College Essentials (Freshman Year Approved)

So your Freshman year of college is right around the corner. How exciting!   I will be a third-year in college this fall.  I have also gotten feedback from facebook users and my best friend.  I hope this is useful for you!

Now let’s get down to business.

  • School Supplies

This is not like shopping for high school people!

It is even better.  You don’t need to buy much. (You will appreciate this so much once you begin to pay for your own supplies, or if you already do–you Will love this.)

You should invest in a good, sturdy backpack.  I know backpacks can be expensive and I have not suggesting to buy a $200 backpack. I have a North Face backpack which I found at my local Scheels, but they can be found online here. I currently have the “Jester” style backpack and have owned it for three years now.  I have yet to tear anything, and the only signs of wear are simple dirt and coffee stains.  I will also be working on a new post about what is in my backpack.

You only need a few basic things — notebooks (I did one 1-subject notebook for each course I was taking), folders (if you would like to keep syllabi, are taking English courses, etc), pencils and pens (my favorite pencils are Papermate mechanical pencils and my absolute favorite pens are Papermate Flairs and Bic Roundpoint M), highlighters, and flash cards if you like to write things out like me!

Side note – see photo below for my Erin Condren look-alike notebook.  I will be posting a how-to blog soon (:

A few optional school supplies items you may need are a simple calculator, a clicker (this is used for in-class polls and discussions. You most likely will not need the fancy one, but they will try and sell it to you.  You will find these at your BOOKSTORE), and sticky notes for taking notes in your textbook.  I will be writing a post on sticky note note taking soon!Here are my notes for Pharmacology!

  • Books

These are, of coures, ESSENTIAL.  Do not be That college student who thinks they can get by without buying their books and borrowing from a friend.  It will not work out!  I know that they cost a small fortune, but there is an upside. (Yay!)  There are several sites that you can buy your books from, and for Cheap.

The website I frequent most is  You can often times find your books for half price. I will also say that most of the time, just rent the books.  One year I was able to save around $300 ordering from Chegg.  Now that is a small fortune, and it will stay right in your pocket!  It is also super easy to return your books so don’t you fret.

You can also use Amazon.  I would say this is the most used site because it is very well-known.

Another site I have heard of is Thrift Books.  I have not personally ordered from this site, but I have heard very good things.

You can always go to the bookstore if you just can’t get yourself to buy online.  All I will tell you is that you will regret paying $500-$1000 on your books for just one semester!


  • A Planner!

You will need a planner.  I am not saying this because I am addicted to my planner.  I am telling you that you will regret not having all of your assignments, exams, and important dates all in one place.  Even my boyfriend has a planner, and that is not his style!  But he realized that in order to stay on top of assignments (he is a history major so he has a lot of reading and papers due) he needs to keep all of his due dates straight.

If you do not own a planner and have no idea where to start, I have written a blog post just for YOU!  You can find it here.  Then head on back to this post to finish making your packing list (:

A peak at my planner

  • Electronics

Keurig.  These are awesome.  They are most likely to be allowed in most dormitories because they do not have an open coil.  If you do not like coffee do not fear, you are able to make tea and hot chocolate in this wonderful machine as well.

Electric tea kettle. This is an alternative to the Keurig for making tea and hot chocolate as it is significanty cheaper than a Keurig when bought on Amazon.

Lamp.  It is super nice to be able to have a lamp at your bedside or a clip-on lamp to clamp to your bed in order to study when your roomie prefers to sleep.

Laptop.  It pays to have a nice computer.  I had a 3-year0old computer my freshman year. Don’t get me wrong, I was very fortunate to have a computer, but it required constant charging in order to run.  Over the summer after my freshman year I saved up in order to buy a Macbook.  Heads up–there is a student discount at the Apple store.

Power Strip.  These are needed.  There is often not enough outlets in a dorm room.  You will use them for TVs, lamps, chargers, and so much more.  Plus there are often two or more people per room.  They are not too expensive around college season at Target, Walmart, or any hardware store (:

TV.  This is not a necessity.  It can also be a distraction!  Be sure that both you and your roommate want a TV in the room.  If you both decide that a TV is necessary try not to buy the 50″ TV.  Much too big.  I have, and still own, a 24″ TV and I love it.  It is not as distracting as a large TV and now I use it in my bedroom where it is the perfect size.

Fridge.  This is something that I feel is necessary.  Most colleges will have them for rent during move-in weekend.  Having  a mini fridge is nice for storing leftovers and jelly for that late night PB&J.

