(703) 342-6003 [email protected]

So you have a college student who will be moving into a dorm…yikes! If this is your first child going to college, these transitions can be kind of scary. My oldest decided she wanted to study engineering and got into her second choice college. Luckily, she didn’t get into an out of state college because we don’t know how we would have paid for that tuition. Even though we have done our fair share of moving around the world, college was something new for us. So we sat down and created a list of things to get us in the right mindset and help her pack for her dorm room.

Your College Student As An Adult

By now, you probably will realize your little one is no longer a child and has to leave the nest. As a young adult, they will have to figure out “adulting” without you (the parent) there. This is a time that may make you very nervous (and them as well). Start preparing them with some adulting skills BEFORE they head off to college with things like:

Laundry washing skills

Using a debit card/credit card

Time management (study versus goof off time)

Make medical appointments

Get prescriptions filled

Go grocery shopping on their own with a budget

Normally these are all things you did FOR THEM while at home. Take the time during the summer before they head off to school to learn how to do the items above. My kids now know how to call a doctor’s office to make an appointment, check in at the doctor’s office and realize there is a co-pay for the visit. These are all time management skills as well.

college dorm student

If they will live in a dorm, they will most likely eat on campus at the dining facilities. They will have to keep track of the hours those are open so they can eat, otherwise, they won’t get fed (which just makes college students hangry). Some college students will want to shop for some dorm room food to have on hand and not rely on the dining facilities. Have them shop for milk and cereal and realize how much that costs and how soon that milk will spoil.

There are also some documents you will need to send with them when they go to college. Items such as medical insurance cards, car insurance paperwork (if they will bring a car to school), birth certificate and SSN card if they will have a job while at school. Make sure you have a copy of those items as a parent before handing them over to your college student. We used a simple fireproof and waterproof bag to hold those documents for the student that is kept in their dorm room. It’s also lockable.

Set aside items for the college dorm

Once we got passed the adulting phase, we started our college dorm room packing list with things we KNEW she would need such as her clothes. We thought that was the easy part. However, we quickly learned that dorm rooms are notoriously small and their closets are even smaller.

When packing up your clothes, start with just packing clothes your college student would need for the first semester. In this case, we knew she would need more Summer type clothes and some Fall clothes but winter coats and sweaters could wait until later. Luckily, we live only an hour away so we could bring her warmer clothes later in October/November. Same thing goes for later in the year when it got warmer again.

We did our research online for the university she was attending and found the floor plans. This helped us also see the potential layouts for one roommate or three roommates. She would only have one roommate and they had a sink, small fridge and microwave in the room. This helped us plan and limit what she could bring.

college dorm room
college dorm room2

Shopping for the dorm

This may be the fun part of the whole college dorm journey. The college student gets to decorate their room (or their side) to reflect their personality. Picking out beds sheets, pillows, room decor, posters or artwork are the fun parts but also necessary. If they have a queen bed at home but are moving into a dorm, now you need to get twin sized sheets instead. Also think about mattress toppers for comfort. Some of those college mattresses can be hard or lumpy (or both). Your college student will need their sleep and sleeping on a lumpy bed won’t help them be ready for class.

Here are a few Do’s and Dont’s

Don’t go overboard with room decor. Start with the basics and give your college student a gift card to Amazon or their favorite store so they can add more later.

If you can meet your roommate early, talk about who is bringing what to the room such as a rug, coffee maker, curtains, microwave, etc.

Do think about adding some cleaning supplies in the move-in day. Items such as Lysol wipes, Mr Clean sponges and trash bags to haul away any items they don’t need.

Bring a dolly to haul up the boxes in case there are no carts at the college dorm building. Carrying your boxes one by one can get very tiring.

Once you move in, be aware there may be things the college student wasn’t aware they needed but want now. Maybe they thought, I don’t need a noise maker or fan, but after a few days they realize they need one now. Now that we have Amazon, you can order things online and have it shipped directly to your college student dorm…just make sure they know where the mail room is!

College Dorm Packing List

If all this college dorm packing stuff is getting too long for you, I’ve got you covered. I created a College Dorm Packing List that helps you get your student packed. It’s an editable checklist in both Google Sheets or MS Excel.

After packing our college student, we learned what we REALLY needed and what was extra. You can download this 5-page packing list and edit it as well. I know there will be things on there that you want to add specific to your college student because I could not possibly list every option for each need such as inhalers, medical equipment etc.

The Dorm Room Packing List does include things like:


Get your college student on the right foot by preparing ahead of time. This is the first part of their adulting journey and will help them learn how to take care of themselves.


College Dorm Room Packing List

college dorm room2

This moving checklist is for college students who are moving into a dorm and need some packing tips to get them moving in the right direction!

Study Abroad Packing List

This moving checklist is for college students who are going away for a semester to an overseas location. Make the transition smoother with this checklist.