Getting Ready for College Checklists

Getting ready for college is exciting! It can also be stressful, for students and parents alike. Dorms are usually less spacious than depicted in movies and TV shows and rarely transform into fairytale suites with matching sofas, club chairs and fireplaces (think Rory’s two-room, two fire-place dorm in Gilmore Girls). Instead, move-in days can be hot, long, and hectic. And moving away from home and experiencing life as a young adult can be scary.

Nitro College, an organization that helps families pay for college, has some great advice, and checklists, to help students transition to college—because getting ready for college is “not just about the stuff students need. It’s about the process they go through—all the ways they’ll change once they’re surrounded by new people in a new environment. And that’s not small stuff.”

Checklist # 1: Emotional Preparation

Living in a small room with one or two strangers is a new experience for most college students. To get emotionally ready for college, Nitro recommends students:

  • Identify their goals (academic, social, personal).
  • Understand their values and priorities so students make choices in college that align with who they are.
  • Know what activities recharge them and make plans to continue those at college. 
  • Spend one-on-one time with family members and good friends before leaving for college. 
  • Decide how they’ll continue to communicate with friends and family while at school.
  • Accept that they’ll change because of their new experiences. That change can feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.


Checklist # 2: Financial Preparation

College may be the first time students are making daily financial decisions on their own. To get financially ready for college, Nitro suggests students:

  • Know where their tuition money is coming from (scholarships, grants, work-study, job, parents, savings, etc.).
  • Create a budget so necessary expenses are covered, and students know how much money is left over after expenses.
  • Decide on how much they’ll spend on other things like food and entertainment.
  • Use a banking or budgeting app to keep track of spending.
  • Put any extra money each month into savings and pretend it’s not available. 
  • Look at bank statements each month.


Checklist # 3: Logistical Preparation

Nitro offers these pre-move-in tips to help students “make move-in feel less like a juggling act and more like an event to remember”:

  • Tour the dorms before move-in day, if possible.
  • Contact roommates way ahead of time and decide who’s bringing what.
  • Look into stores that ship to dorms or have nearby pick-up spots so families don’t have to pack items like bedding and refrigerators.
  • Know where the local stores are near the dorm for last-minute forgotten items.
  • Plan for weather during moving. Bring lots of water if it’ll be hot and tarps if the forecast calls for rain.
  • Get to the dorms as soon as you can on Arrival Day. Parking can get messy.
  • Bring snacks to help power through the move.
  • Accept family’s help to move in and arrange the room. This will give students more time to say goodbye and to attend orientation events.
  • Pack as light as possible, but know your situation. Students at a rural school without a car may need to bring things students at a school in a city could pick up as needed.


Checklist  #4: The Stuff

As Nitro rightly notes “forgetting things is inevitable. This is where checklists can save the day.”

The Nitro checklists (slightly edited by me) include day-to-day basics and then some. Not everyone needs everything on the lists. Or, as they put it, “Going to school in Florida? Maybe you don’t need snow boots. Wisconsin? Count on it.”

Note: students should check college-specific rules about what they are allowed to bring to campus!

Dorm Room Items

  • Lamps (desk, bed)
  • Hanging/string lights
  • Storage options (under bed, cubes, in closet, etc.)
  • Pictures/art for walls
  • Calendar/dry erase/message board
  • Battery powered clock
  • Bed risers to lift you bed for additional underneath storage (although many college beds are adjustable for this purpose)
  • Sticky hooks
  • Fan/space heater
  • Mirror
  • Air mattress (for when someone crashes)
  • Essential oil diffuser/air freshener


  • Sheets (x2) and check the size —most college dorm beds are twin XL
  • Towels (shower, beach, and hand towel)
  • Washcloths/loofah
  • Pillows (sleeping, throw, reading)
  • Mattress pad 
  • Foam topper
  • Blankets/comforters/duvet (don’t forget one that you can bring to outdoor events)
  • Hangers
  • Laundry basket and lingerie bag
  • Stain remover pen
  • Detergent
  • Dryer sheets
  • Iron/ironing board or steamer (if you’re into wrinkle-free clothes)

School Supplies

  • USB drives/external storage
  • Stapler/rubber bands/tacks/tape
  • Printer and paper
  • Pens/pencils
  • Sharpener
  • Notebooks
  • Folders
  • Index cards
  • Sticky notes
  • Scissors
  • Highlighters
  • Ruler
  • Stamps
  • Envelopes


  • Laptop and needed accessories (keyboard, wireless mouse, stylus, etc.)
  • Laptop stand and case
  • E-reader
  • Tablet
  • Speakers
  • Cords (HDMI/ethernet)
  • Power strip
  • Extension cords
  • MP3 player
  • Headphones
  • Camera
  • Cell phone
  • Chargers for every device
  • Extra batteries

Shared with Roommate

  • Stereo
  • TV
  • Hot plate/microwave (if allowed)
  • Coffeemaker (if allowed)
  • Small fridge


  • Allergy meds
  • Prescription meds
  • Tylenol/Advil
  • Vitamins
  • Sterile bandages
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Cough drops
  • Shampoo/conditioner/hair styling products
  • Comb/brush
  • Hair styling equipment (flat iron, curling iron, etc.)
  • Body wash/soap/face wash
  • Body/face lotions
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • Razors/shaving cream
  • Cotton swabs
  • Sunscreen
  • Makeup
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hand mirror
  • Tweezers
  • Eyeglasses and/or Contacts & solution
  • Cold and flu meds
  • Decongestant
  • Bug spray
  • Deodorant


  • Shower shoes (flip flops)
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Jeans and pants
  • Shirts
  • Sweats
  • Pajamas
  • Slippers/house shoes
  • Sweaters/sweatshirts
  • Cold weather gear (hats, mittens, scarves)
  • Sneakers
  • Boots
  • Dress shoes
  • Business clothes
  • Dress clothes/going out clothes
  • Formal dress clothes
  • Swimsuit
  • Workout clothes
  • Umbrella
  • Backpack
  • Jewelry & organizer
  • Rain gear (poncho/boots)
  • Baseball or sun hat 
  • Robe or spa wrap

Cleaning Items

  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Lightbulbs
  • All-purpose cleaner/cleaning wipes
  • Plastic sandwich bags
  • Dish soap
  • Wet wipes
  • Tissues
  • Kitchen gear and utensils (bowl, plate, cup, mug, fork, knife, spoon)
  • Kitchen utensils shared (stirring spoons, tongs, peeler, spatula, strainer)
  • Water bottle
  • Can opener
  • Dish towel
  • Oven mitt
  • Mini broom with dustpan
  • Hand vac

Food (check with roommate about allergies before buying)

  • Nuts
  • Granola bars
  • Soup
  • Oatmeal
  • Dried fruit
  • Peanut butter/ nut butters
  • Coffee/tea/cocoa
  • Cereal
  • Pretzels/chips
  • Popcorn
  • Microwaveable mac and cheese
  • Bread


  • Yoga mat
  • Journal
  • Meditation pillow
  • Musical instruments
  • Art supplies
  • Books to read for fun
  • Luggage for weekend travel/travel home


  • Credit/debit cards
  • License
  • School ID
  • Car registration/insurance info
  • Health insurance card
  • Copy of birth certificate
  • Copy of social security card
  • Passport
  • Emergency contact list
  • Financial aid information
  • Class schedule
  • Monthly budget
  • On-campus account information (meal plans, etc.)


  • Bike/bike helmet/bike lock
  • Safety whistle
  • Flashlight