  • Bedding

First, check the linen cabinet at your house.  Don’t have any spare twin XL sheets?  Look no further than Target or Walmart.  They will be sitting right in front of you when you walk in if you shop during the months of July and August. Although, once September hits, everything will begin to go on sale.  Be sure to buy Twin XL sheets.  Twin size just won’t cut it.  Bring your favorite stuffed animal if you have one.  Don’t be afraid.  I have three!  I still have them here with me and it is my third year.  One of them is a PillowPet.  If you are offered to buy from Resident Hall Linen….I advise not to.  I didn’t have the greatest experience as you get what you pay for.  Not good quality and I wanted my sheets to last me at least two years! They only lasted me the one year, and felt like a plastic table cover.

  • Laundry

Rolls of quarters.  If your machines take quarter then you will want to start scrounging around your house and asking friends and neighbors for their extra change.

Detergent and Dryer Sheets (Softener optional).  I feel this is pretty self-explanatory (:  Buy the cheap stuff.  I have also regressed to buying liquid detergent because it seems to work better for me.

Laundry basket.  I would go with a basket rather than a pop up bag.  The reason I say this is because when are you going to have that laundry bag collapsed?  It will always have some laundry in it.  It is also easier to carry a small basket than drag a mesh bag that may rip!  I also waited to buy a basket until I moved in and saw where it would sit. I bought the basket based on the size of the surface it would sit on! I added a picture below and, again, I apologize for the quality!

View of my closet and laundry basket

  • Money

This is not me telling you to bring wads of cash to college. That would be a bad idea.  I am letting you know that that money you receive for graduation?  Save that.  Do not spend it.  Maybe use half of it to pitch in toward a new laptop, but do not spend it all.  You will not survive your first year of college broke.  If you can, try and go your freshman year without having a job and trying to solely focus on your studies.  If you cannot go without a job try searching within your University’s website for job listings.  I found a campus job for second semester of my freshman year and by then I was pretty adjusted to how to study for my classes while also keeping up with friends and clubs.

  • Toiletries

Check and see if toilet paper is provided.  My freshman year it was provided (yes!).  If not, buy the cheap stuff.  Remember, you don’t get to live the high life yet (;

You and your roommate should both buy a bottle of hand soap.  Visit Bath and Body Works during the semi-annual Hello Yellow sale during the summer months if you have one nearby (I forget when exactly it is).

Makeup and Hair ties.  Yes to both and everything in between.  Hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, etc.  I also purchased a hanging toiletry bag from Pottery Barn when it was on sale.  You can also buy different versions from many different places such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Thirty One, etc.  Just use good ol’ Google.

  • Decorations!

This is my favorite part every year! I have had great feedback on my Facebook polls on this topic.  First off, do not forget pictures (4×6 and 5×7 photos are standard) and frames.  You will want to see the faces of your friends and family while you are away.  Have a significant other? Don’t forget that photo!

Command strips.  If you have never used these before then get ready to be amazed.  These are a life saver when you can’t use nails. (Although in the dorm I lived in nails were prefered…but there are some things you just can’t hang with nails). But also bring some pin nails/finishing nails just in case.

Bring a mirror.  Yes a floor-length mirror.  If you have one of these at home then you will definitely miss it when you go to college and don’t have one.  You can buy one for less than $10 at Target and they are light enough to hang with Command Strips (the velcro ones!)

Dry-erase Calendar.  These are nice so you are able to see your month at a glance. Just don’t forget to fill it in each month (;  They are available at my favorite store called Target or any other store that sells college and/or office supplies.  You could also follow this link to learn how to make a paint chip calendar. I have always wanted to try, but I just don’t have the time and already have a dry-erase calendar.

COLORS.  Most female college students (such as myself and all of my friends) love to color coordinate their rooms.  I am here to tell you that this is a GREAT idea, but just make sure you love your colors.  You may love that hot pink and green right now, but just think about how you will like that even six months from now.  I try to stick with neutrals and one bolder color.  My freshman year roommate and I picked the Target blue and black.  The blue is still seen in my room now during my third year.  Think about the reusable qualities of items you pick out!  My best friend bought a comforter in a queen size.  Even though it was expensive, she will be able to use it for years!  It will save you money in the future when you do not have to buy a new comforter every other year, or when you move up to a full size bed.  She made sure it was relatively neutral in color so that it would match whatever future themes she would pick. (Genius and I wish I would have done the same!)

  • Eating Utensils

You do not need a four-place-setting set of plates, cups, and silverware.  However, you will want some of each of these!  I bought cups and plates and silverware, again, from Target for super cheap.  I bought two of each thing–2 cups, 2 plates, 2 bowls, 2 spoons, 2 knives, and 2 forks.  It is also nice to have some of the basic culinary tools such as your handy-dandy pizza cutter (of coures) and a can opener.  You can skip buying pots, pans, and measuring spoons.  These are not necessary.  Also, buy a water-purifying pitcher.  This isn’t a necessity, but city water is just not for me.  I couldn’t even choke down the water in the dorms.  It was the best purchase!

