Preparing for the college drop-off is an exciting — and possibly overwhelming — time for any parent and child. As students head back to campus life and new freshmen move to their semi-permanent homes, there are never-ending checklists parents have to go through to send their kids off prepared and ready to take over campus life.
That said, there’s shopping to be done! Whether your kid is going to a nearby college or venturing to an out-of-state university, there are must-haves every student needs in their dorm. There are plenty of great checklists for what college-bound students need, but here are other things worth considering before they start their adulting journey.
What do you actually need for college?
Aside from common student needs such as backpacks, books and electronics, most college students will need home goods and essentials to make the transition from their childhood abode easier. According to CollegeBoard's checklist, some important items they'll need to pack include:
- Storage bins and organizers
- Laundry supplies
- Desk supplies like sticky notes, folders, pens, notebooks and a desk lamp
- Everyday toiletries and accessories like a shower caddy and shower slides with grippy soles
- Household and kitchen items like food storage containers, silverware, trash bags and plates
What should you not bring to a dorm?
While you might be tempted to pack your kid's favorite decor, there are some things that don't belong in a dorm. For starters, dorm rooms have limited space for furniture and personal belongings (and most already have big-ticket items like desks and bed frames), so it's important to limit their checklist to only the essentials.
College tech essentials
For dorms with limited outlets, this four-port USB charger delivers a simple solution. They can easily connect their devices, and the charger is thin enough to maximize their work space.
Whether they're spending late nights studying or just need a little extra light in their room, this desk lamp has five lighting modes and five brightness levels (for a total of 25 possible combinations) that can be controlled with a simple tap. It also has a USB charging port and an auto timer that shuts off after an hour.
Gone are the days of paper notebooks that pile up year after year. This smart notebook connects to an app where pages can be scanned, stored and wiped clean for reuse. It's not only good for the environment, it's also a major space saver.
Between online courses and writing papers, students will be spending even more time in front of their screens. Blue light glasses are a must for reducing eye strain and headaches. We love the well-made and stylish variety from Pixel Eyewear.
For the gamers who don't have enough space in their dorm room for a full set up, this mobile controller will help them get in the zone anywhere. It connects directly to their phone and, according to the brand, is compatible with thousands of gaming services such as Xbox Cloud Gaming and PS Remote Play.
If your kid is taking a MacBook to school, it’s wise to invest in a sturdy, protective cover. You can’t beat the array of unique colors and designs from Chic Geeks.
Help them keep their most valuable possessions safe with this portable biometric safe that connects to their phone and can only be opened via an app or their own fingerprint.
College bedding and sleep essentials
If you don't want to spend too much on sheets that likely won't make it past the year, this highlyr ated set from Target comes in five colors and is less than $10.
Bed risers are perfect for creating under-bed storage opportunities. This one does double duty by also providing additional outlets — ideal for the room that has a singular outlet hiding in a hard-to-reach place.
You can't go wrong with a classic floral sheet set. This one comes in four colors and includes a fitted sheet, flat sheet, pillowcase and tote bag.
These sheets (with a 1,500 thread count) are incredibly soft! They are hypoallergenic, come in a dorm-friendly twin XL size (as well as standard bed sizes) and have 18-inch deep pockets, making them great for fitting over all the layers you can put on dorm beds.
Dorm mattresses aren't historically known for being super comfortable, so you'll probably want to get a mattress topper of some kind. This one has 2 inches of thick foam and, according to the brand, is also made with cooling technology.
If your teen struggles with morning wake-up calls, this is the perfect solution for their snoozing issues. The sunrise alarm clock features different light modes to wake them up with a soothing soft glow. Also, it comes with relaxing noise to ease their mind before bedtime.
If the school has larger mattresses available, they can turn their twin XL into a full XL with these bed-converting planks. Measuring in at 54 inches wide, it adds over a foot to the twin XL bed frame.
College kitchen essentials
Improve their movie nights or late night study sessions with this popcorn popper. The bowl is collapsible, comes in 20 different colors and currently has 23,000+ verified five-star ratings.
If they always forget their breakfast, make their life simple with this sandwich maker from Hamilton Beach. The two-in-one breakfast maker lets them prepare a fresh sandwich with the fixings of their choice. It can cook their meal in 5 minutes or less and is a convenient way to make their favorite sandwich recipe.
Magic's Bullet Blender is sure to make their breakfast time easier thanks to the fast and versatile design. They can blend, mix and chop their favorite foods in seconds. Also, this portable blender is a great way to fuel them up with something a little healthy during their busy class schedule.
