College Shopping: What You Actually Need

This article was written by our Everly Mag Intern, Chloe.  Get to know Chloe and our other interns here!

For many of our readers out there, the end of high school is in sight. For many, this means college is on it’s way. That means that this summer, you’ll be taking part of one of the most exciting parts of starting at a new school: college shopping! Though it’s a super fun task, it’s also super daunting. Who’s to say what you’ll actually need and what’s going to be a waste of money? Hopefully, this article will make things easier!

The Essentials

  • Bedding- including sheets, pillows, pillow cases, a comforter, a blanket, and a mattress pad. Make sure to have a change of sheets as well. Most colleges have beds that are size Twin XL.
  • Towels
  • Toiletries (including shoes for your dorm shower)
  • Bed risers (save off on getting them until you know you aren’t in a bunk bed. They’re very useful for creating extra storage in cramped dorm rooms!)
  • A laundry basket that’s easy to carry and laundry detergent
  • Notebooks, pens, pencils, etc.
  • A good backpack
  • A small first aid kit


In college, food is king. It makes people come to your events, it can help you make friends, and it can give you comfort after just a really long day. I recommend bringing at least some quick food with you, even if you have a meal plan. Granola bars for a quick breakfast, microwavable mac and cheese, and small bags of chips are all good options.


Image: Chan via Unsplash

New Clothes

New clothes aren’t something you necessarily must have. Your old clothes will work just fine and it’s especially important to really think about how many clothes you’re actually going to be able to pack and bring. New clothes will give you the feeling of a fresh start, however, and maybe even a chance to get a new look going. I’d recommend a dress/outfit you can wear to business casual events, new jeans, and a pair of leggings or sweatpants that you won’t feel ashamed about wearing in public.

Good to Have

Again, these aren’t the bare essentials. You can probably go without them, but they will be nice to have and will make your life much easier.

  • Paper plates and plastic utensils
  • Dish soap and a sponge, or even a scrub brush you can fill with soap – this is something you’ll need if you have a travel mug for toting dining hall coffee around campus, or if you have a few mugs lying around for microwave mug cake experiments. Don’t leave your dirty dishes lying around!
  • Cleaning wipes and paper towels- make no mistake, you will make messes in your dorm room! Even if you’re the least clumsy person possible, it’s good to have these rather than have a sticky spot that you can’t quite get out with dorm bathroom paper towels.
  • A sick kit – you will most likely get sick your first semester at college. You’ll be in close quarters with lots of new people, which is the perfect environment for germs to spread. Make sure you have your flu shot and stock up on cold medication, tissues, and cough drops before it’s too late.

Finally, here are some quotes for actual college students about what things they found useful, and not so useful their freshman year!

Tessa: “Don’t buy university bedding package, it’s better and cuter to actually choose stuff from somewhere else. A mattress pad is a must. Highly recommend ear plugs and an eye mask for when your roommate is doing homework with the lights on at night. I also recommend a back-up phone charger. Check whether or not your dorm has air conditioning because you will need a fan”

Chloe:  “A good backpack is the most useful thing I had freshman year. I was in a situation where I really didn’t have a good relationship with my roommates, but it wasn’t bad enough to ask to move out. I spent most of my time in other people’s rooms, the library, and different lounges around campus. I literally would live out of my backpack all day until I got home at 2 AM. Having a big backpack meant that I could have my computer and the books I needed for class and homework with me all day.”

Brittany: “The most useful thing I had was my new laptop. Least useful was probably my textbooks. Always double check that professors actually use the textbooks they tell the bookstore that you need and always save money by shopping online!”

Kerrianna: “You definitely need: bed risers, pics of family, friends and pets, and them shower shoes. I personally didn’t use my mini-fridge* a lot, but my roommate used hers all the time, so it really depends.”

*A note on mini-fridges: you can rent them at most colleges and save money by splitting the cost between your roommates.

Maria: “The most useful thing I had freshman year was my electric tea kettle.”

No matter what, what you’ll need for your freshman year experience is totally up to you. Maybe you’re the type of person who won’t be happy unless they have a ton of cute decorations for their dorm. That’s fine! As long as you’re ok with having more stuff to carry on move out day, it’s ok to get frivolous if it makes you happy! One good tip is this: if you aren’t totally sold on something and think you can live without it, wait and see. You can save some shopping until your next available weekend and take a trip to pick up the things you missed.

What’s one thing you couldn’t live without away from home?  Let us know in the comments!

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