Mom, Did We Pack a Flash Drive? 7 Surprising Items to Add to the College Packing List

My son and I googled numerous suggested college packing lists. This was my second child so I was confident that I knew what to do this time around. And with my kids 4 years apart, my older child had just completed her college journey and had a bunch of hand-me-downs for her younger brother. Items were gathered, lists were cross-checked, and the pile of Bed and Bath coupons stood at the ready.

My son was allowed to indulge a little on Dormify and got a soft grey headboard with coordinating striped comforter and matching collapsible storage boxes. Everything was meticulously sorted and collected and placed on the dining room table. Clothes draped precariously over the chairs, and somehow a big blue bean bag made its way to the top of the pile. Every corner in the SUV was filled with stuff.

teen moving to college
No sooner did we return home than I got my first text. (Twenty20 @angela1209fu)

My husband secured the soft-top roof rack which housed the bean bag along with pillows and other light, yet bulky items. This roof rack has come in extremely handy many times over the past 5 years of college schlepping, and I highly recommend investing in one. We had carefully packed everything, by some miracle it all fit into the car, and we were off!

Five hours later we made it to our destination. My husband, son, and I worked like a well-oiled machine. And after three hours there was a real semblance of a dorm room. We didn’t forget a single thing, we were all so proud! No sooner did I arrive back home the next day when the texts started coming. Mom, did we pack a flash drive?

Oops #1

Items for the college packing list:

  • Flash drive — it’s little and easily lost so it’s a put it in a snack bag and tuck it in with the chargers.
  • Scale — stave off the freshman weight gain with a weekly weigh in.
  • Bathing suit — even in cold weather! Many colleges require a swim test, and often there are pools available for students who like to recreational swim.
  • Screen cleaner — you know those soft cloths that double as an eyeglass cleaner come in very handy to clean a computer or phone.
  • Bed bug spray or bed bug interceptors — I’ve heard enough college horror stories about this one and oddly it wasn’t on any list we researched.
  • Scarf face mask/Ski mask for those really cold schools-especially important for kids with asthma, these create a barrier for easier breathing outdoors
  • Pictures of pets — your child won’t forget photos of their high school besties and family photos, but they might forget about photos of Fido — and these kids really miss their furry friends!

Even if you have consulted every list you can think of (this one included!) know that you will likely forget something. Before you leave your student, find out how to send mail/packages to the college. That may sound silly to those of you new to the empty nester game, but I can tell you from experience, sending things to your child’s school is not as simple as it should be.

Your student’s residence hall is most likely not their mailing address. They may have a PO Box or some central shipping location. Even when you have the correct shipping address you may receive a text like this one: “Mom — package place told me the package arrived but it’s not processed yet so I can’t get it.” So send those care packages well in advance of whatever date you want them to arrive.

Remember that most essentials can be found at the campus bookstore or are a quick Uber ride away — so it may be easier and less expensive for your student to purchase directly than for you to ship things to them.

Now get packing!

Note: G&F receives compensation for purchases made through some of the links in this post.

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About Shari Bender

Shari earned her BA in Communication from Stanford University and freelances all things Communication and Marketing. She is a cat-loving spiritual vegan and former admissions interviewer. With two grown children. Shari is happily and sentimentally embracing her Empty Nest
along with her husband of nearly 30 years. Her musings delight parents in numerous publications and online platforms, including Grown & Flown and

Read more posts by Shari

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