College Dorm Checklist: Full List and Advice for Parents of Incoming Freshmen

Smiling young man carrying boxes as he moves into his dorm

College Dorm Checklist: Full List and Advice for Parents of Incoming Freshmen

Published May 30, 2023 | Last Updated April 5th, 2024 at 11:30 am

Smiling young man carrying boxes as he moves into his dorm

Moving into a college dorm is a significant milestone, representing the first step towards independence and the start of a new adventure. However, the transition can be overwhelming, especially if your student isn’t adequately prepared. Enter the all-important college dorm checklist. A college dorm checklist can help you stay organized and make sure you have everything you need for your dorm room.

What is a College Dorm Checklist?

A college dorm checklist is a comprehensive list that outlines everything your student will need for their college dorm room. This list typically covers categories such as bedding, kitchen supplies, electronics, personal care items, laundry essentials, school supplies, and more. The checklist helps you track what you already have and what you still need to purchase. In essence, it is a foolproof guide ensuring you have everything you need to start your college life comfortably and hassle-free.

Why is it Important to Have a College Dorm Checklist?

A college dorm checklist is an invaluable tool for any student preparing for dorm living. It helps alleviate the stress associated with moving to college, enables effective budgeting, saves time, and ensures you don’t forget any essentials. The end result is a more comfortable, organized, and enjoyable college experience. So before you embark on your college journey, make sure to prepare your checklist and tick off each item as you pack!

College Dorm Checklist: Everything You Need to Pack for Your First Year


You’ll need a variety of clothing for different occasions, including classes, social events, and the weather. Be sure to pack some comfortable clothes for lounging around your dorm room, too.

  • Clothing for classes: You’ll need clothes that are comfortable and appropriate for class. This might include jeans, khakis, skirts, dresses, and sweaters
  • Clothing for social events: You’ll want to pack some clothes that you can dress up or down for social events. This might include dresses, skirts, blouses, and pants.
  • Clothing for the weather: Be sure to pack clothes that are appropriate for the weather in your college town. This might include shorts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and coats.

Bath & Bedding

You’ll need sheets, pillowcases, a mattress pad, a blanket, and towels. You may also want to pack a comforter or bedspread if you get cold easily. Be sure to have items for the bathroom as well, like a caddy to hold all your toiletries and a few different size towels for face and shower.

  • Sheets: Bring a set of sheets for your bed. Twin XL sheets are the most common size for college dorms.
  • Pillowcases: Bring two pillowcases for your pillows.
  • Mattress pad: A mattress pad can help to protect your mattress and make it more comfortable to sleep on.
  • Blanket: Bring a blanket to keep you warm at night.
  • Comforter set or duvet cover
  • Mattress protector
  • Super absorbent towel set
  • Shower shoes and Caddy: Shower shoes and a caddy are essentials for anyone using shared bathrooms. These items can make your showering experience more hygienic and convenient, making them must-adds to your college dorm checklist.

Laundry Supplies

Bring laundry detergent, fabric softener, stain remover, and a laundry bag or basket. You may also want to pack a mini sewing kit in case of any accidents.

  • Laundry detergent: Bring a bottle of laundry detergent. Be sure to check with your school to see if they have any restrictions on the type of laundry detergent you can use.
  • Fabric softener: Fabric softener can help to make your clothes smell nice and feel soft.
  • Stain remover: Stain remover can help to remove stains from your clothes.
  • Laundry bag or basket: Bring a laundry bag or basket to carry your dirty clothes to the laundry room. 
  • Steamer: If your student is concerned about wrinkles, having a steamer handy will make their clothes look crisp.

Organization and Storage

You’ll need a way to organize your belongings, so bring some storage bins, under-the-bed trays, and a desk organizer. You may also want to pack a bulletin board and pushpins to decorate your walls.

  • Storage bins: Storage bins can help you to keep your clothes, toiletries, and other belongings organized.
  • Under-the-bed trays: Under-the-bed trays can be used to store shoes, books, and other items that you don’t need to access on a regular basis.
  • Desk organizer: A desk organizer can help you to keep your desk clean and organized.
  • Bulletin board and pushpins: A bulletin board and pushpins can be used to decorate your walls and display photos, mementos, and other items.
  • Quick drying toiletry organizer: An absolute must when transporting toiletries to and from the bathroom.
  • Bedside caddy


Bring a laptop, phone, charger, and any other electronics you use on a regular basis. You may also want to pack a portable speaker or headphones so you can listen to music or watch movies in your dorm room.

