Our Ultimate College Packing List—20+ Essentials You Won't Want to Forget

From backpacks to bedding, here's everything you'll need.

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 year ahead can be overwhelming. We get it. So to make packing as easy as possible, we've rounded up exactly what to bring to college. From a cozy cotton comforter to a stylish backpack to an electric toothbrush, we've covered all 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? Phew! You're on track for a great school year.

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A Backpack That Reflects Your Personality

Colorful Backpack from Society6

When you're starting at a new school, the backpack you bring to every single class says a lot about you. So choose one that reflects your style. Luckily, Society6 makes it easy, offering one-of-a-kind designs by hundreds of thousands of artists. No matter if your style is modern, sophisticated, or subdued, you'll find the perfect design. 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 no one else will have. Beyond backpacks, Society6 also offers wall art, throw pillows, and rugs to spruce up your dorm room.

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Protective (and Patterned) Laptop Sleeve

Society6 Laptop Sleeve in Black and White, silhouette of woman's face

While you can always order the same boring laptop sleeve as everyone else in your class, why not stand out with a one-of-a-kind design instead? From trendy line drawings to rainbow patterns to dreamy landscapes, Society6 has a laptop sleeve to suit every style imaginable.

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Bed Bath & Beyond Earbuds
Bed Bath & Beyond

Whether you're calling into a virtual class or listening to music on a run, you'll reach for these convenient, wireless earbuds every single day. Each charge provides four hours of playtime, and the Qi charging case is included. Reviewers confirm that these earbuds are comfortable and have excellent sound quality.

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A Durable Suitcase

Away Suitcase in Medium, Navy Blue

No matter if you're moving into a dorm room across the country or across town, a reliable suitcase will serve a dual purpose. It will help transport your clothes to your new home, and then can be used for any future trips and even a semester abroad.

If you see lots of weekend excursions and quick trips home in your future, opt for the Bigger Carry-On. To be ready for study abroad, the Medium is a spacious checked bag that's built to last. Invest in both for a complete set that will see you through everything.

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An Ultra-Cozy, Reversible Comforter

College Packing List, Blush Comforter

For a dorm bed, skip the cumbersome duvet cover you'll always put off washing and opt for an easy-to-clean comforter instead. That way, when you accidentally spill coffee on it during a late-night study session, you can simply toss it in the washer and dryer.

This option is the perfect combination of an unbeatable price, twin XL sizing, and solid colors that work in any space. Plus, it's reversible, so when you get bored of one shade, flip it over for a refresh. We see many Netflix nights and movie marathons spent snuggled up in this comforter.

Mark your calendars, Target shoppers: From August 15 to August 21, 2021, college students are eligible for $15 off every $50 spent on household essentials.

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Comfortable Bed Sheets

Green patterned bed sheets for Twin XL Bed

Our advice: Pack at least two sets of bed sheets to bring along to college. That way, when one set is in the wash, you'll have a spare set to put on your bed. To make laundry day a little more fun, buy one set of sheets in white or a solid color you love and a second in an on-trend pattern, like this black-and-white grid. Even if you opt for a solid-color comforter you won't get tired of, a pop of pattern underneath will add interest to your dorm design.

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Pillows (and Don't Forget the Pillowcases!)

Target Overfilled Pillow

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 pillowcases for every pillow you pack.

Calling all side- and back-sleepers who prefer a pillow that offers sufficient support, this overfilled pillow was made for you.

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Mattress Protector

Mattress Protector
Bed Bath & Beyond

In truth, a mattress protector isn't the most glamorous thing you'll bring to college, but it's definitely one of the most essential. This zippered mattress protector is waterproof, creating a barrier against bed bugs and allergens. Even in a strange new dorm, you'll be able to breathe a little easier knowing you're guarded against dust mites and bed bugs. Tip: Be sure to check what size mattress your dorm provides so you can get the right fit.

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A Durable Shower Caddy

White Plastic Shower Caddy

Because you're going to use it daily (right?!), a sturdy shower caddy is a must. This one provides enough room to stash all the essentials, plus has a perforated design to allow water to drain out.

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Fluffy Bath Towels

Target Light Mint Green Bath Towels

Ok, so most dorm showers aren't exactly spa-like. But the right bath towels (preferably in soothing shades of soft green or light peach) can make your daily shower feel a little more luxurious. Then follow our tips to keep your bath towels smelling fresh.

