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Send Your Kids Off Right With the Best College Packing List for Guys and Girls

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Whether it’s their first year away or they’re heading back for another semester, being armed with the best college packing list for guys and girls is the easiest way to make your child’s college moving process a breeze. With your baby finally flying the nest, it’s natural to want to oversee things to make sure they’re prepared, and that’s why we want to help! But before we get to our list, let’s go over some helpful moving tips. 

What to Bring to College

Packing for college is no easy feat. Pack too much, and your child won’t be able to get around their dorm room. Pack too little, and they may find themselves unprepared in sticky situations. So, how do you decide what to bring to college and what to leave at home? Here are five tips on what to bring to college and what to leave at home:

1. Take the living situation into account. Are they living in a dorm or an apartment? If they’re living in a dorm, they’ll want to be more selective with what they bring due to the limited room they’ll have. However, if they’re living in an apartment, they can be a little more adventurous with the items they bring. 

2. Check what’s provided and prohibited. Every dorm has different rules when it comes to what your child can bring and what they cannot, so before you pick up that hot plate or space heater, be sure it’s allowed. Also, some dorms provide things like microwaves and refrigerators, so before you head to campus, make sure your child consults the school’s website or gets in touch with their RA. 

3. Coordinate with roommates. In the age of social media, it’s not only easy for your child to get to know their roommate before move-in day, it’s vital to live together. If your child’s roommate is already bringing a mini-fridge, chances are they’d be willing to share some space in it. Dorming is all about co-habitating, so the more communication there is, the easier the living arrangement will be and the more free space they’ll have. 

4. Pack in storage bins. Most dorm rooms have beds that can fit two to three large storage bins beneath, so a good way to know how much to pack is to see how much stuff can fit in those bins. However, do be mindful that they can serve as additional storage once unpacked! 

5. Leave the knick-knacks. Your child will only be gone for a semester at a time, so while it might be nice to have pieces that remind them of home, they shouldn’t use moving out as a way to recreate their bedroom in another space. Simplicity is key, so help them differentiate between wants, like that stuffed bear so-and-so got them in high school, and needs, like enough underwear to make it to laundry day.  

College Packing List for Guys vs. Girls — Is There a Difference?

When it comes to helping your son or daughter pack for college, you may be wondering, “Is there a different college packing list for guys and girls?” While it may seem like there should be due to different needs (like menstrual products), when it comes to the basics, they’re essentially bringing the same things. In fact, the differences lie less in guys vs. girls and more in the individual. Does your son like video games? Then he’ll probably want to bring his consoles with him. Is your daughter an aspiring makeup artist? Chances are she won’t want to leave home without her must-have products. Taking into account your child’s specific needs is the quickest way to make sure your son or daughter is prepared for their new adventure. 

Luckily for you, we already did the hard work. Keep scrolling for an in-depth look at First for Women’s best college packing list for guys and girls. And be sure to save our printable version at the end!  

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College Packing List Bedding Essentials

Bedding Essentials for College 

  • Twin XL sheet set (with pillowcase): If your son or daughter is dorming, be sure to pick up a sheet set complete with a pillowcase in a Twin XL (standard dorm size). It also couldn’t hurt to pick up an extra set as an alternate for laundry days. We like CGK Unlimited’s set ($27.99, Amazon).
  • Mattress topper: It’s important to note that the school-provided mattresses aren’t the most comfortable things in the world. So, to make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep, a cozy mattress topper, like Witone’s Mattress Pad ($49.99, Amazon) is a must. 
  • Duvet and duvet cover/comforter: Whether it’s a summer duvet or a winter-ready comforter, this essential is a given. 
  • Throw blanket: We love this option from Bedsure ($14.99, Amazon), perfect for everything from serving as an accent piece to keeping extra warm through cold, wintery nights.
  • Weighted blanket: If this is the first time your child will be away, they may find themselves a bit anxious. To keep them calm and ensure they get the rest they need, pick up a comforting weighted blanket, like YnM’s highly-rated version ($54.80, Amazon).
  • Pillows: Whether a stomach sleeper or a side-sleeper, investing in good pillows is a recipe for good sleep, something that’ll be much needed after those impending all-nighters. 
  • Backrest reading pillow: For days when studying isn’t going to happen out of bed, they’ll love having a propped up, reading pillow like Linenspa’s Shredded Foam Reading Pillow ($39.99, Amazon).
  • Decorative pillows: This item is optional and may be one a girl is more inclined to want, but regardless, they add a nice touch to any dorm decor.  
College Packing List Dorm Essentials

