7+ Items Every University Student NEEDS [College Tips!]

Don’t start your college semester without these vital items. They’ll help you study better, stay organized, and live comfortably. #7 is SO important!

All college transitions begin with an eleventh-hour Target run and a trip to Staples. But as you scour the shelves and check carts full of items off your list, you have an epiphany:

Do I need all this stuff?

We see it time and time again.

Weeks after settling in and getting into a routine, you realize that most things on that 100-item checklist — like a $300 humidifier — are merely collecting dust.

And the true must-haves — like a mini-fridge — are still sitting on a shelf somewhere.

The key to a good semester is proper preparation. Here’s a look at eight college items you can’t live without, whether you’re in the library, a lab, or your dorm.

A Daily Planner

Last-minute cramming, piling workloads, and unmanageable deadlines can drop a semester-long A to that dreaded B territory. But with the help of a daily planner, juggling 4-5 courses and social life is finally possible.

To put a daily planner to good use:

  • Jot down homework, tests, and labs as they’re assigned.
  • Highlight deadlines in neon yellow.
  • Use each entry to assign yourself work (Due on Tuesday? Start it on Friday.).
  • Scratch out assignments as you complete them (oh-so-satisfying).

Don’t forget to check your planner before agreeing to a Friday night out, a study session with your AP tutor, or a weekend trip home! Planners only work if they’re part of your routine.

A Mattress Pad

Not needing to rent a U-Haul or drag a twin-sized bed upstairs is one of the luxuries of living on campus. But that dorm (or apartment) mattress could date back to your elementary school days — over eight years old!

Nothing disturbs restful sleep like a saggy or lumpy mattress. And what’s more haunting than the thought that your mattress is soaked in 26 gallons of sweat and millions of dust mites from previous occupiers?

A twin XL mattress pad is an absolute must-have.

Mattress pads add a quilted layer capable of turning even the lumpiest dorm beds into “like new” condition. They leave a sanitary barrier for refreshing power-ups, too.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Anyone who’s lived in an apartment, dorm room, or townhouse could tell you that the walls are paper-thin. But it’s the inconsiderate neighbors and selfish roommates that turn a solo study session into an ear-plugging mission.

The party next door and bumping bass make focus downright impossible.

There’s no need to flee to the library, your car, or the rotunda to squeeze in a much-needed study sesh. A pair of noise-canceling headphones can tone down those distractions and give you a temporary auditory escape.

Listen to your favorite Spotify playlist on repeat, or even a 60-minute mindfulness track to dilute your stress and make schoolwork more bearable.

Adhesive Wall Strips

It’s safe to say that dorm rooms are an interior designer’s worst nightmare. Between the cinder block walls, dull Berber carpet, and bare lightbulb overhead,  the blandness can be prison-like and unwelcoming.

Colleges stand firm on their decorating guidelines, from no painting to no holes in the walls (screws and nails). But, removable adhesive wall strips and Command hooks can make those finishing touches a damage-free journey.

With these handy tools in your kit, you can hang:

  • Posters, artwork, or wall quotes
  • String or fairy lights (with clothespins attaching Polaroids)
  • A monthly calendar
  • Colorful tapestries
  • Photos and memorabilia in a gallery wall pattern

You’ll spend about ⅓ of your collegiate escapade in your dorm room or apartment. Don’t forget to add a little flair to turn this 12×19 space into your nighttime retreat.

A Hot Spot

As colleges push to modernize architecture, Wi-Fi and internet hookups still lag by 2020 standards. The options are either racking up hundreds in data usage on your cell plan or settling for distraction-laden areas (like a bustling library cafe).

A Wi-Fi hotspot can keep you connected no matter how far you travel.

Review digital flashcards on your iPad by the lake, type up a last-minute research paper in the lounge, or stream a Netflix series while cooped up in bed!

A Video Subscription Service

Unless you’re a stickler for basic channel line-ups or enjoy watching NFL games live in the lounge, the cable gets the chopping block. The number-one item on your college checklist should be a video streaming subscription like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

For less than $15/month, you can earn unlimited access to millions of movies, TV shows, and documentaries. Binge Game of Thrones in the library between lectures or allow an episode of The Office to lull you to sleep after a long day!

Memories From Home

The first few days of freshman year are nothing short of exhilarating. Between culling new friendships, meeting your professors, and learning about those riveting “campus secrets,” it’s easy to get caught up in the changes.

But as the weeks pass and habits become routine, the sadness kicks in:

I miss home and my high school friends!

These sentiments are entirely normal, especially for kids living away from home for the first time. You can’t bring your new college home … so bring it home to college!

Pack your favorite memorabilia and comfort items from home, like:

  • Family and friend photos
  • Letters from loved ones
  • A favorite piece of jewelry
  • Your childhood stuffed animal
  • Favorite novels and magazines
  • A gaming system (Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox)

Don’t forget to bring a laptop with a webcam to video-call your friends and family back home. Recess and holiday breaks will arrive before you know it, and the “gang” will be back together soon!

A Backpack With Pockets

The jump from high school to college is a notorious culture shock to unsuspecting newcomers. With half the courses, lectures instead of bookwork, and digitized note-taking, backpacks seemed so last year.

And yet, you’ll journey from class to class, back to your dorm, to the dining hall, and then back again in a matter of hours.

Don’t just get a standard Jansport backpack. Buy one with pockets galore.

Ensure it’s large enough to cart around multiple textbooks and your laptop. And remember, there’s no such thing as too many pockets. Separate areas for writing utensils, notebooks, and your computer can be an organizational cure.


The above items will help you get the most out of your college years.

If you’re worried about bringing too much to school, you should:

  • Ask current or former students for tips on what you need.
  • Choose digital alternatives whenever possible (i.e., a planner app over a physical book).
  • Never allow school supplies to completely overshadow your comfort.
  • Call the university to inquire about dorm or apartment luxuries (i.e., A/C).

College could be the best four years of your life. Don’t settle for misery and discomfort by packing too light or dropping pennies on useless supplies.

Caitlin Sinclair is the property manager at Persea, an apartment community in San Diego.

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