Skip to main content

There's a lot to remember packing for your kid’s first year of college. To figure out what they’ll need, visit your college’s website to see if there's a recommended list.

Here are a few suggestions:

Bedding: Before you buy sheets, find out in advance what size bed your kid will have in her dorm. Twin? Or twin extra-long? In addition to sheets, pillows, and a comforter, you’ll also want a mattress pad.

Toiletries: Find out what the bath situation is. Does your kid have a private bath? Will they share one with another room? Is there one big one per floor? Consider portability when purchasing bath supplies, especially if your kid will have anything other than a private bath. Shower shoes and a tote for shampoo are also a good idea if there’s a shared bath.

Laundry: Find out where your kid’s laundry facilities are located and how far away they are from his dorm. Are they in the same building? Will she need cash or is there a card payment system? Does he have to go off-campus? In addition to detergent and dryer sheets, make sure to bring a bag or basket for carrying clothes.

Desk Supplies: Think about what your kid’s college already offers, and what they may need when studying. See if you can find out what type of desk there is in the dorm room, and whether there’s storage for supplies. Bring a desk lamp.

Clothing: Consider what the climate is like where your kid is going to college, and if they will return home before the seasons’ change. If they can avoid bringing clothes for every season at once, do so—clothing space is usually minimal.

Decor: Figure out what furniture is provided, if any, and whether your kid is allowed to hang things on the walls. Some colleges don’t allow tape or nails on wall surfaces. If space is limited, consider bringing storage cubes or under-bed boxes. You might also need to send hangers or a bedside lamp.

Computer Supplies: If your kid is bringing their computer, find out the type of Internet access is available and what the compatibility requirements are so they can be prepared. Check to see if there are campus printing facilities or if your kid should bring their printer. Don’t forget the essentials for their computer, like the power cord or a laptop lock.

Electronics: Find out what kind of electronics are allowed and supplied in the dorms, and make sure your kid consults with their roommate—They don’t need duplicates of big-ticket items like speakers, TVs, or refrigerators.

Cooking Supplies: Even if there’s a dining hall, there is a good chance your kid will want to whip something up in their room. Find out what the policy is at the dorm on cooking, specifically for cooking electronics like microwaves, coffee pots, and hot plates. Some colleges allow them and some strictly forbid them.

Food: There will be moments when your kid will feel like “eating in” or having a late-night snack in their dorm, so pack snacks. Don’t mess with perishable food. Dry food is best. Make sure everything can be stored easily. Popcorn, ramen, and mac ‘n’ cheese are a few items that can be prepared without much hassle.

Cleaning Supplies: When it comes to areas like the bathroom and kitchen area, your kid will want cleaning supplies like a portable vacuum, all-purpose cleaner, and dust wipes on hand. Check to see if the college provides any of these before purchasing.

Miscellaneous: Your kid should be prepared for everything, so try to think of unique situations and what they might need to handle them. What would they need for a dentist appointment? If something breaks? Also, remember that they will be very busy, so don’t bring too much.

About ScholarShare 529

ScholarShare 529, California’s college savings plan, publishes the College Countdown website and articles to provide resources and to ease the minds of parents preparing to send their kids to college. Visit ScholarShare 529.