The Complete and Only College Essentials Checklist You’ll Ever Need

Are you getting ready to start your new semester or quarter at school? Whether you’ve chosen to go to community college or a full-fledged university, this is an exciting new chapter of your life!

You need to be prepared.

College can be overwhelming to newcomers, and it’s hard to know what you should have with you when the school year starts. We’re here to recommend a few college essentials that you’ll need at some point in your college career.

Read on for a quick college packing list.

Your Class Supplies Lists

First and foremost, you’re going to need the list of supplies for each class. While you can (and should) get many of these items before you have a list of required supplies, you can’t finish shopping until you know what you need.

Most professors will post a basic syllabus (or at least a list of supplies) on their class portal before the school year starts, but newer professors or graduate assistants might not have this option. If you want to get a head start, consider reaching out to the professor early.

Different classes will require different supplies. If money is tight, you don’t want to find yourself buying things that you won’t use this semester.

Books: Rent or Buy?

College textbooks are often the most expensive part of school supply shopping. Because of this, it’s best to avoid buying or renting a book until you know that you need it. Again, if you’re unsure, consider sending an email.

Sometimes, the school will list books that are commonly used in each subject’s curriculum instead of individualized class lists. Professors often have different book preferences and some professors may not use books at all.

When you know what books you need, you get to decide whether you’re renting or buying. There are pros and cons to both of these.

If you know that you’re going to need a book for several classes, you know that you can pass it on to someone else, you know that you want to keep it, or you know that it has a good resale value, buying is the best option.

If you know that none of the above things are true, consider borrowing or renting a book.

Some classes require the newest edition of a book or a special online code. If this is the case, it may be necessary for you to buy your book even if you don’t plan on keeping it after the class is over.

The Right Tech

Every smart student knows that tech is necessary on college campuses now. If you want to make sure that you have exactly what you need to last you through your degree, make sure that you get it right.

Start with a brand new laptop from a trusted source (if you can afford it). Refurbished laptops are also reliable, but be sure to look at reviews and the standard lifespan of that laptop.

The types of laptops that you will choose between will depend on your degree. For example, if you do digital art and design, or video editing, you’ll need a laptop that can support a lot of art and editing programs.

You should also make sure that you have a reliable phone when you leave to go to college, especially if you’re going to be living away from home for the first time.

Consider getting a tablet. Tablets are great for taking notes and drawing if you’re in design degrees. They’re also great for storing college textbooks in a way that doesn’t take up your entire backpack.

A Good Planner

If you’re like many people, you’ve never had to use a planner before. When you’re in college, however, it’s a good idea to have a physical planner or calendar so you remember all of your important dates and assignments.

It’s helpful to make checklists for every day. As soon as you get your syllabus, put due dates and test dates into your planner. Keep in mind that sometimes dates will move around, but noting them down early will start you off on the right foot.

Get a planner with large spaces for writing. If you get one with binder clips or a folder area, it’s easy to put any necessary documents in there for safekeeping.

Making a habit of writing in a planner is difficult, but it will make a huge difference when it comes to your time management.

A Reliable Backpack or Bag

College students, especially if they don’t live on campus, have a lot of things to carry around with them. Between heavy textbooks, school supplies, and food, you’re going to feel weighed down when you’re walking around between classes.

A good bag makes all of the difference.

You want a bag that’s comfortable for your back. For most people, a standard backpack is the best option. It will put the weight in a more comfortable position than a shoulder bag would.

It’s good to have a bag that’s larger than you think that you’ll need. Remember, even if your supplies list is short during your first semester or quarter, it could get larger later on.

For Dorm or Apartment Life

If you’re not a commuting student, you’re going to need extra supplies. These will vary depending on whether you’re living in a dorm or an apartment.

People who are living on their own for the first time may not plan well enough. Remember, you’re now responsible for bringing everything on your own! Here’s a brief list of supplies for apartment or dorm-dwellers.

A Well-Rounded (But Small) Wardrobe

For people in dorms, space is limited. You’re likely going to have to downsize your wardrobe on some level. If you have an apartment, you may be more flexible.

It’s helpful to reduce your wardrobe into a capsule wardrobe. Capsule wardrobes are small and curated wardrobes full of everything that you’ll need and items that are easy to mix and match. It’s helpful to pick one color scheme or style so you can get a wide variety of outfits with a small amount of clothing.

If you stay in your college apartment year-round, consider having a warm-weather wardrobe and a cold-weather wardrobe that you can swap in and out.


Make sure that you have all of the necessary toiletries that you’re going to need during your first few days or weeks on campus.

It’s easy to forget things when you’re not used to supplying your own toiletries. You don’t have to include everything, but you’re going to want all personal care items on the first day.

Cleaning Supplies

You’re now responsible for your own cleaning supplies.

If you have a roommate, consider splitting the costs. Cleaning supplies can add up and both of you will benefit from them.

You’re going to need a few things to start with. Start your cleaning supplies checklist with things like:

  • A mop (if you have tile, laminate, or hardwood floors)
  • A vacuum
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Sponges
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Toilet cleaner (if you have a bathroom in your dorm)

Beyond this brief list, you can buy things as you go along.

Storage Bins

Too many college students make the mistake of only using cardboard boxes when they move into their new dorms or apartments. While some cardboard boxes are okay (make sure to save them, recycle them, or give them away!), it’s more helpful to use storage bins.

Storage bins are reusable and they’re great for year-round use. Whether you’re storing out-of-season clothing, old books, or school supplies you don’t need this quarter, you’ll love that you already have a place for everything to go.


You’re supplying your own bedding at your apartment or dorm (even if there’s already a bed for you). Again, if this is your first time getting things on your own, this is easy to forget.

If you’re in a dorm, it’s likely that you’re going to have a twin-sized mattress or smaller. If you’re not sure, contact the college to see what beds (if any) they include in the cost of your dorm.

Basic Decor and Furniture

You want your dorm or apartment to feel like home, right? Treat it that way!

If you’re in a dorm, you’ll be limited in what you can do regarding furniture and decorations. You may only be able to have art on the walls and fun decorative accessories.

If you’re in an apartment, you’ll need furniture. If you’re sharing with someone else, this is another time that you can try to split costs. Get chairs, a sofa, a dining area, and anything else that you’ll need to stay comfortable.

If you don’t furnish or decorate your space, you may not ever feel at home.

Check for Banned Items

Most dorms (and some apartments) have a list of items that you’re not allowed to have. These items are not all “illegal” items, so some may surprise you.

In many dorms, the kitchen is in a common area somewhere else in the building. This means that you have no cooking equipment in your dorm. See if you’re allowed to have a hot plate, air fryer, rice cooker, or another simple cooking device.

Check and see if you’re allowed to have candles. Many dorms and apartments don’t allow candles because they’re fire hazards.

Remember This List of College Essentials

Going to college for the first time is exciting, but you don’t want to end up forgetting anything important! Refer to this list of college essentials when you’re doing your school shopping so you’re ready for your new semester.

When in doubt, ask the school if there’s anything that you need, and remember, you can always pick up more supplies later.

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