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20 College essentials from bag to dorm

Suzi Milovanovic has been a mother of all kinds: stay at home mom, work from home mom, and go-the-office working mom. She blends all these perspectives in her contributions to various local and national print and online publications, tel...

Gear for the year

Going off to college is exciting, and you'll probably hear more chatter about what people are bringing to college as opposed to what courses they are taking. College really isn’t just about getting a great education. It’s also about making the slow transition to adulthood by learning how to do things on your own.

College kids moving into dorm

To make sure you're prepared for day-to-day living as well as some unexpected emergencies, we've rounded up 20 of the most essential bag and dorm room items.

  1. A reliable alarm clock (or two)
  2. Day planner, PDA or smartphone
  3. Dry-erase board
  4. Shower caddy complete with all your usual toiletries
  5. Flip flops or shower sandals (antibacterial types are available)
  6. Bed in a bag (be sure to pack extra linens)
  7. MP3 player with noise cancelling ear buds
  8. Surge protector
  9. Laundry bag
  10. Emergency sewing kit
  11. First aid kit (including current medications) 
  12. USB flash drive
  13. Pencils (mechanical with lead refills or traditional with a sharpener)
  14. Folders
  15. Laptop or desktop computer
  16. Printer
  17. Paper (a couple of reams to get you started)
  18. Calculator (be sure you know how to use it)
  19. Compact refrigerator
  20. TV/DVD player

Quick tip

Set two alarm clocks with different sounding alarms 10 minutes apart, rather than hitting the snooze button on one clock. Your mind will have a hard time ignoring the different sound, and you'll be less likely to roll over and go back to sleep.

Before you run off to the nearest big-box retailer for these items, check out your college's website for tips on other items that might be necessary to navigate dorm life. Also, before packing the kitchen sink, know which items are prohibited; these might include air conditioners and space heaters, for instance.

Before you buy too few or too many supplies, check with your professor and reference the class syllabus for items that might be essential to the specific class.

Minimize stress and prepare for the time of your life by scratching the essential college items from your list.

More dorm essentials >>

More tips for college kids

Common issues college kids and parents face
Advice for keeping in touch with college kids
Care package ideas for college kids

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