Congratulations, you’re off to college! Independence, meeting new people, and higher education are so close you can already taste the sweet freedom. When I think about when I first entered college five years ago, I was inundated with excitement and questions. Would I meet my best friends? Are all dorms windowless boxes? Will my roommates like me? Am I forgetting something?


Although I’d only be two hours away from home, I knew stepping into my first semester on the right foot would mean more than just shopping for the right outfits. For the first time, I’d be moving out and that meant finding all the right things to make me feel at home and on my own.

While you may feel like you know just what to pack or exactly what to expect from your freshman year, you can never be too prepared. I moved into my dorm with three car rides worth of gear, only to end up selling or or donating half my stuff because it couldn’t fit in my tiny space.

But rather than focus on all the things you don’t need, we’ve rounded up just exactly what you need to survive your first year of college. While you can expect to need the fundamentals like command strips and bedding, it’s equally important to bring the fun stuff!

Here are some of the most important things you need to bring to ensure you get your first year of college off to the right start.


Homesick Scented Candle

Whether you’re studying across the country, abroad, or just down the street, moving is a big change. It might make you feel a bit more at home with the cozy scent of your hometown (or warm-baked pies, wild hay, cloves, and days spent outdoors.)

Buy here for $30 or less.

Memory Foam Mattress Topper Twin

I’m still crying over the first few nights I spent in my dorm before I bought one of these and I could actually wake up without neck and back pain. This is a must.

Buy here for $50 or less.

Decorative Storage Bins

These under-bed storage containers are perfect as makeup organizers, medicine chests, or just simple as another place to put your socks. Once again, you can never have enough storage.

Buy here for $20 or less.

Macrame Hanging Wall Decor

It’s important to make your home away from home feel like your place. If you’re into the super trendy Bohemian look right now, we suggest something like this beautiful woven tapestry.

Buy here for $20 or less.

Spiral Notebook

At the end of the day you’re there to earn a degree and taking notes is kind of a basic requirement. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun buying some notebooks with a pretty design!

Buy here for $5 or less.

Photo Collage Wall


A place for your inspirational quotes, pictures with friends, and little vases of flowers. Best part? It’s super easy to assemble and install.

Buy here for $30 or less.

Under-Bed Personal Safe

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but even if your roommate is a saint, it doesn’t mean his or her friends’ won’t consider swiping your stuff. Keep your personal documents, snacks, journal, and headphones safe.

Buy here for $75 or less.

Cards Against Humanity

Introverts and extroverts, rejoice! This game has you covered if you’re feeling playful or are in need of an easy distraction from class. It’s also a great ice-breaker to help you get to know your neighbors down the hall or anyone hanging in the lounge.

Buy here for $25 or less.

Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo

If you don’t already relish in society’s greatest invention, jump on the dry shampoo bandwagon. On days you absolutely can’t find the time to wash your hair, find solace in this product, which leaves your hair looking and feeling clean (and giving it a little extra volume!)

Buy here for $25 or less.

Over-The-Door Mosaic Mirror

Whether you’re blessed with a shared bathroom between four people or have to share one with your entire floor, having your own mirror to check your outfit or do you hair and makeup in front of is essential. Since wall space can be limited, putting one behind the door is pretty convenient.

We suggest this one because of its beautiful detailing and the variety of colors you can choose from.

Buy here for $45 or less.

Folding Step Stool


Why are we telling you to get a step stool? From hanging string lights to reaching those super high shelves at the top of your closet, it’ll make your life easier and takes up absolutely no space.

Buy here for $20 or less.

All-Purpose First-Aid Kit

It’s a cheap price to pay for a little extra safety. Even if you just end up digging in this for Band-Aids for your blisters or an Advil after a long night, it’s good to have a first-aid kit at the ready for all your minor aches and pains.

Buy here for $16 or less.

