Some updates and additions to my previous lists.

I’ve written several posts over the years about what to pack for college based on suggestions from my familyfriends and college students. I decided to revisit the lists and then asked parents of current college students and their children for their must-haves, often forgotten or just “cool” items, assuming things have changed. 

Interestingly, most of the items recommended in my earlier posts were still included in the new recommendations, so definitely read the originals. What’s below are items that will help make move-in day smoother and your freshman’s life more comfortable from day one. 

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Brita or other water filter pitcher This came up a couple of times as parents and students reminded me that regular dorm water is basic tap water that may not taste very good or different than what your teen’s used to at home. Brita also makes a filter that simply attaches to a faucet if your teen happens to have a sink in their dorm room that can accommodate it.

Rented mini fridge Renting rather than buying usually means the refrigerator is in the dorm room when your freshman arrives, saving you the chore of bringing it up yourself. At the end of the year, you don’t have to lug it home or figure out how to sell it if your teen won’t need it the following year. 

Frakta zippered storage bags You can find these blue rectangular bags at IKEA. They hold a ton and weigh nothing. Plus they have straps making them easy to carry with your hands or as a backpack. Super handy for move-in day.

Sturdy bolster with arms They’ll do a lot of reading in bed, so this pillow will come in handy.

Cushion for college desk chair The wooden chairs are functional but not very comfortable for long hours of sitting and working.

Yoga mat Perfect for sitting outside and much easier to clean than a towel or blanket. Also useful for doing yoga in the dorm room or floor lounge.

Sticky notes One student said that lots of people left their Snapchat and phone numbers on their doors from day one to make it easy to reach out and meet each other.

USB-C adapters Because a lot of devices haven’t been updated and many new computers use the USB-C connection, the adapters may be necessary for printers, chargers, etc.

Handheld vacuum Good way to clean up crumbs, spills, dust bunnies and avoid attracting bugs.

More batteries than you think They won’t remember all the items they own that need batteries and how quickly those run down. Loading up now also prevents you from sending them in a care package because you know your teen isn’t going to want to pay for those batteries with their own money.

Blackout curtains Dorm blinds don’t block out a lot of light, so kids who need a dark room to sleep will have trouble, especially if they like to sleep late in the morning or take an afternoon snooze (yes, college students do this).

Dorm room insurance policy A version of renter’s insurance. This protects your teen’s stuff if it’s stolen or damaged. Your freshman might be careful about keeping their items safe, but you don’t know if their roommate will be. 

Wall art Think posters from a band or show they love. Realize they’ll change their décor year-to-year or even semester-to-semester, so don’t go for the most expensive. Postcards from their favorite places work too.

Electric teapot If your teen doesn’t do coffee. One mom shared that her daughter brought some nice china teacups too because she liked to have friends over for tea.

Downy Unstoppables Dorm washing machines aren’t always the hardest working which is why a college student recommended this product to keep her laundry smelling fresh.

Door stop Helpful to avoid getting locked out as you move in and to hold the door open if you want to ventilate the room as you unpack. 

Lightweight robe An all-season robe works when walking between the hallway bathroom and your dorm room or to grab in the event of a fire drill when you’re in the shower. 

Bedding for the first night If your student wants to wait to choose their sheets and comforter until they’re on campus, make sure they have something to use on their bed for the first few nights.

Your credit card in their name Make clear this is for emergencies only and discuss what those are beforehand. Remind your teen that you will see the bill each month, which means they can’t hide the charges. Reiterate if you expect to be paid back or if you have to pre-approve expenses. 

A note One mom left a written message to her freshman among their packed items to be opened after she’d gone back home. 

Some cash One dad said this is the “coolest” thing his kids like to get just before Mom and Dad leave. 

As you begin or wind up packing with your freshman, review this list and my previous three posts to make sure you’ve included all the essentials.

Share your must-haves and best items to pack for college in the comments section below. 

Thanks to the parents and college students who shared their recommendations: Carrie Brady, Colleen Brady, Marjorie Ingall, Josie Steuer Ingall, Eileen Pellegrini, Lauren Pellegrini, Jenn Parkhill, Justin MacLennan, Anthony Baxter, Christina Kelly, Dale Ross and Lisa DeLuca