It’s definitely a strange time to be an incoming college freshman (and also the parent of one). But whether your kid will be living on campus or taking Zoom classes from their childhood bedroom, they’ll likely need to do some back-to-school shopping. And as everyone over the age of 25 knows, it’s a process that will go much more smoothly with a list. Here, we pulled together the ultimate college shopping list, regardless of your child’s fall plans.
1. Twin XL Bedding: AmazonBasics 5-Piece Bed-in-a-Bag Bedding Set
If she’s going to be moving into a dorm, twin XL bedding is a must. This set from AmazonBasics means you can stock up on sheets, a comforter, a sham and a pillowcase in one fell swoop. And when she wants to change up her decor next semester, you won’t be too upset, since the whole set costs just $39.
2. A Mattress Topper: Linenspa Signature Collection 3-inch Down Alternative Fiber Twin XL Mattress Topper
“Most of my friends had a foam mattress topper that totally flattened after the first month of school. I’m happy my mom opted for a down alternative because it kept me comfy and didn’t need to be replaced for two whole years,” says recent college grad Kayleigh H. We like the fact that this Linenspa topper secures to the mattress with elastic corner straps, so it won’t slip and slide under their sheets.
3. Storage Bins: The Container Store Case of 4 74 qt. Weathertight Totes Clear
Most college students aren’t minimalists, so it’s a good idea to send them off to school with some organizational tools that will keep their room looking neat. Like storage bins that fit under their bed, where they can keep off-season clothes, last semester’s books and other miscellaneous items. Plus, these sturdy bins from the Container Store are on sale right now.
4. Towels: Parachute Classic Starter Bathroom Bundle
Plush towels are a luxury that even an 18-year-old can appreciate, so they’re one college shopping list staple that’s actually worth splurging on. This set from Parachute includes four bath towels, four hand towels, four wash clothes and a bathmat. And don’t forget to remind them to launder their towels regularly.
5. A Lap Desk: Studio 3B XI Deluxe Media Lap Desk
No matter how many times you tell him it’s easier to be productive at the library, he’s inevitably going to do homework in bed at some point during the semester. That’s where a lap desk comes in handy. The bottom of this one has a tapered pillow filled with microbeads attached to the bottom, so he’ll stay comfortable while he works, and the wrist pad ensures that his laptop won’t slip off.
6. A Laundry Basket: The Container Store Easy Rolling Laundry Hamper
A laundry basket with wheels is the gift that keeps on giving. You know they’re going to let their dirty clothes pile up until they absolutely have to do laundry, so being able to roll their load around will make the trip to the laundry room much easier when it’s finally time.
7. A Drying Rack: Polder 2-Tier Mesh-Top Clothes Drying Rack
“The dorm dryers totally wrecked my clothes freshman year,” says Caitlin G, a rising senior. That’s why she recommends investing in a drying rack for delicate items that don’t do well with high heat (like Lululemon leggings). This one from the Container Store is made from rust-proof steel and has durable rubber feet, so it’ll last longer than those flimsy budget options.
8. A Power Strip: GE 6 Outlet Surge Protector Power Strip
College dorms are notorious for having terrible outlet placement, so power strips are always a good idea, says Kerry S., a recent college grad and former RA. Just make sure your kid’s school allows them first (some don’t because of fire safety concerns).
9. An Extra Long Phone Charger: AmazonBasics 10 Foot iPhone Charger
Speaking of those poorly placed outlets, many kids invest in an extra-long phone charger for their dorm room. You know, so they can scroll through TikTok for a few hours before dozing off. If your college student is living (and studying) at home, it’s less necessary, but no doubt a useful addition to their bedroom.
10. A Shower Caddy: Haundry Mesh Shower Caddy Tote
If she owns approximately 20 different shampoos, hair masks, conditioners, body washes and shaving creams, this shower caddy is the way to go. It has eight large pockets to store all of her essentials. Just remind her to store it in her room, since her pricey lavender shampoo might mysteriously disappear if she leaves it on the counter. Ah, the joys of communal living.
11. Shower Shoes: Walmart Men’s Tunnel Slides
Shared bathroom showers aren’t known for being the cleanest, so he’s definitely going to want a pair of shower shoes. This $6 pair of plastic slides from Walmart will do the job. Old Navy flip flops are also a great option.
12. Wall Hooks: Command Wire Hooks (Pack of 16)
Whether she wants to hang string lights, a framed picture of her and her high school friends or just create a spot on the wall for her wet towel, she’s going to need some wall hooks. These ones from Command come with strong adhesive strips that make them easy to install (and take down in May).
13. Bed Risers: Utopia Bedding Adjustable Bed Furniture Risers
“Bed risers are something that most parents totally overlook at first,” says John M, a recent grad and former RA. “A lot of people end up making an extra trip to Target or ordering them online once they realize how small their room is.” Bed risers allow for extra storage space underneath the bed, which most kids end up needing unless they luck out with a spacious room assignment (if those even exist?). This adjustable set can be three, five, or eight inches high.
14. A Coffee Maker: Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker
Unless you want them to waste all of their dining card money at the campus coffee shop, send them off to school with a Keurig. This mini version is only $80 and will ensure that they can get their caffeine fix without having to make the trek to the dining hall. And while you’re at it, pick up a few boxes of K-Cups too.
15. A Weighted Blanket: Therapedic Reversible Weighted Blanket
A lot of college students struggle with anxiety, and weighted blankets have been shown to help by providing a comforting sensation that eases the nervous system. This reversible design from Therapedic has a supersoft exterior he’ll want to wrap up in, even when he’s not feeling particularly high-strung about his upcoming exams.
16. A Game: What Do You Meme? Party Game
Former RA Kerry S. also recommends adding a fun game to your college shopping list. “They’re great for a night in, and it’s an easy ice breaker to invite people over to play a game if your kid is trying to get to know their hallmates,” she says. FYI, What Do You Meme? is a classic for the Gen Z crowd.
17. A Mini Fridge: Whirlpool 3.1 Cubic Feet Stainless Steel Refrigerator
Some colleges allow you to rent a mini fridge, but it’s usually a rip off. If you invest in a quality model like this one, which even has a full-width freezer, he can use it for all four years of school. If you want him to have the dorm room feel at home it’s also a worthy purchase—he’ll get a kick out of being able to reach over and grab a drink without having to come down to the kitchen.
18. A Nice Blazer: Eliza J. Ruched Sleeve Blazer
You might feel silly sending her off to school already prepped with an outfit for her first interview, but recent grad Izzy C. says she’ll need one before you know it. “I wish my mom and I had shopped for a good blazer before I left for school. I ended up needing one when I interviewed for an internship that spring and I had to scramble to find an outfit at the last minute,” she explains. This classic style from Eliza J. can be thrown over a dress or button-up and black jeans for a polished look.
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