If they're limited on counter space, this warming tray will come in handy. The electric tray can fit multiple dishes and makes it easy to heat up family dinners and other meals for big parties.
The slim size of Keurig's K-Mini coffee maker — less than 5 inches wide — makes it perfect for apartment or dorm living.
Most college students will exist on only coffee if you let them. They also aren't exactly known for making the healthiest choices, which can be attributed to their lack of time and space. But these microwaveable breakfast sandwiches make it easy for them to have an easy, quick and nutritious meal at the start of each day. This set of four boxes includes eight sandwiches.
College storage and organization essentials
A planner will be vital for keeping their assignments organized. This one is dated from August 2023 to July 2024, so it'll last their entire academic year and then some. It comes in two colors and you can choose between a hardcover or spiral version.
Improve their small closet storage with this garment rack. This option comes with double rods and an adjustable top rod to hang accessories. Also, this works as a visual wardrobe to help them keep their outfits ready for the week.
Space is a premium in dorm rooms or in apartments with roommates. These hanging drawers provide more storage and take up less space than a dresser.
This innovative hanger will improve your kid's organizational skills if they struggle with hanging their clothes. It's great for hanging long maxi dresses, jumpsuits and matching sets, all while avoiding unnecessary creases or dust from collecting from the floor of the closet.
Save their pens from floating around the bottom of their bag with this cute checkerboard pencil case from Papier. It also comes in orange.
Another way to save closet space is with these pants hangers that hold up to five pairs each. With hooks on both ends, you can hang them straight across to see exactly what you have and collapse it when you need the space.
Designed to resemble the brand's classic SuperBreak backpack, this version is adaptive and suitable for mobility devices. Key features include a shortened height and decreased depth so users can easily reach items at the bottom of the bag and easy release buckles and finger loops for dexterity limitations. It comes in four colors — black, blue, pink and tie dye.
At the end of the day, they're at college for school! So they'll need a backpack with enough space to carry the essentials for the day. It has an interior padded pocket that fits laptops up to 16 inches, side pockets that are perfect for water bottles or umbrellas and even a zippered pocket in the front.
College cleaning essentials
Keeping white sneakers pristine takes some serious upkeep, but these handy, environmentally friendly wipes make it easy. We love that they come in individual packets that are easy to stash in the pocket of a backpack.
Let's face it, college kids aren't always the cleanest. This three-pack of disinfecting wipes can at least help them protect themselves and their roommates from germs.
Avoid potential laundry mishaps with this odor-shielding bag from STNKY. It comes in two sizes and can be thrown directly into the washer and dryer with dirty clothes inside, making the transfer process a breeze (and ensuring no garments are lost in the process).
Make cleaning time efficient (and practically effortless) with this corded stick vacuum that weighs only 4 pounds. The small appliance converts into a hand vacuum to tackle hard-to-reach areas and is very easy to store.
College beauty essentials
Whether they have to share a communal bathroom with other residents on their floor or just have to share a bathroom with a handful of other roommates, a shower caddy like this one is vital. The perforated design helps to ensure water doesn't get trapped in there, and it dries easily.
Keep their hygiene top level with this dry spray deodorant from Secret. This formula has a coconut-infused scent and is made with aluminum-free ingredients. Plus, this will keep them sweat-free for all their daily activities.
Dorm rooms can be pretty dry, so make sure to pack them up with this wireless rechargeable humidifier. The Hey Dewy is portable enough to carry in their bag and offers up to an eight-hour mist.
More college essentials to shop
Society6 is currently offering up to 25% off sitewide, so you can save on everything including posters like this whimsical one of frogs dancing.
When they need a sweet escape, your kid will love this tongue-in-cheek candle that smells like a coffee break. The scent is infused with the warmth of vanilla, patchouli and cedarwood — it smells like "the joy of missing out."
A water bottle is the one accessory that college students carry with them wherever they go, and it’s hard to beat the quality and durability of a Hydro Flask.
This handheld kit features 23 tools, including a level, screwdriver, hammer and more, and it retails for less than $30. Talk about compact and efficient!
Some colleges don't allow students to have candles in their dorms, so this flower diffuser is a great alternative that also acts as a chic piece of décor. The flower starts off white, and as its petals bloom and its sweet scent fills the room, it turns into an eye-catching shade of pink.
Between cooking, cleaning and spraying various fragrances, an air purifier is a must-have for any dorm room. This highly-rated option has gotten the seal of approval from nearly 16,000 verified five-star reviewers. According to the brand, it uses a HEPA filter that removes pollen, smoke, dander, hair and more from the air.