What Not to Take to College

It’s as important to consider what not to take to college as it is to think about what you should bring. Many college students mistakenly pack a wide variety of unnecessary items which end up overcrowding their tiny closets or cluttering their cramped rooms.

A good rule of thumb is to only take those items you know you’ll need. If you only think you might need it, do a little research or hold off on making a purchase until you actually get to school. Better to run out and get that item you need than to spend the money in advance for something that isn’t going to be used.

Another important factor in determining what not to take to college is availability. Many items are available for rent or loan on college campuses. Rather than fill your room with stuff you’re only going to want access to occasionally, save your space and borrow or rent stuff as you need it.

When determining what not to take to college, the following items offer a good place to start.


You probably won’t have a ton of time for recreational reading, so leave your book collection at home. Books take up tons of space and usually just end up collecting dust on the shelf. If you feel you must have some of your favorite books with you, download them as eBooks. Audio books are another great option; you can listen while you walk to and from class.  If you must have a printed copy to hold in your hands, borrow one from the university library. Let them take care of storage for you.

Keepsakes and Memorabilia

While it’s good to have a few things that remind you of home, limit keepsakes to a handful of truly meaningful items. Opt for things that can be hung on the wall as opposed to items that sit on a shelf consuming valuable real estate.

Also keep in mind that this is a transitional period in your life. You’re going to be making new friends and exploring new interests. A lot of the things that seemed really important in high school will likely begin to seem less so as you become settled into your college routine.

Hobby Items

Limited time and evolving interests make bringing hobby items to school a bad idea. As a high school student my daughter loved making jewelry. She took all of her beads and jewelry making supplies with her to college and never used them.

Excess School Supplies

This may sound counter intuitive, but when asked what not to take to college, my Facebook followers identified this very thing. While there are a few basic office supplies you will want ready access to such as a stapler, a good pair of scissors and a sturdy three-hole punch, a horde of excess school supplies will likely go unused.

Your best bet is to purchase a package of pens and whatever you like to use to take notes on and then wait and see what you will need. Trying to guess what supplies you’ll need while you’re standing in the sale isle at Walmart will only lead to impulsive purchases that take up much needed storage space in your dorm room.

More Ways to Save

In addition to the money you can save by knowing what not to take to college, there are savings to be had in abundance for college students. All you need is a student ID. Check out this list of popular retailers who offer student discounts.


Printers are bulky and expensive (both to purchase and to maintain). Since most work is turned in online these days, it’s not necessary to bring a printer with you to school. You can always print whatever you need to in one of the school’s computer labs. 

Sports Equipment

Unless you are a collegiate athlete, you really don’t need to take much in the way of sports equipment. Sports equipment takes up a ton of space, and most sports’ equipment can be checked out or rented from the university.


Before you purchase a television, mini fridge, microwave, coffee maker, blender or toaster check to see if these items are supplied by your apartment complex or dorm. If they aren’t, find out if they are even allowed before spending the money. Next check with roommates to see what they are bringing so you don’t bring duplicates.


Your dorm room will be strategically packed with all the furniture that can fit. While it might be nice to have more, it's not likely that there will be space for it.


Candles are definitely among the list of what not to take to college. While they look and smell nice (incense, too) their flammable nature makes them a no-no in the dorms (and most apartment complexes). These go-to décor items are often banned, so be sure to check your contract.

Stuffed Animals

You will quickly find that cute and cuddly reminders of childhood do little but gather dust and take up space in a college dorm room.

Hard-sided Luggage

Luggage is necessary but bulky. Choose pieces with soft sides that can be folded and stuffed into storage containers on a closet shelf or under a bed.

Organization Supplies

It may seem strange for an organizer to tell you not to bring organization supplies to college, but that is only half the message. While you will definitely benefit from specific organizational supplies, it’s best to wait until you get to your dorm room or apartment before making such purchases. Otherwise you are likely to find that the stuff you brought doesn’t fit in your space.

In addition to going to college myself, I’ve sent three kids off to school. Along the way I’ve learned a few things about what to take and what not to take to college. Perhaps the best advice anyone can give a young person preparing to head to school for the first time is to ask.

When in doubt, check with someone who will know. Depending on the question, there are a number of resources available including the campus housing office or your apartment complex manager, roommates (you should be able to get their contact information in advance if you don’t have it), friends or family members who have been to college, and even your high school guidance counselor. Better to ask than to guess, be wrong and waste precious money and space on stuff you don’t need or won’t use. 

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