The Ultimate College Checklist with Every Essential Needed

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It’s definitely a strange time to be an incoming college freshman (and also the parent of one). But whether your kid will be living on campus or taking Zoom classes from their childhood bedroom, they’ll likely need to do some back-to-school shopping. And as we all know, it’s a process that will go much more smoothly with a list. Here, we pulled together the ultimate college checklist with every essential that they’re going to need, from XL sheets to a retro-style mini fridge.

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bed sheet set

1. Sheets: Amazon Basics 5-piece Bed-in-a-bag Bedding Set

If she’s going to be moving into a dorm, twin XL bedding is a must. This set from Amazon Basics means you can stock up on sheets, a comforter, a sham and a pillowcase in one fell swoop. And when she wants to change up her decor next semester, you won’t be too upset, since the whole set costs just $39.

amazon mattress topper

2. Mattress Pad: Linenspa 2-inch Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper

We like the fact that this Linenspa topper is available in a 2-inch and 3-inch profile to help make a hard mattress a whole lot more bearable.

weighted blankets
Bed, Bath & Beyond

3. Throw Blanket: Therapedic Reversible Weighted Blanket

A lot of college students struggle with anxiety, and weighted blankets have been shown to help by providing a comforting sensation that eases the nervous system. This reversible design from Therapedic has a super soft exterior he’ll want to wrap up in, even when he’s not feeling particularly high-strung about his upcoming exams.

cooling pillows

4. Pillows: Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows For Sleeping

We love these pillows for their no shift construction, meaning no big, uncomfortable lumps. Plus, their gel fiber inserts are engineered to keep things nice and cool at night, so your student can get all the sleep they need to wake up and hit the books.

bed rises

5. Bed Risers: Utopia Bedding Adjustable Furniture Risers

Bed risers allow for extra storage space underneath the bed, which most kids end up needing unless they luck out with a spacious room assignment (if those even exist?). This adjustable set can be three, five, or eight inches high.


towel set

1. Towels: Parachute Classic Starter Bathroom Bundle

Plush towels are a luxury that even an 18-year-old can appreciate, so they’re one college shopping list staple that’s actually worth splurging on. This set from Parachute includes four bath towels, four hand towels, four wash clothes and a bathmat. Unfortunately, a reminder to launder their towels regularly is sold separately.

laundry basket
The Container Store

2. A Laundry Basket: The Container Store Easy Rolling Laundry Hamper

A laundry basket with wheels is the gift that keeps on giving. You know they’re going to let their dirty clothes pile up until they absolutely have to do laundry, so being able to roll their load around will make the trip to the laundry room much easier when it’s finally time.

drying rack
The Container Store

3. A Laundry Drying Rack: Polder 2-tier Mesh-top Clothes Drying Rack

We recommend investing in a drying rack for delicate items that don’t do well with high heat (like Lululemon leggings). This one from the Container Store is made from rust-proof steel and has durable rubber feet, so it’ll last longer than those flimsy budget options.

shower caddy

4. A Shower Caddy: Haundry Mesh Shower Caddy Tote

If she owns approximately 20 different shampoos, hair masks, conditioners, body washes and shaving creams, this shower caddy is the way to go. It has eight large pockets to store all of her essentials. Just remind her to store it in her room, since her pricey lavender shampoo might mysteriously disappear if she leaves it on the counter. Ah, the joys of communal living.


lap desk
Bed, Bath & Beyond

1. A Lap Desk: Studio 3b Xi Deluxe Media Lap Desk

No matter how many times you tell him it’s easier to be productive at the library, he’s inevitably going to do homework in bed at some point during the semester. That’s where a lap desk comes in handy. The bottom of this one has a tapered pillow filled with microbeads attached to the bottom, so he’ll stay comfortable while he works, and the wrist pad ensures that his laptop won’t slip off.

power cord

2. A Power Strip: Ge 6 Outlet Surge Protector

College dorms are notorious for having terrible outlet placement, so power strips are always a good idea. Just make sure your kid’s school allows them first (some don’t because of fire safety concerns).

charging cord

3. Extra Long Cord: Amazonbasics 10 Foot Iphone Charger

Speaking of those poorly placed outlets, many kids invest in an extra-long phone charger for their dorm room. You know, so they can scroll through TikTok for a few hours before dozing off. If your college student is living (and studying) at home, it’s less necessary, but no doubt a useful addition to their bedroom.

cord holders

4. Cord Holders: Ohill Cable Clips

We can guarantee that he isn’t going to want to climb out of bed and get his phone charger off the floor after it falls (Trust us, we’ve been there). The cable clips easily adhere to his desk or bed frame so that he can string all his charger through them and keep ‘em all within arm’s reach.


storage bins
The Container Store

1. Storage Bins: The Container Store Weathertight Clear Storage Bins

Most college students aren’t minimalists, so it’s a good idea to send them off to school with some organizational tools that will keep their room looking neat. Like storage bins that fit under their bed, where they can keep off-season clothes, last semester’s books and other miscellaneous items.

under bed storage

2. Under The Bed Storage: Woffit Store Under The Bed Shoe Organizer

Have we mentioned that dorm rooms are small? Yes? Okay, well let us repeat ourselves. Dorm rooms are small and the best way for them to not feel overly cramped is by making the best use of the space they have, making under the bed storage an absolute life-saver.



