The 13 Items You Need Your First Year of College

Preparing for college can be stressful, especially when you aren't sure what to pack. If you're living in a dorm room, your space will be limited. Last year, I lived in a dorm room, and there were a few things in particular that helped make my year go smoother. There are also some items, I wish I had gotten. Below is my list of 13 items you should consider purchasing if you're living in a dorm. 

Item #1: A Rolling Laundry Hamper

This particular one is available at Target for $16.99. Photo courtesy of Target. 

Most likely, you will be carrying your laundry to a location other than your dorm room. To make it a bit easier on yourself, I recommend packing a rolling laundry hamper. While I loved my hamper, I had to carry it everywhere, and on weeks when I had more laundry, it was pretty heavy. I highly recommend finding a hamper that is sturdy and easy to transport. Make sure you get a large enough hamper to fit a week or twos worth of clothes in. When you are in classes all day and studying, you won't have time to do laundry twice a week. 

Item #2: A Mirror 

Mirrors are so important to have in your dorm room! I recommend purchasing a mirror for your desk to do  your makeup or hair in, and a standup mirror to check your outfit in. The bathrooms on your floor most likely don't have large mirrors,  and the lighting in the bathrooms is usually pretty bad. I used a mirror that set on my desk and also had a ring light, it was perfect when I did my hair and makeup in the morning and my skincare at night. You can get a mirror that is either battery operated or you can plug in. 

Item #3: A Diffuser

Most residence halls don't allow students to have candles or warmers. If you want your room to smell good, but you don't want to sacrifice an outlet for a plug-in fragrance, get a diffuser. They operate off of water and essential oils, and they can make a whole room smell amazing in less than thirty minutes. I would put lavender in mine at night to help me sleep. Make sure to buy a pack of essential oils with a variety of smells. 

Item #4: A Reliable Backpack

This is the backpack I purchased from Patagonia. It is available for $109. Photo courtesy of Patagonia. 

Your backpack will be your best friend during college. Unlike high school where you could carry your books in your arms, a backpack is a must for commuting across campus. Make sure you invest in a backpack that is waterproof as well. When it rains, you want your notebooks and electronics to be protected. Having a backpack that doesn't hurt your back is essential. My backpack is a Patagonia and has great back support and padding for the shoulders. Make sure your backpack is big enough to hold everything you need, sometimes I would be out of my dorm room for 5-6 hours and would pack a lunch plus all my books. 

Item #5: Mattress Topper

A good mattress topper is the difference between a good nights sleep and waking up exhausted. The mattresses provided by the university are usually pretty flimsy but having a good mattress topper adds great comfort. I had two layers of padding on my mattress resulting in about 4-6 inches of extra padding. By the time I had all the padding on my bed, it slept better than my mattress at home. You will want quality sleep because studying makes you tired. Make sure you prioritize a comfortable bed. 

Item #6: Vacuum

Dorm rooms get gross. If your dorm room is all carpet, purchase a vacuum that is large enough to clean up a mess, but small enough to tuck away. I swept my dorm room about twice a week to catch all the food crumbs, hair, and dirt from outside. It's likely you will have friends coming in and out of your room, make sure you clean up after they are gone. It always made me feel better to have a freshly swept room. 

Item #7: Plates, Bowls, Mugs, and Silverware

You will get sick of the food at your university- it's inevitable. I kept a wide range of food in my dorm room, from macaroni and cheese cups to bananas. If you want to be able to eat whatever you want in your dorm room pack a set of plates, bowls, mugs, and silverware. If you get sick, you might want to make yourself hot tea. Along with this, make sure you either rent or purchase a microwave and minifridge. It's a lifesaver! You can also communicate with your roomate and each of you can bring either the microwave or the fridge, or you can split the cost of renting a set. 

Item #8: Shower Shoes 

Any sort of sandal can work as a shower shoe. You can also purchase shower shoes with holes on the bottom so water doesn't puddle in the shoe. 

The showers on your floor will be nasty. If you're like me and are terrified of germs, purchase shower shoes! Even if you aren't paranoid about the bacteria crawling around on the floor, purchase shower shoes. It's a curtesy to your fellow floor mates to protect your dogs. No one wants your foot juice on the shower floor. You may think it gets flushed down the drain with the rest of your hair, but foot fungus love damp, warm environments like the shower. Protect your feet, you'll thank yourself later. 

Item #9: Shower Caddy 

This shower caddy is available at Walmart for $18.49. You can purchase shower caddys with holes in them so water doesn't puddle at the bottom. Photo courtesy of Walmart. 

Along with the shower shoes, a shower caddy is also super important. I loved the caddy I got off Amazon. It was plastic and I took the entire thing in the shower with me. Everything in the caddy was OK getting wet, and the caddy itself dried quickly. I didn't have to unload my caddy everytime I wanted to take a shower. 

Item #10: Storage Bins 

Underbed storage will also be your best friend. Chances are your dorm room will have minimal storage which means a lot of stuff will be stored under your bed. Check online to see if your university publishes the height of your underbed area and purchase storage accordingly. I stored everything frome extra bedding to shoes under my bed. 

Item #11: Extension Cords

Depending on your room, you may have as many as five outlets or as little as two. Come prepared with lots of different extension cords. Purchase circular, rectangular, and everything in between. It's best to tour your room before you move in to best prepare yourself for how many extension cords you should bring.

Item #12: A Fan

My residence hall set our thermostats for us so sometimes our rooms were baking. If you're like my friends down the hall, your thermostat was broken and would automatically kick up to 80 degrees during the middle of the night. Be prepared and bring a fan. I bought one that could stand or clip to the side of a bed. That way I could put it as far or as close to me as I wanted. It also helps block out noise during the middle of the night, if your roomate is up late studying or the room above you is throwing a rager. 

Item #13: Headphones/Earbuds

I don't think I would have survived college without my Airpods. Not actually, but you get the point. I would walk to class listening to music, study listening to music, even shower listening to music. Overall, college life is loud, and if you need to block out noise and find some zen, make sure to pack a reliable pair of headphones or earbuds. I recommend packing something without wires, they tend to get in the way when you're walking to class. 

These thirteen items were essential to my college experience. To best prepare yourself for move-in day, take a tour of a dorm room in your residence hall. Check out the bathrooms, laundry room, and communal kitchen. This way you can start to visualize what your living quarters for the next year will look like. You can start to plan where you are going to fit all your must-haves. Yes, dorm rooms are small, but not impossible to comfortably live in. If you're stressed out about living with a roomate or living in a tiny space for a year, remember it isn't forever. It won't be the best time of your life, but you'll meet great people and make lots of memories along the way. Good luck!

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