Back-to-School Shopping: What to Bring to Boarding School

August means it's time to plan for boarding school, and you need to know what to bring to campus. While every school is different, these are some general guidelines. Check with your student life office for specific items required by your school.

Boarding school students can expect that their school will provide basic furnishings, including a twin-size bed and mattress, desk, chair, dresser, and/or closet units. Each roommate will have her own furnishings, but room configurations may vary. Below are several things to put on your back-to-school shopping list.

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Back to School Bedding
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While a bed and mattress are provided, you need to bring your own bedding, including:

  • Two sheet sets (usually a twin or twin XL size, but ask your student life office before buying). Bringing two sets of sheets means you will always have one on the bed and one in the laundry.
  • A mattress cover
  • Pillows, a blanket and/or comforter. Depending on where you are going to school and how cold it gets in the winter, you may want to bring one light blanket and one heavy blanket. 
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shower supplies, shower caddy, toiletries
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Don't forget your bathroom and hygiene supplies, which you may want to store in your room and carry to the bathroom when needed. Toiletries you may need include:

  • A shower tote to carry all your toiletries in
  • Towels and washcloths. Like your sheets, bring at least two sets so you can always have one clean set on hand. 
  • Shower shoes, which are often a pair of flip-flops
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body wash
  • Toothpaste, a toothbrush, mouthwash, and dental floss
  • Cotton swabs or cotton balls
  • A brush and comb and any other hair products you use regularly
  • Sunscreen and lotion. These are often overlooked, but with the amount of time you'll likely be spending outdoors for sports and activities, remembering to wear sunscreen can keep you healthy and burn free. Lotion is helpful if the air gets dry in the winter and you need to moisturize.
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This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's important to remember to bring different types of clothing, especially if you're not able to travel back home often.

Start by making sure you have the required dress code items. Dress codes may vary, but typically dress slacks or skirts and dress shoes are required, as well as button-down shirts, ties, and blazers. Ask your student life office for specific dress code requirements. 

If you're going to a school where fall and winter may bring inclement weather, including rain and snow, bring:

  • Winter boots (waterproof or water-resistant)
  • A scarf, winter hat, and gloves
  • A waterproof jacket
  • An umbrella

Bring an array of clothing options, as you may find yourself in a variety of situations that require different attire. You will likely need:

  • Dress clothing for formal occasions
  • Jeans, shorts, and other casual clothes
  • Athletic gear
  • Sneakers and dress shoes
  • Sweaters and sweatshirts 
  • T-shirts and tank tops
  • Sunglasses
  • A baseball cap
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Laundry Items

laundry bag
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You'd be surprised how many students forget about this aspect of boarding school: washing your own clothes. Some schools offer laundry services where you can send your clothes to be laundered, but if you plan on doing your own, you'll need:

  • A laundry bag
  • Laundry detergent, stain remover, dryer sheets
  • A clothes-drying rack
  • A small sewing kit
  • Quarters
  • Clothes hangers and clothespins
  • A lint roller
  • Underbed storage containers for extra clothing and/or storing your detergent
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Desk and School Supplies

alarm clock
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It is school, after all. So make sure you have:

  • A backpack or bag to carry your books and devices to class
  • All required technology, such as a tablet computer, laptop, and calculator
  • An alarm clock with battery backup in case you lose power
  • An energy-efficient desk lamp
  • A USB or flash drive
  • School supplies, including pens, pencils, binders, notebooks, sticky notes, highlighters, and a stapler
  • A planner. This may be your smartphone or tablet, but make sure you have some way of keeping track of everything.
  • A surge protector and extension cord
  • A flashlight
  • A seat cushion in case the desk chair is uncomfortable

Don't forget chargers for your computer and cellphone.

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Reusable Containers and Snacks

reusable water bottle
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While boarding schools provide meals, many students enjoy keeping some quick snacks on hand. You might bring:

  • Sealable containers
  • A​ ​ mug, cup, or water bottle
  • Reusable dishes and cutlery
  • Juice or sports drinks that don't need to be refrigerated
  • Dishwashing liquid and a sponge
  • Single-serving snacks, like popcorn and chips
  • Granola bars
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Medicine and First Aid Items

band aid
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Your school will likely have some specific instructions on how medicines and first aid items are administered, and rarely are you able to keep medicine in your room. Check with the health center or student life office on how to handle this. 

  • Having your own first aid kit can be helpful for minor paper cuts and scrapes.
  • Bring the necessary medications, but make sure you bring them to the appropriate adult on campus for safe keeping.
  • Even over-the-counter medicine may be prohibited from being stored in student rooms, so check.