  • Laptop: Bring a laptop computer so you can do your schoolwork, surf the internet, and watch movies.
  • Phone: Bring a cell phone so you can stay in touch with your friends and family.
  • Phone Charger: Bring a charger for your laptop and phone so you can keep them powered up. We love Anker brand chargers. They are small and light enough to carry around and quickly recharges your smartphone or tablet, so your student doesn’t have to constantly be looking for an outlet if you’re out all day. It holds enough for four charges.
  • 3 Port USB Wall Charger: Boy Scouts need to “always be prepared,” and students need to “always be charged.” With so many things that need power (phone, laptop, etc.) and so little outlets, this handy device is a lifesaver that can charge 4 devices at once.
  • Extra Long Charging Cords: Students use their phones for everything these days and want them close by at all hours. Most dorms don’t have a lot of outlets, so best to make sure they have a LOOONG cord for being able to have their phone as an alarm to wake up on time.
  • Other electronics: Bring any other electronics you use on a regular basis, such as a gaming console, tablet, or e-reader.


Let your student bring some mini appliances to help them make food and drinks whenever they have the urge. These are some popular items students bring with them:

  • Mini fridge: A mini fridge is a must-have for any college student. It will allow you to store food and drinks, which can be helpful for late-night study sessions or when you’re feeling homesick.
  • Microwave: A microwave is another helpful appliance for college students. It can be used to heat up food or make quick meals.
  • Coffee maker: A coffee maker is a great way to start your day off right. It can also be helpful for late-night study sessions or when you need a pick-me-up.
  • Water filter pitcher: A water filter is a great item to have in your dorm room. Easily refillable, they also cut down on the amount of plastic water bottles you’re tossing out. 

Unusual Items for Your College Dorm Checklist

There are a few unusual items that you might want to pack for college. These items might not be essential, but they can make your college experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

  • Surge protector: This is essential for keeping all of your electronics charged and protected from power surges.
  • A first-aid kit: This is always a good idea, especially if you’re living in a dorm with other people.
  • A plunger: This is one of those things that you hope you never need, but it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it
  • Shower flip flops: It is best to invest in a good pair of waterproof shoes or sandals to wear in and out of the shower to keep your student’s feet safe and healthy.
  • Air purifier: An air purifier can help to remove allergens from the air, such as pollen, dust mites, and pet dander. This can help to reduce allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.
  • Dust-mite-proof bedding: Dust mites are tiny creatures that live in dust and can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Dust-mite-proof bedding can help to reduce the number of dust mites in your dorm room, which can help to reduce allergy symptoms.
  • Ultra Slim Velvet Hangers – Pack of 30: Closet space is scarce in college dorm rooms, so make the most of it by using the slimmest hangers possible.
  • Command Hooks: These hooks are amazing—strong, can be placed almost anywhere, and don’t leave marks on the wall when you remove them. Amazon has an amazing selection of these hooks in a variety of sizes, strengths, and styles.
Dorm Room Checklist of College Essentials
Check out Road2College’s Dorm Room Essentials


    • Customized Shape Pillow: Our favorite item to include on the college dorm checklist – a customized pillow to remind your student of a piece of home, whether it’s a picture of you or a picture of their favorite pet, it’s special to always have a piece of home with them at college.

      Customized Shape Pillow
      Image curtesy of a member of our Paying for College 101 group. Parents of dorm mates organized a surprise for their students – pillows with pictures of their parents

Tips for Packing for College

Packing for college can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. By following the tips in this article, you can create a checklist of everything you need to bring with you so your student can start their college experience off right. Remember to pack a variety of clothing for different occasions, as well as linens, laundry supplies, organization and storage items, personal items, electronics, and any other items that you think your student might need. And don’t forget to pack some unusual items that can make your student’s college experience more comfortable and enjoyable. With a little planning, you can be sure your student will have everything they need for their new dorm room.

Here are some additional tips for packing for college:

  • Start packing early. This will give you plenty of time to make sure you don’t forget anything.
  • Pack light. You’ll be moving around a lot, so you don’t want to be weighed down by a lot of luggage.
  • Pack for all types of weather. The weather can change quickly, so be sure to pack for both hot and cold weather.
  • Label your luggage. This will help you find your luggage quickly when you arrive at your destination.
  • Take a break. Packing can be a lot of work, so take a break every now and then to avoid getting overwhelmed.