1. Coffee Maker: Keurig K-mini Coffee Maker

Unless you want them to waste all of their dining card money at the campus coffee shop, send them off to school with a Keurig. This mini version is only $75 and will ensure that they can get their caffeine fix without having to make the trek to the dining hall. And while you’re at it, pick up a few boxes of K-Cups too.

mini fridge

2. Mini Fridge: Galanz Retro Mini Fridge

Some colleges allow you to rent a mini fridge, but it’s usually a rip off. If you invest in a quality model like this one, she can use it for all four years of school. Plus, the retro design is so stinkin’ cute and it comes in mint, red or black options if baby blue isn’t her vibe. Get the matching microwave to really help pull her room together.


white board

1. Calendar: Sugar Paper Dry Erase Calendar

This will help her keep track of all her upcoming study sessions and exams (or tailgates). And we love the chic design and gold embellishments.

mirror storage

2. Mirror: Full Length Mirror And Storage Cabinet

When it comes to dorm rooms, making use of the (very little) space she has is going to be key. That’s why we’re so obsessed with this over the door, full length mirror that comes with added storage. The perfect spot for all her jewelry and her skincare in an easy-to-grab spot.

gold frames

3. Frames: Golden State Of Art Set Of Seven Frames

Whether she’s putting up photos of her high school friends or decorative prints, framing her keepsakes is an elevated and stylish way to make her new space feel more personalized.

desk organizer

4. Desk Organizer: Sorbus Desk Organizer Set

The perfect—and cutest—way to store all her papers, notebooks, post-its and more.


5. Throw Rug: Gold Flamingo Shag Area Rug

She’s going to want her room to feel more like her new home and less, well, dorm room-y. A cute area rug is a great way to warm up her space and make it a bit cozier. And this one comes in a variety of sizes and colors so she’s sure to find one that matches her room’s theme.

desk lamp

6. Desk Lamp: Room Essentials Led Task Lamp

Perfect for keeping her space lit during late study session. And it has storage sections for her supplies.

command hooks

7. Wall Hooks: Command Wire Hooks

Whether she wants to hang string lights, a framed picture of her and her high school friends or just create a spot on the wall for her wet towel, she’s going to need some wall hooks. These ones from Command come with strong adhesive strips that make them easy to install (and take down in May).



1. Backpack: Calpack Luka Laptop Backpack

If she’s still looking for the perfect ‘pack to use for her first year of classes, let us recommend this guy. It has two separate sections so she can keep her laptop safe and easily store all her binders and notebooks, a spot for her water bottle and an underneath compartment to store her sneakers for when she heads to the gym after classes.


2. Bathrobe: Parachute Classic Turkish Cotton Bathrobe

If she gets stuck with a communal bathroom, she is going to want to have a bathrobe to slip on. Much more comfortable to wear back to her room instead of struggling with her towel while she tries to unlock her room. This one is super soft and plush, helping to give a little touch of luxe to dorm life.

shower shoes2
Old Navy

3. Shower Shoes: Classic Flip Flops

Shared bathroom showers aren’t known for being the cleanest, so she’s definitely going to want a pair of shower shoes. This $2 pair of plastic slides from Old Navy will do the job.


4. Hangers: Zober Non-slip Velvet Hangers

Trade out his standard plastic hangers for these velvet ones that have way better grip.

ironing board

1. Iron And Ironing Board: Honey-can-do Foldable Tabletop Ironing Board With Iron Rest

It’s about time they learned how to iron their clothes. This mini board makes storage a breeze and you won’t have to worry about them showing up to office hours and meetings in a wrinkled button down. Get the matching iron here.

mini vacuum

2. Vacuum: Black+decker Handheld Vacuum

We’re sure you’re rolling your eyes at the idea of your kiddo ever using a vacuum. But the inevitable snack spills that come with all of their friends stuffed into their dorm room at once are sure to make a mess and they will be so thankful to have this handy.

portable fan

3. Fan: Lasko Portable Tower Fan

If they’re unfortunate enough to get stuck in a dorm without AC, first, let us offer our sympathies. Second, let us recommend this portable fan (it has over 19,000 five-star ratings) to help keep them cool during the warmer months.

purewow author

Commerce Editor

Anna Smutny covered a range of beats, from fashion and beauty verticals to home decor (and everything else in between) for PureWow from 2021-2022. With a background in wedding and...