How Long Before College Should I Start Packing?

How Long Before College Should I Start Packing

If you are anything like me, it can be easy to start pre-packing for a trip. The same went for me when I first started college and had to move into my own dorm on campus. When I was first accepted, more than ten months before I was set to move in, I was already thinking about what it would be like to live “on my own.”

Despite my eagerness to start my college journey, I knew that I couldn’t start packing everything up right away or else I would have been living out of boxes.

Also, in addition to being excited about packing, I also experienced a great deal of stress.

It was difficult for me to decide what to pack first and when I should start packing. I didn’t want to start packing too soon, however, I didn’t want to wait until the last minute.

To help decide when I should start packing items, I created a list of everything that I needed to pack to bring to college. After coming up with my initial list, I grouped all of the items into three different categories based on how likely I am to use them before I go to college: very likely, less likely, or not at all likely.

After I made the list, I planned out when it would be okay for me to start packing said items.

Table of Contents

Three Months From Move-In Day

Three Months From Move-In Date
Anything you can get out of the way early before your move-in date will help with moving stress later in the summer.

Three months before move-in day (basically at the start of summer), I started packing the items that I did not think I would use before leaving for college.

This included:

  • School Supplies (The normal – notebooks, pens, book bag, etc)
  • Pots and Pans*
  • Silverware
  • Bed Sheets
  • Toiletries
  • Cleaning Supplies (bought specifically for the dorm room)
  • Laundry Supplies
  • Winter Clothing (Winter Coats, Formal Wear, Long Sleeves, Boots & Hats)
  • Shower Shoes (Don’t forget shower shoes!)

*Many colleges do not allow any kind of cooking in the dorm room, including simple hot plates. Check your dorm’s rules for prohibited items.

These were the first of many cardboard boxes that I packed and labeled “college.”

New Purchases For The Dorm Room

Mini Fridge
The Mini Fridge is a must-have staple for any dorm room.

It’s also never too soon to start thinking about purchases you’ll want to make for your dorm room. I already mentioned Bed Sheets. Chances are, your dorm room bed is not the same size as your bed at home. You’ll probably need to buy new sheets to fit your bed.

A Mini Fridge is another popular item that is best bought beforehand. This way you won’t be fighting a hundred other college students at the nearest Target for a fridge.

If you want to get some good deals, start looking around early to mid-July for ‘back to school’ specials.

One Month From Move-In Day

Of course, when I made my list, there were items that I thought I might use, but still hadn’t. I decided to reevaluate my list and determine what I hadn’t used since the last time I packed and then packed them away. This was mostly clothes to be honest.

At this time, I also packed away any other items that I had purchased for school that I had accumulated since I last packed to go ahead and get them out of the way. Things like more school supplies, laundry baskets and other stuff like that.

You could also pack these items over time as you accumulate them.

The Week of Move-In Day

Starting the week of move-in day, I start to pack the rest of the belongings that I will be bringing to college.

By minimizing the amount of packing you need to do during moving week, you are able to spend more time with your family before leaving. It also eliminates some of the stress that comes along with being a new college student living on their own for the first time.

The night before I moved, 99.9% of my belongings were already packed away. The only thing left to pack was whatever I used that night and the next morning. I recommend keeping an empty backpack handy to pack these items into.

Move In Day as an Upperclassman

After my freshman year, packing for college was a breeze.

At the end of each school year, I took extra time packing my belongings to help save time in the future. Any items that are solely for school (i.e. notebooks, bed sheets, pots, and pans) or anything that I will not need over summer vacation gets packed first.

I made sure to label the boxes “do not unpack” so it does not get unpacked accidentally. After these items are all packed away, I pack up everything else. These boxes I label “home” so I know they are things I need at home.

If you pack your dorm room or off-campus apartment up this way and separate your belongings into “unpack” and “do not unpack” boxes, it will reduce the amount of time you will need to spend packing for the next school year.

While it might take a little bit more work when you move out, you can spend less time in the future.

Final Thoughts

Your college career will be filled with lots of first challenges. Perhaps the very first challenge is knowing what to pack and how soon to start packing for college.

If I can leave you with any advice, don’t stress! Will you probably forget a few things you need? Yes. Will you pack some things you don’t need? Absolutely yes! Will you need additional college organization ideasOpens in a new tab. to help you settle into your new room? 100%!

But, you can always pick up a new phone charger at the local Wal-mart and you can take some of those things back home to save space the first chance you get.

It’s all part of the college experience. Enjoy it!


I've been a college coach for going on 20 years now and that career has led Jen and I on quite the journey. We've lived in 7 different states and have moved a dozen different times. We've learned A LOT over the course of all those moves and we want to pass on our knowledge to help others going through the moving process.

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