Dorm Room Essentials for College

  • Alarm clock: On days when they forget to charge their phones or set their alarms, they’ll be more thankful you got them a standard alarm clock ($15.97, Amazon).
  • Lamp: Whether you have room for a bedside lamp or a floor lamp, this is one item you don’t want to arrive without. For a little extra flair, pick up some stylish string lights ($17.99, Amazon) to help decorate their walls! 
  • Closet organizer: With minimal space comes the need for organization, so a closet organizer ($13.87, Amazon) is a must. 
  • Hangers: If you’re not bringing some from home, be sure to pick up a set ($18.99, Amazon) before heading out.
  • Over-the-door hanger: Perfect for hanging everything from bags to scarves to belts, an over-the-door hanger ($12.87, Amazon) is a sneaky way to get the most out of the small space. 
  • Wall mirror/full-length mirror: Perfect for quick morning checks, a full-length mirror ($43.99, Amazon) is a must. 
  • Fan: Unfortunately, many dorms aren’t air conditioned, so to keep your son or daughter cool, a fan ($64.96, Amazon) should do the trick. 
  • Diffuser: Since open flames are a big no-no in dorms, put the candles away and opt for an aromatherapy diffuser ($35.99, Amazon) instead. With some water and their favorite essential oils, your child will find their zen in no time. 
  • Bed risers: Optimize the room under your child’s bed with a pair of bed risers, like Home-it’s Adjustable Bed Risers ($13.99, Amazon).
  • Shoe rack: Easy to put together, a shoe rack, like Umbra’s Shoe Sling ($24.95, Amazon), is a chic and simple way to keep shoes organized. 
College Packing List Desk Essentials

Desk Essentials for College

  • Backpack: For obvious reasons, your kid will still need a backpack to carry everything to class. 
  • Textbooks: Alongside the school’s bookstore, be sure to check out sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Chegg for the best deals on textbooks!
  • Notebooks: For keeping track of every classes’ information, a five-subject notebook ($14.78, Amazon) is the best deal. 
  • Day planner: College is the ultimate test in organization and nothing helps more than a day planner. ($16.39, Amazon) 
  • Writing supplies: Your child will still need pens, white out, pencils, a sharpener, erasers, permanent marker, highlighters, and a case. 
  • Scissors: A forever staple for moving anytime, anywhere. 
  • Stapler/staples: Because some professors will refuse to accept a paper that hasn’t been stapled (true story). 
  • Desk chair: Your child’s dorm will most likely provide one, but we all know those aren’t the most comfortable or ergonomic desk chairs
  • Powerstrip surge protector: With too many things plugged in at once, they could blow a fuse and damage their technology, so a powerstrip with a built-in surge protector is a safety necessity. APC’s 11-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip with USB Charging Ports ($29.99, Amazon) is a solid bet.
  • File box for important documents: Having a safe place to keep all of their important documents is not a want, it’s a need. ($17.97, Amazon)

Important Documents

Whether it’s their university ID for getting around campus or their financial aid documents to make sure their payments go through, these are 13 important documents your child needs when away at college:

  • Student ID
  • Driver’s license
  • Car registration
  • Car insurance
  • Credit card
  • Debit card
  • Medical insurance card
  • Passport
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Copy of Social Security card
  • Bank information
  • Financial aid forms
  • Emergency contact list
College Packing List Technology Essentials

