Items that your college students couldn't do without

Thinking optimistically about starting college in the fall, what items or products did your first year students find super helpful when starting out at college?

Mesh bags for doing laundry in. Sometimes the washers/dryers are gross or don’t work as well as possible, so the bags make it easy to do one load while still separating colors and whites. Also helps to save money if you planned on doing separate loads for different types of clothes. You can get 5-7 for under $10 on amazon.

Surprisingly few things turned out to be essential, and with all of the ways to get them stuff, get as little as possible up front!

Some less obvious things:

= surge protector powerstrip;
= mattess pad/topper (seems unnecessary, but almost always makes a very big difference)
= corningware 20 oz mug with lid (these are so great I got some for the house- good for everything from coffee to macnchz to mug brownies in a dorm room; we use them for soups, stews and chilis at home);
= 2 knives (one that will spread stuff and one that can at least cut an apple, some forks & spoons;
= if traveling by car, a batch of Ikea blue bags (super strong, light, flexible and fold up into nothing to sit under the bed until move out day);
= if a student who will care about wrinkles, a spray bottle of wrinkle release;
= decent (but not too tempting) over the ear headphones.
= agree with mesh laundry bags for lots of reasons!

I am sure this thread will get long quickly!


20oz. Corning mug w/ lid…Nice.

Thanks @izrk02 @collegemom3717 @Waiting2exhale. All great suggestions that I had not thought of!

A door stop.

A portable charger.

Great tips!

I love the idea of foldable bags that you can store away until move out. I wonder if there are ones for air plane travel…?

@“Jolynne Smyth” Yes, I’m sure I’ve seen ones with zipper closings. Not sure about checkable strength, however.

With laundry my kids loved the color catchers – they threw the lights and darks in together with a color catcher and never had a problem. Anything to make laundry easier!!

@“Jolynne Smyth” If you use soft duffel bags rather than hard suitcases they can be stored under the bed easily.

Bring Tylenol, Advil and whatever over the counter meds work for your student. This is always my answer to this question (prior to Covid19). Group living, stress, and fatigue bring on colds and illness and there is nothing like being sick that first time, feeling crappy, and having what you need on hand.

My kids and I have all checked IKEA bags (and their off-brand imitators that are sold in multi-pack on Amazon) without a problem. A strap around the middle to reduce strain on the zipper is a good idea, as is sticking with “fluffier” content… but with that extra reinforcement and moderating the density, we’ve had no problems.

When choosing powerstrips, get ones that have USB outlets as well as regular three-prong ones. Or a separate multi-USB charging station.

A personal mirror for one’s desk can also be useful, esp. for those with makeup routines. Depending on the bathroom situation, a shower caddy & shower sandals.

Command strips. (Although, don’t use them to hang plants over your bed. Ask me how I know.)

Sleep earbuds (my kids liked the MAXROCK brand - soft foam so you can lie on them - only about $12 a pair).

For lofted beds, a bedside laptop caddy can be a big help in avoiding accidental drops and/or overheating in the bed.

We loved these bags when moving my daughter in and out:

They hold a ton! They aren’t the easiest to lug around airports, but we made it work.

A lot depends on your room set up. My daughter was in a suite style room so things to organize their bathroom stuff was great such as shelves under the sink and a tension poll with shelves for the shower. Also lots of command hooks. They used them in the bathroom for towels, etc., we put some in my daughter closet for little things like cinch sacks, and she used little ones for necklaces and to hand lights in her room.

I agree a bedside caddy is helpful if your bed is too high for a table or dresser next to it.

Long phone charging cords.

My daughter was thankful to have earplugs a few times.

Lots of snacks, simple cups, plates, knives, etc.

My D did not have a vacuum and regretted it. Will have one next year.

Full length mirror.

@PrdMomto1 : The first time bags like that were posted here at CC in a thread I was in a few years ago, on sale at an incredible price, every single bag sold out in a few hours.

Big hit.

If you have a raised bed that is higher than typical but not bunk bed height a folding step stool is very helpful if your on the short side.

Great info on soft checked bags for plane flights - thanks!!

Haha D & husband just advised they will be making this a cross-country car trip.

I’ll prefer to be flying and will get the bags regardless!

DS just said that the clip on light for his bed was very helpful- that and the soft hanging shelves for his wardrobe (he will have a closet in the fall - maybe - for the first time, I think he will still use them.)

Duct tape. It’s amazing what can be fixed, created, etc. with a roll of duct tape…

Experience Parent: Less is more.
The more stuff you get, the more stuff you need to get back. Dorm rooms are small.
Maybe make a list of these things and have your child live in the dorm for a couple of weeks and see what they need and then order it on Amazon.

I do agree with having a little firstaid/cold kit ready to go as that is something you don’t want to wait for.

There may be a vacuum to borrow or one in the dorm. If not, order one.
There may be a mirror on the back of the door.