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The Complete DORM Packing Checklist!

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Moving into a dorm or college apartment is an exciting time! But it can also seem overwhelming mentally and financially. This checklist was designed to give you an encompassing view of what you *MIGHT* want to take with you to your new dorm-sweet-dorm.

Before we begin, though, take a minute to look long and hard at your transportation to your new abode. Do you live in-state where you can drive? If so, are you transporting in a large van or a tiny hatchback? If you are flying, how much carry-on are you allowed vs shipping items? It's easy to jump into decor and design without remembering that everything you take there must also be moved back home. So we always suggest a less-is-more approach. You can always purchase needed items once there or hop on the internet for things to be delivered. That way you know what you bring is what you actually NEED.

So that being said, let's dive in! This is an all inclusive view of what students might want to pack. Every student and living situation is different so cross out anything that doesn't apply to you!

I found keeping my checklist by the computer was an easy way to cross off items once we purchased them, especially things we ordered online. These are also links to what we personally used in a high-rise dorm at a large SEC school in the south.


Many dorms are TwinXL or Twin. The difference is in the length, not the width. So while you can get away with a twin, twinxl, or full blanket or comforter, you'll want to research your bed's size for sheets and mattress topper.

I sent 2 sets of sheets with my son, so he could have a replacement while one set was in the wash. Bamboo sheets and 100% cotton ones are great choices for wicking away moisture and keeping the student from overheating especially if they are naturally "hot" sleepers. If your student doesn't use a top-sheet (like mine) you can use it a few different ways - they make great inexpensive bedskirts. And if your bed is lofted and against a wall, you can make the bedskirt hang down longer on the non-wall side. They also do well as a lightweight drapery option. Alternately, there are packages with just the fitted sheets included!

Do you need deep-pocket fitted sheets? Not usually. Even with a 3+ inch topper, dorm mattresses are so thin that regular pocket sheets work just fine!

- Comforter Thinner comforters or duvets that you can pair with blankets for layer options are great in new climates. They are also easier to run through the washing machines. Remember, Twin XL beds are just slightly longer than traditional Twins, so depending on how your bed is oriented and if you want "hangover" you have flexibility in using a Twin, TwinXL or Full comforter as they all work fine on a Twin XL bed.

- Blanket

- Pillows

- Pillowcases

Initially I thought a mattress topper was a luxury item and not really necessary. Until I went to my son's orientation and saw the mattress they offered. Now I knew what all of the parents on the dorm fb pages were talking about!!! It (along with the air purifier) is the top item I recommend to any new student. Many schools have opted for thin, plastic or resin coated mattresses to prevent bedbugs and mold. They are very similar to the sleeping mats from preschool classrooms or like thick gymnastics mats. The Lucid 3' was recommended to us and I'm so glad we got it. It added cushion without being too hot or marshmallow-y.

They can also be found on the Home Depot site and often are on sale during Prime Days so add it to your cart for updates. Another popular option in the same price point is the Linenspa brand. As you get closer to the school year these often are sold out so if you are in a position to buy earlier you likely will have more options!

We went with a zippered waterproof protector pad to keep the mattress topper and mattress encased together. Kids are harder on their beds at school than they are at home because a bed is also where they often eat, study and watch TV. The mattress pad keeps the topper from sliding, makes it easier to change the sheets, and prevents sweat, spills and dirt from reaching that topper to keep it nice for years of useage. Even if your child will only be in a dorm for a few years, many people re-sell their topper to new incoming freshman to use later if they have been protected.

Some people put the zippered encasement around the mattress to protect everything from the previously used mattress. If your dorm or apartment has an old-fashioned fabric mattress then that is a smart move. Encase it to prevent exposure to mold/dander/etc. But, if your mattress is one of the plastic gym-type pads that can be sanitized from the outside, it isn't necessary.

- Pool Noodle or Pipe Insulation & Zip Ties - These are for lofted beds. You put them around the metal or wood edging to prevent knocking your head when going underneath. Do this FIRST at move in.... ask me how I know :) In this photo, you can see how they used black pipe insulation to line the metal bar directly under the white comforter. That way, when the kids are accessing the underbed space their heads are protected.

- Bed Shelf, Bag or Raised Nightstand - Lamp, water-bottle, glasses, book, phone charger, emergency flash light for fire drills... they need things by their bed! And having things handy can be a challenge if your bed is lofted. We went with the black shelf shown as well as the hanging bag and it was ideal for everything he needed. Cough drops, allergy medicine, notepad.... The shelves attach using compression so they work on multiple bed frame sizes and do not damage the furniture.


