If you’re going to college out-of-state, you can’t bring everything with you, as shipping costs, or the cost of checked baggage if you’re flying, is too expensive. Instead, focus on packing items you can’t get anywhere else or items you already have and are easily packable. Here are some essentials to pack, and the rest you can buy at a store in your new city or online.
Here are 13 things you should pack for an out-of-state college:
- Important documents
- Posters, pictures, and wall art
- Kitchen supplies
- Sheets and pillowcases
- Electronics and chargers
- Medications and vitamins
- Musical instruments
- Playing cards and games
- Laundry bag or basket
- First aid kit
The rest of this article provides details for each of these items and explains why they’re essential for this next stage in your life.
1. Important Documents
Most of the items on this list can be purchased at a store or online, so even if you forget them in the stress and excitement of packing for college, you can still get them in your new state.
However, one notable exception is your documents, such as your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, student ID, social security card, and insurance cards. You don’t want to have to risk having them sent in the mail after you arrive at your new school.
You also don’t want to be stuck without your license if you’re driving or need to show ID or without your insurance information in case of an emergency.
Packing clothing when you’re attending college out-of-state can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re going to a school that has a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. For example, if you’re going to school in Southern California, your packing list will look a lot different than someone moving to Minnesota or Michigan.
Consider asking about the laundry facilities available to you on campus. If the laundry is easily accessible and free to use, you can bring fewer clothes and just wash what you bring more often.
However, if the washing machines and dryers on campus are far away or require coins to use, you may want to consider packing more so you don’t have to do laundry as often.
Either way, here are some essential clothing items to bring (source):
- Bras and sports bras
- One or two pairs of jeans
- Two or three pairs of workout pants or leggings
- One pair of professional trousers
- Two or three pairs of sweatpants. You’ll be rocking the casual look more often in college than you do now, especially around finals when you’re up late studying in the library.
- Shirts, sweaters, and sweatshirts. Make sure you bring items you can layer, as different buildings on campus often have wildly different temperatures.
- T-shirts: Keep in mind that a lot of college extracurriculars give out T-shirts, so you may end up with more than you started with at the beginning of the semester.
- Two light jackets
- One heavy coat for winter, especially if you’re going to school in a state that has intense winters.
- Hat or beanie for cold weather
- Sneakers for exercise
- One pair of professional shoes for job interviews or presentations.
- Casual sandals
- Flip-flops for the dorm showers
- Rain or snow boots
- Some going-out clothes or clubwear for weekends out with your new friends.
- Robe for going to and from dorm showers.
This is a lot to pack, so to save on space, especially if you’re trying to pack everything into a few suitcases or duffel bags to check onto a plane, try rolling your clothes or using packing cubes.
The Amazon Basics set comes in six different colors, so you can pick your favorite and the mesh won’t damage more delicate clothing. The BAGSMART packing cubes have wireframes that hold the shape of the cubes, so packing your clothes will be a bit easier.
Avoid bringing too many of the same items. You’ll most likely only need one long-sleeve black shirt, for example, so there’s no reason to pack all five of the ones you have at home. Pick your favorite and just bring one. Of course, if you always wear all five shirts, then bring them all.
3. Posters, Pictures, and Wall Art
You’re most likely going to experience a bit of homesickness when you first get to your new school, especially if you’re out of state. For many students, the inability to see their friends, family, and pets back home regularly is a serious challenge.
One way that you can combat those sad feelings is to decorate your dorm space with pictures of your loved ones and favorite memories.
Those snaps of you and your friends at your senior prom or that cute picture of your family dog can go over your study space or near your bed so you can see them regularly and hopefully feel a little less lonely.
If you have lots of Polaroid pictures, you can attach them to this Photo Clip String Lights (link to Amazon) to display them in style. These string lights are 17’ (5.18 m) in length, so you can spread the lights all the way across your dorm or layer them so you have multiple rows of photos.
If you have posters at home you love, you can hang them with this Artmag Magnetic Poster Hanger Frame (link to Amazon) to keep them in good condition. The magnet keeps your poster from falling off the wall and getting damaged.
4. Kitchen Supplies
If you’re going to a college without a 24-hour cafeteria, there’s a good chance you’ll be hungry during a time the dining hall isn’t open. You’re going to need microwave-safe plates, bowls, and containers, as well as some utensils and a can opener.
There’s a good chance your family can spare some of these items, so you can just bring them from home instead of having to purchase them.
However, if you want to buy yourself a new set, this Layron Plastic Dish Set from Amazon.com is microwave-safe and comes with all the essentials you’ll need. Make sure you have a travel coffee mug for those early morning classes or late-night study sessions.
