The Ultimate College Packing List—27 Things Every College Student Needs
From the best laptop for college to the cutest dorm bedding, here's everything you'll need for college.
When you're going through your college packing list, checking and double-checking (and triple-checking) each item off the list, the sheer amount of stuff you'll need for the next four years can be overwhelming. We get it. So to make packing for college as easy as possible, we've rounded up everything you'll need. From a cozy cotton comforter to the best desk organizers, we've covered all of the bases. And once you check every item off the list, you can rest assured your college essentials are covered. College packing done in record time? Great, get out there and enjoy those last days of summer.
A Flexible, Take-it-Everywhere Laptop
A reliable laptop lands on the top of most college packing lists, and for 2019, we'd recommend one that's lightweight and flexible so you can take it along wherever you go—from class, to the library, to the dorm. It's flexible (quite literally), so you can use it as a laptop to type papers at your desk, or fold it flat and use the Active Pen (available with select models) to write out your notes. With up to eight hours of battery life and Rapid Charge technology, the IdeaPad will power you through back-to-back classes or that big capstone project.
To buy: IdeaPad S340 (15-inch AMD), from $522, lenovo.com.
A Chromebook Built for All-Nighters (and Movie Marathons)
If you're looking for a Chromebook (that runs Google Chrome OS) rather than a traditional laptop, your search is over. Acer's Chromebook 514 will power you through those late nights with a backlit keyboard that lets you keep typing even after your roommate's gone to bed. Plus, the 12-hour battery life means you can keep working without stopping to recharge. And did we mention how sleek the all-aluminum design looks?
To buy: Acer Chromebook 514, $500, acer.com.
A Phone With a Long Battery Life
For long days of classes and all-night study sessions, you'll want a phone you won't have to worry about recharging every hour. Fortunately, the Moto Z4 by Motorola features an impressive two days worth of battery life, so it's sure to keep up. Plus, it comes with a 360 camera mod, which can be used for video projects or just capturing weekend hangouts. It works with any major network and costs $500—proving you don't have to drop a grand on a reliable smartphone.
To buy: Moto Z4, $500, motorola.com.
A Compact Printer Ideal for the Dorm
This sleek printer won't take up much space on your crowded dorm room desk—it's just 15-by-9 inches. Connect via Wifi so you can print papers from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. When it comes time for midterms and finals, you'll be so glad to have a fast and reliable printer right in your room. But be careful, everyone in the dorm is going to want to use your printer rather than run over to the library.
To buy: HP Tango X Printer, $200, hp.com.
A Unique Backpack for Creatives and Maximalists
When you're hunting for one-of-a-kind essentials, whether a backpack or a throw pillow for your dorm room bed, Society6 is the answer. Choose a design by one of the hundreds of thousands of artists on the site, then have the design turned into a backpack that's sure to collect compliments. For those who don't want to look like everyone else in the class, this is the perfect site to order some creative statement pieces.
To buy: $70 (shown in Shape Study #1 by Lola Collection), society6.com.
OR a Sleek, Functional Backpack
If you want a basic backpack that's super lightweight, yet big enough to fit your laptop, this minimalist IKEA option is for you. With a front pocket for your essentials and two side pockets for your water bottle and umbrella, you'll be ready for long days trekking across campus.
To buy: STARTTID Backpack, $10, ikea.com.
Protective (and Patterned) Laptop Sleeve
Once you've invested in a laptop, keep it safe with a cushioned sleeve. And while you can always order the same black laptop sleeve as everyone else in your class, why not stand out with an adorable patterned one instead? This black-and-white floral design is neutral yet eye-catching at the same time.
To buy: $40, society6.com.
Wireless Headphones for Music, Podcasts, and Audio Books
When you want to listen to music without disturbing your suitemates or read an audio book while on the elliptical at the gym, these wireless headphones will come in handy. They're noise-cancelling (perfect for when your dorm gets a little too loud) and also sweat-proof and splash-proof.
To buy: Sony Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, $178, amazon.com.
The Coziest Comforter
For a dorm bed, skip the cumbersome duvet cover you'll put off washing and opt for an easy comforter instead. This down alternative option is the perfect combination of a good price, twin XL sizing, and solid neutral colors that work in any space. And when it gets dirty, you can pop it into the washer and dryer for a refresh.
To buy: $40, target.com.
Comfortable Bed Sheets
Priced under $20, this microfiber sheet set is a steal. Order a set of white sheets and one in a fun pattern in size twin XL so you can switch in the spare set while the other is in the wash. Want to build a bed with a little more flair? Choose vibrant peach or royal blue sheets for a surprising pop of color.
To buy: From $16, target.com.
If you're moving into a dorm, you'll likely have to bring your own pillows. Think about how many pillows you normally use, and whether you prefer a fluffier or flatter pillow. Then, double-check that you have enough covers for every pillow you pack.
To buy: $4, target.com.
A Luxurious Bath Towel (or Two)
When you're buying bath towels for college, your instinct may be to grab the cheapest ones you can find—but this is one college essential that's worth spending a little more on. College showers typically aren't "spa-like," but when you invest in a high-quality towel, it can make your daily routine a little more luxurious. Our editors swear by Parachute's incredibly soft bath towels. Also, rethink the white towel that will get dingy-looking fast, and opt for a light gray or charcoal instead. Tip: If you want to do wash less often, pack at least two bath towels that you can rotate out.
To buy: $29, parachute.com.
