Countdown to college: What's up with the obsession over packing for college?July 22, 2019 9:46am

July 18-- Even though their first footstep into a college classroom is more than a month away, college freshmen and many of their mothers are already obsessing over what to pack. For most families this is the first tangible step of the "letting go" process. As parents prepare to empty their own nest, the desire to feather their children's nest can be overpowering.

How politically incorrect is it to say that this obsession phenomenon is mostly a female trait? In my personal experience it was the absolute truth. My son had no interest in matching sheets, etc., and started packing at 10 p.m. the night before move-in day. I, on the other hand, would have been thrilled with an opportunity to discuss towel color choice.


While shopping and packing for college can be a bonding experience, too often it is just the opposite. Reduce the stress by (1) recognizing that having or not having any of these items is not likely to impact your child's college experience, and (2) there are stores on campus. Unless your child is headed to Deep Springs College in the remote desert of California, they will be able to purchase whatever they need.

Colleges and retailers provide packing lists. A great place to start is the Bed Bath & Beyond checklist, which sorts items into several categories: bedding, storage and organization, bath, laundry and cleaning, electronics and audio, etc.

Here are a few items worth remembering:

-A roll of quarters for coin-operated laundry machines

-Detergent, dryer sheets and bleach

-Basic meds: vitamins, aspirin, cold medicine, throat lozenges

-Cleaning supplies: hand vacuum, lint brush, air freshener, wipes, all-purpose cleaner, paper towels, sponges

-Decorations: floor lamp, poster putty, mounting tape, adhesive hooks, full-length mirror

-Kitchen items: can opener, plates, cups, utensils, salt and pepper containers

-Bathroom necessities: shower caddy, robe and shower shoes

-Sewing kit, first aid kit and small tool kit

-Geek supplies: flash drive(s), laptop lock, power strip with surge protection

-Hangers (not provided by colleges)

-Keychain (with clear plastic sleeve for student ID)



-Plastic storage containers


-Sports equipment

-Important numbers (Create a file and also a hard copy of insurance information, in-case-of-emergency contact, etc.

And here are some essential items for move-in day that you'll be glad you packed:

-Dolly, which makes transporting multiple boxes a breeze. (You'll make friends quickly by loaning it out to other families.)

-Hammer and tools (great for putting bunk beds together)

-Tarp for items on the car roof (and if you don't have one, it's sure to rain).


Lee Shulman Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. Visit her website College Admissions Strategies.


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