Packing for College in the Age of Coronavirus


college lessons, road trip, unpacking, college

I took a poll on Instagram last week asking if you still wanted to see back-to-school content this year, given how uncertain the fall semester is looking… And the majority voted yes! But instead of just posting generic college content, I want to do my best to provide useful blog posts that acknowledge the weirdness of the upcoming academic year. So my first thought? A post about packing a light wardrobe for college during this pandemic! While I had already decided I was finally going to pack less clothing this year (my parents scoffed in disbelief when I told them), my university recently announced that students should only pack the essentials anyway.

team colors, school spirit, pom poms, cheering

(Original Post: B2S Series: Stylish School Spirit)

My school’s current plan is to return to campus in the fall but to have a mix of online and in-person classes. The school told us that we should pack light so that we can quickly and easily move out in the event that the university closes and sends everyone home again. I imagine other schools have announced similar protocols, if they’re going back at all, so I figured a post about packing a minimal wardrobe would hopefully be helpful to students. All of today’s photos are some of my favorite on-campus pics from freshman and sophomore years, and you can read the original posts by clicking the links below each photo!

I’m sure this comes as a surprise to everyone, but I have a lot of clothes… and I make no sacrifices when packing for college. I bring almost my entire wardrobe to school with me—which I realize is completely unnecessary—but it happens anyway. This year, I want to finally pack less clothes, and most importantly, have all of my clothes and shoes fit into two suitcases and a carry-on. While I usually drive to college (and therefore have as much room as my car allows), a lot of students fly to school. So I want to show how to curate your wardrobe into a versatile selection that will fit into a carry-on and two checked suitcases for plane travel (shout-out to SouthWest for those free checked bags), in the event that schools close and we have to quickly return home. That way, you can bring all your clothes home right away!

dorm room tour, college dorm room, back to school

(Original Post: B2S Series: Dorm Sweet Dorm)

Dorm Room Tour

(Original Post: My Dorm Room Tour!)

First up, here is my suggested packing list. Fall semester often involves hot, summer-like days in the beginning that transition to cooler, fall days as time goes on, so I wanted to include a good balance of clothing for both types of weather. Obviously, these items all depend on your sense of style (maybe you’re more of a skirts girl than a pants girl), but this is just a suggestion in terms of number of items to bring to maximize your wardrobe.

  • Tops
    • 2-3 cute tees
    • 3 blouses – Make sure at least one is a blouse that can be worn for a professional function, like an interview or presentation.
    • 1 party top – I usually bring all my “party outfits” to school because I have no reason to wear them at home, but I seriously doubt there’ll be a whole lot of going out this fall… So just stick to one cute party top.
    • 1-2 long-sleeve blouses
    • 2-4 sweaters – Sadly, sweaters take up a ton of space in your suitcase! Be sure to wear one on the plane during your travel day to save space in your luggage.
    • 2-4 athletic tops
  • Bottoms
    • 2-4 pairs of cute shorts – If you’re a shorts wearer, you can pack up to 4 pairs, as shorts take up very little space. Consider a denim pair and a soft pair, like these magenta ones.
    • 2-3 pairs of jeans – Swap with leggings if you’re more of a leggings gal. But obviously, denim is extremely versatile! And don’t forget that pants can, and should, be worn multiple times between washes, so you don’t need to bring too many pairs.
    • 1 pair of black pants – Black pants are definitely a staple in my closet.
    • 1 pair of trousers – Just make sure to bring a pair of pants that are appropriate for any sort of professional function you may have (this could also be swapped for a professional skirt, if you prefer).
    • 2-4 skirts – Consider bringing a maxi skirt, a denim/corduroy skirt, a summery skirt, and a more winter-appropriate skirt.
    • 3-5 pairs of running/athletic shorts
  • Dresses
    • Here’s my suggestion with dresses. If you want to have as many unique outfits as possible in your college wardrobe, I would recommend bringing fewer dresses, as they’re more difficult to style in multiple ways/with other items. But if you’re just looking to have a bunch of outfits to re-wear over and over again, dresses make for a great one-and-done look.
  • A fancy outfit – It’s up to you if you think you should bring a single fancy outfit (like a cocktail dress). I imagine most events will be cancelled/virtual this fall, so I don’t think I plan on bringing anything too fancy. But if you’re in a sorority and still plan on attending formals, you can throw in a fancier look if you have the space. Definitely put this decision at the bottom of your priority list, though.
  • A professional outfit – I already mentioned this, but don’t forget to pack some form of a professional outfit just in case, whether that be a blouse and skirt, a button-down and trousers, etc.
  • Outerwear
    • 1-2 cute jackets – I would pack my jean jacket and army green military jacket (perfect for fall). Also consider bringing a blazer for professional events.
    • 1 cute coat/thicker jacket – Something neutral, like this beige coat.
    • 1 functional coat – This one is likely the bulkiest item, so you should wear it on your travel day to save space in your suitcase.
    • 1 sweatshirt
    • 1 athletic jacket
  • Cozy Clothes
    • 2 sets of pajamas – a summer pair and a warmer pair for winter.
    • 1 pair of sweatpants
  • Undergarments
    • Bras
    • Underwear
    • Socks (I would say 7 pairs of athletic socks—one for each day of the week—and one or two of your favorite pairs of stylish socks. Maybe a pair of tights, too.)
  • Accessories
    • 1 ballcap – For exercising, if you like to wear a hat while working out.
    • 1 beanie – Pick your most-worn beanie or one in a color that goes with a lot.
    • 1 pair of gloves
    • 1 scarf
    • 3 belts – Preferably a brown one, black one, and one with a pop of color.
  • Shoes – Sadly, shoes take up a ton of space! Here’s a suggestion for which pairs to bring.
    • 1 pair of athletic shoes – Usually I bring running shoes, tennis shoes, and my soccer cleats, but I already know that intramural and club sports are cancelled for the fall… So I’ll just bring my running shoes. Sports cancellations are something to look into at your school before starting to pack.
    • 1 pair of sandals
    • 1 pair of comfy flats – These will likely be the pair you wear with your professional outfit.
    • 1 pair of booties – Preferably waterproof.
    • 1 pair of cute sneakers/Vans/Converse

