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As your high school graduate prepares to make the move from home to dorm, keep this checklist of college essentials handy.


  • No. 2 pencils or mechanical pencils
  • Large eraser
  • Ballpoint pens in a variety of colors for note taking
  • Notebooks or loose-leaf notebook paper
  • Ruler with English and metric measurements
  • Sticky notes and flags (Many bookstores will allow students to sell back books that haven’t been written in or highlighted; use these tools to mark important passages and make notes in books without writing in them!)


Organizational helpers

  • Three-hole punch
  • Backpack/messenger bag
  • Scotch tape
  • Stapler
  • Scissors (It’s smart to buy one large pair and one smaller, craft size pair.)


Study aids

  • Index cards (Great for making flashcards.)
  • Highlighters in a variety of colors
  • Calculator (Check class requirements before investing in an expensive one. Graphing calculators, for example, are required in many college math and science classes.)
  • Schedule/planner (While students may use their smartphones to set reminders about due dates, class times, and appointments, a hard copy can still come in handy.)


Basic living materials

  • Bedding
  • Roll of quarters or loaded laundry card (depending on what your school requires.)
  • Toiletries
  • Towels
  • Laundry detergent
  • Laundry tote (The laundry room may be a hike from their room.)
  • Hangers
  • Drying rack for laundry
  • Plastic cups, utensils, and plates
  • Water bottles
  • Pitcher
  • Can opener
  • Small refrigerator (Double check what size is allowed before purchasing.)
  • Vitamins, allergy meds, and pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Air fresheners
  • Flip flops or other shoes to wear in the shower
  • Case for carrying toiletries to and from the shower (Choose one that has holes in the bottom for drainage.)
  • Desk lamp for a well-lit study space
  • Handheld vacuum cleaner
  • Tool set (This should include the basics, such as a hammer, screwdriver, and nails.)
  • Ear plugs
  • Extra storage, like a trunk or storage boxes



  • Laptop
  • Printer (Most schools allow students access to printers; if so, this item may be unnecessary.)
  • USB flash drive (To make yours recognizable, find ones fitting your personality.)
  • Power strips
  • Extension cords
  • Headphones
  • Wireless Internet Card or Mobile Hotspot — compare before deciding — to get online anywhere


Fun stuff

  • Board games
  • Deck of cards
  • Umbrella and rain boots
  • Photos
  • Wall art (and adhesive strips or hooks)
  • Bulletin board/cork board/dry erase board (and necessary accessories)
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Updated: February 7, 2020