The first day of school is right around the corner, and with a new school year starting comes a new challenge: moving into residence. For many, university residence can be their first time living on their own (I know it was for me) and can bring up a lot of questions for what you may or may not need. Since I’m studying at University of Waterloo, I’m comparing my additional list of things to bring with that of UWaterloo’s list (but feel free to insert your school’s dorm packing list instead). Here are some extra items you will need in addition to the ones listed here.

School supplies

While it is exceptionally important that you bring things such as paper, binders, pencils, etc., they aren’t necessary to pack. Paper is heavy and a lot of school supplies can take up quite a bit of room. You want to make your move in as efficient as possible. Whether or not you go to UWaterloo, you’re likely to have a store nearby that sells this stuff, so you can pick it up after you move in (Some schools even have stores on-campus). Small things like pencils and pens are fine, but buying large stacks of paper doesn’t seem worth it.

Appliances and electronics

In addition to the list UWaterloo currently uses, some extra electronics to include are:

  • An ethernet cable. Sometimes the wifi doesn’t fully connect to your computer, and sometimes it’s slow when everyone is in their dorm using it. No problem. Just bring an ethernet cable and you’ll be able to submit that assignment due by midnight.
  • A rice cooker. Sometimes, you’re going to be tired and not want to go down to the cafeteria. In addition to those snacks and other food you brought, rice is a quick and easy thing to have at any time of the day
  • A thermal blanket (although… this one could also go under bedding – see below). Most residences don’t allow heaters or even heat lamps, which can lead to a real challenge in the winter. To stay warm, use a heated blanket instead.

In terms of the items currently on the list, a few important ones to highlight are:

  • A small fridge. Of all the things currently on the list, this is probably one of the most important ones to highlight. I can’t tell you enough how useful it was to have this (and if you don’t feel like buying it, most university dorms have deals with mini-fridge companies). With this, you can finally store good food, like fruit, and ice-cream. You can also include things like milk, for when you don’t want to go down to the cafeteria for cereal. Additionally, you can also fit a water filtration jug, so you don’t have to use the common area sink every time you want a drink.
  • A coffee maker. The only requirement for dorms is that the coffee makers automatically shut off, for fire hazard reasons. But trust me, you’re going to want easy access to coffee. I would personally recommend getting a kettle, rather than one of the specialized coffee machines. Nothing against them, but hot water (and instant coffee) is much more efficient than a machine that only really gives out coffee.
  • A power bar / extension cord. Once again, the only requirement is that it has a surge protector (will automatically shut off if there’s a circuit issue) for fire hazard reasons. Dorms generally don’t have a lot of outlets (a lot were made many years ago), and they’re generally in, not the most convenient places. Having an extension cord will be a life saver.
  • Headphones. They’re nice for you, and your roommate. Trust me, not everyone will have the same study music taste as you.
Bath and laundry

I really recommend getting is a bath robe. It can be a little awkward to walk down your hall in just a towel to get to your shared shower area (yes, a shared shower area 0 get used to that) and a bath robe is a big help. Of course, don’t forget to bring your towel and products in with you.

It will also help to bring something to hold all your items in, such as a shower tote. Your collection of bath products may not seem like much on your showers shelf right now, but carrying big bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, along with shaving razors and anything else you may need can get quite messy. Having a little bag or basket will go a long way.

While it is on the list, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to bring shower shoes / flip flops. You’re sharing these showers with many others, and while they are cleaned by university staff, you’ll want flip flops.

You also may want a laundry rack. A lot of the time the residence laundromats are full and getting a spot get be quite tricky (unless, you go at some obscure time of day). You may not want to test your luck by trying to get both an open washer, and an open dryer, especially since a lot of people tend to leave their items in the dryer longer than they’d leave them in the washer. Plus, for when you’re feeling lazy, the laundry rack is good to just throw stuff on too.

Bedding and decorations

Probably the most important item on this list. If you can only bring one item on this list, please let it be a mattress topper / a mattress pad. Both are slightly different and offer different supports, which I encourage you to check out and see which one works best for you (though most people just go for a topper). I’ve grouped these two together because they solve the same underlying problem, the mattress the university provides. You can’t throw it out or just, not use it by putting it in another section of your room, your room is much too small for that. So instead, make it better by using a mattress topper / a mattress pad. Plus, it adds one extra layer between you and a mattress that countless people before you have used.

Next, you’re probably going to want wall hooks. You can usually get them for fairly cheap and they can serve a multitude of purposes. No place to hang your towel? Wall hook. Running out of room in your closet? Wall hook. Want to hang up some cute fairy lights? Wall hooks.

A whiteboard. Yes, UWaterloo recommends bringing one for your door. But I’m gonna have to put that thought on hold. Why for your door? You can use a whiteboard for far better things than just displaying you and your roommates name. For example, you can use it as a calendar, use it to study, or even just draw on it to de-stress. Why limit the whiteboard to a door?


So I’ve already said you should bring a coffee maker. But, how are you going to take that coffee to class? After all, your dorms probably a bit of a walk from the place on campus you need to be. Simple. A travel mug. Of course, it doesn’t have to just store coffee. Use that kettle you brought to change it up some days with hot chocolate or tea.

So this is great. You have all these items now! How are you going to get them to university?

You may be thinking a suitcase is probably the most effective way. You’d be wrong. After all, what are you going to do with a giant suitcase (or perhaps several giant suitcases) after you’re unpacked? It’ll just be taking up space in your room and you might start to resent it.

Instead, use cardboard boxes or garbage bags (I can already hear the tears of many parents). Yeah, it might not look the most appealing, but it’s efficient and when you’re done they turn into practically nothing. Boxes can fold into flat strips that you can store almost anywhere until you need them for move-out day. And garbage bags can later be used for, well, garbage throughout the term.

Better yet, you can also bring your stuff in reusable grocery bags. That way you can bring in items for your dorm, and when you’re done moving in you can use those bags for actual grocery shopping (though, there might not be a lot if that until you move out of dorms, unless you’re in a suite style).

And now you know a whole new list of things to bring. Of course, this isn’t an extensive list and no matter what other lists you look at, someone will always be missing something. But don’t fret, near many universities is always a store that’ll likely have what you need.

But what about a list of things not to bring? Don’t worry, we have you covered – be sure to check out our blog post on what not to bring to your college dorm.

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