Every dorm will have their own rules and regulations regarding electronics. Please check with your dorm before purchasing anything you have a question about. UL rating is often a requirement and larger dorms will not allow wireless printers or Echo Dot type items on their wifi.

This is another example similar to the mattress topper where I wasn't 100% sold on it being a necessity at first. Then I heard more and more parent recommendations. Ya'll. It's so true. It's so gross. Do you remember when you took your sweet child to preschool and they got sick with a drippy nose for months at a time? College is the same biome of new germs, detergents, perfumes, sweat, molds and allergens. And even if you live in the same city where you grew up, it likely has different foliage and pollens. This air purifier kept my allergy-prone son and his roommate healthy all year. They needed to replace the filter once and they are really cost effective. No matter what brand you get, be sure to get one that is rated for MOLD which is a big concern in any multi-unit housing situation.

- Fan

What in the woozoo?! If you are new to the world of dorm-conversations, you're about to hear the word "woozoo" a lot. Like, a-lot. Woozoo fans are super quiet and distribute a large amount of air. There are different styles and number of speeds. Some versions come with remotes or occilate or tilt in certain directions. Amazon and Costco both seem to be great places to find deals - but just like with the mattress toppers, the closer you get to August the harder they will be to find.

However, any fan will be a great addition to a stuffy room when you're trying to sleep or study. Be sure to bring an extension cord so it can reach up to your bed.

- TV - not all kids have space or need for a TV and use a laptop instead. If you do bring one, be sure to coordinate with your roommate on where to put it and if there need to be time parameters for having it off when the other person is studying.

- Gaming Console or TV Antenna

Do you remember ethernet cables? Well, your child's electronics don't remember them! While most dorms have wifi, larger ones holding 500-1000 students can get a bit slow, especially if you are streaming or using high graphic software. Dorm rooms often have ethernet connections for TVs and laptops to connect to when in the room. This makes it run smooth and fast - necessary for online classes. But you may need an ethernet to USB connector.

- Alarm Clock

- Extra Batteries

There aren't enough outlets. I can confidently say this, not knowing who you are or where you are going to school. There aren't enough. And the ones that are there are in super weird places. Your kid comes with a need for outlets like no other generation and many schools require extension cords to be UL certified AND have a power switch. If you are planning to have outlets accessible at a desk and a lofted bed, at least two 15+ foot cords will be helpful.

- Desk Lamp - one with dimmable lights or the ability to change between warm/cool/daylight colors helps with eye fatigue. Some even come with additional USB charging ports.

Roommates don't always have the same schedule so dimmable vanity lighting allows you the flexibility to get ready for the day even if your roommate is still sleeping. Vanity mirrors often go on the desk to serve dual purpose. So one with extra storage or USB charging ports is a plus.

- Phone Charging Cord or Station

Our family has personally used these charging blocks for about 8 years. Each can completely recharge a cell phone and are re-chargeable themselves of course. It's a good option for keeping the phone or laptop powered up even on long days away from the dorm.

- Flashlight - Phones do have flashlights but often hopping out during a fire drill or finding a zip drive that fell behind a desk are easier with a tangible flashlight. Dorms often have fire alarms go off in the middle of the night (microwave popcorn is often the culpret) but having a flashlight, your phone, keys and a sweatshirt handy in a pinch to grab on the way out the door is a smart idea.

- Laptop & Power Cords

- Printer & Paper & Extra Toner - check with your school about printing options. Many schools have printers in each dorm and in the major buildings that use their ID card for charges. It can be easier and faster than having a traditional printer. However, if your student enjoys paper, now's not the time to change what's been working for them! If you are taking a printer be sure to pack extra ink and the cable that attaches the printer to the computer. Dorms do not often allow wireless printer capacity on their wifi.


Start making a list of what your child needs with regard to routine medicines and first aid. Companies make premade first aid kits which are great, but I found it to be more cost effective to get a craft toolbox and fill it with things my own child was already familiar with. These included but were not limited to : BANDAIDS, LARGER BANDAGE WRAPS, BANDAGE TAPE, ALCOHOL WIPES, SCISSORS, THERMOMETER, ASPRIN, IBUPROFEN, ALLERGY MEDICINE, ANTIBIOTIC OINTMENT, STOMACH MEDICINE, COUGH SYRUP, DAYQUIL, NIGHTQUIL, COUGH DROPS, BENADRYL ANTI-ITCH CREAM, ATHLETE'S FOOT SPRAY (community showers, yall), Q-TIPS, ANTACIDS, EYEDROPS, TWEEZERS, DECONGESTANTS.

