College Student Checklist: Must-Haves and Essentials

Welcome to your college: your home away from home! For most of you, this is your first time moving out and living on your own, which is why I’ve created a short college student checklist of items you’ll want to have.

College Student Essentials - Items that will help you decorate your dorm room, keep things organized, study better, and be prepared for class.

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. All the products listed are those that I would personally recommend based on my own experiences as a former college student who lived on-campus.*
Please keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. After my own experience of living on a college campus, I’ve found what tends to work and what doesn’t. Your list will probably have more things on it and that is completely fine!

For information on how to make your dorm room feel more like home, check out Make Your College Dorm Room a Retreat with These Ideas.

Cube Organizer

I highly recommend putting cube organizers on your college student checklist, or shelves of some sort, to store all of your miscellaneous items. They aren’t very expensive and are great for serving multiple purposes (TV stand, storage, displaying picture frames, etc.). I bought some fabric cube bins to place my DVDs, electronics, and other loose items in. Assembly isn’t too bad – I am terrible at putting things together but was able to do this on my own.

And Don’t Forget the Fabric Cube Bins

These bins serve as great storage for all of the other items you plan on bringing to college. I remember using them for paperwork, power strips, miscellaneous supplies, and random knick-knacks.


College dorm rooms typically have twin or XL twin beds available for students. There are some that offer full size beds (as well as XL full) if you live in on-campus apartments, so I recommend checking with your student housing department to find out what size your bed will be.

Once you have the size, you can start searching for sheets, comforters, blankets, quilts, mattress pads, and whatever other bedding you want! Target is a great place to get XL twin bedding if you are looking for cool designs that won’t break the bank. Amazon is also a great resource if you want a variety of options.

Personal Recommendation: Mattress pads are a lifesaver. My dorm bed was uncomfortable so I immediately went out and bought a foam mattress pad so that I could sleep better. It may not have been the most high quality mattress pad, but it did a good enough job for me. It’s definitely something that you may want to consider placing on your college student checklist (especially if you have a bad back).

Shower Caddy

A shower caddy is a great item to have when you are sharing bathrooms with other dorm residents. They often come in mesh or plastic so that they dry easily. It’s a great way to keep all of your bathroom products organized and in one place.

I remember lugging my shower stuff to and from the bathroom once and that was enough for me. I made sure to purchase a shower caddy right away and it made my life so much easier.

Trust me – This item is a must for your college student checklist if you are living on-campus!

Reading Light

A reading light is a must if you plan on staying up late! Your roommate’s sleep time might vary from yours, so having a reading light can come in handy for those late night study sessions. I have seen different styles, such as lamps that sit on your desk or those that clip to your bed. I would also be wary of the kind of light bulb you place in one because harsh light can start to give you a headache after awhile. You also don’t want a light that is too dim or subtle.


Not only are towels dorm room essentials, they are life essentials! I suggest getting at least a couple towels so that when one gets dirty, you have another one to use. I would also have a couple washrags on hand, especially if you have a sink in your room. Whenever you get your towels wet, make sure you hang them up to dry and wash them regularly so that they don’t start smelling bad.

Plastic Drawers

Plastic drawers are a great product for maximizing space. Dorms typically give you a small dresser or drawers of some sort, but I didn’t think they were enough. I bought a set of these to put my socks, scarves, and athletic apparel in.

College Student Checklist Absolute Must-Haves: A Plethora of School Supplies

You can never have enough school supplies! I’m talking pens, pencils, highlighters, sticky notes (I like these), paper clips, staples, rubber bands, glue, and craft supplies (because you never know when a professor will want you to bust out your creative skills).

Planner and Messenger Bag

Trust me when I say that having a planner is an absolute essential when you are in college. You are going to have so many assignments and important dates to keep track of! Find something that works for you and then stick with it. The Action Day Academic Weekly Planner is the one I personalized used during grad school – I can’t recommend it enough!

As for a messenger bag, look for one that allows you to carry your laptop or tablet, a notebook, and a few pens/pencils. Just make sure you don’t overdo it on the books or your shoulders will be screaming by the end of the day 😉

These are just a few basic items to get you started! As you begin to settle into your space, you’ll find that you may need some extra things to your college student checklist fulfill all your needs. By the end of your first year, you’ll be a pro at knowing what to bring and what to leave at home.

For more college student essentials, check out my Resources page!

Previous Story
Next Story


  • Reply
    College Financial Aid: 10 Free Websites You Need to Use
    February 27, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    […] much money can be saved here. With tons of cash back deals, you can easily buy almost all of your college dorm room must-haves and get some money back to put toward other expenses. Every little bit counts, […]

  • Reply
    My Secrets for Getting A’s in College (And How You Can Too)
    July 8, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    […] College Student Checklist: Must-Haves and Essentials […]

  • Reply
    Make Your College Dorm Room a Retreat with These Ideas
    July 10, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    […] case you missed my original post that discussed the main items you’ll want on your college student checklist for campus life, make sure you check that out (just click the pink words in this […]

  • Leave a Reply