• Mr. Jeff Neill

Transition Chat: Packing


Looking ahead to the move out of the home and to a new city and country for the next three or four years can be a daunting thing to comprehend for many. Sometimes planning for the physical move is something that is tangible and concrete, and can help ease the stress of other unknowns. The transition to a new school and community aside, what will you physically bring? So, this week we ask you to consider the following fundamental question:


What will you bring with you to college?


Here are some additional questions to consider:

  • What luggage will you use to transport your belongings? Can you carry all of your luggage yourself? Have you considered that you might need a particular piece of luggage for shorter travel home or elsewhere throughout the school year?

  • What carry-on baggage will you bring with you?

  • Alumni Advice: All airlines have weight restrictions as well as limits on the number of pieces you may check and carry-on. Be sure to research in advance what your airlines allow for each and to plan carefully.

  • Alumni Advice: Most international flights will allow you to check two pieces of luggage per person; however, be aware that if you have connecting or domestic flights, you may have to pay for additional baggage for the domestic flights, especially if you have to switch airlines! (And make sure you have enough time between flights!)

  • Beyond clothing, what things do you want to bring with you from home? Consider over-the-counter cold medicine and other self-care products that are easier to find and/or cheaper near your home.

  • What will you bring with you in terms of clothing? Have you looked at the climate and average weather? What will you need to get that you don’t need here (home) and when/where will you get it?

  • What will your new space be? Do you know or can you find out? (Sometimes colleges will provide information if you ask!) What will it look like? What are the sizes of the things in your new space? What size is your bed? Are there walls to put things up? What furniture will be there already? The more you know, the more you can plan!

  • Alumni Advice: Begin making a packing list as early in the spring of your senior year as you can! It will be fine if you forget some things, though!

  • Alumni Advice: Be sure to think about bringing items that will make you feel at home in your dorm room! Don’t overlook those things that will help you make the space yours like posters, banners, pictures, etc.

  • Are there things that you can purchase when you arrive rather than bring from home? Some universities will recommend neighboring retailers with websites; be sure to get online to see what you can and cannot get.

  • Alumni Advice: Some stores specialize in college student support and will allow you to purchase online before arriving and arrange to have everything in your room or at your university when you arrive. Parents, they also sometimes will offer care packages!

  • Alumni Advice: Don’t bother buying cold weather gear if you live in a warm-weather place. The stuff at your school will be better. And, if you’re in the US, you can always just order from LL Bean later!

  • Alumni Advice: Do not buy sheets outside the US! There’s no such thing as Twin XL sheets outside the US, and most dormitory beds in the US are this size.

  • Conversely, are there things that you can mail to yourself?

  • Alumni Advice: Put aside things that you won’t need until second semester (or if in the US, after Thanksgiving break), and either bring them back with you when you come or have your parents mail them later to save space in the fall!

  • Do you know if your school provides the opportunity for storage over the summer so you don’t have to bring everything home each year? If not, are there local storage facilities? This should impact the decisions you make about what you bring with you.

  • Alumni Advice: Do not pack food! It is a waste of space in luggage. Either mail it or figure out where you can buy it when you arrive. (Parents, care packages are a great way to surprise your children when they are away!)

  • Alumni Advice: Parents, please keep in mind that this is a very stressful time for students. Don’t be domineering about the packing process! Be helpful and supportive and offer assistance if needed, but don’t dominate this process.

  • If you are able to communicate with your roommates or suitemates, be sure to do so! Many communal groups will coordinate larger ticket purchases like rugs, TVs, video games, futons, etc. Also think about things like hot plates and water heaters (if they are permitted), and coordinating with them who will bring what!

  • Alumni Advice: Bed, Bath and Beyond [in the USA] is a terrific resource. There is a searchable database of what to bring based on the individual college. Check it out!


This piece is part of a series on “transitioning to college.” We encourage graduating seniors and their parents or guardians to engage in discussion on a weekly basis about these topics. If you have feedback or additional ideas or perspectives to share, please let us know so we can incorporate your thoughts into revisions of our posts.


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