I also included these items because when you need them you need them right away and don't want to run to a store : CAN GINGER ALE, SALTINE CRACKERS, GATORADE, SOUP. I put them in the same medicine box so they were easily accessible. I also included these two write ups specifically for my own kid but you get the idea :


Situations will vary on what laundry and cleaning supplies you will need. Think about your child's space. Do they have a lot of carpet? Do they have their own bathroom to clean? Do they prefer to deep clean or barely wipe things off? Use this info to determine what supplies will be most helpful to your child.

Some things that might be added to your list will include :


This is one of the most often asked question. Do you want a laundry basket, rolling cart or backpack? Well, a lot will depend on WHERE you have to go to wash. Rolling carts and backpacks keep your hands fairly free which is important for 1) safety 2) ease of using doors / elevators 3) carrying study materials or hanging clothes back up. Most of the kids at my son's school opted for laundry backpacks.



Whether you are sharing a shower with one roommate or an entire floor of people, a shower caddy keeps your items together and clean so you don't end up forgetting what you need. Mesh caddies dry really fast and prevent mold. They are also easy to toss into the washing machine if you start to get soap build-up. Caddies like this one have a large center container for large bottles but also side pockets for smaller items.

- Shaving Equipment (Razors, Cream)

- Towels - we sent 3 towels so they wouldn't take up too much space and encouraged frequent laundry.

- Hook To Hang Wet Towels

- Shower Shoes / Flip Flops

So we set up a "wet station" in the dorm room right inside the door featuring this boot-tray where my son could put his shower caddy down after using it. The mesh ones dry really fast but there is still a little moisture when they first get back to the room. He also hung an S-hook off the bed for damp towels to hang over the boot tray. It's also where his rain-boots and umbrella went.

- Toiletries & Extra Set - We sent "normal" sized shampoo and toiletries in the shower caddy so it wouldn't be overwhelming to carry and use. We also sent an extra set of high use items that he could refill with.

- Contact Lens Equipment (Solution, Tray)

- Blow Drier

- Brush, Curling Irons

- Makeup


They are there to study after-all! And just as every child is different, their study habits are as well. Although they will modify their study habits over time, giving them the materials they are already used to using will be helpful for the transition. If you are considering a new computer, check both with your school and the intended major as they often have recommendations and requirements.

- Pencils, Pens, Hilighters

- Lined Paper

- Printer Paper

- Post It Notes / Index Cards

- Dry Erase Board & Markers

- Pencil Sharpener

- Scissors

- Stapler

- Printer Paper

Water-Resistant Laptop Backpack. They need one. They're going to get caught in a rain storm or 100 of them. Laptop backpacks have extra padding on the bottom to reduce shock and some come with an additional power source.

- Calculator

- Lab Safety Equipment

- Additional shelving or drawers


Don't overlook these items that can make life easier!

- S-Hooks for over the door or over ladder bed slats'

- Water Bottle & Cleaning Brush

- Extra duffel bag - for travel

- Command Hooks (IF IF IF you are good at removing them. Check with your school to see if they are allowed)

- Snacks & Snack Storage

- Rug or Rug Runners

- Tool bag (screwdriver, hammer, basic tools)

- Rain Boots

Fabulous for socializing, air flow and also can be turned around to shove under the door from the inside for extra security at night.

- Full Length Mirror

- Safe

- Decor Items

- Personal Photos

- Games / Frisbee / Cards / Football

- Can Opener

- Sunscreen

- Bathing Suit

- Ottoman To Climb Into Lofted Bed

For storage and for climbing in/out of lofted beds. Make sure any ottoman you get is sturdy and built for sitting / standing on. Also check into loft-steps which make climbing easier.

- Interview Suit or Formal Outfit

Stackable drawers that can slide under your bed give extra storage to maximize space. Often kids have to change dorms or move to apartments in later years, so these versatile solutions are great for adapting to beds of different heights or working later in larger closets.

- Bras

- Underware

- Socks

- Tennis Shoes

- Casual Shoes

- Jeans

- Pants

- Shorts

- Pajamas

- Casual Lounge Clothes

- Slacks

- Button Down Dress Shirts

- Collared Shirts

- T-Shirts

- Skirts

- Dresses

- Hoodies

- Jacket

- Raincoat

- Umbrella



Other Info You Might Find Interesting!

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