5 College Packing Considerations for Students and Parents

From planning to storing, get one family's tips to make your move-in process smooth.

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Driver Mike Rader loads up the Carleton Willard at Home van with suitcases full of books.

No matter how far ahead you plan, the process of actually packing for college and moving into a dorm room can be a confusing one. What should your student take and what should be left behind?


Several months before Lindsey left for college, we started a "staging area" in an area of our home near her bedroom. It was easy to toss things there as we bought them, or as she took time to go through her room during that summer.

[Find out how to ensure a smooth move into college.]

But when it came time to actually box things up for the trip to college, it was still challenging deciding what to take. Below are a couple of things we took into consideration that might be of help to you too, if you're about to move your student into college.

1. Think about future trips: Lindsey was 30 miles down the road and had a car at college. That made forgetting to pack something less of an issue for us.

Plus, she could leave fall clothing at home, knowing she would be home several times before she would need it. That took a lot of the pressure off.

2. Consider shopping routes: If your child is in a traditional college town, with his or her own transportation, making Wal-Mart or Target runs to buy necessities will be easy. But it's much harder to wrestle a mini refrigerator onto a bus or subway in an urban area, so those purchases should be planned out ahead of time.


As the oldest child in my family, I was unsure of what I would need to bring with me to college. I pictured the spacious, exquisitely decorated dorm rooms featured in Pottery Barn Teen magazines complete with bay windows, trendy light fixtures, and vintage wall mirrors.

[View photos of cool college dorms.]

As you can imagine, this wasn't actually the case when I arrived at my residence hall. So, here are my top three dorm room considerations, straight from my dorm room to yours.

1. Utilize wall and closet space: Whether it's used to store shoes, jewelry, or clothing, some sort of hanging organizer can be a huge space saver in a dorm room. Once at school, I found that my desk space was much too limited for a jewelry box or makeup bag, so I had to find some unique storage solutions like drawer organizers and a hanging jewelry bag.

Since my residence hall didn't allow didn't allow holes to be put in the walls, I also picked up some removable adhesive strips for posters and hooks for my purses and coats.

2. Skip the plastic: Storing cases of water in a dorm room can be a pain, so I recommend investing in a reusable water bottle and filling up at the drinking fountain–it's cheaper and more environmentally-friendly!

I personally like the ones with a lid and a plastic straw, but other kinds are better for traveling to class. If you crave that bottled water taste, try using a filtered water pitcher.

3. Pack for all types of weather: On rainy days in high school, I would dart from my car to the front door of my building with a only sweatshirt hood for protection from the weather. This approach is difficult on my college campus, however, where I sometimes have to walk 10 or 15 minutes to class—even on days when it is pouring down rain.

Make sure to include a raincoat, rain boots, and a small umbrella on your packing list. Trust me, you won't regret it!