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What should be on my college packing list?

School and Study-related Items

The pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, index cards, highlighters, and other school supplies you've been buying for the last 12-plus years are just as necessary in college. To cope with situations particular to college, you might add:

  • A tape recorder for reviewing class lectures
  • A mini stapler (and staples) for those term papers finished at the library or lab on the way to class
  • Binders for all the papers you'll accumulate
  • Book covers to keep books clean for resale
  • Class-specific supplies, from sketch pads for art class to safety goggles for cabinet making

Higher education is an increasingly digital world. If you don't already have a computer or laptop, you may be required to buy one. Different majors or departments may require specific hardware and software. Check with the school's Office of Information Technology. Other computing needs may include:


  • A flash drive (memory stick), since you may be using several different computers
  • Wireless cards or adaptors to connect to the school's network
  • Extension cords, power strips, and surge protectors to share outlets with roommates
  • Security devices to protect your computer and data -- college campuses offer plenty of places to lose a laptop. They're also a favorite target of thieves. Cable locks, encryption software, and a GPS tracking device can save you money and anxiety.

Besides relieving stress, fun and games let you get to know your roommates and neighbors. At the same time, you should respect their need for privacy and quiet. Some of these items can fit the bill:

  • Group games -- card and board games are good choices. New players can learn the rules without fumbling with unfamiliar electronic gizmos.
  • TV and DVD player -- buy headphones to keep the sound from inconveniencing your roommate.
  • Hobbies -- if you're skilled at a sport, handicraft or musical instrument, by all means bring the needed equipment.

For lots more information on preparing for college, see the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • "Packing for College: Take It or Leave It." (Feb. 1, 2010)
  • Heet, LaRita. "Protect your computer -- and identity -- on campus." Aug. 25, 2008. (Feb. 1, 2010)
  • University of Arizona. "Things to Bring to Your Residence Hall." (Feb. 1, 2010)
  • University of Indiana. "Wireless Internet Access." (Feb. 1, 2010)
  • University of California-San Francisco. "Police Report Several Laptops Stolen on Parnassus Campus." UCSF Today. Nov. 6, 2009. (Feb. 1, 2010)
  • Western Illinois University. "Residence Hall Room Furnishings." (Feb. 1, 2010)
  • Western Illinois University. "What Not to Bring." (Feb. 1, 2010)