I like the Simple Modern Travel Coffee Mug, available on Amazon.com. It comes in 26 different colors and patterns and its vacuum-sealed insulation will keep your drink at the ideal temperature for hours, whether that temperature is hot or cold.
Keep in mind, out-of-staters, that anything you buy at Target or Walmart in your hometown you can most likely buy at Target or Walmart in your college town as well, so there’s no need to pack all of your shampoos, conditioners, lotions, shaving creams, or soaps, especially if you’re flying.
Use that valuable luggage space for something else, instead.
However, some toiletries you already own, such as towels, nail clippers, a shower caddy, perfume, a curling iron, a straightening iron, a hairdryer, and hair accessories, can be packed, and they don’t take up a ton of space.
This Portable Shower Caddy Tote (link to Amazon) has a ton of space for all your bottles and cleaning essentials, and you can easily carry it from your room to the showers.
6. Sheets and Pillowcases
You could probably buy these when you get to your new city, but in all the business of move-in day, there’s a chance you won’t be able to make it to the store on your very first day. If you bring your sheets and pillowcases from home, you’ll have something to sleep on and something familiar to help with any homesickness or nervousness.
Consider packing an extra set, too, just in case you spill your coffee on your sheets when you’re cramming for an exam.
Some people are picky about their pillows. If you have a pillow at home that you love, go ahead and bring it to your dorm room. Your comfort in college is important, and your ability to get a good night’s rest is crucial to doing well in school.
If having your pillow ensures you’re well-rested, it’s worth taking up the luggage space.
8. Electronics and Chargers
If you already own a laptop, cell phone, earbuds, or calculator, make sure you remember to pack these items. If you have a laptop that worked for you throughout high school, there’s a good chance it’ll be just fine for college, as well.
However, if you’re taking any upper-level mathematics or science courses, double-check and make sure that your calculator is sufficient.
If you have a power strip, consider bringing that, too. Dorm rooms only have so many outlets, and you and your roommate(s) may struggle to get everything plugged in that needs to be if one of you doesn’t bring a power strip.
Additionally, if you have extension cords, pack those too. This will give you more flexibility on how to arrange your dorm room.
Don’t forget to pack all your chargers. To keep everything on your desk nice and organized, consider purchasing these SOULWIT Cable Holder Clips from Amazon.com to make sure all your chargers and cables don’t get tangled underneath your desk.
These holder clips are non-magnetic and non-static, which means they won’t mess up your computers.
9. Medications and Vitamins
If you have any medications or vitamins that you take regularly, don’t forget them when packing for college. Having to wait to have your daily medicine mailed to you from home is certainly not an ideal situation, and transferring your prescription to a pharmacy in your college town could take some time.
Try using a pill organizer like this NatureTouch Pill Organizer (link to Amazon) to make sure you’re taking your pills. This organizer is extra-large, and it holds more pills than normal. It is also about the size of your iPhone.
10. Musical Instruments
If you’re a piano player, you may be out of luck here. But some musicians have an attachment to their musical instrument, so if having your own guitar or ukulele or flute on hand will make you happy, bring it. Maybe you’ll even start a band at your new school.
11. Playing Cards and Games
If you’re out of state and missing your hometown friends, playing games is one of the best ways to meet new people and get you in a better mood, so make sure you have some on hand for the next time your classmates come by your dorm room.
One popular college party game is Cards Against Humanity, found on Amazon.com. Cards Against Humanity is funny and is a great ice-breaker for meeting new people.
Some other favorites are Do or Drink and Never Have I Ever Party Card Game, (links to Amazon). Do or Drink is easy to learn and has themed expansion packs you can buy once you’ve done all the dares in the original game.
Never Have I Ever is a great way to learn some hilarious fun facts about your new friends, as they’ll be forced to reveal their most embarrassing and terrible life decisions.
12. Laundry Bag or Basket
You’ll need a place to throw your dirty clothes after a long day of classes or an intramural soccer game, so make sure you bring a laundry bag or basket. One with handles will make carrying it to the laundry facilities easier.
This Lifewit Freestanding Laundry Hamper on Amazon is cute, collapsible, and comes with handles.
13. First Aid Kit
Hopefully, you’ll never need to actually use this one, but accidents happen. Instead of worrying about getting all the bandages and ointments you may need separately, consider packing a first aid kit that comes with all the essentials you may need, from just a nick on the leg from shaving or a more serious accident.
This First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit (link to Amazon), has nearly everything you could need, and it’s easily packable.