Do You Really Need All That Stuff for College?

Raise your hand if you’re currently in the throes of getting your college-bound freshman ready for the big move. It doesn’t matter if they’re going to college right in your hometown, home state, or if they’re going across the country, the amount of “things” that are suggested they have is overwhelming and can set you into a full-blown panic. I remember pouring over list after list as well as joined a great group on Facebook called Dorm Chatter that has been helpful (you need to join it!!) but it also made me realize that we were WAY behind getting my freshman ready for her big move to the University of Pittsburgh (Hail to Pitt!!).

I decided that I needed to sharpen my pencil and figure out what she REALLY is going to need, otherwise, I was going to need to take out a second mortgage AND rent a 26′ truck in order to get all those “suggested” items there. I asked parents and college students who’ve already done this and put together a list for those of you who are in the same spot we were! I realize that it won’t fit every single person, and I’m sure I’ve missed a couple of essentials, but it’s definitely enough to get you started!

A little formality so that I don’t get in trouble with the FTC… this post does include some affiliate links but using these links do NOT cost you more. In fact, it could save you some cash!

Room Essentials:

Locking Trunk – College students are going to need a place for storage AND a place to lock their valuables, meds, electronics, etc. when they’re out of their room and I thought this one was really cool because it doesn’t take up precious floor space!

First Aid Kit – Whether it’s a papercut, gaping flesh wound (I kid), upset stomach, headache. or a cold, you know it’s going to happen, so go ahead and make sure they’re stocked with the things they’ll need when it happens. 

Basic Toolset – A basic set of tools will come in handy at some point. I actually think my daughter was asked if someone could borrow hers more than she actually used it herself! Compact in size and includes the essentials!

Command Strips – This was on almost every single list I came across and it makes sense since colleges aren’t fond of putting holes in their walls when students are decorating or hanging anything.

Space Saving Clothes Hangers  – So many clothes and so little closet space in a dorm room!! I’ve used these for years in my girls’ closets and they work like a dream!

 Microfiber Sheet Set – Twin Extra-Long – Don’t forget that dorm mattresses are extra long! You don’t need to send more than 2 sets from what I’ve been told because really – when was the last time your teen changed their sheets at home?! You’ll also want a comforter (I’ve seen folks recommend a full instead of a twin xl. Don’t forget bath towels (2), hand towels (2), and washcloths (2)!

Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper, Twin XL – Unless you want to hear your kid constantly complain about a bad back, they’ll need one of these for sure. Also, get a mattress cover which will put a barrier between them and “things” like bedbugs.

Vornado Small Air Circulator Fan – Those little rooms can get pretty stuffy and who knows if residents can control the temperature, so a small fan only makes sense!

Smart speaker with Alexa – We are an Alexa house, so I sent mine off with the one she had. It serves multiple purposes – speaker and smart assistant. It’s also fun to leave them little messages to come home to 🙂

Desktop Lamp/Organizer w/Charging Station – Light up those long nights of studying as well give a place to corral notes, pens, etc. Also helpful if they have to study after their roommate goes to bed. Added bonus – a USB port to charge things!

Foldable Drying Rack – Whether it’s to dry bath towels, wet raingear, or hand-washed items, they’ll need a small, collapsable drying rack.

Compact Laundry Bag w/Wheels – Here’s hoping that they’ll actually DO their laundry!! Kidding – they will and a laundry bag on wheels will make life a little easier on them to do so!

Single Cup Brewer – It doesn’t have to be an expensive one but they’ll need a cup o’ joe or tea to get thru those long days and the single-cup brewers take up a lot less space and are safer than a regular coffee pot!

Food Storage Containers – Not just for leftovers but also for snacks once they’re opened or even non-food items that need to be stored!

Personal Items:

Dorm Shower Caddy – I liked this one because my daughter was going to be experiencing the FULL college experience complete with the communal showers! This way she could just hang it up and have easy access to all her toiletries and then it can air dry back in her room!

Sleep Mask – Different schedules, different sleep patterns, different lives. Make sure they’re getting a decent night’s sleep with a sleep mask as well as earplugs

Insulated Bottle for Hot/Cold Drinks – These are great for getting the day started with coffee and then rinsing out later for a cold beverage! Plus the shape lends well to backpacks!

Electronics/School Supplies:

Silicone Phone Wallets – They probably already have one on their phone but just in case, these are perfect for keeping up with school IDs, bank cards, room keys, etc.

Tile Key Finder – How many times have they (or you!) asked you where their phone or keys were while they live at home? Now double that when they don’t have you to rescue them! With Tile they can find it on their own!

3-Outlet Surge Protector with 2 USB Ports – Can you ever have enough outlets? No, you can’t and this one has 2 USB ports making it the perfect dorm room accessory!

Expanding File Folders – Help them stay organized with their classes without the bulk of a filing cabinet – plus where would you actually put a filing cabinet?

Extra Long Charging Cords – Longer charging cords are especially important if their bed is higher up or a loft!

Laptop: MacAir, Lenovo, Microsoft – It doesn’t matter what kind you choose to buy, a laptop is an absolute must for school. Just make sure it has enough storage and the processor is fast enough to keep up with all their things. Chances are they’ll also use it to stream Netflix, Amazon, etc. so it’s not just for studies – it’s their portal to life. And video chatting with home!!

Laptop Backpack – They’ll be carrying around a pretty heavy load every single day, so make sure they have a sturdy and comfortable backpack. You may also want to consider getting one that’s water-resistant. 


Photo String Lights – These are super popular especially with the girls and are simple to put up and surround themselves with their favorite pictures of friends and, of course, family 🙂 

Longitude/Latitude Necklace – My friend, Janelle, makes these, and I think they are such a sweet way to remind your kids that no matter where they are or what they’re going thru, home will always be there for them. 

Memory Photo Charms – Also made by my friend, Janelle, these photo charms can be customized with 2 photos and be worn as a necklace or put on a keyring! This is the one I had made of my girls a few years ago and I love it!

I realize that this list could go on and on but I think it’s a good start for things that you’re college-bound kid will REALLY use as opposed to some of the lists that include ALL the things. I’d love to hear your ideas on what you think is important to take!