This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated a tiny bit if you make a purchase after clicking on the links. The Savor Summer College Scholarship winners thank you!
7 College Dorm Packing Tips From the Pros
SO much to pack…TOO much to pack? HELP! Here are several key college dorm packing tips for students and their parents.
Hélène is a mom to twin daughters who are leaving for college in the fall. She is the author of 3 books, including Moving to College: What to Do, What to Learn, What to Pack, and is a contributing writer to the Huffington Post. She also mentors first-generation, under-resourced Chicago teens on the college application process.
Hélène founded Next Act for Women, to share stories of midlife reinventions and is a professional transition coach, working primarily with women in midlife who feel stuck or lost, often as a result of an impending empty nest—she’s been there!
Welcome, Hélène, and thank you for your timely post!
7 College Dorm Packing Tips From the Pros
Have your piles ready? Wondering how you’ll fit everything into your car? Check out these essential college dorm packing tips from those who’ve been there before you.
Label everything. Assume that many students will have similar items; how will you claim yours? Phone charger, anyone? Use a Sharpie for hard goods, a laundry marker or iron-on name tags for clothing, adhesive labels for charging cords, and decorative stickers for laptops.
Ship ahead. If you’ll be taking public transportation to school, you’ll be very limited in what you can take along or might incur expensive fees for additional luggage. Consider shipping boxes of goods ahead of time to your campus address. Or, to avoid long lines at the campus post office and if you’ll have use of a car, ship these boxes to a UPS or FedEx facility near campus.
Pack the car efficiently. If you’ll be driving, you’ll want to maximize the space. Fold-down rear seats. Fit small/soft items in gaps between other items. Cushion breakables with clothing and bedding. Fit items inside all containers, like your under-bed storage bins. Remove new items from their boxes—just be sure you plan to keep them.
Put all your hanging items on their hangers, cinch the tops of several hangers with a rubber band, then use a tall garbage bag as a garment bag to protect your clothing from dirt (use a cinch-type trash bag and cinch it at the top just below the hook of the hanger). Use the bags for trash as you unpack. Pack a small bag for overnight stops and make sure it’s easily accessible. (Bonus Tip: Use the backpack your student will use in college)
Leave your valuables behind. With the exception of a laptop and phone, a college dorm is not the place for expensive jewelry or watches.
HOT TIP: Pack a fan in your vehicle LAST, so you can take it out FIRST and get it going in that stuffy dorm room before moving everything else in!
Even HOTTER TIP: Get a WOOZOO Fan!
Pack your entire wardrobe. If you’re planning on coming home for Thanksgiving, leave the majority of your winter wear at home and pick it up when you visit. Or if your parents will be visiting, have them do the honors. These visits are also a good opportunity to bring or send home items you’ve now realized you don’t need.
Pack anything you can buy or pick up near campus. Think toiletries, over-the-counter medications, kitchen items, study supplies, etc. When it comes to essential items that may run out (like the correct size dorm room mattress pads or cooling fans), register online at stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or Target and they’ll have your items waiting for you to pick up at a local store near your college.
One exception: You may want to buy and pre-wash at least one set of bed sheets and towels at home (this removes possibly harmful chemical residues) then pack them in your bags—you don’t want to have to worry about laundry when you’re moving into your dorm room.
Pack or ship items in large trunks or suitcases. You will have nowhere to store Instead, pack goods in small carton boxes that can easily be carried up several flights of stairs to your dorm room (don’t expect an elevator!), and recycled after unpacking. Don’t forget to mark all the boxes clearly.
For more college dorm packing tips, check out Moving to College: What to Do, What to Learn, What to Pack.
You may also like 5 Easily Forgotten College Dorm Essentials
Practical Resources include:
A step-by-step list of things to do, from decision to move-in day, such as:
- Booking hotel rooms ASAP for parents’ weekend
- Securing scholarship money to close financial aid gaps
- Understanding your health plan options and HIPAA waivers
The life skills every student should learn before leaving home, including:
- Staying safe and handling a medical emergency
- Managing expenses and staying on a budget
- Handling common roommate problems
The most comprehensive college packing list, for every category, featuring:
- Dorm life essentials and what’s a waste of money
- Extensive product information and reviews
- Packing and move-in day tips to ensure a stress-free move
Hundreds of resources, with links at your fingertips, including:
- The best stores for college dorm shopping, with tips on student discounts
- Where to buy, rent, and sell textbooks so you never pay full price
- Great books, websites, and blogs for both students and parents
Do you have any college dorm packing tips to share? Please add them to the comments below!
Monica Matthews is the author of How to Win College Scholarships. She helped her own son win over $100,000 in college scholarships and now shares her expertise with other parents and their students. She truly has “been there, done that” in regards to helping parents and students navigate the scholarship process.
Her method of helping students in finding college scholarships, writing unique and compelling scholarship essays, creating amazing scholarship application packets and more, have taught desperate parents to help their own students win thousands of scholarship dollars.
Monica’s scholarship tips have been featured on many prominent websites and she has been dubbed the “Go-To” expert on college scholarships.
Don’t pack your entire wardrobe is the most practical advice! As a mom with girls, I found that that’s what they wanted to do.
Exactly, but convincing students (especially girls) to cut down on what clothes to bring is hard! I found with my boys that telling them they could swap clothes every time the came home to visit worked well. 🙂
This is great advice for anyone going off to university or college. I love don’t pack the whole wardrobe too as I have 3 daughters who found it very hard to know what to leave behind when they went off to uni.
There are so many dorm packing lists out there, aren’t there? I found this one to be spot-on! 🙂
You really think of everything, Monica!!
I try, Jodie! College dorm packing can be overwhelming! 🙂
I love a good packing list and I think kids should start early seeing how being organized is the way to go!
You are so right, Carol. Organization is KEY!
It was amazing how much of a packing pro I’d become by senior year. In fact, I volunteered at Orientation my junior and senior years (more to get to move into the dorm early, than to actually be nice!), and I would just shake my head at all the nonsense the incoming freshmen would bring with them. It was like they were packing their bunkers for the apocalypse… 🙂
I know and the poor parents who are carrying everything up several flights of stairs on a hot mid-August day…Been there, done that!
Love these tips! Packing for any purpose is stressful and hard work! I recall both figuring out what you needed and getting it all in the car being equally hard for college!
Right and for those students who have to fly to their colleges, it is especially challenging!