavor, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Taking this into account, we believe the first step to start feeling right at home is to prioritize unpacking and organizing your essentials right away. 

Start with your clothes and the bedding to make sure you’ll have a comfortable place to sleep at the end of the day. Then prepare your school essentials and set up your desk. Once that is done, we think it may be also beneficial to familiarize yourself with your new neighboring area. Take a walk through campus and introduce yourself to other fellow students. Embracing these steps can make the transition smoother and help you feel at home in no time.

Planning your move? Get expert help!     

Moving to college can understandably be an overwhelming task for first timers, but we assure you it doesn’t have to be like that at all. Download the printable checklist contained in this article to use as a guide for your college move, and follow easy steps and tricks to make your college relocation process run smoothly.

If you need help, AP Pro Moving is here to make your transition to college the most efficient and swift experience possible. We offer an array of moving services that will save you time and effort, and make it possible for you to get immersed into your college life right away.  You can call us at +1 (703) 757-6969 to know more about us and get a quote from our team.


How much to pack for college?

When packing for college, bring essentials like clothing, toiletries, bedding, and school supplies. Avoid over-packing by focusing on items you use daily. Consider space limitations in dorms and consult your college’s packing checklist to ensure you have everything needed without bringing unnecessary items.

How many days before college should I start packing? 

Start packing for college at least a week in advance. This timeframe allows you to organize belongings, identify missing items, and avoid last-minute stress. Early packing ensures you have ample time to sort through necessities, pack efficiently, and address any unforeseen issues that may arise.

How long does it take to pack up a dorm? 

Packing up a dorm typically takes 1 to 2 days, depending on the amount of belongings and organization level. Efficient packing is quicker with proper preparation, including sorting items, discarding unnecessary things, and using labeled boxes. You can also ask for help from friends or family to make the process easier.

What is the smartest way to pack? 

The smartest way to pack involves starting early and being organized. Use high-quality boxes and packing materials, label each box clearly, and pack heavier items at the bottom with lighter ones on top. Prioritize packing only the things you will really need and make a list to keep track of your belongings.

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