Technology Essentials for College

  • Laptop: Looking for a great deal on a laptop for your college-bound kiddo? Best Buy is having an amazing back-to-school sale where you can save an additional $100 on select laptops, including the latest MacBook Pro model ($1399, Best Buy) already on sale! 
  • Laptop case: A laptop is an important investment, so be sure your child keeps that investment safe as they travel back and forth from class. Arvok’s Laptop Sleeve ($8.49, Amazon) comes in many colors, and it’s made of water-resistant material.
  • Lap desk: Perfect for lounging on their laptops or reading their next assigned book for their English Literature class, Sofia + Sam’s memory foam lap desk ($31.99, Amazon) is so nice you might end up keeping it yourself. 
  • Wireless mouse: Make all those hours researching (and watching Netflix) easier on the wrist with a wireless mouse from a reputable company like Logitech ($19.99, Amazon).
  • External hard drive: Make sure your child never loses any of those important term papers and irreplaceable photos with an external hard drive, like Toshiba’s 1TB model ($47.99, Amazon).
  • Flash drive: From presentations to sharing notes with classmates, a flash drive ($9.62, Amazon) is essential for any good college student. 
  • E-reader: For the digital reader, you may want to invest in an iPad. Not only does it offer internet access, it’s a great device for those planning on using e-books due to its large screen and access to various apps. Best of all, iPads ($799, Best Buy) also fall under Best Buy’s student deals program with up to $50 in savings! 
  • Printer: Printing services can quickly add up, so give them the ease of mind (and wallet) with their very own printer. Be sure to also pick up some extra ink cartridges and printer paper. ($49.99, Amazon
  • TV: Every student deserves some downtime. Make it easier with a 24-inch smart TV from Insignia ($119.99, Best Buy), perfect for channel-surfing and coveted Netflix binges, all from the comfort of the dorm. 
  • Headphones: Every student needs a good pair of headphones, whether its for focusing on an online lecture or blasting Mozart as they study for finals. You can always count on a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones ($229, Amazon) to get the job done.
  • Speaker: The easiest way to wind down after a stressful lecture? Music. Give them the option to dance out the stress with this portable bluetooth speaker ($25.99, Amazon).
  • Chargers (laptop, phone, tablet, etc.): Before hitting the road, make sure to do a running count of all devices and check that your child has all corresponding chargers or else you may find yourself rush-delivering some packages the next day.  
  • Charging station: With so many devices today, having a dedicated charging station on your child’s desk will only simplify their college experience. 
  • Portable phone charger: Make sure your son or daughter is never stranded with a portable phone charger, like the Anker PowerCore+ mini ($19.99, Amazon).
  • Cord organizer: With computers, printers, lamps, and more, your child’s desk can become riddled with wires. Pick up a cord sleeve ($12.49, Amazon) to keep those unsightly cords in check.
College Packing List Bathroom Essentials

Bathroom Essentials for College

  • Shower caddy: If your child is in a shared-bathroom dorm, a caddy is the easiest way to bring their shower essentials to and from their room. ($7.99, Amazon)
  • Shower flip-flops: Make sure they have a dedicated pair of flip-flops to get to and from the bathroom. 
  • Bath Towels: From bath towels to washcloths, get them a set they can call their own. ($10.99, Amazon)
  • Robe: It’s easier to head to the bathroom in a robe than in clothes you’ll have to carry back, so they’ll appreciate a nice bathrobe in the long run. ($21.99, Amazon)
  • Loofah: Scrub the day away with a nice, exfoliative loofah (a must-have for athletes) ($8.54, Amazon)
  • Bathroom cleaning supplies: If lucky enough to have their own bathroom, they’re going to need a way to clean it. From a toilet brush and mop to good ol’ Lysol and Clorox, they’re going to need all the help they can get. 
College Packing List Personal Essentials

