How to Decide What to Pack for College

Packing for college can be incredibly difficult and much more time-consuming than you might have expected. Unlike, say, packing for a vacation, packing for college isn’t as easy as throwing some items in a bag and heading out the door. And even if you have a great packing list, it can still be hard to figure out what you’ll need (and want!) to bring with you as you head off to begin your new college life.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, however, consider asking yourself the following questions as you begin packing for college:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do I need this?

Be honest with yourself about the difference between want and need, too. Underwear? Need. Six pairs of similar high heels? Want. Ranking everything on a scale from 1 to 10 will also help make the line clearer between what you should bring and what you shouldn’t. If something is a 5 or less, don’t pack it.

Can I get this during a later visit home?

If you’re going to college somewhere warm and are planning on your first visit home within a month or two, you probably don’t need to bring your heavy winter coat when you first arrive on campus. By leaving things at home that you won’t need until later, you’ll spare yourself from moving too many things at once and can save some sacred space in your room when you arrive.

Am I bringing this “just in case”?

Bringing things “just in case” usually results in having a ton of things you’ll never end up using. If there’s a high likelihood that you’ll use something, bring it. If there’s a very remote possibility, leave it behind. You can always have someone overnight something if there’s an urgent need for one particular item.

Does this item serve more than one purpose?

Room in your college living space — whether it’s in a residence hall, a Greek house, or an off-campus apartment building — is likely going to be tight. Knowing how to organize your room smartly will become highly important. Consequently, a good rule to set when bringing things is whether or not each item can serve more than one purpose. That extra throw on your bed, for example, can also be a great way to keep warm during snowy football games. That quesadilla maker, however, just takes up a ton of space while you can make quesadillas in the microwave much more easily.

Can my roommate(s) and I share this?

It’s just a waste of space and plain ol’ silly to have 2 (or more) roommates all bring speaker systems for their iPads, for example. Touch base with your roommate(s) before you arrive on campus so you can coordinate who is bringing what. After all, things like 2 microwaves, 2 mini fridges, and 2 pouf chairs can crowd a room very, very quickly.

Is it cheaper to buy or replace this at school?

This question is especially important if you’re mailing items to school. Consider a ream of paper, for example. Is it worth spending the money to ship it when you can just buy another one, possibly for less that the cost of shipping, once you arrive? If it’s cheaper to buy or replace something once you’re at school, consider leaving the item behind.

Can I bring this electronically instead?

If you think you need copies of certain paperwork, old college papers, or other items that can be scanned, consider saving them in the cloud or other accessible-from-school location. They won’t take up space, you won’t have to worry about losing them, and if you end up needing to access them, you can do so in a jiffy.

Does this fit into my high school life or my college life?

While it can be hard, adjusting to college life means leaving a lot of your high school life behind. Things like your class ring or t-shirts and sweatshirts from high school may be well-loved, but you’ll want to focus on the differences between high school and college, not try to make them the same. You’ll want to start fresh when you arrive at your college and the best way to do so is not to bring all of your junk — both figurative and literal — from high school with you.