What clothes to pack for college

College Clothing Packing List: What to Pack for College

Your college clothing packing list can be a daunting thing. How do you know what to pack for college and what to leave behind?

I remember when I moved into my first dorm when I was 15 (boarding school!). I had my clothes in literal trash bags, basically bringing my entire wardrobe from home. I way over did it and had no idea at the time. In my defense, I wouldn’t be going home until late November and this would be my first ever upstate New York winter. As a Floridian, I needed to be over-prepared 😂

To help you avoid making the same clothing mistakes I made when I first moved into the dorms, I’ve compiled the complete college clothing packing list with everything you need when you first move away to college.

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re packing your clothing for college, so we’ll go over all the essentials right in this guide. At the end, I’ll share a clear list of everything you need to make sure you pack for your college wardrobe.

Pro-tip: Check out the hashtags for your school on Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok. What are the other students wearing? Every school has it’s own clothing culture, so this is a good way to get a feel for the “vibe” before you step on campus full-time. 

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What to Consider When Packing Clothes for College

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when packing for college. Let’s go through the most important things so you don’t get caught without the important stuff.

Not having what you need is a real pain, but don’t fret. You can always buy what you need on campus or nearby!

How frequently will you travel home in college?

First, you’ll need to consider how frequently you’ll be going home. For me, in boarding school, I went home very few times a year. However, if you live pretty close to your campus you might find yourself going home for long weekends throughout the semester.

When I studied abroad, for example, I didn’t go home for almost 6 months. That means I had to bring what I needed for several seasons or buy things along the way. 

If you’re going to be away from home until winter break, you’ll probably need to bring more clothing than if you plan to go home a few times before December. Remember, it’s always better to bring less than to bring too much!

I know this sounds crazy and downright terrifying if this is your first time living away from home, but trust me! You’ll likely buy more clothes once you get to campus, and you can always grab more clothes when you do eventually go home. I’ve even had my parents mail me clothes from home before!

What’s the weather like?

I went to college in Florida, so I packed a lot differently than someone going to school in New York. It’s important to keep in mind the climate and the time of year. 

If you’re moving to a new climate for college, do your research. Check the temperatures and whether or not you need rain gear. When in doubt, pack layers!

What will you be doing?

While it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll be up to in college, keep in mind whether you plan to do any of the following:

As you can see, you’ll need a few different things to pack for your wardrobe if you’re planning on any of the above. Bring professional clothes for an internship, for example, or special sportswear for a team, might be necessary.

How much space do you have?

Finally, ask yourself how much you can realistically fit in your dorm room. Some dorms have big closets, some have tiny wardrobes. You’ll need to make a realistic decision about just how much you can afford to bring based on your space. Talk to your college about what type of storage you’ll have in your room.

In case you don’t have much storage, you can get a little creative. Here are some ideas:

college clothing packing list

Bring Less Than You Need for Your College Wardrobe

I honestly cannot stress enough the importance of bringing less rather than more. If you don’t wear it at home, you’re not going to wear it at college. It’s the truest fact of life.

Honestly, my wardrobe, for the most part, consists of like two shorts, maybe a pair of jeans, and like three shirts that all look exactly the same (why do I only own black striped shirts?!). Knowing this, I brought my wardrobe staples and left the stuff I don’t usually wear at home.

Dorm rooms are TINY. Literally, tiny. Once I lived in a closet dorm so small that there was no dresser. I had to get seriously creative to make that work! So always bring less, and you can add on from there.

Packing Clothes for College

Now, let’s talk about what you need to bring. I’ve tried to think about everything so you can make sure you’re not forgetting anything important. As long as you have these essentials, you have nothing to worry about. 

What Underwear to Pack for College

I bet you didn’t expect to find undies on this list, did you? Well, you’re wrong! When it comes to your college clothing packing list, it all starts with the undergarments.

This is something you can count on wearing every day (I hope). You’ll want to bring more than you think you need in this category when it comes to packing clothes for college. 

Why? Because constantly washing your clothes is a hassle in college, and you want to count on always having clean undies in college. Unless you want to take several trips to the crowded, miserable, chaotic communal dorm laundry room, be over prepared with this category. Here’s my recommendation:

  • 15+ Pairs of underwear: This should include a variety! Don’t dump all your comfortable pairs because you’re a “grown up” in college now! Variety is always good! 
  • 2 Pairs of tights: You always need a backup pair!
  • 3+ Bras: I’d recommend at least 3 everyday bras, in addition to some sports bras depending on how active you are.
  • 15+ Socks: Again, variety is key. Pack a few pairs (or more) of warm socks if you’re heading somewhere known to be cold. 
  • 2 Bathing suits: I went to college in Florida, so I might be biased, but at least bring 1 bathing suit. You never know!

Everyday College Clothing Basics

The everyday stuff is where you’ll need to pay the most attention. This is the stuff you’ll be wearing to class every day, so you want to have options.

Again, if you don’t wear it at home, you probably won’t wear it in college. Think about what you’d be willing to wear on long class days and when you’re just hanging around in the dorms. 