Personal Essentials for College

  • Shampoo/conditioner: Because clean hair is happy hair. 
  • Soap: Whether in bar or gel form, you don’t want your child to finish unpacking, only to realize that long-awaited shower can’t happen because they forgot their soap. 
  • Moisturizer: Hydrated skin is happy skin.
  • Deodorant: An everyday necessity, it’s always a good idea to have a stock of deodorant. 
  • Sunscreen: If your child is an athlete or merely someone who enjoys catching some sun, keep them safe with some sunscreen. 
  • Hair brush/comb: To tame those flyaways and keep every look on lock. 
  • Hair products: Whether it’s gel and pomade or dry shampoo and setting spray, having the essentials is necessary for good hair days, everyday. Also, be sure your girls have enough hair clips and ties to make it through a semester!
  • Makeup: This is something you probably won’t need to remind them of, but ensuring they don’t leave without their holy-grail products will make you a rockstar in their book. 
  • Eye care: For those who need it, make a running list of all eye-care products, like eyeglasses, contacts, solution, extra lens cases, and eyeglass cleaner, and double check it before you go. 
  • Dental care: Make sure your child is well-stocked on toothpaste, mouthwash, toothbrushes, and floss to keep those pearly whites gleaming all semester long. 
  • Hair removal: Razor, tweezers, and shaving cream are necessities for smooth skin. 
  • Tampons and pads: One of the only products on this list strictly for girls, you can never have enough stock. 
  • Toilet paper: Like tampons and pads, the more the merrier with toilet paper. 
College Packing List Medical Essentials

Medical Essentials for College

  • Allergy medicine: Help make sure those springtime sniffles stay at bay. 
  • First aid kit: Things like paper cuts and blisters happen in an instant, so having a first aid kit is always a good idea. ($15.87, Amazon)
  • Birth control/condoms: If your child is sexually active, it’s better they’re safe than sorry. 
  • Cold medicine: Colds spread quick on campus so make sure they’re prepared, 24/7. 
  • Eye drops: Whether it be for dry eyes or allergies, they’ll thank their lucky stars they have a bottle at their disposal. 
  • Multivitamins/supplements: To keep them healthy and ensure they’re getting their nutrition alongside the endless supply of pizza. 
  • Advil/Aleve/Tylenol: For those inevitable headache and muscle aches. 
  • Prescriptions/Refill information: If your child requires a daily prescription, make sure it’s one of the first things you pack along with information on how to attain a refill during the semester. 
College Packing List Clothing Essentials

Clothing Essentials for College

  • Casual tops: Long-sleeve, short-sleeve, t-shirts, tanks — variety is key!
  • Going out tops: For nights out when a t-shirt won’t cut it.
  • Sweaters: Because winters away at college are no joke. 
  • Professional clothing: Think button-downs, blazers, slacks, and pencil skirts – all items to prepare them for an interview!
  • Dresses: Having at least one LBD, one semi-formal, and two casual dresses is a great place to start. 
  • Skirts/Shorts: For days when pants just aren’t an option. 
  • Pants/Jeans: Everyday staples every college student should have a good amount in their arsenal. 
  • Pajamas: Because sleeping in day clothes isn’t fun. 
  • Sportswear/yoga pants/leggings/sweatpants: Being active in college is the key to maintaining health, so having some workout gear for motivation doesn’t hurt.  
  • Bras/sport bras: The ultimate example of female support. 
  • Underwear: This is one item you can never have enough of. 
  • Belts: To keep things secure all semester long.
  • Jackets/coats: Make sure your child is well aware of the weather in the area where they’re attending college so that they’re always dressed accordingly. 
  • Socks: To keep feet toasty throughout the cold winter months. 
  • Slippers: Because nothing says, “It’s Sunday,” like a day with no shoes. 
  • Shoes: Think sneakers, sandals, snow boots, rain boots, heels, flats, flip-flops, etc. 
  • Bathing suits: Students should always have an extra bathing suit with them, whether it’s for spring break trips or trips to the local beach. 
  • Accessories: Think jewelry, watches, scarves, hats, gloves, sunglasses, etc.
  • Everyday purse/tote: Because they’re not going to take their backpacks to the movies.
  • Going-out clutch: For nights on the town when you don’t want to lug around your everyday bag. 
  • Gym bag: Keep all your gym essentials in one convenient place with a space-saving gym bag. 
College Packing List Laundry Essentials

