Back-to-University Shopping/Packing List

Suggestions of what to pack for university,

It’s that time of year again!  While most back-to-school sales will be targeting elementary kids, university and college students need to make the most of the sales, too.  The last thing you want is to not have something you need come the first day of school, especially if you’re going away from home.  When I was doing my undergrad, I was over two hours from home, so if I didn’t have something I needed, I either had to figure things out for myself (unnecessarily stressful when I have other already stressful things going on) or wait a week or more until reinforcements (aka Mom) could arrive.

If you’re heading off to university or college for the first time, and especially if you’re moving into residence, you may have no idea what’s ahead of you or what you’ll need to get by.  So I have compiled this handy dandy list of suggested things to bring with you.  

Now, of course this list should be taken with a grain of salt – you may look at some of these items and think, “Nah, I’ll never use that.”  In that case, leave it off your list, you’ll know yourself better than some list you found on a blog.

Also, before you start reading this list, go pull up your school’s website.  Go on, open a new tab, I’ll wait right here.  A lot of universities post a list detailing what you should and should not bring if you are moving into residence (check in the FAQ section of the residence website).  This list will give you more school-specific ideas, and it usually includes a list of furniture and items already provided in your room/building as well as items that your school won’t allow you to bring.  My university didn’t allow microwaves or toasters in residence bedrooms due to fire alarm issues – it would suck to spend money on those items, waste time, energy, and space packing them and lugging them to your university, only to not even be able to bring them into your room.  If your school provides such a list, start there.  Get the basics covered.  Then add in anything else from this list that you think you might need.

Alright, let’s get started!

Basic School Supplies

*A word about textbooks: it can be assumed that your school has a campus store or some such place where they stock all the textbooks for the courses offered.  I can’t speak to every school, but just keep in mind that your campus store may or may not be selling everything at the cheapest rates.  Sometimes they are – sometimes your campus store is doing the best they can, and the prices listed are the cheapest or at least comparable to other places.  But definitely check Amazon and other such places, just to make sure.  HOWEVER, absolutely make sure you’re buying the right book.  Lots of textbooks have generic titles that are absolutely no help in telling them apart, or if you think you’ve absolutely positively found the right book by the right author by the right publisher, you may still be purchasing the wrong edition.  Tricky book publishers.  When in doubt, your campus store will absolutely positively have the right edition, and if it’s the difference of $10, maybe that is worth your peace of mind.  (Plus don’t forget shipping.  You don’t have to pay for shipping if you get it from a local campus store.)

You’re going to want to find an organization system that works for you as far as note-taking goes.  I went through a few myself before I found what worked for me.  You can head over here to check out a few of them, and then pop back over here.  Whatever system you choose will need to be shopped for accordingly.

On to the list:

  • Laptop/tablet computer (and associated power cords)
  • Ethernet cable (if not wireless internet)
  • Laptop anti-theft device/lock (I never used one, but I put it on the list so you can at least think about it)
  • Surge protector power bar/extension cord (SO necessary, grab a couple!)
  • Binders
  • Binder dividers, labels, etc.
  • Notebooks
  • Pencil case
  • Pens, pencils, erasers, white-out, extra lead, etc.
  • Highlighters
  • Ruler (perhaps a large one for at-home and a smaller one to fit in your pencil case)
  • Glue, scissors, tape
  • 3-hole punch
  • Stapler, staples
  • Paper clips
  • Folders, clipboards, Duo-Tangs, etc.
  • Loose binder paper
  • Dictionary, thesaurus, other reference books
  • Printer, printer paper, printer ink
  • USB stick(s) and/or external harddrive(s)
  • Index cards (consider multiple colours for organization)
  • Post-Its
  • Plastic page protectors
  • Calculator (if you’re in a program that requires such a thing; if not, consider yourself a lucky duck and cross this right off your list!)
  • Blank CDs and/or DVDs (plus cases, if you wish)
  • Agenda/day planner (to keep track of assignments and due dates)
  • Backpack or other bag to carry around your books and supplies
  • Lunch bag
  • Combination lock (in case your school has lockers for rent so you don’t have to carry as much throughout the day, or if you need a gym locker)

For Your Dorm Room

  • Personal documents (driver’s license, health card, etc.)
  • Clothing (Don’t bring too much, but don’t bring too little, either.  Make sure you have lots of solid basics like jeans and hoodies, and you can never have enough underwear and socks.  If you have the ability to go home every month or so, rotate your clothing to allow for various weather conditions without overloading your closet.)
  • Umbrella, rain boots, rain jacket
  • Appropriate winter clothing – coat, hat, scarf, gloves/mittens, boots, etc.
  • Accessories – jewellery, purses, hats, belts, watches, etc.
  • Hangers and over-the-door hooks
  • Webcam (for Skyping home)
  • TV, DVD player
  • Radio/stereo
  • Speakers
  • Headphones
  • Cell phone (and charger)
  • Camera (plus any required memory cards, wires, and chargers)
  • Corkboard bulletin board, whiteboards (and markers), wall calendar
  • Posters, photographs, other decorations for your walls (plus sticky tab or tape if your school doesn’t provide any)
  • Pillow(s)
  • Bedding, extra bedding
  • Mattress pad, mattress cover, mattress pillow topper
  • Towels, face cloth, robe
  • Laundry bag/bin (Think about getting a collapsible one for easy storage.  I also had a small canvas laundry bag that I kept my dirty underwear in, that way any time friends came over, there weren’t dirty panties or bras lying right on top of my hamper where anyone could see.  But I’m weird like that.)
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets (and make sure your student knows how to do laundry!)
  • Toiletries (shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.)
  • Shower caddy
  • Flip flops or shower shoes
  • Toilet paper (if you have a private or semi-private bathroom and have to provide your own)
  • Storage bins (especially handy if they can fit under your bed!)
  • Cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer
  • Air/fabric sanitizer/refresher
  • Flameless/battery operate candle or plug-in air freshener (since most universities have a no-flame policy, but you might want a nice relaxing scent in the air)
  • Disinfectant wipes for easy wipe-down
  • Swiffer, dust buster (SO handy!), vacuum (if you can’t borrow one from the dorms when you need it)
  • Microwave
  • Coffeemaker, kettle
  • Mini fridge
  • Toaster/toaster oven
  • Blender
  • Dishes, silverware
  • Dish soap, dish cloth, dish towel
  • Cutting board (just a little one, for cutting up fruit, cheese or whatever)
  • First aid kit (lots of band-aids!)
  • Mirror
  • Desk and/or floor lamp(s)
  • Alarm clock
  • Fan
  • Eye mask (just in case you have a roommate who leaves the light on all night!)
  • Bicycle and bike lock

I was told before my first year that no university student could exist without ear plugs, so I made sure to pick some up.  In my five years of undergrad, I never once opened the package.  Maybe buy some cheap ones, just in case your dorm is a lot louder than mine or your dons/RAs are less vigilant in keeping the noise down.

I hope this list gives you a good idea of what to bring to university!  Leave me a comment down below with your going-away-to-school stories, or to let me know if you think I’ve left anything off this list!

Happy trails, campers.

– Sam

5 thoughts on “Back-to-University Shopping/Packing List

  1. It is amazing how much longer the lists are for our kids than they were for us. It is because of all the technology. The only electronics I brought to school was a stereo. We fit everything is a regular car. Now you have to rent vans to fit everything.

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