  • 5 Shirts: These should be everyday basics that you can get a lot of wear out of. 
  • 2 Casual dresses: If you don’t wear dresses, skip this, but dresses are a super simple way to look “fancy” without much effort. You can also wear these when going out!
  • 2+ Jeans : Jeans are a go-to in college, so bring at least two pairs you love and wear a lot. 
  • 2+ Skirts: Again, this will depend on how often you wear skirts, but they can be very versatile. 
  • 2+ Shorts: In Florida, we wear shorts a lot. That might not be the case where you live, but shorts are still great for the dorms and just hanging out. 
  • 1 Raincoat: If you live in a rainy climate, this might not cut it, but one decent raincoat should be good.
  • 2 Sweaters: Sweaters are perfect for chilly classrooms and colder days when you don’t need a coat. 
  • 1 Coat: Finally, pack a nice coat to get you through the winter. Depending on where your school is, you might need several coats or jackets, but 1 very warm one likely will be enough for most climates.

What clothing to bring to college

Loungewear for College

I love loungewear! These are your PJs, your hang-out clothes, and your don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed clothes. Trust me, you’ll learn to love these.

I made the mistake of thinking I would leave my sweat pants days behind me after high school. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Don’t make the same mistake when you pack clothing for college. 

  • 2 T-shirts : Here’s where you bring those old band t’s and shirts that you love too much to part with. You’ll love having them when you’re feeling homesick, and they’re just too cozy to pass up. 
  • 2 Leggings: Leggings are a must for chilly, lazy days in the dorms. And they’re also great for exam season!
  • 2+ PJs: Pack at least two sleeping outfits, even if you just sleep in undies and a t-shirt. 
  • Sweats: A pair (or more) of sweats is a must. You’ll wear these when hanging out in the dorm, and possibly when trudging your way to those dreaded 8 AM classes.

Athletic Clothes for College

Next, if you plan to also be active, you’ll want to bring some gear. I’m a big runner, so staying fit in college was important to me. However, the amount of workout clothes you pack will depend on just how often you plan to work out. If you’re on a sports team, you’ll need to stock up on more athletic gear. 

  • 2 Shorts/leggings: Pack your favorite workout bottoms, whether you prefer shorts or leggings. I found that 2 was enough for me, but you might need more. 
  • 3 Athletic tops: You’ll need a few workout tops to match. Make sure these are easy to pair with any of your bottoms.
  • 2+ Spandex shorts: I love wearing spandex shorts to the gym, but they also double as great extra protection under dresses/skirts. 
  • 3+ Sports bras: Sports bras are perfect for working out and also for lazy days.
  • 1 Windbreaker: Finally, make sure you’ve got a layer for when you want to work out in the chilly weather. 

Going Out Outfits for College

Of course, it wouldn’t be a college clothes packing list without talking about “going out” clothes. Whether you’re heading to a party or dinner with your roommate, sometimes you want to dress up a bit. Here are my recommendations:

  • 1 Fancy dress: Even if you have no plans, bring a nice dress. A good choice is a cocktail dress. You never know if you’ll be invited to an upscale event, so being prepared is key. 
  • 2 Nice pants: Nice pants might be an elevated pair of jeans or trendy slacks. Either way, make sure they’re something you can get a lot of wear out of. 
  • 3 Nice tops : You have a lot of options here. You might pick your favorite button-down, a crop top, or even just a cute blouse. Make sure it’s something you wear a lot!
  • 1 Blazer : Last but not least, a blazer is important if you find yourself needing a “professional” outfit for a job fair, meeting, or interview. 

Shoes to Bring to College

Finally, let’s talk shoes. When I studied abroad, I was SHOCKED at just how many shoes some of my friends deemed necessary, when in reality they only wore two or three pairs the entire semester. You DO NOT need 5 pairs of stilettos (unless you wear these all the time and are superwoman in which case ignore me)!!! I repeat: YOU DO NOT NEED 5 PAIRS OF STILETTOS!

Think about what outfits you’ve packed when choosing your shoes. These need to match or else you won’t wear them!

  • 1 Pair of heels: As I said before, I don’t think you need very many pairs of heels unless you’re wearing them all the time. Your favorite pair will get the job done!
  • 1+ Pair of sneakers: I wear sneakers to run, so I just brought athletic sneakers. You might bring another pair if you plan to wear sneakers to class. 
  • 1+ Pair of flats: Flats can be used for going out, professional events, or even just class. 
  • 2 Sandals: I wore sandals all the time in college. Again, I went to school in Florida!
  • 1 Flip flops: Flip flops are good for lounging around, but they’re also essential if you have a communal dorm shower. 
  • 1 Pair of rain boots: If it rains a lot, invest in some rain boots. 
  • 1 Pair of boots: I love boots when I go out, but they’re also great for the winter. 

Prepare Your College Clothing Packing List

When you’re moving away to college, it can be tempting to bring all your clothes. I challenge you to stick to my college clothing packing list and bring less than you think you need. When you get to your dorm and adjust to college life, you can start adding more necessary pieces to your wardrobe.

Happy packing! What’s on your college clothing packing list?

⚡️ Need more college inspiration? Explore my full college tips section of the blog!

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