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Master Checklist for Dorm Packing

Packing for college and don’t know if you’re forgetting something?

This is the single most comprehensive dorm packing list that exists. All the other ones neglect something that another listed, but this is a combination of them all.

Thousands of students have used this list over the years, but I still caution: You don’t need everything here. Before you pack something, ask yourself if you really need it. I guarantee that every year you’ll get wiser and pack significantly less and less. Try your best to just do that now.

This list is not a “buying list.” You’ve probably had the good sense to buy and pack the absolute essentials, so this list is more of a checklist to keep you sane the moment before you leave home. This is everything you could possibly need. That doesn’t mean you need everything though.

My recommendation is to copy the list and paste it into Word. Then delete the stuff you don’t use and have never heard of. Then print that personalized list out. But of course visit here again in the near future or share this list with others. This blog runs on visits. =).

Also note to yourself:

  • which items are easier to purchase upon arrival,
  • which items are easy to improvise (after getting take-out or visiting restaurants for a while, you’ll probably have enough napkins or food storage containers),
  • which items are easy to share with or borrow from roommates and floormates (It’s also a good way to meet the ones you haven’t met yet!—even the ones who look as if they sacrifice squirrels but turn out to be super friendly. Okay, I digress.),
  • and which items can be brought with you later, exchanged from home later, or shipped later, such as winter clothes.

Other notes

1. Remember to check your college’s housing site to see what’s not allowed. For Boston University’s:

2. Have a list of serial numbers, makes, and models of all expensive items. Have one hardcopy in your dorm, one left at home with your parents, one as a computer file, and one emailed to yourself. It’ll help in case of a robbery. You can also take pictures of the items.

3. If you think I forgot anything significant, please leave a comment!

Aaaand on with the list already:

Important General Stuff

wallet, purse, hand bag
ID, license, college ID
cash, change, credit cards, debit cards
glasses, contacts

Basic Kitchen Stuff (even if you won’t have a kitchen)

— Necessary: —
forks, knives, spoons (silverware or plastic)
Ziploc® bags, various sizes
reusable water bottle
— Good to Have: —
paper plates
plastic cups
chip clips, clothes pins, twisters
— You Decide: —
microwaveable bowl
thermo cup/mug
food containers
can opener, bottle opener, corkscrew
water purifier/filter/pitcher
sponge and cloth for dishwashing
wet wipes

Additional Kitchen Stuff (if you’ll have a kitchen)

— Necessary: —
ceramic plates
pots and pans
dish detergent
hand soap
paper towels
— You Decide: —
plastic wrap, aluminum foil
kitchen towel
dish cloth
oven mitt
coffee maker (only allowed at BU if you’ll have a kitchen)
blender (only allowed at BU if you’ll have a kitchen)
hot plate (only allowed at BU if you’ll have a kitchen)


— Necessary: —
general medication (Tylenol®, Aspirin®, headache, cough, pain reliever, eye drop)
your prescription medication
— You Decide: —
non-perishable food: noodle cups, canned foods, soup
candy, cough drops, gum, mints
snacks, popcorn, cereal, etc.
bottled water, bottled drinks, soda
tea bags, powdered drink mixes
protein mixes

Room Needs / Storage

— Necessary: —
alarm clock
bags: garbage, plastic, paper
small wastebasket, small recycle bin (or improvised with a paper bag)
photos of family, friends, pets
— Good to Have: —
night light, flashlight
all-purpose cleaner
Lysol® / disinfecting wipes (clean the desk on move-in.. you really don’t know how few showers the previous inhabitant took)
dry erase board and markers
storage bins, stacking baskets
air freshener
— You Decide: —
bedside lamp, clip-on lamp, desk lamp, decorator lamps, extra light bulbs (In some BU dorms, a desk lamp is provided.)
over-the-door hooks, adhesive hooks
desk chair seat cushion/pad (sometimes the dorm chairs want to abuse your butt)
desk chair (BU has them already, but I’ve seen some students bring more comfortable ones)
bulletin board and push pins
shoe rack
closet organizer
closet add-in shelf
various organizers: for CDs, for papers, for cosmetics, etc
tools, screwdriver, hammer
RackRaisers®, bed risers
bunking kit
bookcase (BU provides a small one on your desk that should be enough)
dust wipes

Computer Stuff

— Necessary: —
laptop, battery, AC adapter
CDs: your favorite software, emergency startup CD, backup of most important files (keep a copy at home)
ethernet cord, modem
headphones or earbuds
portable USB flash storage drive
— You Decide: —
mouse, mouse pad
laptop case, laptop bag
desktop computer, monitor, keyboard
tablet, iPad
Kindle, Nook, eReader
blank CD-Rs
CD cases
laptop lock
printer (you may want to share with your roommate or use your college’s printing labs), extra ink cartridges, blank printer paper


