How to Pack When You're Headed to College: Guest Post from Jenna Farmer

Note from Katie: Moving is one of my least favorite things. So I was delighted that Jenna Farmer contacted me about writing a guest post--she's a real-life moving expert offering some great tips. Packing for a dorm is not like packing for "real life." And, if you're like me, college will involve moving from home to dorms to apartments to houses and abroad and back home again. It's a mess. And if you take Jenna's advice you'll be well on your way.

Tips for Moving to Campus: How to Pack When You’re Headed to College

Getting accepted to college was probably one of the first (hopefully of many) milestones in your adult life that came with an overwhelming sense of achievement and anticipation for the future.

The nightmare detritus of the move.

Now what?

If you’re dorming or living off-campus away from your parents, there will be plenty to consider before you even step foot in the classroom. Where will you live? Will you need roommates? And finally, what will you bring?

You may be so ready for this new adventure that you want to haphazardly toss your clothes in a duffel bag and tell Mom and Dad “See ya later!” – but not so fast. You will need help on move-in day (whether you are in state or out-of-state), and the best way to ensure it goes smoothly is to pace yourself. Careful planning and organization will be the keys to your success.  

Quick packing tips for campus life:

Use plastic containers instead of cardboard boxes: Whether you’re in a dorm or an apartment, you can use plastic containers as storage for under your bed or in closets once you’ve unpacked all of your belongings. This beats throwing away a ton of cardboard boxes you only used once, and will save you money, too (you can use the same plastic containers for any future moving).

Take what you need, leave the rest: Sure, a few picture frames, stuffed animals, knick knacks or a favorite pillow from home may be essential to curb homesickness, but don’t try to recreate your entire bedroom. Not only will it be a second-rate version, but you will use a lot of precious real estate in your room needed for other things (like books, your laundry hamper, personal computer, etc.). And who wants to lug his or her entire bedroom back and forth on breaks?  Stick to a minimalist approach and adorn your room with some inexpensive posters to give it your personal touch.

A few things you will need:

  • Weather-appropriate clothing (but not everything in your closet -you can always bring things back with you over break)

  • Shower shoes and caddy (especially if you will be sharing a shower)

  • Backpack, laptop, books, other school supplies

  • Space-saving hangers

  • Trashcan (you can even pack some small items inside)

  • Mini-refrigerator or microwave (if your school does not supply them, or if you are living in an apartment)

  • Bedding, including a mattress pad for dorm beds (extra-long twin is the standard for dorm rooms—two sets of sheets!)

  • Dry erase board

  • Small tool kit and first aid kit

  • Curtains or a decorative sheet – sometimes, dorm rooms have very large windows that lack blinds. If you don’t want blaring sunlight or floodlights interrupting your sleep schedule, this can be a lifesaver. It can also keep your room cooler on hot summer days.

Pack all of your books in a rolling suitcase: If you’ve already bought your textbooks, you definitely want to keep them in the best condition possible. Although you can purchase sturdy cardboard boxes, they can get too heavy and break right through the bottom. If you pack your books in a suitcase, they will stay protected, and you’ll have a travel bag for your trips back home.

Buy snacks, cleaning supplies and other essentials after move in: If you can help it, it’s better to purchase all daily essentials at a local supermarket once you’re moved in. Your space is precious, especially if you’re only moving in with one carload – don’t waste that trunk space on Easy Mac and industrial-sized laundry detergents. Scope out the sales at the local stores before moving day, so you know where to get the best deal on all of your essentials like toiletries, cleaning supplies, non-perishable snacks, stacking crates, batteries, etc.

If living on-campus, check your school’s regulations about appliances: You don’t want to jump the gun and buy a hot plate and a coffee maker, only to find out at move-in that those items are prohibited in dorms (better off saving that money for a Starbucks gift card!).

Moving into college for the first time will surely be a learning process, both in and out of the classroom. But with the right tools to make your physical transition a breeze, your emotional and academic transition should quickly follow.

Jenna Farmer is a content writer and graphic designer for, one of the leading online relocation portals, where she spends most of her day writing informative guides about all aspects of the moving process. She is a New Jersey native, but has lived in South Florida and Louisiana. She holds a BA in English from Rutgers University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Miami. When she’s not writing or designing something, she enjoys watching football (or entirely too many shows on the Travel Channel), riding her bike and spending weekends with friends.