I actually packed all this stuff up and was able to fit it all into my three bags, with room to spare! My friends and family can attest to how much crap I can pack into very small spaces, and you can read some of my packing tips in this blog post. While this list sounds like a lot of clothing, it actually makes for a pretty minimalistic wardrobe (well, comparatively speaking—just look how much I shoved into my closets in previous years!). Obviously, I prioritize style over comfy clothes, so your list might contain a lot more sweatpants or a bunch of cozy t-shirts. That totally works! Especially in the age of online classes. If you anticipate being cooped up in your dorm room most of the time, cozier options might make more sense for you. As I said, this list is just a very loose suggestion that will vary with each person’s style, and it’s how I (as a fashionista) plan to narrow down my own closet when it’s my time to officially pack up. I don’t have to move back to school until September, but I know a lot of other schools start much earlier and wanted to share this post in time for those students to start packing ahead.

University of Denver, Ritchie Center

(Original Post: 5 Non-Cliche Things I Learned My First Year of College)

Pic 91

(Original Post: My Dorm Room Tour!)

curled hair, face paint, campus life, college experience

(Original Post: B2S Series: Stylish School Spirit)

If you’re still having trouble narrowing down what items to bring to school, here are some tips and questions to ask yourself while packing.

  • This goes without saying, but only bring pieces that you absolutely love, that make you feel confident, and that fit well. Which items are you constantly pulling out of your dirty clothes hamper and washing? Those are the pieces you wear the most, so you should definitely bring them to school.
  • Also involving laundry, make sure to leave any dry-clean items or pieces that have to be washed separately at home. This will make your life easier, save money, and allow you to wear your garments more often, rather than having them sit in the bottom of a hamper for weeks on end.
  • When deciding whether or not to bring a piece, ask yourself: Do I only ever wear this item one way? Or do I like to mix and match it with multiple other items? The more versatility of each piece, the more outfits you’ll be able to create with a smaller wardrobe.
  • Consider picking a color scheme. I was supposed to study abroad this fall, and I already decided on a color scheme of maroon, grey, and black for my wardrobe. By picking items within a similar color scheme, you greatly increase the number of combinations you can make with the garments in your closet. You can read more about this in my post about creating capsule wardrobes.
  • If limiting your entire college wardrobe to just 3-4 colors sounds too daunting, consider picking one neutral and deciding on garments based off that. For example, lots of times our fall outfits either gravitate around brown tones, or black/grey tones. If you pick just one main neutral color for your wardrobe, it will make other choices easier—like sticking to your favorite black shoes (instead of feeling the need to bring brown and black booties).
  • If you get stumped on whether or not you should pack an item, ask yourself if you can create 2-3 outfits with it out of the items you already packed. If it only goes with one thing in your suitcase, you should probably leave it behind.

organized dorm room closet

(Original Post: B2S Series: Dorm Sweet Dorm)

I’m still not sure if I’ll follow these suggestions exactly myself, since I’ll likely have the luxury of driving to school, and therefore packing more items. BUT I did write this blog post in my closet and thought very deeply about which pieces I would take and which ones would stay. These are all things I considered in my own process!

