10 Things You Should Not Bring to College


You are headed to college. Dropping off your son or daughter for their first year of higher learning. Before you take to heart and purchase all the items their college suggests that they bring, take a moment to learn from my experience.

My Experience

Years ago, when we dropped off our son for his first year of college I was the dutiful parent. Wanting to get things just right. I was willing to acquire anything needed to enhance his college experience. I was lucky. My son is the typical young man and somewhat a minimalist, so he was not asking for much of anything. I do believe that I could have had a different experience if I had a daughter or a different kind of son. I didn’t realize how lucky I was until move-in day, while walking through the dorm halls and seeing the piles of stuff outside dorm rooms waiting for their owners to figure out how to fit everything inside the tiny space and also the piles of trash from the aftermath of this process.

So now that it’s that time of year again, I hope you can learn something from my experience.

Here is a list of things your student does not need for college.

  1. Cooking supplies – They eat, but they don’t cook in a dorm. Don’t bother with dishes or silverware, toaster or blender. Maybe a Keurig single cup coffee maker if your child is a fan and maybe a small microwave, but check to make sure they are ‘legal’.
  2. Extra technology – Their laptop or phone can do the work of an alarm clock, a calendar, a TV, a stereo, and an answering machine. Even a printer is not necessary, since most schools provide the service for necessary printing to students and most assignments are posted online.
  3. Extra furniture – They will be sharing a small space. They can make due with sitting on the bed. We purchased a small chair for my son and it came back home with us because it didn’t fit. If they can’t fit what they brought to school, then they brought too much.
  4. Media – Again, your kids probably access all their media on their laptop or phone, so no CDs, DVDs, TVs are needed.
  5. Photos – Gone are the days when they need photos of you to remember what a great parent you are. Hopefully they have one of you on their phone.
  6. Cleaning supplies – You can hope that they’ll clean their space, but don’t plan on it.
  7. School supplies – Times have changed. most everything is no longer needed. It’s best to let them purchase anything that is needed at the book store or order on amazon.
  8. Plants – Nice thought, but they won’t survive and then become clutter in the small space.
  9. Luggage – Pack clothing and other items in large plastic bags instead of luggage, so they can be deposed of once unpacked. There is no place to storage empty luggage in a dorm room.
  10. Paperwork – The next generation doesn’t do paperwork. If you think they’ll need a copy of their birth certificate (of something else), be pro-active. Scan it and email it to them or put it in the cloud. Then if they need it, they’ll have access, but they won’t have to deal with the paper.

There are some things that you might want to consider purchasing.

  1. Storage is always an issue in tiny spaces. Think vertical. Check out all the 3M Command products for hanging anything on the walls, like posters or a towel.
  2. Is the dorm air conditioned? If not, they will want a small fan.
  3. A trash can. You can always hope that they keep the room tidy and a receptacle for trash can go a long way in the process.

Fight the urge to make everything perfect before you leave. Forgot something? There is always Amazon. They can get what they need super quickly and conveniently.

Dropping off your son or daughter for their first year of higher learning. Before you take to heart and purchase all the items their college suggests that they bring, take a moment to learn from my experience. Click To Tweet

Also consider whether you will be loading up your car or traveling by air to college. If you are flying to school, make all your purchases on the internet and have them shipped to school. Again, Amazon and Bed, Bath and Beyond are both good sources for needed supplies.

Lastly, consider that your kids college experience will be very different than yours. Just think about how times have changed. Let them take the lead in determining what is necessary and what is not. The younger generation communicates differently, entertains themselves differently, studies differently. It’s a different world. Best of luck for great year.

Want to read more on this subject? Check out some past posted of ours.

Tips to Organize a College Dorm Move-In

The Perfect Site for a College Student

Are You Gambling With Your Family’s Medical Card Decisions?


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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.


  1. Seana Turner on August 19, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Oh my goodness, so true! I found the single-cup coffee maker was a great, and a little caddie for plastic ware. I also recommend a microwave-safe bowl, because at some point they will probably get a cold and want to heat up a can of soup. Nobody has phones or TVs anymore. An extra-long charging cord is handy, though. Great post:)

    • Janet Schiesl on August 19, 2019 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks Seana. Good additions to the list.

  2. Sabrina Quairoli on August 19, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Great advice! This move-in day is going to be with my second child, and there are many things she wants to bring that I am telling her that she doesn’t need. It’s not working though. I guess she wants to realize it for herself. Wish me luck, move-in day is this Wednesday. =/

    • Janet Schiesl on August 19, 2019 at 4:39 pm

      Good luck on moving day Sabrina. I think girls want to take more items to college than boys. Your daughter will probably bring some of her things home at the end of the year.

  3. Linda Samuels on August 19, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    Your post brings back so many memories when we moved our daughters into their dorms for the first time. I’m sure they had more than they needed. But some of that you have to live and learn. Your point about not worrying if you forgot something is a valid one. Anything can be easily purchased after the fact- either that day or shipped to them at a later date. The main thing is to let them be the lead on what they want or don’t want to bring. It’s a stressful time for them (and parents,) so the less contentious we can make things the better.

    • Janet Schiesl on August 19, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      I agree Linda. Now is the time to let them make those decisions and spread their wings.

  4. Janet Barclay on August 19, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    Also remember that what goes to school has to come home at the end of the school year, another good reason to limit it to the essentials!

    • Janet Schiesl on August 19, 2019 at 4:44 pm

      Yes Janet. I agree. I know so many families that give up garage space or a room in their house all summer to store college stuff.

  5. Julie Bestry on August 19, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    I couldn’t agree more about luggage, in general. I kept my extra linens and clothing that wouldn’t fit in the drawers/dresser in nylon duffel bags under my dorm bed. (Granted, it was a long time ago, when suitcases were leather and didn’t have wheels or ballistic material and OMG, I’m old!) One small weekender with wheels can be stored in dorm storage, under the bed, or on the otherwise-unreachable highest dorm closet shelf, but yeah, luggage just gets in the way.

    I lived in an international dorm for all four years of college, and I got to see how fellow students crossed the planet with just two suitcases’ worth of supplies and learned to acquire “as necessary” instead of schlepping their whole lives with them, and that was before our phones and computers did quadruple duty. Between Amazon Prime, UPS (that’s United Parental Service), and Fall Break being only about 8 weeks ago, it’s easy to just take the essentials and wait to see what you really need.

    Great post!

    • Janet Schiesl on August 21, 2019 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks Julie. I learned how to travel light when I traveled to England for a seminar of college. Two suitcases for 12 weeks and I brought things that, in the end, I should have left at home.

  6. Nancy Haworth on August 21, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I love your list of things your student does not need for college. I’m sure I over-packed my first year of college! I will be sharing this helpful information with my organizing clients.

    • Janet Schiesl on August 21, 2019 at 4:19 pm

      Thanks Nancy. Live and learn. I bet you packed lighter your second year. It takes experience to know how little time you spend in your dorm room, so you need so much less than you think.

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