Packing for Harvard: Things I Wish I Knew

Category Student Voices


Authored on February 02, 2024


Congratulations, you made it to Harvard! But if, like me, you’ve never had any experience moving out before, don’t fret! From my own journey to Harvard (and the many mistakes I made along the way), I’ve compiled a list of things to keep in mind before move-in day! 

1. There are many stores nearby… but they can be pricey! On one of my first days here, I realized I didn’t pack an umbrella, which was especially unfortunate as it began to rain. Desperate, I ran to the nearby CVS and bought a small umbrella for $20—$20 I could have saved had I simply brought an umbrella from home. It’s best to avoid this situation if you can: while it is true there are many stores nearby, I suggest going to college with everything you need so that you don’t spend more money than you have to! 

2. Don’t forget the small stuff! Related to the previous point, an umbrella wasn’t the only thing I forgot to pack! I also neglected to bring paper towels (which are not available in some of the first-year dorms) as well as appropriate medicine (band-aids, cough drops, and Tylenol—the “college cough” is real!). Again, while you can go to a nearby store (that’s what I ended up doing), I definitely would’ve saved more time and money had I remembered to bring everything in the first place. 

3. Consider bringing some snacks! Harvard requires all students living on campus to have an unlimited meal plan, so food will definitely be available to you. However, during those times when the dining hall is closed (or when you just want to eat something different), it helps to have some food in your room! Chips, granola bars, pretzels, you name it—personally, my go-to struggle meal is always a nice bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios! 

A picture of the top of a black mini fridge, with many snacks like pringles and cereal, as well as plastic utensils

4. There will be a lot of free stuff! It’s almost overwhelming the amount of merchandise you’ll be given, especially during your first few weeks! The school and its many organizations love to give away t-shirts (a LOT of them), cups, tote bags, string bags, lanyards, key card holders, and so much more (I even got a free deck of cards!). If you don’t already have some of these items, don’t feel the need to rush out and buy them—you’ll most likely get them for free anyway. In fact, if you look hard enough, I’m sure you’ll be able to find literally anything here! On that note, Harvard Yard Operatives (“Yard Ops” for short) is located in Room B1 of Weld Hall. In addition to being the go-to stop for maintenance requests, it also provides free goods such as masks and poster gum. Be sure to check them out! 

5. Be prepared for the weather—both hot and cold! New England gets cold. That part’s pretty obvious. But it’s also just as important to prepare for the heat—because trust me, it gets hot here! Especially during your first month, you’ll want a strong fan or two in your room. Then, when the weather does get colder (which happens as early as October), appropriate attire can be a game changer: warm clothes, jackets, gloves, snow boots, etc. Be prepared for everything! 

A picture of a black desk fan on top of a wooden desk.

6. The biggest thing to remember is that you will LIVE here! Harvard will be your new home for several months! That’s exciting, but it can also be hard to truly comprehend (it took me a while to process). After a long day of work—when you finally want to unwind—you’ll be heading back to your dorm. You’ll spend a lot of time there, so be sure to make it comfortable! When considering what to pack, think of everything you use on a daily basis—a weekly basis, even. The things you rely on back at home will most likely come in handy here (this will be your new home, after all), so bring them with you to this new and exciting chapter of yours! 

I hope these tips come in handy! For a complete list of what to bring (and what not to bring), I suggest checking out these resources:


  • First-Year
  • Residential Life
  • Student Life