13 Things Every College Freshman Forgets to Pack

Teenage Girl Listening to Music
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We had an older teen living with this summer and we just moved her to college to live in a dorm, which was a first for us.

Like any parent, I wanted her to be prepared, so I spent a lot of time over the past few months making a checklist of things to pack. It was a team effort: some things I knew she would need, some items spotted at the store all month, and some things suggested by friends that surprised us both.

I remember my own moving day many years ago – my mom and I had to track down a store to buy several items we had never considered until I actually arrived. I tried to draw from that experience to put together a definitive list ahead of time, but we still ended up spending $100 at Target on forgotten items when we got to town.

Now I’m keeping a box open and ready, so I can drop in the things she forgot at our house as well as all the small stuff I’ve picked up along the way during her first few weeks. I’ll send it all back with her on her next visit home or put together some care packages to mail.

Here are some things most college freshman forget to pack:

1. An alarm clock so they aren’t relying on their phone

When you live in the dorms, Mom isn’t around to wake you up anymore, and relying on a phone to wake up in time for class is a recipe for disaster. I couldn’t tell you the number of times one of the teenagers in my house begs me for my charger because her phone is dead and her charger is suddenly missing.

Try this: Tocky, the alarm clock that runs away so you have to get up to turn it off.


2. Stationary and stamps to keep in touch with siblings

I know, I know. Kids won’t actually write home. Or do we just think that because we never give them the tools to do so? We packed envelopes, stamps, and some generic cards so she can write to the little ones or send notes to her grandparents.

3. A door stop for keeping an open door to make new friends

An open-door policy is one of the easiest ways to make and maintain new friends. Be sure your kid is prepared to prop open the door, so new friends can peek in and say hi or stop by on their way to meals.

Try this: DIY Decorative Brick Doorstop


4. Swimsuit/workout clothes for taking advantage of the fitness center

I have spent my entire adult life trying to develop good fitness habits. She is determined to start hers that way. There is a fitness center right in her dorm as well as a pool and recreation center right across the street.

5. First aid kit and OTC meds for minor scrapes and illnesses

The last thing you want to do when you’re not feeling well is to run out to the drugstore, but there’s no mom-stocked medicine cabinet in a residence hall. Send one ahead just in case and they’ll be self-sufficient even in sickness. We included ibuprofen, cold medication, Midol, Vicks, and a small first-aid kit.

Try this: Pinch Provisions Kits


6. Quarters for laundry

You probably already thought of this one, but trust me; they will need way more than you ever imagined. We left her with a single roll of quarters, and she’s already used half of it. (I’m sure she’ll learn to slow down and keep the loads fuller eventually!)

7. Lanyard for carrying student ID and keys

Apparently, carrying your ID and keys around on the school-issued lanyard is a fate worse than death. You’ll be marked for life (or at least the year) as a newbie freshman.

Try this: Five Below currently features fun and funky lanyards for just $2


8. Office supplies for stocking the desk

I’m sure you packed basic school supplies like paper and pencils, but don’t forget the extras they’re used to finding in a desk at home or school. We packed a stapler, paper clips, tape, scissors, push pins, and a hole punch.

9. A compact steamer for wrinkled clothes

I would never have actually ironed (who does that?), but I wish I had one of those simple steamers. This could be especially important for upperclassmen, who may need to look presentable for networking events or job interviews.

Try this: My Little Steamer, $19.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond


10. Microwave popcorn for late-night snacking (and making friends)

Seriously, pop a bag of microwave popcorn and everyone migrates to the buttery smells coming from your room. We went a step further and sent an air-popper with popcorn and buttery oil. They are a lot of fun and should make for a good ice breaker.

11. Cleaning supplies for high hopes

Go ahead and laugh, but if they actually have a way to clean, they just might do it. Just keep it simple. We sent Clorox wipes and glass wipes and her roommate has a simple stick vacuum. It’s not a lot, but it will hopefully keep things from getting too gross.

Try this: Dirt Devil Bagless Stick Vacuum, $19.96 at Home Depot


10. Evening wear

There’s always the potential for a last-minute invitation to a semi-formal or dressy event. Unfortunately, it seemed like I always learned about them with days of notice. You might think they don’t need a suit or would never wear that little black dress, but pack it anyway. It may hang in the back of the closet all year, but if something comes up, they’ll be so glad to have it.

13. Water filter

I think if more teens understood how important hydration is for good skin, they would drink a lot more water. Give them a nudge in the right direction with a water filter or a filtered bottle so good drinking water is always available.

Try this: Water Bobble, $9.99


Anything I forgot? What would you add to this list?

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