38 Essential Things To Buy For College Before You Go

The time has come for you to leave the nest and fly the coop to your new life as a college student! There are two very important things you have to do before you can spread your baby bird wings, though. You have to 1. make a list of things to buy for college and 2. hit the stores to stock up on all of the college necessities on said list.

So, grab a pen, paper and your parent’s credit card because it’s shopping time!

Things To Buy For College

The list of things needs to turn your dorm room into your home away from home isn’t too terrible, thankfully. It’s important to remember that your space is small and you’ll more than likely have to share it with a roommate. This means that you should try to purchase only the necessities to start. Don’t go full gorilla and risk having to “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” your way through the stuff you bought come move in day.

Now lets make our list of things to buy for college:

Dorm Room Necessities


You’re bound to need a lamp as you burn the midnight oil during a pre-exam cram session. Go for something small enough to fit on your desk and with multiple light level settings. You can kick it up a notch if you’d like with a lamp that doubles as a USB port to charge your smart phone like the one from TaoTronics.

>> Check prices for TaoTronics college lamps <<

Alarm Clock

The professors at those early morning lectures aren’t going to wait for you to roll out of bed, so grab an alarm clock with a loud annoying buzzer.

Small Trash Can

Space is limited and so is your access to a large dumpster. Keep this in mind when shopping for a trash can. Buy one that is small, compact and has a lid if possible.

Storage Bins

Don’t underestimate the importance of a storage bin while you’re in college. Buy a couple in various sizes to keep your dorm room free of clutter and to stay organized.

Laundry and Linen Needs

Comforter and Sheets

Colleges usually supply students with a Twin or Twin XL bed which you will need to buy bedding for. Keep it simple by purchasing a whole comforter set like the ones carried by Pinzon. A sets like this comes with a comforter, 2 fitted and flat sheets, 2 pillow cases and a hamper.

>> See our pick for the top college comforter sets <<


You can buy pillows for relatively inexpensive at any big box store. Don’t be afraid to invest in one of good quality if your budget allows it, though. Getting a good nights sleep is important and will help you make the most of your class time, so get a better pillow if you think it will make a difference.


Definitely buy 3 to 4 towels to bring with you. It’s a good idea to get enough to allow you a few days out of the laundry center but not so many that they take up valuable space.

Laundry Basket

Doing your laundry while you’re in college isn’t going to be a fun task as you lug your laundry from your dorm room to the laundry center and then back again. Cut out a bit of the annoyance with the a handy folding laundry basket. It’s durable, has convenient handles and saves space as it can be folded up when not in use.

>> Here’s our favorite folding laundry basket for dorm rooms <<

Clothing Basics

Shower Shoes

Community bathrooms are gross and there’s no way around it. Keep your feet cootie free with a pair of antimicrobial shower shoes like the ones made by Showaflops. You can thank us later while your room mate suffers from itchy feet.

>> Check prices on Showaflops <<


College is probably the one time in your life that you’ll actually be excited to buy socks. Go ahead and stock up. You never know when the dryer gnomes are going to make off with one, leaving one of your feet out in the cold.


Your Mom always told you never to leave the house without clean underwear, right? So, take her advice when buying things for college. Load up on tighty whites, boxer briefs, banana hammocks or whatever other kinds of underwear you crazy kids are rocking these days.

Light Weight Jacket or Weather Appropriate Hoodie/Sweater

It’s not much fun to be undressed when a cold front or wet weather rolls in. There’s also the added fun of having a lecture in a classroom so cold it makes Antarctica look like Hawaii. Buy a light weight jacket, hoodie or sweater to keep you warm and dry when you need it.

Study Supplies

Stackable Desk Trays

Buy study supplies that are going to make your life easier. We like the Officemate Front Load Sorter and Organizer to keep ourselves organized. It’s got stackable trays, slots for folders and nifty little slots for your other study supplies.

>> Read reviews for the Officemate Front Load Sorter and Organizer <<

USB Flash Drives

Go big or go home when it comes to the size of the USB flash drive you buy for college. You can get a PNY Turbo Flash Drive that is able to hold up to 128GB of data and it’s super fast. Having one flash drive that can hold a ton of your files is way better than having a collection of smaller drives all over the place.

>> Check prices on the PNY Turbo Flash Drive <<

Desk Planner or Wall Calendar

We are big fans of desk and wall calendars, especially ones that are dry erasable! It’s so easy to jot down your monthly schedule and always have it right in your face. All it takes is a quick cleaning and you’re ready to do it all over again the following month.

Wall Shelves

Buying a wall shelf or two is a great idea since space is going to be a pretty hot commodity in your dorm room. A company called 4D concepts has a pretty cool four shelf unit that is designed to nestle into nearly any corner. It’s an interesting looking shelf and totally functional. These shelves are a pretty great way to keep text and leisure books out of your way, too.

>> Check out the 4D Concepts shelf <<

Electronic Gadgets and Accessories

Laptop and Mouse

Most colleges have computer labs available to students, but that’s far from convenient when you need to study or write a paper all night. A lot of students also like to leave their televisions at home and opt to save space by watching movies/show or listen to music on a laptops. We actually went this route during our college days too and purchased an Acer Aspire laptop. Grab yourself a cordless mouse. You’ll be good to go in no time!

