It’s the summer before you’re off to college and you’re using this time to hang out with friends, make some memories with family, and, of course, pack for your first year in a dorm! Trying to figure out what to pack is hard since you don’t know what to expect, so take it from someone who survived just finished surviving their freshman year of college in a dorm. I made a list of 16 items you should for college. This list isn’t like the others. Everyone knows you’re supposed to pack towels and a comforter, but this list is comprised of very specific things I wish I knew to pack before starting dorm life. Trust me, I learned a lot from my freshman year at Florida State and it was all through trial and error. Most of the product photos are linked to some of the least expensive versions I found online.
My roommates and I decided not to get a microwave for our dorm because there was one in the hall kitchen. There were many nights where I didn’t want to leave my room to go all the way down the hall to boil a cup of water. I finally decided to buy an electric kettle a few months in and it was a life saver. Not only can you boil water for tea and coffee, but you can also make instant oatmeal and thin pasta (like Ramen or Angel Hair). This kettle linked in the photo is on sale at Walmart for under $10.
Paper Plates and Bowls (not ceramic!)
I ended up buying really cute white square ceramic plates and bowls before I moved in. I used them maybe 6 times then bought paper plates and bowls. The last thing you want to think about on top of everything you’re dealing with is a bunch of dirty dishes. Yes it might seem wasteful and I was also totally against it at first too, but it’s just so much easier. I definitely used paper bowls more than paper plates. Do you really want to do dishes every time you eat cereal, ramen, or oatmeal? You’ll thank me later for this tip.
Just like with paper plates and bowls, you’re not going to want to wash your silverware every time you eat. What I loved about having plastic silverware in my dorm was that I didn’t have to be super wasteful because I could reuse them a bunch of times when I had time to wash them, but if I didn’t have time I could just throw them away.
Don’t bring the exact amount of hangers as you do clothing, bring a few more. You know you’re going to somehow end up getting more clothes throughout the year whether it’s by shopping or organizations giving out free shirts on campus. With your busy schedule you won’t want to go all the way to the store for more hangers, but you’ll also be annoyed when you have to fold that shirt that shouldn’t be folded.
Card Holder for Phone
Meet your new best friend. This is the only solution to not forgetting or losing your Student ID. Your ID is basically your whole life freshman year. Without it you can’t get into your dorm, get food, or check out anything from the library. I didn’t have one of these until I lost my ID and had to pay $15 to get it replaced. $15!! I looked for it for two hours around campus before finally paying the fee because I had to eat that night. Someone found it a few days later. I got my card holder free from some organization giving them out on campus, but if you want to just buy one I linked the photo to one for $5 from Amazon. If you search around you can probably find one even cheaper online or wait until the first week of classes because almost every organization gives them out.
Old Blanket for Sitting Outside
Most schools have a green space somewhere on campus where you can go out and study in the fresh air. I don’t know about other schools, but if you’re going to FSU you’ll be blessed with Landis Green where almost every day you’ll see people out on blankets, throwing footballs, playing with dogs, or hammocking. You won’t want to miss out on this FSU experience.
Speaking of hammocking, get a hammock! I see people on Landis Green stacking their hammocks 3-4 to a tree. I never got one my freshman year and I really regret it. I had friends who had hammocks and we would always chill together and do homework and it was so relaxing. I finally got one this summer and I can’t wait to hammock on Landis in the fall.
Backpack with a Laptop Sleeve
I feel like this should be common sense to pack a backpack for school , but I know a lot of people, including myself, who thought they could get away without one going into college. When I started my first semester at Florida Gulf Coast University my senior year of high school (through their early-admission program) I thought that I could just use a cute tote bag like I did in high school. Boy was I wrong. In college you want to carry your laptop and books around everywhere and you can’t do that with a cute bag. You can’t fit everything and if you do your arm will hurt so bad. Save yourself the pain and make sure you have a good, supportive backpack, especially one with a laptop sleeve.
This is one of those things you really don’t think about packing for college, but if you don’t have it you’ll miss it. I think the most used kitchen item my freshman year was my measuring cup. You’ll need it for so many things from measuring milk for Mac and Cheese to water for instant oatmeal.
I actually forgot to bring a colander to college and I missed it every time I made pasta (which was very often). You can get them for less than $2 and it will be worth every penny. I promise.
Microwaveable Large Mug or Bowl
I found a ceramic bowl with handle that looked like a giant mug from T.J. Maxx for less than $5. It was bigger than this FSU mug that I linked, but a regular mug is good to have too. Not only can you make coffee in it, but also you can cook rice and pasta in the microwave with it.
Angel Hair Pasta
I loved having angel hair pasta on hand because it was cheap, cooked quickly in the microwave or with hot water, and is healthier than Ramen Noodles. You can throw on some butter, red sauce, or alfredo and have a whole meal for less than $1. It’s the fastest pasta to cook and has more nutritional value than Ramen.
You’ll have a mini-fridge in your dorm and you’ll be too lazy to go to the dining hall for breakfast every morning before class. Greek yogurt is a great source of protein that’s a quick breakfast or healthy mid-day snack.
This is a college staple that you will love to have on hand. Simple as that.
Cross body bags are perfect for tailgating and going out. You can fit everything you need: wallet, phone, water bottle, hair ties, etc. without the purse getting in the way. When you’re out for the night it’s great to keep in front of you where you can see it to make sure your money and phone is safe from pickpockets.
I don’t have a photo for this, but these are clothes and shoes that are cute but practical. For clothes, you want to pack and wear something that you feel confident in, but not your favorite shirt. Get something cheap from Walmart or Ross. You’re going to get alcohol spilled on you and come home smelling like sweat, booze, and weed. I know you want to wear your favorite sexy shoes out, but some kind of closed toe shoe or boot is best. Club floors are sticky and alcohol will spill on your feet. You don’t want to put your favorite outfit through any of that.
BONUS TIP: Don’t Under Pack!
This isn’t something to pack, but a bonus tip for how to pack. So many sites giving advice say don’t overpack. I took that advice and ended up having to bring much more from home to my dorm later in the year or have things shipped. Don’t pack like you’re going to camp for a month. You’re going to be living in your dorm for a whole 8 months. Remember, this is your new home, especially if you live far from home like I did. Make sure you have clothes for when it gets cold and for different occasions. Sometimes your mom can’t ship your stuff to you in time.
I hope these tips are helpful for you! Please feel free to message me on Instagram @thefreckledprep or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org ) if you have any college questions or any suggestions of things to add to this list.