College Packing List & Move-In Day Tips For Freshmen Parents

Parent of an incoming college freshman? Here's what to add to your College Packing List along with tips to make Move-In Day as smooth as possible.
Buffalo State  Incoming Freshman 2020

These last few weeks have been a whirlwind as I was extremely busy preparing to drop my son off to college. Yes it’s that time already. I announced that my son is now a high school graduate. But wanted to wait to reveal his college decision until go time. My son decided on Buffalo State College and his College Move-In Day was actually last Friday. The date was moved up as part of the COVID safety measures put in place by his school. They wanted to allow the students time to quarantine before the start of classes. A lot of other colleges & universities opted to do the same. However, I realized that some institutions have move in dates scheduled into the first week of September…

So I decided to put together this College Packing List for y’all, along with Move-In Day tips to help the day go smooth. Whether your child is an incoming freshman moving into the dorms for the first time… or has decided to take classes remotely this term, and move in for the Spring semester- I hope that this guide will be helpful. Even if your child has already moved into the dorms, you may have forgotten a few things. Trust me. I know as I’m still sending my son packages.

College Packing List

Before deciding on what to add to your list, check with the residence life office. Schools have very strict rules in place regarding what items you can bring to campus, and every school is different. This information is usually available online. In fact, my son’s school has an entire web page with detailed information. This is very important as it may not be apparent that an item would be on the do not bring list. Bed Risers for example. My son’s school does not allow bed risers. However, I’ve seen them suggested on almost every college dorm checklist. Now it’s time to make your College Packing List. You can tweak these suggestions to your child’s specific needs.


Some school’s provide a dolly or some sort of bin to assist students on College Move-In Day. Due to the COVID safety measures put in place, my son’s school opted not to provide anything. I knew this in advance, but forgot to pick up a dolly. On top of that, only one person was allowed to help my son to move in. That was me. We had to make multiple trips and carry everything. Some of that stuff was really heavy. My poor back is still suffering from moving everything in, along with moving around furniture and cleaning. Don’t be like me. Get a dolly! Something like this should suffice.

Cleaning Supplies

Before you unpack anything, you want to make sure that you disinfect the dorm room. You also want to make sure that your child has the necessary supplies to keep the room clean during the semester. Disinfecting wipes and Lysol spray are college packing list necessities. Especially in the wake of COVID. I work on a college campus. I’ve seen them dragging the mattresses and furniture across the campus grounds when preparing the rooms. You want to wipe down EVERYTHING and spray the mattress with Lysol before putting on the bedding. Do not pass go until you do this. Also get…

  • small broom & dustpan
  • disinfecting wipes
  • Lysol spray
  • rubber gloves
  • paper towels
  • small waste basket

Lock Box

Your child will need somewhere to lock up their valuables when they are not in their rooms. Laptops, video game systems, cash & credit cards, important documents- these are things that they don’t want to leave laying around. So be sure to get your child a good sized lock box to store their valuables. Along with fireproof envelopes as extra protection for cash & documents. I’d highly suggest a lock box with a cord that can be attached to furniture such as a bed or desk. If not, someone can just run off with the lock box. I chose this Vaultz Storage Chest for my son. Also be sure to talk to your child about the importance of not only keeping the lock box locked, but locking their dorm rooms when they are out. They should have a discussion with their roommates about keeping the door locked as well.

Important Documents

Since your child will be away from home (and possibly very far), it’s important that they have certain legal documents in their possession for identity, employment and healthcare purposes. Note that if your child has work study in their financial aid package, then they will need to fill out an I-9 and provide documentation to prove work authorization. A passport would cover all categories. Or your child can provide a birth certificate AND social security card (or equivalent documents). I felt more comfortable with sending my son with his passport rather than his social security card. So that’s what I sent. Also, with all that’s going on in the world right now you never know if there may be a travel emergency. So you want to cover all bases…

  • driver’s license/ permit/ state identification card
  • passport OR birth certificate & social security card (or equivalent docs)
  • health insurance card
  • college medical form/ immunization record (if you didn’t send already)
Buffalo State College Packing List

Study Necessities

You want to set your child up to succeed and make sure that they have everything they need to get their studying on. Now, I can’t guarantee that they’ll use it. But make sure that you get…

  • desk lamp
  • laptop computer & protection plan (we chose this one)
  • laptop sleeve/ hard case
  • monitor (for extra screen and video game breaks)
  • usb c to usb adapter (most new computers only have usb c drives)
  • usb flash drive(s)
  • chargers
  • headphones/ headset (necessary for remote learning)
  • portable speakers
  • book bag or shoulder bag
  • college ruled notebook with pockets (I chose this as it’s what I used)
  • planner
  • post its and index cards
  • pens/ pencils/ highlighters
  • scientific calculator (without graphing unless necessary)
  • surge protector
  • fan (my son’s room was hot like hell)

