Dos and Don’ts of Packing for College

Right now, it feels like everything is coming to an end and I’m actually super excited. With less than one week until finals, I’m ready to be done with school and just go home. However, there are still quite a few things I need to do before I can leave Iowa City.

As far as my remaining homework for classes goes, I only need to do extra credit for my Interpersonal Communications class (and yes, I need to do it). The rest of my time here is going to be spent studying for my three finals, working a few shifts, and packing up all of my belongings.

In an attempt at being productive and wanting to effectively use my move-out time, I decided to take home a few things a week early. I’m visiting home to do some Prom makeup for one of my friends in high school and wanted to take advantage of this trip to lighten the load for move-out day. Last weekend, I packed up half of my closet and realized just how much stuff I actually have here. A lot of it surprisingly came in handy, and other things I found were just completely useless.

When moving in, and over the course of the school year, I over-packed and definitely over-estimated how much I’d be using some items. So, for my final blog post of my freshman year, I wanted to take the time to give incoming freshmen some advice on what/what not to pack when you move up to the dorms in Iowa (and probably any college) in the fall!



I had one pair of heels here and never wore them. When packing to move in, I thought “Oh, I’ll bring these just in case I ever need them”. I should’ve decided right then and there to just leave them at home. Unless you’re planning on being in a sorority and/or actually prefer to wear heels when you get dressed up, by all means, go for it. However, that’s not me. I’m already a very tall girl who hates feeling uncomfortable in shoes so I should’ve seen this coming.

An Ironing board

I found a cute miniature one for $5 at IKEA and thought it’d be super useful. I even have a handheld iron to use with it (duh), but all they did this semester was sit in my closet. If you put your laundry away ASAP, your clothes probably won’t wrinkle anyway and if they do, I have a solution for that later on…

More than one set of dinnerware

Celia, my roommate, brought two coffee mugs, one plate and one set of silverware for herself and that was it. I, on the other hand, brought about two sets of silverware, two bowls, one soup bowl, four coffee mugs, four plastic cups, and four plates. We definitely had the space for all of these items, and they all actually went to good use. However, this led to piles of unwashed dishes for weeks at a time #notgood.

A Padlock

While going through my things, I found a padlock in the bottom of my desk still in its packaging. I remember thinking, “what did I even need this for?”. Then it hit me. The bathrooms in our dorm have lockers in them so that students can safely store their shower belongings. While this is a great concept, they’re just too small for the shower caddy that I have. Also, it’s really not that big of a deal to carry a caddy to and from your room every time you need to shower.

Dixie cups

Just don’t buy them. If you have a water bottle, you’ll be drinking water from that all the time. Plus, these little cups just accumulate unneeded waste if they’re not recycled.

A trashcan

I’m pretty sure the university makes it clear that they supply you with a trashcan, but I decided that I wanted one for myself anyway. Of course, it went to good use and was never really in the way, however, if it saves you $5, then cool. There’s no need.

High school t-shirts

This might seem kind of insensitive, but you honestly don’t need those t-shirts from high school. They take up space, and truthfully, I would much rather fill my drawers with Iowa apparel now. If you have younger siblings or friends, hand down your t-shirts to them. I’m the oldest of three girls and I remember always thinking my friends who wore clothes from their older siblings that were dated before we were in high school were super cool. Sounds lame, but it’s true! Make your siblings look cooler and just give them those homecoming t-shirts. If you don’t have younger siblings to give your used stuff to, donate it or just keep them for when you visit home!


Wrinkle remover spray

If you were to only take one of my suggestions from this version of my list, you ABSOLUTELY need to purchase some of this magic. It’s such a life saver. This spray takes less than five minutes to make your clothes completely wrinkle-free and smells like fresh laundry.

Lots, and lots of Command Strips

You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll actually use these handy little hooks and velcro stickies, so just stock up. From decorations to towel hooks, I guarantee you’ll find a purpose for them.

Alternative lighting

For decorative purposes, Celia and I brought little fairy lights to put in our room. They created such a cute space while providing really calming lights. Throughout the course of the year, we also placed a tall lamp and a shorter, bedside lamp in the far corners of our room to replace the overhead fluorescent light that’s in every dorm. Doing this really helped to make the room feel more relaxed and cozy. This may sound a little dramatic, but we honestly feel like it improved the quality of life we had in our room. Harsh, white light from the huge, fluorescent bulbs really bothered us and having the lamps as an alternative form of lighting really helped to make our room feel like a home.

Contact paper

While this is not entirely necessary and basically just for decorative purposes, it can really liven up your room. We had a really ugly surface right underneath of our sink and it immediately looked better with this stuff. Contact paper is a sticky, but 100% removable, wall-paper-like product and makes unsightly surfaces tolerable.

Vanity mirrors

Unless you and your roommate are cool with sharing one mirror above the sink, you’re going to need to invest in one to place on your desk. I understand that this is probably a much different story between girls and guys, but whatever. Celia and I each have light up vanity mirrors for our desks and bought a cheap full-body one from Target to put on our door. I’m not sure where Celia bought hers, but mine was a DIY project I made from IKEA products.

A mattress pad

Finally, another item you definitely need to pack for college. I used to think the mattresses were pretty comfortable so I never prioritized purchasing one of these. However, I’ve got some serious back pain at the moment and I’m blaming it on my terrible mattress. I’ve laid on beds with mattress pads here and they truly are a game changer. 10/10 recommend.

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Thank you so much for reading! I really tried to gather the most helpful tips for packing this school year, and hopefully, somebody finds this useful 🙂

As this is my last blog post for this school year, I just wanted to take a moment to thank Iowa’s Office of Admissions for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts, experiences, and advice. This was such a great experience for me and I’m so happy to say that I’ll be returning as an undergraduate admissions blogger in the fall!

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with me this summer on my personal social media accounts! ✨


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