— Necessary: —
surge protectors / extension cords
cell phone, cell phone charger, accessories, and a contract that says you will call home every now and then to talk to those loved ones called parents
— You Decide: —
camera / digital camera
camera accessories: memory card/stick, upload cable, camera battery, battery charger, photo software CDs, other camera accessories
PDA, electronic organizer
battery charger, rechargeable batteries, extra batteries
favorite movies
mp3 player, earbuds, cord for charging/uploading, accessories
audio recording device
CD player, cassette player, headphones, favorite CDs and cassettes (CD? cassette? people still use those?)
land phone, answering machine, phone cord (along with other items if you’re from the Jurassic era)

Linens/Laundry Supplies

— Necessary: —
sheets (for most colleges, including BU: extra long)
comforter and duvet cover
clothes hangers
laundry bag/hamper/basket, pop-up hamper
laundry detergent (liquid or convenient tablets)
fabric softener
— You Decide: —
small pillow, headrest pillow
mattress pad / egg crate
laundry stain remover
sewing kit
lint brush
drying rack

Bath and Toiletries

— Necessary: —
towels: body, hair, hand, face, extras
shampoo, conditioner
body wash, or soap and soap container
toothbrush (and extras), toothpaste, toothbrush case
bathroom cup
dental floss
comb, brush
razors, electric razor, shaving cream, aftershave
nail clipper, nail file
extra eyeglasses, case, cloth
contact lens solution
contact lens container
shower shoes, flip-flops (if communal bathroom) (your feet will thank you)
shower tote/caddy (if communal bathroom)
— For Girls (and for guys who wish to pack too much) —
pads, tampons
nail polish, nail polish remover
hair dryer
hair straightener
curling iron
makeup, cosmetics
— You Decide: —
body sponge, back brush
mouth wash
hair gel, pomade, mousse, hairspray
facewash, acne cream
lotion, facial moisturizer
sunscreen, suntan lotion/spray
perfume, cologne
cotton swabs/balls
small mirror
bath robe
Band-Aid® bandages
suction hooks
bathtub scrubber (if your room will have a bathroom)


— Necessary: —
sweaters, hoodies
sneakers, comfortable walking shoes
jackets: light, heavy, rain
dress shoes
dress clothes
1 set formal/business attire
1 set semi-formal attire
— For winter: —
winter coat
— For Guys: —
— For Girls: —
— You Decide: —
slippers, flip-flops, sandals
hat, cap
bathing suit
sports equipment: shin guards, helmet, etc.
gym/athletic clothes
hairbands, hairpins
— For Parties: —
Clothes that barely cover anything

Office/Desk Supplies

— Necessary: —
assignment book, planner
lined paper
pens, pencils, pencil holder, sharpener, eraser
Scotch® tape
— You Decide: —
notebooks: new, old (the bio class you took 10 pages of notes for could still be used like new—please learn to reuse!), composition notebooks
binders, dividers
colored pencils, markers, crayons
highlighter pens (multiple colors)
heavy duty tape, masking tape, mounting tape, duct tape
tacky adhesive
stapler, staples, staple remover
paper clips
rubber bands
Wite-out® (yeah, there’s no H. who would’ve known?)
hole puncher, 3-hole puncher
index cards
Post-it® notes
stamps and envelopes, standard size and paper size
labels of various sizes
adhesive hooks, tack
graph paper
book light
book ends
small memo books / Moleskin books
typing paper holder/clip
stackable desk trays
hanging files or folders, folder storage bin
combination lock

Papers, Books, and Documents

— Necessary: —
textbooks for your classes
phone/address book, important phone numbers, contact list (all of this can be digital)
maps of the campus, of the city, and of public transportation
insurance card/papers/forms
checks, bank stuff
any documents your school told you to bring (as far as I know, BU doesn’t require any special documents, other than your college ID for returning students)
— You Decide: —
old notes from previous classes that may be useful
course catalog
dictionary, thesaurus
reference books
guides/instructions for laptop, digital camera, cell phone, graphing calculator, etc
some of your favorite books
high school yearbook, BU Freshman Record
college phone/address directory
phone card
social security card (probably don’t need it)
renter’s insurance
car insurance, registration (if you’re bringing a car)
Visa information, citizenship info, alien info
passport (if you’re considering traveling for Spring Break or other breaks)
financial aid forms (leave a copy at home if your parents will need them for reference when they’re renewing your aid in the spring)
road maps for how to get to the school.. (or a female driver who’s willing to ask for directions when you’re lost and it’s already the second day of class and you’re gonna fail and you wasted $50,000 in tuition just because a male driver was too macho to ask for help)