College Packing List 2020


This is your child’s new home away from home and you want to make sure that they are comfortable. You also want to make sure that they get good sleep and are able to stay awake and be alert in class. Also, the mattresses are used over and over every semester. So you want to put a barrier between them and your child. Make sure that you have these items on your college packing list…

  • a bed bug mattress protector
  • foam mattress topper
  • pillows & extra pillowcases
  • 2-3 sets of twin or twin XL sheets (check with school for size)
  • 2 comforters/ blankets
  • bedside rug

Decorative Items

Let your child pick these things on their own to personalize their space. But be sure that the items adhere to the rules. My son didn’t find any posters that he liked until shopping after arrival. He didn’t want anymore decorative items, but your child may want…

  • photos/ prints /posters
  • decorative pillows
  • tapestries
  • string lights/lamp
  • command hooks
  • push pins
  • tape


Be sure to get a shower caddy to make it easy for your child to bring everything with them to the showers. Don’t forget to add flip flops to the college packing list as dorms usually have shared showers that can get pretty nasty. Get these essentials…

  • shower caddy
  • bathrobe
  • 3 towels/ washcloths/ loofah sponges
  • body wash/ soap
  • lotion
  • deodorant
  • toothbrushes/ covers, toothpaste, mouthwash & floss
  • skincare products
  • shampoo/ conditioner/ hairstyling products
  • shaving kit/ razors
  • hand soap/ hand sanitizer
  • flip flops
  • toilet spray


Make sure your child doesn’t overdo it in the wardrobe department. They will try. Don’t let them. I’d suggest giving them a large suitcase and telling them that they can only bring what will fit inside. This includes clothing, pajamas, loungewear, work out clothes, under clothing, socks and any other wardrobe items they may need. You can allow another small duffle for footwear and anything else they can squeeze in. Do not give them an inch or they will take a mile. College is not a fashion show. They are there to learn. Besides, they don’t need nearly as much clothing as they think they do. Pack a coat, winter accessories and thermals for when the temperature drops if your child will be in a cold city. You can pick up sterilite drawers when you get there if your child doesn’t have enough wardrobe storage in the dorm room.

Laundry Supplies

My son has been doing his own laundry since his freshman year of high school. But doing their own laundry may be a new experience for your child. So you want to make it simple for them with supplies that are easy to use. You also want to choose supplies that will make it less likely for them to destroy their clothes or the clothes of others. Don’t forget to check with your child’s school to find out if laundry is free. If not, then you’ll need to get some quarter rolls as well. Add to your college packing list…


I’ve noticed that most college dorms require freshmen to have a meal plan. However, your child will need some snacks on hand for study sessions and when they get hungry while chillin’ in their room. You can hold off on buying the groceries until arrival. Especially perishables. Be sure to get..


First of all, be sure to pack plenty of masks- a couple of reusable ones and a box of disposables as back ups. Every campus should have COVID safety measures in place that requires wearing a mask on campus at all times, along with practicing social distancing. Masks are mandatory. Do not forget them. Also, make sure to pack your child’s health insurance card. They may not need it for care on campus as a healthcare fee is usually included in tuition. However, you never know if they’ll need emergency hospital care. God forbid. You’ll also want to pack…

  • prescribed medications
  • customized first aid kit (bandages/ ointments/ alcohol wipes etc.)
  • over the counter medicines- pain/cold/stomach/allergy (add to first aid kit)
  • vitamins

Birth Control

You may not agree with me here. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. My parents had “the talk” with me when I was a child, then it was forget about it. No talks about birth control as a young adult. I didn’t know much about the pill or other options aside from condoms. I slipped up and didn’t use one, and ended up pregnant with my son my sophomore year in college. So bets believe that I had a long discussion with my son about safe sex and sent him with condoms. This is not only for boys. Send your daughter with condoms as well. If she agrees, put her on the pill or another form of birth control to be extra safe. As parents we need to be realistic. Our children are now young adults and will be away from home. They might have sex!

College Move In Day 2020

My Dad drove us up, and took me back home.

Be sure to arrive early on College Move-In Day to allow yourself time to navigate the campus and find the check in area. If you’re traveling a long distance, then I’d suggest arriving the night before so that you’ll be well rested. You’ll need all of your strength, along with every single second of the time allotted to move your child into their dorm room and help them unpack, and decorate. One more thing, you will probably forget something and that’s okay. Most college towns have a Target, Walmart or similar store nearby where you’ll be able to grab last minute items and groceries for your child. You’ll also be able to ship forgotten items to their dorm when you get back home.

Oh, and do not show up on Move-In day without a mask. You will not be allowed into the dorms. Period.
*Disregard the COVID tidbits if you’re reading this when COVID is a thing of the past.*

Did I forget anything… What else would you add to this college packing list?

4 Responses

  1. Congratulations to your son and best of luck to him!
    College days should be the best time of a young person’s life.
    I pray he remains safe …and that he thrives at BSC!

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