With a little planning and effort, you can make packing for college a breeze. Get your own copy of our college dorm packing checklist here Dorm Packing Checklist

Dorm Life Tips For Your Student

It’s easier to be the new kid when everyone else is, too. Choose the all-freshman dorm option. Remind your freshman to be open to the roommate experience instead of fearful of the unknown.

Our kids have grown up in a time when you never lose touch with your friends from home because of texting and social media. Prepare your teen for the challenges of making new friends and encourage him to make the effort himself. Strongly suggest he look up from his phone or laptop, open his door once in a while and take the earbuds out of his ears.

Though a bathroom in a dorm room is more appealing than sharing one down the hall with a bunch of other kids, your freshman will meet more of her floor-mates in the big one while brushing her teeth.

If your freshman is an out-of-state student at a college dominated by in-staters, he might have to put extra effort into making friends since many of the in-state kids already know people on campus. Joining at least one club and/or signing up for dorm activities like intramurals can help a lot.

Be aware that if family dinners are the norm in your house, your teen might find it strange that her roommate or some of her floor-mates are perfectly fine eating alone.

Advice for Parents of Incoming Freshman

How to Prepare Your Child for College

Some kids love college from the first day and others need time to realize that they made the right choice. My daughter found the first few weeks very difficult. I experienced sleepless nights wondering when we’d know if we should bring her home, where she could transfer to and how she’d recover from the experience. By the time Parents’ Weekend rolled around, she’d adjusted.

But it’s hard to know when your child is just homesick and when she’s experiencing something more, like depression. It’s great if you could have “the talk” about mental health before your child leaves for school, so they will know and understand what to expect.

But if you cannot, check out my post on how to know the difference between stress and depression.

How to Stay Connected with Your Child in College

Cell phones make it easy to keep in constant contact with our children. I suggest letting your freshman call you. If you really need to reach your teen, text. I had one child who called regularly and another randomly.

For some families, it works to have a scheduled time to talk, like Wednesday night or Sunday afternoon. Follow your teen on social media if she tends not to call. Seeing that she’s posting or tweeting will give you a sense of how she’s doing. But do not comment, like or favorite anything, especially the college-related stuff.

College students keep odd hours meaning you’ll receive calls or texts at various times, like after midnight because that’s when he’s taking a study break, especially if his first class isn’t until noon later that day.

Tips for Keeping Your Student Safe at College

Despite what we read and hear about in the news, colleges are generally safe places. But sexual assault is still a serious problem. Thankfully, schools are finally addressing it.

Students beginning college today should be the recipients of this new heightened awareness and new measures to combat this serious campus crime. That being said, campus crimes often involve drugs and alcohol, so it really is important to have that talk with your teen.

Maybe you experimented a lot in college and look at it as you survived. That doesn’t cut it anymore. Binge drinking is too much a part of campus culture, weed is stronger than it was 30 years ago and prescription drugs are easily accessible. Plus now we understand the importance of using our words and that no means no.

Part of staying safe is using common sense. Remind your freshman of the following: Don’t let anyone in your dorm whom you don’t know personally. Lock your door when neither you nor your roommate is in the room. Never leave your backpack, laptop, etc. unattended in the library, dining hall or other public space.

If you’re using a ride share service, make sure have the driver verify the name on the account before you get into the vehicle. Always walk with a friend at night and avoid the dimly lit shortcuts. College kids need to think and be aware of their surroundings.

Colleges provide ways to stay safe: The blue light system calls campus police to your location. Students in residence halls must swipe their ID for admittance. The campus escort service will send someone to walk you home or to your car at night. There’s a campus number to text for help 24/7. And an emergency warning system sends alerts to student cell phones.

Conclusion: Mastering Your College Move-In Day with the Right Checklist and Tips

As the momentous college move-in day draws near, arm yourself with this comprehensive college dorm checklist and our list of practical college move-in tips. From multi-tool sets to shower shoes, these college dorm essentials aim to make your student’s transition to college living as seamless as possible.

Remember, while this new chapter can seem overwhelming, being prepared can help to alleviate stress and anxiety. As your student embarks on this exciting journey, take a deep breath, trust in your preparations, and push them to make the most of the incredible college experiences that await them.

Other Articles You Might Like:

Top 6 Campus Safety Tips to Share With Your College Student

A Practical Packing List of Things to Bring to College

Supporting College Student Mental Health





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