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Going Off to College: What Do You Actually Need?

Female student packing moving boxes into a car with parents watching from behind.
Written by CB Community

You’ve finally graduated high school and now you’re off to college. The opportunities are endless—you get a fresh start to be whoever you want and set the path for whatever you want to do. But before you take off on this new adventure, there are some things you need to do to prepare to get started on the right foot, like shopping for all the dorm room essentials you might need.

Whether your parents are pressing you for a shopping list or you’re taking charge of your own supplies, you’ll likely need a little help navigating the necessities as you plan your spending.

Use this guide as a starting board for your first-semester shopping list:

Room Essentials

One of the most exciting things you have to look forward to is your dorm room. Deciding what to do with your new space can be tough when you haven’t even been inside your room yet. But regardless. here’s a good base list of what you’ll need for move-in:

  • Necessities:

    • 2 pairs of sheets and pillowcases: This way you won’t have to spend all your time in the laundry room. Plus, changing over your pillowcases more frequently helps prevent breakouts.
    • A comforter: Consider investing in a duvet and duvet cover so you can easily change over your bedding when your style changes in a year or two.
    • 2 pillows
    • Mattress pad: A good night’s sleep is essential to making it to class refreshed and on time (and have the extra energy to do your homework).
    • Mini trash can
    • Clothes hangers
    • Laundry basket
    • Bedside lamp
  • Extras:

    • Wall decor: Pick out a few art prints or cool wall decals to add an extra element of personalization to your dorm.
    • Throw rug: This will help make your room cozier.
    • Decorative Pillows: Make your bed more you by picking out 2 or 3 throw pillows that match your decor.
    • Dry erase board
    • Fan

If you’re sharing a room with someone else, you might want to reach out before you start shopping to figure out a theme for your room and how to divvy up shared items.


moving into a new dorm room

Starting a new school year is always a good time to update your wardrobe. While you can probably get away with keeping most of your clothes the same and spending your money on more urgently needed items, there are a few things you’ll for sure need:

  • Necessities

    • High-quality underwear or boxers: Outdated washers and dryers can be especially rough on intimates
    • A pair of running shoes
    • A sweatshirt or jacket: Since there’s a lot of people in lectures every day, classrooms are often kept at cooler temperatures. Find a sweatshirt or jacket that suits your everyday style so you can bring it with you.
    • 2-3 pairs of pajamas: Now that you’ll be sharing your space with one or more people, you probably need a few sets of proper pajamas.
    • 1 set of business casual clothes: Whether you’re going to be looking for a job or interviewing for a spot in an on-campus organization, you need to have at least one business casual outfit to wear.
    • 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes 
  • Extras:

    • A school sweatshirt: As a new student, you’ll probably want to show your school spirit by picking up some merch at the campus store like a hoodie with your school’s mascot or letters.

When you’re doing your back-to-school clothing shopping you also want to think about the climate where you’re headed to make sure you have the right wardrobe for the weather.


Adjusting to life without your own bathroom can be difficult but these toiletry staples will make it easier:

  • Necessities

    • Shower shoes: The last thing you want to do is catch a foot fungus.
      Shower caddy: Make it simple to carry your stuff back and forth.
    • First aid kit
    • Medication: You’ll probably need a pain reliever, headache medicine, antacids, and allergy pills to start with.
    • Cough drops
    • Basic hygiene products
    • Towel and washcloth set
    • Extras
    • Comfy robe
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Bath mat: You only need this if you have your own en-suite bathroom.
      Shower curtain: Again, only if you have your own bathroom.

You should also bring along any heat styling tools or extras you use on a daily basis.

This list is a good place to start. However, depending on your living circumstances, you may also need to get yourself some kitchen supplies and living room furnishings. To make sure you’re as prepared as possible, make sure to do your research on your future digs (whether they’re on or off campus) before shopping.

For more great college tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.

About the author

CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.