Pic 39

I hope this post was super helpful for all my fellow college students. Let me know what your plans are for the fall, when you’re going back to school, and if you end up using any of these tips! Feel free to leave suggestions for more back-to-school content in the comments below, and reach out if you have any questions or need help packing. I was planning on sharing ideas for 2D decorations that are easy to pack (and take up no space) in this blog post as well, but it’s already too long… So maybe I’ll save that for an additional post. Thanks for stopping by today, and have a great start to your week!

Miles of smiles,


36 comments on “Packing for College in the Age of Coronavirus”

  1. Grace, this is Tall Carolyn, your grandma’s friend at the Grove. Liking your blog. Just wondering where this photo was taken of you with the packed car?

    1. Hi Carolyn!! It’s so nice to hear from you! The picture with the packed car was taken the day I first moved to Denver (on High Street), right outside my dorm room at the University of Denver. I hope you’re having a great day!

  2. I think you covered it all. I sure hope you can have a sense of normalcy. Did they reschedule your semester abroad to next year? If not you should try to plan a summer abroad before between college and work. Save for it and have people donate! I’ll porch in 😄Always easier to plan something like that before your life is tied down with commitments.

    1. Aw, thank you so much Mireille! That is so sweet. They didn’t automatically reschedule my semester abroad to next year, but I plan on reapplying to go senior year anyway. If I can’t go then due to the pandemic, I’m looking into other options – like a summer abroad after I graduate or maybe even a grad program abroad. One way or another, I will get to Scotland! Hehe. Hope you’re having a great day. 🙂

  3. College is utterly different than school so that’s why it’s a good idea to prepare in advance. It must strange getting ready to go back and not knowing what’s going to happen. We are already hearing ads on the radio about where to get the best school supplies but with the second wave of pandemic predicted for September, do we even need to bother? Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

    1. I totally agree! It is super weird trying to plan for all the possibilities of the future… Thankfully I don’t have to think too much about packing/preparing until September. I’m very interested to see what ends up happening, though! Hope you’re doing well and having a nice day. 🙂

  4. Look at you, girl! You definitely have great organizing skills! Thank you so much for sharing. Good luck with everything, sweetie!


    1. Thanks Kate! And I know – I was so shocked by how big my closets were both freshman and sophomore years. So lucky!

  5. You have some super cute dorm rooms! Ours were all cinder block and dirty white color. This is a really great list and tips! Packing was always tough!

    1. Thanks Laura! And yes, I definitely lucked out with my dorm years both years. They were much nicer than I anticipated!

  6. I think this is a great post, and no doubt SO helpful to other students going back to school right now in this crazy time. Good luck as you start school, I’m sure it is such a challenge right now.

    1. Thank you so much!! It has been difficult and I’m trying really hard to keep an open mind. Like with everyone right now, there are good and bad days! Hope you are doing well. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Amber! It’s definitely been really hard, but I’m doing my best to keep an open mind. 🙂

  7. I hope you do have fun and get to go back to study! It must be strange not knowing! Your packing list seems like a good one, and you shared some great advice too. When we went to Europe I didn’t follow the ‘wear with multiple things” rule and I packed some pieces I really didn’t wear that much which was a shame!

    Hope that your week is going well 🙂 It’s a cold and wet winter week here!

    1. Thanks so much, Mica! It is very strange. I’m hoping for the best but preparing for the worst… I actually just got pictures today of my apartment and my closet seems quite spacious, so now I’m thinking I might bring a little more than originally planned! Hehe. Hope you’re staying warm!

  8. What a great resource for those going back to college this fall! Your dorm room is so cute and so well organized! Good luck to you!

  9. You are so impressive having to pack like this for an entire semester. I have enough trouble doing this for a week of vacation.

    1. Haha well funny enough, I actually just received photos of my apartment for the fall… and my closet is quite spacious. So now I’m thinking I’ll bring all my clothes after all, haha!

  10. Your room looks great! I have been thinking about people going back to college and how tough it would be during this virus, My neice is jus 10 and is going to be doing homeschooling or virtual learing. You packed a wonderful list for your dorm, I always had too much clothes too! Sounds like you are a master packer as well!
    thanks for linking!
    jess xx

    1. Thanks so much, Jess! This year will definitely not be the college experience I was hoping for… but fingers crossed it won’t be too bad. 🙂

  11. I love how organized you are- such an interesting read- love this blog post! (And having had a daughter leaving for school years ago and my baby probably next year…I can so relate to this!!)

  12. Grace, what a fabulous idea for a post! I used to take way too many clothes off to college with me way back long ago. And my college was only a 5 minute drive from my home so I could have easily switched things out whenever I felt like it! Ha. But I like to have all my options in front of me. I hope that you have an enjoyable semester and that it isn’t too weird. At least you will be styling! Thanks for linking up.


    1. I totally feel the same way! I have to see all my options! My school is a 12 hour drive away, so definitely a little different, haha. Thanks for stopping by Shelbee!

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