On a side note– when purchasing food try and stick to the basics.  You do not need to buy all of the spices or a pound of sugar and flour.  Just stick to non-perishables and for perishable items, try and buy enough to last you a week or two.  Don’t buy in bulk.  Costco and Sam’s Club are enticing, but you do not eat that much food in a week.  Also, you will have a meal plan!  Make the most of your meal plan and your trips to the dining centers.  Are you making tacos tomorrow for work?  Grab a to-go container (these are usually out around dinner time) and make a “taco salad” but don’t eat it.  Go back for seconds and actually grab a tray and get in line.  Free taco salad!  There are several tricks like this for college dining centers.  Meal plans are expensive and that is why I can justify taking so much food.


  • Furniture

First of all–do some research. Click around your University’s website to see what is included in your dorm room.  Is there a desk, desk chair, wardrobe, and bed included?  How big is the bed?  Does it loft?  What kinds of things are and are not allowed?  Futons, microwaves, mini fridge, etc.  These are all great questions and ones you should answer before buying any furniture.

The most important piece of information I can give you is to WAIT to buy anything big until you move in and are able to take measurements.  Someone once told me that she knew of four guys who were living together, and on move-in day they all brought a TV.  This instigated a fight over who’s TV was the best one.  This is something you will want to avoid.  I will also tell you to try and get in contact with your future roommates.  Divide and conquer.  Communicate and decide who will bring and/or buy what.

I am in no way, shape, or form telling you that you NEED any of these items.  They are just my suggestions (:

Futons.  I definitely recommend one if you are able to bring one.  You do not have to buy the most comfortable one.  Just buy the cheap one at Target.  It won’t be comfy, but you will have a place for your best friend to stay if he/she decides to visit you!  I just stacked blankets on mine in order to cover up the feel of the springs punching into your back.  But this is what college is for.  You do not get to live the high life while in the dorms.  You aren’t supposed to (:

Ottomans. If you have a futon or some kind of couch, make sure to get a couple of ottomans.  You will appreciate this if you are like me and love to kick back and relax after a day of classes.  I was fortunate enough to receive these from my parents as a “move in” gift!  They are from Target and have a removable lid in order to tuck things away. (I ended up putting my shoes in them.)

Storage Ottoman from Target with Feet

Rugs.  These are not neccessary, but I did appreciate having a rug since the floor of my dorm room was tile.  Now, they will offer for you to pay $100 or so for a roll of carpet to put over the tile.  In my opinion, this is highway robbery. I suggest to go to Menards or some kind of hardware store and pick up an area rug.  They will be significantly cheaper and better quality, though they will not cover your entire floor.  You can decide what is more important! I am not here to tell you exactly what to buy (:

I deeply apologize for the low quality of this picture.  They were taken on my old Windows Phone two years ago.  But here is my freshman dorm.  You have to know that there isn’t much space, but it is doable.

A photo of my freshman dorm room

  • Miscellaneous

Good walking shoes.  These are nice for, of course, walking around campus!  Your feet will be killing you the first week of classes if you are wearing sandals that do not provide support.  These can also double as your gym shoes.

Clothing.  This is just a note on clothing.  If you are like me and have tons of clothes, start going through your clothes now.  Donate anything you think you won’t wear in the next six months to Good Will, thrift shops, or consignment shops.

Bike and Bike lock.  If you are going to a University where there is even a few months of biking weather–bring your bike.  It may be your only time getting outside and being active if you have long days of back-to-back classes.  The bike lock, then, is a MUST. Bikes are stolen every day on campuses.

  • Intangible items

My best friend gave me the idea for this heading.  What she means by this is the following:

Good, trustworthy friends.  You will have those tough times throughout the semester where you need someone to go to for help and guidance.

Just a few of my good and trustworthy friends

Confidence and passion in yourself and in what you are doing.  This is key.  If you do not have these qualities in pursuing your degree, then you will not make it.  This does sound harsh, but it does need to be said.  I did not have much confidence in myself my freshman year and my grades reflected that once my courses became harder.  I do, however, have a passion for nursing and that has kept me going and reapplying to the program after being rejected twice so far.

Thank you for reading my post!  I hope I have covered everything here for you and I wish you luck during your first year of college.  I have included a college checklist here that summarizes everything I have talked about in this post. Enjoy!



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