College Essentials: Preparing Mentally and Physically For the Move

By Alyson Bunn on June, 3 2021
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Alyson Bunn

With college comes many unknowns and even more anxiety. The exciting shift from life at home to independence means doubling most of the essentials that have been around for years. Moving out of childhood homes is not just about items either. The fear of new friendships and finding safe spaces does not subside until it is experienced.

Tips and Tricks

Each year, first-year college students pack up their lives and move into a 200 square-foot box to share with a roommate or two. With such small space, both in rooms and in travel, the hindsight of packing approaches is always 20-20. Because of the inevitable flights of stairs, packing everything in tubs with handles makes those trips up a little easier. Labeling those tubs helps avoid unpacking a plethora of shoes before the closet organizer or posters before the tool kit. Also, packing essential toiletries last and at an easily accessible spot helps lighten the load of first-day unpacking and prevents a scramble of scavenging through everything just to find shower shoes.

College campuses universally are low on parking. The traffic and hectic nature of move-in warrants a struggle to find a spot close enough to the dorm to unload everything. If friends are attending the same college, packing into one car lessens the hassle of parking. If space is a concern, curbside pickup from stores is a great option for larger items needed for move-in. Curbside pickup allows for more space in initial travel and less stress in preparation. If delivery is an option, sometimes mailing items to the dormitory better suits the travel circumstances and eliminates the need to leave campus.

Welcome Week Essentials

While some friends from high school may also be attending the same university, a desire to branch out and meet new people is typically a lingering feeling in first-year college students. After move-in, it is super important to create a welcoming environment as a communal living space. Leaving dorm room doors open for approachability means a likelihood of making friends in passing. Spending time in lounges and dining halls inevitably leads to conversation. Even though it feels lonely, everyone is also looking to create friendships.

Another way many incoming students are making friends is by forming connections before they even arrive on campus. Many universities have Facebook groups for graduation classes. Although they are often used to find roommates, they are a great way to find friends. Making these connections before arrival gives you the chance to get involved together.

Making It Feel Like Home

Getting involved is essential in the first weeks. Attending university-led activities or finding interesting clubs make college feel a little more like home. Getting involved on campus through Greek life, major-related clubs or even club sports creates friendships of mutual interest. Finding people that care about the same things brings a sense of comfort that may be missing compared to normal life.

It is also important to make the space given still feel comfortable and safe. Decorating and bringing pieces of childhood homes to college can make the cold walls feel a little warmer. Find spaces on campus like a special tree or private room that you can use for quiet mental breaks. This will help find safe spaces to just be you and make your campus feel more like home.

Packing List

Packing lists provide insight into what has worked for others in the past and given a hindsight opinion into what would have been useful. It is incredibly likely that something will still be forgotten, even after reading multiple lists. Trips back to the store after forgetting something you needed yet again is part of the memories.


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  • Twin XL sheets
  • Twin XL mattress topper
  • Twin XL mattress protector
  • Comforter
  • Throw blankets
  • Pillows
  • Pillow cases
  • Bed side caddy
  • Bed risers
  • Bath towels
  • Bath robe
  • Turbie-twist
  • Wash cloths
  • Shower caddy
  • Shower shoes
  • Q-tips
  • Floss
  • Hairstyling tools
  • Tweezers
  • Nail care
  • Toilet paper (if needed)


  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Loofa
  • Razor
  • Shaving cream
  • Face wash
  • Lotion
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste

First aid kit

  • Band-Aids
  • Neosporin
  • Cough drops
  • Thermometer
  • Ibuprofen
  • Tylenol
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Benadryl
  • Prescriptions
  • Vitamins

Room Décor

  • Throw pillows
  • Area rug
  • Lamps
  • Storage bins
  • Mirror
  • Fan
  • Closet organizers
  • Shoe rack
  • Hanging strips and tape
  • Trash can
  • Posters, pictures, tapestries
  • Storage ottoman/cart


  • Laptop
  • Extension cords
  • HDMI cord
  • Organizers
  • Speaker
  • Headphones
  • Desk lamp
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Batteries

School supplies

  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Sticky notes
  • Highlighters
  • Notebooks
  • Index cards
  • Textbooks
  • Planner
  • Calculator
  • Book bag
  • Insurance card


  • Laundry basket/bag
  • Hangers
  • Detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Stain remover
  • Dryer sheets
  • Lint roller
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Cleaning spray
  • Duster
  • Broom
  • Steamer/iron
  • Drying rack
  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Quarters for laundry


  • Tupperware
  • Plates
  • Cups
  • Bowls
  • Chip-clips
  • Silverware set
  • Mugs
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Ziploc
  • Tissues
  • Brita
  • Dish soap and sponge
  • Coffee maker
  • Microwave
  • Mini-fridge
  • Mini toolkit
  • Umbrella


  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Jeans, pants, and shorts
  • T-shirts and blouses
  • Sweats
  • Preferred pajamas
  • Slippers/slides
  • Raincoat and winter coat
  • Winter gear
  • Rain boots, sneakers, casual shoes, and professional shoes
  • Dresses/suit
  • Jewelry
  • Belt
  • Swimsuit