For stashing dirty laundry in your closet and transporting it to the laundry room, you're going to need a laundry bag. This mesh option is inexpensive, yet reviewers assure us it's extremely durable.
Even better: From now through August 18, 2019, the Container Store is offering 20-percent off for college students and parents, so you can get everything you need at an even better price.
To buy: $6, containerstore.com.
A Durable Shower Caddy
If you're living in a dorm, you're going to need a shower caddy to carry your soap and shampoo back and forth to the bathroom. Reviewers agree: this flexible tote is extremely durable. Choose from two-tone gray or a vibrant blue and green caddy.
To buy: Casabella Shower Tote, $10, containerstore.com.
Some Basic Cleaning Supplies
While you don't need a huge collection of cleaning gear (nor will you have room to store it all), there are some essentials every dorm room should have: dish detergent, a multi-surface cleaning spray (we love this one), and laundry detergent form the trifecta of college cleaning must-haves.
When you're away at college, it can be difficult to find a store to buy these basics, and then there's the problem of lugging it home to your dorm. If you can pick up packages easily, a better option is to set up a customized subscription to Grove Collaborative, which lets you log your cleaning go-tos and will deliver them at a schedule you set. You'll never have to worry about running out of laundry detergent again.
Even if you plan to live in T-shirts and jeans for the next four years, a lint roller will still come in handy when you want to defuzz the pants you accidentally washed alongside your towels. Besides de-linting your clothing, try a cleaning tip our home editors swear by and glide the sticky roller over the surface of your desk or counter to pick up crumbs (psst...it also works if you've been eating on your bed and got crumbs on your comforter).
To buy: scotch-brite.com for retailers.
A Cohesive Desk Set
Since you'll presumably be spending a lot of time at your desk, spruce it up by investing in a color-coordinated desk set. Poppin makes it incredibly easy to match any color palette and decor style, with hues ranging from minimalist white to DayGlo lime green. Really want to keep your desk tidy? Add on some trays to wrangle the erasers and keep papers in their place. Working at your desk will feel much more enjoyable when you're surrounded by supplies in your favorite color.
High-Quality Notebooks and Pens
Jotting down class notes feels like less work when you have smooth gel pens to write with. And there's a good reason MUJI's pens have gained a cult following—writing with them feels downright luxurious. Pair the pens with a slim notebook that can easily slip into your backpack or tote bag.
Post-it Notes in an Adorable Dispenser
No desk is complete without a pack of Post-it Notes—and why not place them in a fun dispenser that doubles as desk decor? With this cute camera dispenser right on your desk, it makes it easy to leave notes for your roommate or mark pages in your book.
To buy: Post-it Pop-Up Note Dispenser, $12,post-it.com.
The Best Scissors
If these familiar orange-handled scissors are making you feel nostalgic, there's a good reason for it—these scissors have been around for more than 50 years. A home must-have that's stood the test of time, these are the scissors you'll reach for everything from cutting open a snack pack to wrapping a birthday present. They've earned themselves a permanent spot on our desks.
To buy: $17, fiskars.com.
A Clip-On Light for Late-Night Reading
If you're sharing a small space with a roommate, there will likely be times when one of you is ready for bed while the other is staying up late. That's when IKEA's clamp spotlight really shines. Clip it onto your book or the top of your headboard or laptop so you can keep working late into the night.
To buy: EBBARED Battery-Operated Clamp Spotlight, $5, ikea.com.
A Small-Yet-Mighty Fan
The summer heat will most likely continue into the first few weeks of school, so order a tiny fan that's perfectly sized to perch on your desk as you work and is lightweight enough to bring with you to a friend's dorm or even the library. It can stand upright on your desk or a shelf, and it also has a handle so you can hang it from a wall hook or on a bedpost.
To buy: Honeywell Turbo on the Go! Fans, $12, honeywellpluggedin.com.
Display-Worthy Storage Bins
Storage bins are a college essential you'll need for stashing everything from snacks to socks. At just $4 a piece, it's worth ordering several. Plus, there are a dozen color options, so you can choose the hue that matches your decor style.
To buy: $4, target.com.
Reusable Snack Packs
For toting snacks with you to class or soccer practice, invest in a set of reusable snack bags. ZipTucks offers clear bags, but these plant-patterned ones are too cute to pass up.
To buy: ZipTucks Snack Bags, $7 for 2, fullcirclehome.com.
A Beautiful Reusable Water Bottle
It's time to ditch the wasteful plastic water bottles—and this reusable glass bottle with a silicone sleeve is a serious upgrade. The wider mouth was designed to fit ice cubes, so your drink will stay cold even on long days. Plus, it comes in six colors, including mint and blush.
To buy: V2 17-oz. Glass Water Bottle, $30, drinksoma.com.
Period Products (and Plenty of Them)
Whether you prefer tampons, pads, or a menstrual cup, remember to pack plenty of supplies so you're not caught off guard when your period rolls around. And remember to bring supplies for different types of flows, like Always Radiant Heavy Flow Pads, which can absorb ten times their weight, and Tampax Pearl tampons in regular absorbency. Our advice: no matter what type of tampons or pads you use, buy the bulk box so you can rest assured you won't run out at the wrong time.
Plenty of Tissues
No matter how much you try to avoid it, sniffles and colds will happen in a college dorm. To prepare yourself for this unavoidable occurrence, stock up on tissues, both tissue boxes you can keep in your dorm room, and some travel packs that you can toss into your bag.
To buy: $1 for 3, target.com.