Misc Things

— Necessary: —
suitcases / luggage bags / duffel bags (for going home during short breaks)
house key
any necessary items for specific classes (especially art classes and gym electives, such as ice skating)
any necessary items or books for your culture and/or religion
— You Decide: —
quarters (most of the big BU dorms have change machines)
key chain / lanyard
favorite mementos/souvenirs
stuffed animals
ear plugs
sleeping mask
patches, thermal patches for aches
beach towel, swim cap, goggles, swimming gear
bug spray
Neosporin®, Imodium®, Pepto-Bismol®, Viagra®, and so on…
condoms, birth control pills, contraceptives (and a copy of the movie “Juno”)
pregnancy tests
favorite board games, electronic games
deck of cards
items for your hobbies (such as musical instruments or sports stuff)
sports equipment (basketballs, volleyballs, and a few other items can be rented for free at BU’s FitRec gym)
car, keys, GPS, EZ Pass
bike, skateboard, roller skates, roller blades
bike lock, cover, pump

Shared Items (check with roommates to avoid duplication)

— You Decide: —
microwave-fridge aka microfridge (can be rented at BU for about $225—split it with roommates/suitemates)
microwave (not allowed in a BU dorm, but you can bring one and share it in the common room)
TV, TV cable, remote
DVD player, Blu-Ray player
DVDs, Blu-Ray movies
video game systems, controllers, games
audio equipment
air conditioning (not allowed at BU)
handheld vacuum (can be borrowed for free at BU’s RA offices)
small brush and dustpan
bathtub scrubber
area rug
iron, ironing board
floor lamp, tree floor lamp
TV/snack tray
fold-out chair
full-length mirror
shower curtain (most BU dorms and apartments have them already)
curtains (most BU dorms have them already)

Absolutely the Most Important

1) a desire to learn, grow, take chances, change, develop, socialize, network, meet people, have fun, get inspired, get empowered
2) a desire to cherish your college experience from Day One! =)

– by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009


This blog was written for free and the tiny bit of money I make depends on visits. I spend HOURS writing these things. There are no pop-up ads, no membership fees, no tricks or anything. So…

If you found this list or any part of this blog helpful, please share it!

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Thank you for your support!

Nathan Chow is a graduate of Boston University's College of Communication. As a leadership and career coach who helps millennials land their dream job, he helps them 1) figure out their strengths and purpose, 2) edit their cover letters and resumes, and 3) negotiate higher pay with confidence. Nathan's mission is to minimize people's stress and anxiety and lead them to happier lives. One client's pay multiplied by 1.5x after two hours with Nathan. Another received $4000 more after 15 minutes working with Nathan. Check out and subscribe to the free newsletter. In his free time, Nathan loves to read, write, dine out, eat ethnic food, run, salsa dance, play soccer, take photos, juggle, joke, laugh, and meet new people---but certainly not all at the same time. Nathan reads and responds to all email.


Comment from Maria C
Time September 9, 2008 at 8:24 pm

this is ridiculously long, it took me a while to scroll down to this comment box!!!!!

Comment from Nana C.
Time July 7, 2009 at 8:41 am

Aaaah this is so helpful! I love how youve organized it too! Thank you so much (-:

Pingback from How to Spell College » How to Save Money on Books
Time July 13, 2009 at 4:34 am

[…] Or maybe you can even adopt an endangered koala. Too bad you’re usually not allowed to pack them for your […]

Comment from kimbeerly
Time July 15, 2009 at 11:10 am

OMG….best list ever
also the longest but still the best….=]

Comment from Nadia Shaikh
Time August 27, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Thanks for this Nathan! I was JUST about to type one of these up for myself to keep myself sane before move-in on Sunday but thankfully your status caught my eye first 🙂

Comment from Stella
Time September 13, 2009 at 9:35 pm

SOO helpful! like things i would totally forget are on here.. thxxx

Comment from Boris
Time May 9, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Great info, Very interesting site.

Comment from loretta
Time August 31, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Thanks for such a great list – you’ve covered everything! My son is going to University in Ottawa (Canada) and this is by far the best list I’ve seen.

Comment from kay
Time September 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm

“For Parties Clothes that barely cover anything” hahah this made me laugh. thank you so much for the list nathan!

Comment from Cinna B.
Time September 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Your list was so long that it crashed Firefox AND Word when I tried copy/pasting. Awesome. Thanks 🙂

Comment from sabina
Time July 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Thank you! You saved me soo much time trying to figure this stuff out 😀

Pingback from Factors you don’t want to forget about when choosing an apartment and roommates | Slow and Mindful
Time July 25, 2016 at 9:09 pm

[…] Master Checklist for Dorm Packing […]

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