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Laundry Bag

Container Store White Mesh Laundry Bag
Container Store

For stashing dirty laundry and transporting it to the laundry room or laundromat, you're going to need a sturdy laundry bag. This mesh option is inexpensive and lightweight, yet surprisingly durable at the same time.

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Extra-Sticky Lint Rollers

scotch brite pet hair roller

Even if you plan to live in T-shirts and sweatpants for the next year, a lint roller will still come in handy when you want to defuzz the pants you accidentally washed alongside your towels. This lint roller is extra-sticky and designed to pick up pet fur—so you know it really works.

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).

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A Cohesive Desk Set

White Poppin Set
Container Store

Since you'll presumably be spending a lot of time at your desk (right?), jazz it up with 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 blush pink and slate blue.

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.

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Plenty of Notebooks

College Packing List, Notebook

To start out, it's a good idea to stock up on more notebooks than you think you'll need, and opt for multi-subject notebooks so you can avoid the inevitable situation of grabbing the wrong notebook before heading to class.

To make sure you're set for the semester, pack several TRU RED premium five-subject notebooks. Each one has 150 sheets, and the removable pocket dividers provide a safe spot to store print-outs. The spiral design keeps the footprint of the notebook to just 8.5-by-11 inches when closed or flipped open—a great space-saver when you're in a lecture hall with limited desk space.

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College Packing List, Tru Red Highlighters

After some small, yet innovative design improvements, the perfect highlighter does exist. The TRU RED Tank Highlighter ditched the rounded design that all too easily rolls off the edge of a desk and opted for a curved square barrel that's both comfortable to grip and won't roll away. The chisel tip means you can make thin or thick lines, while the fluorescent ink is fade-resistant. Each pack comes with five colors: yellow, blue, green, pink, and orange, so you can color-code your notes for each class.

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Post-it Notes

Pack of Colorful Post-It Notes

For jotting down reminders, leaving messages for your roommate, and marking notes in your reading, you're going to need a pack or two (or three) of Post-it Notes. The vivid colors will attract attention, no matter if you leave a note in the fridge or tuck one into your textbook.

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A Reusable Thermos

Yeti Rambler Thermos in Teal

To keep you going through all the late-night study sessions, you're going to need a reliable thermos for coffee (or at least some strong tea!). Luckily, the Yeti Rambler is leakproof, so it won't spill all over your homework, and the HotShot cap was designed for sipping piping hot beverages. Plus, it comes in eight color options so you can find one that matches your style.

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A Reusable Cup

Purple Yeti Straw Cup

Fend off dehydration with a 26-ounce straw cup that keeps water, iced tea, or your favorite smoothie chilled. The straw makes drinking more enjoyable, while the machine-washable, reusable design keeps things eco-friendly. You'll want to bring this one with you to class, soccer practice, the library, movie marathons—basically, everywhere you go.

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Electric Toothbrush

Quip Copper Electric Toothbrush

Heading off to college doesn't have to mean cavities. But with all the late-night snacking and unlimited dining hall meals in your future, it does mean you'll need to step up your toothbrushing routine. That's where a Quip electric toothbrush comes in. Sonic vibrations help remove plaque and food particles, while the timer makes sure you're brushing thoroughly.

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Dove Deodorant

Whether it's a difficult exam or basketball practice that's making you sweat, Dove's antiperspirant deodorant has you covered. Plus, the formula is alcohol-free and actually helps moisturize your skin.

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Skincare + Carry Case

Elemis Skincare Set

Before you head off to the dorms, stock up on the skincare products you know work for you. You'll also want to invest in a stylish yet sturdy bag that can store it all. This travel set has you covered with skincare essentials by Elemis and a zippered bag designed by RIXO. Skincare? Check!

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Reusable Food Containers

IKEA Food Container

Even if you eat in the dining hall most days, you may have snacks or leftovers you'll want to stash in the dorm mini fridge. These food containers with snap-and-lock lids prevent leaks, while the glass is oven-safe, so reheating is easy.

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Eco-Friendly Sandwich Bags

Stasher Sandwich Five-Pack

Skip the single-use plastic bags for storing sandwiches and snacks, and invest instead in a set of endlessly reusable Stasher bags. They're dishwasher- and microwave-safe, so they're easy to clean and make warming up food a cinch.

To label leftovers or claim your lunch, you can write on Stasher bags with permanent marker—don't worry, it will erase with simple soap and water.

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