30 “Must Haves” for Surviving College

When you're packing for college, what are some "must haves" for surviving college?

Photo by kalleboo

Getting ready to pack and move off to college is incredibly exciting. And lets be real, you kind of start preparing to move out right after you graduate and get all those awesome presents at your party.

You can find an endless number of packing lists online, some of my favorites are from Bed Bath and Beyond or Her Campus. But what are the random things that no one thinks of that are absolutely “must haves” for surviving college?

Good news, I’ve compiled a list for you! So if you’re moving away from home to start your life as a college student, be sure to squeeze these items in the car.

1. An extra set of sheets

You never know when someone is going to show up and want to stay the night. An extra set of sheets just might save your futon (or save your guests from your well loved futon). And there’s always a chance that you might spill your SpaghettiOs while doing homework in bed–no one wants to do late-night laundry when they’re tired.

2. A fan…or 4

Very rarely will you have temperature control in your dorm. You aren’t granted the power to turn the furnace or AC on/off. Depending on where you go to college, a fan could potentially save your life. In fact, I’d recommend two. One of those big oscillating or box ones, and then one you can clip to your bed or desk. They even make fancy desk fans you can plus in to a USB port.

3. At least one big microwaveable bowl

What you’ve heard is true–college kids eat a lot of Ramen and soup. I even had nights where there would be 5 of us hanging out in one dorm, each with our own large bowl of noodles.

Fun fact: You can also make macaroni and cheese in the microwave, but make sure you sneak some milk from the cafeteria if that’s the plan.

4. Noise-cancelling headphones

These are 100% a necessity. You’ll need them for studying in the library, coffee shops, dorm rooms, and bus rides.

Invest in good pair and take care of them. You can use them for de-stressing, meditating, jamming out on the way to class, or lullabies at bedtime. Sometimes you just need to block out the craziness of the world.

5. Cleaning Wipes

Clorox wipes are my go to for just about everything. You can clean your laptop keyboard, desk, doorknob, or that mystery spill on the floor. They’re quick, easy, and come in giant tubs that last forever.

6. A Coffeemaker

Caffeine is a gift from above. Whether you have morning classes or late-night study sessions, it can be a huge help to have a personal coffeemaker in your dorm room.

7. A big lamp

Dorm rooms are notorious for having terrible lighting. If you want to save your eyes, make sure you get a lamp for your room.

8. Quarters

Many schools are switching to a credit/debit system for laundry, but some are still using quarters. However, it’s more likely that you’ll be searching for spare change at 3 a.m. because you really want that bag of Combos and a Coke from the vending machine down the hall.

9. A mini toolkit

A quick way to make friends is to have a toolkit. You never know when you’re going to need a screwdriver–and that cute co-ed down the hall might need help assembling something.

10. A surplus of school and office supplies

And by surplus, I mean piles. We’re talking pens, pencils, highlighters, those fancy little tabs to stick on textbook pages, a 3-hole puncher, a regular-size stapler and a mini one to throw in your backpack, paper, notebooks, binders, dividers, report covers, etc.

11. A really long TV cable

In my experience, the cable hookup is always in the least convenient location. It’s never the logical place that one might put a TV. Save yourself the frustration, and just bring a long cable.

12. A cozy, colorful rug

Your dorm will either have nice drab, tan tile, or 20 year old carpet covered in questionable stains. Bring an area rug that suits you and your roommate’s style. It will instantly transform your small, boring dorm room, into your home.

13. Trash liners

You’ll be amazed how much trash you accumulate in a short amount of time, so you’ll need plenty of liners for when you need to haul it down to the dumpster.

14. An umbrella

Yep–it rains. Don’t be the poor soul stuck in a downpour with your laptop in your not-waterproof backpack. Be cool. Carry an umbrella with you everywhere.

15. Twinkle lights and other decor

Dorm rooms aren’t super stylish on their own, you have to make ’em homey. Pack a few posters, pictures, rope lights, twinkle lights, or whatever you like in your space.

16. Command hanging strips

These are a life saver. You can’t pound a nail into a brick or cinder block wall very well–nor are you supposed to. Use the strips for your posters and decorations.

17. A pile of pillows and blankets

You never know when unexpected guests will arrive, or when friends decide to crash during an all-nighter. If you like to study on the floor or in your bed, a few extra pillows and blankets will come in handy.

18. A big calendar (desk or wall) in addition to your planner

Use a big calendar to map out when big projects and papers are due. If you can see that everyday, and continually update your planner, you’re less likely to forget that something important is coming up.

19. A backpack

Accept it now, you’re basically going to be living out of your backpack for 4 years. The more pockets, the merrier. A pocket for snacks, a pocket for homework, a pocket for electronic things, a pocket for pencils, you get the point. Get a good, sturdy bag, it’s going to be carrying some hefty textbooks.

20. A water filter

If you’re like me, you’re super picky about what your water tastes like. If you’re moving away from home, whether it’s to a bigger city or even a different town, chances are the water is going to taste different than what you’re used to.

Solution: Either buy a filtration system, or succumb to the fact that you’re going to be carrying cases of water up however many flights of stairs to your humble abode.

21. Flipflops for the shower


22. Storage bins and/or an ottoman

Your space won’t be huge, but you’ll have a lot of random stuff lying around. Make cleaning up quick and easy by tossing it into a cloth or canvas storage bin. Ottomans are also nice to have around, if you get a sturdy one it can even be used for extra seating.

23. Air Freshener Spray

Small space, big smells.

24. An ethernet cable

Wi-Fi s a great thing–just not in dorms. It’s pretty typical for every student to be using the wi-fi on multiple devices at the same time, which slows it down drastically. Plugging into an ethernet cable will usually keep you running faster, making homework and getting that project turned in at the last minute more doable.

25. Your calculator

It might sound strange, but even history majors need a calculator for college. You’ll be taking at least one math and science class, so chances are you’ll need that fancy TI-84 to work some statistical magic.

26. A spare phone charger and battery

Keep a spare phone charger in your backpack, especially if you’re on your phone 24/7. You can plug-in in the library, in class, or while you’re grabbing a bite to eat, then by the time you’re ready to move on to the next place you’ll be fully charged!

27. A flashlight and/or booklight

If you have a roomie, chances are pretty good that your sleeping habits won’t be exactly the same. On nights that you aren’t feeling the library and would rather study in your room, you’re going to need a book light. Don’t be that person who demands to have the overhead light on while your roommate is trying to get their beauty rest.

28. AA and AAA batteries

Pretty self-explanatory. Calculator. Book light. Fan. Remotes.

29. A lapdesk

Greatest invention ever. I just invested in a nice lapdesk that cost a whopping $11. It has a cup holder and everything. Really though, you need to let your laptop breathe, put it on a flat surface instead of your lap.

30. Laundry hamper

All that dirty laundry has to go somewhere. Instead of tossing stuff on the floor or the end of your bed, get yourself a hamper.

Have something that didn’t make the list that you wouldn’t have survived college without? Let us know in the comments!

Katelyn McAdam

One thought on “30 “Must Haves” for Surviving College”

  1. Jinger Ertel says:

    Mini fridge! Even if you just use it for drinks, you need one! Also under bed storage. You won’t have a lot of space if you share a room!

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