Laundry Essentials for College

  • Laundry hamper/bag: Opt for one with a divider to help separate clothes ahead of time. ($12.99, Amazon)
  • Lingerie bag: To help keep delicates intact. ($10.33, Amazon)
  • Laundry detergent: For obvious reasons, they’ll need a way to get those clothes clean.
  • Fabric softener: For clothes and bedding that not only smell great, but feel great. Pick up a bottle of your favorite softener, and it’ll remind them of home everytime they use it. 
  • Bleach: College athletes are no strangers to stains, and sometimes bleach is the only thing that can kiss those grass stains goodbye.
  • Stain remover: Integral for all college athletes, a bottle of remover or one of those convenient remover pens ($8.80, Amazon) can be garment-saving in a pinch. 
  • Dryer sheets: Bye-bye to static cling!
  • Iron/ironing board: So your son or daughter can keep their best clothes crisp as they head out on those ever important internship interviews.  
  • Lint brush: For a clean look, always. ($15.59, Amazon)
  • Sewing kit: Holes can appear in an instant, and with a sewing kit ($11.99, Amazon), they can be gone just as fast. Also a great essential for all design students! 
  • Quarters: To get those washers going!
College Packing List Food Essentials

Food Essentials for College

  • Snacks: Stock up on non-perishable snacks, like granola, granola bars, dried fruit, crackers, and of course, candy!
  • Bottled water: Because not everyone is a fan of tap water. Some prefer bottled water
  • Popcorn: A microwave’s best friend. 
  • Cereal: The perfect breakfast!
  • Coffee/creamer: Every college student’s true essential. 
  • Sugar: To sweeten up their teas and coffees. 
  • Microwavable food: Think mac and cheese, soups, oatmeal, etc.
  • Ramen: Is it really college without ramen? 
  • Peanut butter and jelly: For sandwiches just like mom used to make. 
College Packing List Cooking Essentials

Cooking Essentials for College

  • Microwave: The number one item on every college student’s wish-list (just be sure their school permits it).
  • Mini-fridge: Another necessity for dorm living, every kid needs a mini fridge
  • Coffee maker/tea kettle: However they get their caffeine fix, these are must-have dorm items. ($102.99, Amazon)
  • Water filter pitcher: Help them save money on bottled water with convenient water filter pitcher. ($23.29, Amazon)
  • Blender: The easiest way for your child to get their blended fruit fix, every morning. ($87.99, Amazon)
  • Reusable water bottle: The best and most environmentally-friendly way to enjoy H2O. ($19.94, Amazon)
  • Utensils: Forks, knives, and spoons make the world go round. 
  • Dishes: Whether ceramic, plastic, or disposable, an essential for every college student. 
  • Mugs: For much-needed hot-chocolate and coffee breaks.  
  • Travel mug: For when that break needs to be on-the-go.  ($27.98, Amazon)
  • Lunchbox: With hectic schedules, having a lunchbox to always have some food with you, isn’t a bad idea for college students looking to save money on food spending. 
  • Napkins: Keep it clean, keep it classy. 
  • Hand vacuum: Crumbs can get everywhere, so a hand-vac is vital for clean living. ($55.99, Amazon)
  • Mop: For those Sunday morning cleaning sessions.
  • Trash bags: You never know when you’ll need to clean something up!
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