6-Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip

I laughed at my mom for buying me three of these. And that still wasn’t enough! You can literally never have enough of these power strips. Dorms don’t have enough outlets to accommodate even you and your roommate’s basic things like phones and hair dryers, let alone your mini fridge and four other friends’ hot tools.

Buy here for $24 or less.

Vintage Air Circulator Fan

Dorms can get really stuffy and hot–fast. Two people in a small space can generate a lot of heat, and if you’re like us, going to bed or waking up stuffy is a non-negotiable.

Buy here for $60 or less.

Decorative Pillows

I believe people and students deserve a little luxury, especially when something so fluffy is under $20. Plus, these will look so good on your bed!

Buy here for $18 or less.

Succulent Plants with Pots

Real plants are so goof for your mental health. Beside looking good, they’ll actually make you feel good, too! Plus if you’re on the fence about whether you can keep a succulent alive, college might be the perfect place to start your plant parent training.

Buy here for $20 or less.


Let me tell you why the tapestry works. It takes a lot of wall space and the images, like this sunset sky, are just beautiful. Can you already see yourself with friends posing with it in the background of all your snaps? Ya, us too.

Buy here for $20 or less.

Burrito Blanket

Find ways to express your true self and show off your personality. While this might not be necessary to survive, it’s more about thriving. Something tells us this burrito blanket is a magnet for attention or an easy conversation starter.

Buy here for $40 or less.


While these certainly fall into the luxury category, these can be a great gift from a parent or something to get for yourself after a long summer toiling away at your job. It’s nice to have these walking to class and not worried about getting tangled.

Buy here for $199.00 or less.

Dorm Bedding and Bath Set

This super cute bedroom and bathroom set literally provides you with everything you need on your bed in just the right size, PLUS a mattress topper.

Buy here for $191 or less.

Lysol Disinfecting Wipes

It’ll disinfects and kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, both of which basically run rampant on college campuses. Use these. Clean often. Don’t get the flu.

Buy here for $11 or less.

Apple iPad

With most textbooks available in digital forms, this will save you from breaking your back hauling so much heavy stuff at one time.

Buy here for $329.00 or less.

Velvet Suit Hangers

Like the mattress topper, these are total game changers. You can actually fit your clothes in the closet with these ultra slim hangers, and honestly every little bit of space means a lot.

Buy here for $21 or less.

College-Approved Book Bag

This backpack has external USB port with a built-in charging cable, so you can literally charge your phone anytime and anywhere. WE ARE LIVING IN THE FUTURE.

Buy here for $26 or less.

Hanging Strips

Just the weekly reminder that college is basically command strips, coffee, and staying up all night. Since you can’t hammer into the walls, this is the perfectly reasonable solution every college student quickly adapts to in order to hang things up.

Buy here for $10 or less.

Dorm Refrigerator

Having a tiny fridge in your tiny room seems like an essential, no? We love how compact this one is and the fact that it blends in anywhere you place it. You can’t spend the next four years drinking room temperature water. Plus, you can store salads and healthy options in there too when you need a break from cafeteria pizza.

Buy here for $103.94 or less.

What Do You Meme?

Compete with your friends to create the funniest memes. This is a great way too show off your humor and meet friends who can take a joke.

Buy here for $29.99 or less.

Counter-Top Microwave

Sometimes you just need to bake a potato in privacy, am I right? Before you bring in the microwave, be clear with your roomie on what you are both comfortable with being microwaved in your shared space. Aluminum Foil, eggs, or fish are some definite passes.

Buy here for $60 or less.

Large Laundry Basket

This hamper is durable and big, so you can easily fit all of your favorite jeans, tops, towels, and other clothing items in it. We love this one because it’s easy to carry…and by that we mean easy to carry to your car and bring home for your parents over a long weekend.

Buy here for $17 or less.

Have an incredible first semester! Keep your heart open to new people, different experiences, and – of course – your ears open in class. Your future is limitless, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to calm down.

Our editors handpicked the items in this article. Affiliate links may give us a small share of the revenue to support our creative team.

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