The Unofficial Essential College Checklist



Going off to college requires forethought and planning, which is why your college provides copious amounts of information about dorm life when you sign up for campus living. They'll even provide a cursory list of what to bring with you and what to leave at home. Unfortunately, the office of college life doesn't have time to give you a list of what you're probably going to forget. And chances are, their list hasn't been updated in ten years, so they're missing a few key points.

By reading this article, you'll be able to add to your arsenal of packing lists and supplies, so you're sure to be prepped as well as you can be for this exciting phase of your life. Here's our list of the items you really shouldn't leave home without.

Power Food

Fruit snacks and mini bags of Doritos are all good, but what happens when you're in an all-night study session and you need some protein to help keep you awake? Or just something more substantial than chips and candy? Bring some containers of Easy Mac and tuna fish — you won't regret it.

Something to Eat Off Of

Cups, silverware and plates are easy to forget or nix because they're heavy. So, you end up borrowing them, losing them and then the blame game begins. Just remember to bring your own. Heavy duty plastic varieties are better than nothing.

Can Opener

How are you going to open that can of tuna? This little gadget becomes common territory in dorms when residents figure out only one person on their floor has one. Use yours to make friends! Or don't tell a soul, lest someone conveniently forgets to bring it back.

Food Storage

You'll want storage containers more for pizza/takeout leftovers than anything you throw together yourself. Trust us, you'll be so glad you can save a few bucks by saving leftovers for later.

Tissues and TP

Hard to believe, but sometimes dorms run out of toilet paper and don't get it restocked right away. So, you should bring some. And unless you don't mind using toilet paper to blow your nose when you've got a cold, bring at least several portable packages of tissues.

Laptop Lock

Laptops get stolen at university libraries every day. Deter would-be thieves. 

Flashlight and Batteries

Dorm halls also have power outages from time to time, so a portable flashlight is definitely a must. And batteries are something you can use yourself or as currency when you're out of, you know, toilet paper.

Something Nice to Wear

We're talking a professional, interview outfit. You'd be surprised at opportunities that crop up for freshman to meet or interview for part-time jobs and internships. And these days, the more working credit you can get before you graduate, the better.


Velvet-coated hangers let you hang more stuff and prevent clothes from slipping.

Noise and Light Canceling Devices

You have several options in this category. You can go for ear plugs or an eye mask for when your roommate insists on keeping the light/TV on after bedtime. You can buy blackout curtains to prevent the sun from waking you up too soon on days you don't have class. You can also bring noise canceling headphones that allow you to listen to your music and transport yourself back at home, waiting for mom's much-loved meatloaf to come out of the oven.


Unless you get to do it at home on the weekends, you're going to need a small fortune for laundry.

Filtered Water Bottle

Brita water pitchers take up like an entire mini-fridge. Thankfully, Brita also makes filtered water bottles, a much smaller and more convenient option for an undergrad.

First Aid and Tool Kit

Small tool kits that include a screwdriver and hammer are going to be more useful than you realize. And in case you trip on the sidewalk after a night of scholarly debate (or a house party), a first aid kit is also a must.

Mattress Pad

Dorm mattresses are purchased in bulk at the cheapest price, so you won't be sleeping on a Serta. Help yourself out and bring a mattress pad, or even better, a memory foam egg crate pad. They do wonders for your sleeping comfort.

Lightweight, Portable Vacuum

Upright or handheld, most big box home goods stores sell these inexpensively, specifically for the broke college student or recent graduate — and they get the job done.

Weather-Related Gear

Check out the weather pattern of your campus. If you're in Arizona, you may not get much rain, but if you're in the Midwest, count on snow, cold temperatures and gray skies. In that case, make sure you at least bring a pair of all-weather shoes and a hat. An umbrella could help, too. Off to California? Your inclement weather is the sun. Protect your skin by bringing bottles of sunscreen to wear every day.

Want more? Check out College Confidential for more back to school style and Declare Your Style for dorm decorating tips and essentials.