>> Check prices on Acer Aspire laptops <<


A decent set of headphones is a definite addition to your list of things to buy for college. You’ll be able to shut out any outside distractions and spare your roommate from your love of Britney Spears tunes.

Extension Cord, Ethernet Cable and Surge Protector

All three of these things will come in handy at some point or another while your at college. You might as well be proactive and have them already on hand.

Cell Phone and Charger

You’re probably not too keen on heading to school without a phone of some sort and we don’t blame you. In all honesty, you’re better off getting a smartphone that is capable of helping you with school as well as keep you in touch with your loved ones. New phones are constantly cranking out of the top tech companies and it can be hard to pick the right one for you. The Applie iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S5 are favorites among college students these days.

Kitchen Aids

Mini Fridge

It may be a good idea to wait to buy your mini fridge until you actually get all your other stuff in your dorm room. This will give you a chance to see how much space you have to work with and will save you the frustration of having to return a mini fridge that is too large.


Save yourself some cash and hit the dollar store when buying your utensils for eating and cooking. There’s no need to break out the fine silverware when you’re noshing on Hot Pockets and Pizza Rolls.

Toaster Oven and/or Microwave

It’s a tough call trying to decide if you should choose to buy a toaster oven or a microwave when heading off to school. It’s important to first check with your school for the rules prior to buying either appliance. We’re fans of toaster ovens like the ones Breville makes because it allows you to really cook rather than just nuking something quick and preservative filled.

>> Here’s the toaster oven we recommend <<

Plates, Bowls and Cups

Disposable paper or plastic work just fine here. Washing dishes in the bathroom sink isn’t exactly how you’ll want to spend your down time anyway. If you do decide to get the real stuff, limit yourself to 2 of each item to save on space.

Personal Items

First Aid Kit and Small Stash of Medications

Stock up before you get into a pickle and really need a band aid or some aspirin. Grab some pain relievers, cough drops, vitamins, antacids, band aids, alcohol, peroxide, gauze and anything else you think you might need.

Personal Hygiene Products

Personal hygiene is an obvious necessity which means you will need the products to do it. Keep in mind that you’ll have to lug all of your stuff with you to the bathroom, so try to keep what you buy on the smaller side. Grab a few toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and razors.

Hair Dryer, Curling Iron and/or Hair Straightener

Try to find a compact hair dryer like the Conair 19875 with a folding handle. There’s also the John Frieda Salon Shape Hot Air Brush that functions like a curling iron and a hair dryer. It’s another great way to save space and money.

>> You can read reviews of the Conair 1875 here << 

Condoms and/or Birth Control

It’s okay, your Mom and Dad can’t see this. Do yourselves a favor guys and girls! Buy condoms and/or get on birth control before you ship off to college. It doesn’t mean you have to use them, but it’s far better to be safe than sorry.

Cleaning Supplies

Small Handheld Vacuum

Mom won’t be there to clean up after you, so you’ll need a handheld vacuum to help get the job done. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. The Eureka EasyClean will surely get your dorm room’s floor cleaned up.

>> Check prices for the Eureka EasyClean <<

Paper Towel Holder and Paper Towel

Don’t buy a jumbo pack of paper towel because you won’t have anywhere you store it, but a six pack will do just fine. You can buy a cheap little paper towel holder and attach it under a shelf or even in your closet, too.

Cleaning Supplies

You won’t need a ton of stuff to clean with since your space is small. Grab some dish soap, sponges and all-purpose cleaning wipes to start. That should really do it, but you can always grab some extra cleaning at another point if you find you need it.

Laundry Soap, Fabric Softener and Bleach

Buy small containers of these guys to save space. Those little all-in-one pods are pretty cool and take up way less space than the alternative. They are a bit more expensive, but you’re not going to do a ton of laundry and that may be an acceptable expense.

Other Helpful Items


Grab a small umbrella to avoid showing up for class rocking the drowned, shivering rat look. Ideally, the umbrella could easily fit in your backpack or even pocket. The Totes Super Small Compact Folding Umbrella is only about 6 inches long and lives up its name.

>> Here’s the umbrella we recommend <<


Find something that you like and that you can fit everything you need for class. Messenger bags are a good option, too. Keep in mind that you’ll have books, notebooks, folders and possibly a laptop with you when running across campus from one class to another. Can a of that fit in your bag of choice?

Shower and Cleaning Supply Caddies

A shower caddy will become your new BFF after a trip or two to the community bathroom, trust us. Buy one that is mold and mildew resistant like the favorite among college students from the Fine Living Company. The cleaning supply caddy can be simple and sturdy much like the Sterilite Ultra Caddy we used when we were dorm rats. It’s big, but not too big and deep enough to keep all of your cleaning supplies.

>> Pick one up here <<

Safety Whistle and/or Pepper Spray

Here’s another safety tips from us: buy some pepper spray (if your state allows it) and a safety whistle. This is especially important if you’re going to be out and about at night alone. We just want you to remain safe and enjoy your college experience. Just don’t pepper spray yourself, because that stuff hurts! Not that we’ve pepper sprayed ourselves accidentally or anything.

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