The Ultimate Back To College Shopping List

back to college shopping list

Finding what items you need for college can be a pain.

Sometimes you have an item in mind, but you can’t remember what you wanted.

Other times you are in a situation where you don’t know what you need until you need it, and then it’s too late of course.

For example, say your roommate is snoring loud and it’s distracting your late-night studying the day before an important exam. If you don’t have noise cancelling headphones, you could be in trouble.

Or your room is a mess, which hurts your focus and happiness, because you don’t have space and storage. Purchasing bed risers and an under the bed container would fix this issue entirely.

Whatever the case, it’s neither fun to be in an aimless stroll down the aisles of Walmart, Target, or Staples not knowing what to get. Nor is it fun to need something when it’s too late.

Because of this, I researched and put together an extensive back to college shopping list for you.

This list includes the items I appreciated the most in my college days, envied when I saw other students with them, or would put on my back to college shopping list if I went to school again. 

Basically, you can’t go wrong with getting any of the 23 things below to improve your college experience. And a good chunk of these items are just as useful in the real world.

So this could be a general shopping list almost as much as it’s a back to college shopping list. Plus, these items are worth a small investment because most of them will keep their value for years later after you graduate.

To make things easy for you, I linked each item to where you can find it on Amazon. (Isn’t Amazon great? How did people live without it?)

Back To College Shopping List

1. HDMI cable

When you want to have a chill night watching Netflix with your friends, a HDMI cord that connects your laptop to the tv is a lifesaver. HDMI cords are also useful when watching pirated movies and tv shows from the internet (I know it happens and I’m not judging you).

2. Noise cancelling headphones

You don’t need to go all out and get Beats By Dre Headphones. But, I’ve found that a quality set of noise cancelling headphones can make the difference in focused studying rather than distracted studying. Depending on the size of the headphones, they can also boost your exercise at the gym. I would go as far as to say that it’s the best item on this back to college shopping list.

3. Night light

Are you the kind of person who does homework and studies on their bed late at night? If so, I know a night light would help you study while allowing your roommate to sleep with the lights off. A happy roommate is a happier life in college. I like the one I linked to because it has a clip that clamps on laptops, bed frames, and more.  

4. Toiletry bag

Guys especially go to the bathroom in the wrong fashion. They make their life harder by carrying bathroom supplies in their bare hands or in a plastic bag. Then place their razors and toothbrush on the nasty sink where everyone puts their dirty hands. Or they waste time going back and forth from the bathroom to their room because they don’t have a toiletry bag to carry everything in one trip. That’s why making a small investment in a toiletry/travel bag will save yourself the hassle.

5. Shower shoes

Some of the items on this list are more nice things to have than essentials. But if you’re living in a dorm with community showers, then shower shoes are a must. You don’t want to risk catching athlete’s foot, ringworm, tinea, or other shower fungi from public showers because you didn’t protect your feet. To save money, you can simply use an old pair of flip flops, which is what I did during my dorm life.

6. Bed risers

Bed risers are the role players that don’t get much credit but make a significant contribution to your room. Since square feet is hard to come by in dorm rooms and college house rooms, bed risers allow you to max out the floor space under your bed by storing items. This actually can make a huge difference in making your room feel bigger. And bed risers work well with the next item on this back to college shopping list.

7. Underbed storage

I complimented my bed risers with an under bed storage container. This box held my winter clothes during fall and spring, and vice versa when the seasons changed. This way I simply switched clothes with the change in weather and didn’t have to rent a storage room or go home to do it. You can also fit a ton of other things in these under bed boxes.

8. Memory Foam mattress

If your college is anything like mine, the dorm comes with a mattress but it’s a piece of crap and not comfortable. The Memory Foam mattress is a huge upgrade and relieves pressure points all over your body. This item is probably more of a luxury than a necessity, but getting quality sleep is extremely important to being successful in college. So it may very well be more than worth it. (Make sure you get the right size that fits your bed frame.)

9. Memory Foam pillow

A quality mattress can only go so far, so finish the job with this glorious Memory Foam pillow. This pillow helps you sleep by relaxing your head, neck, and shoulders in a comfortable position. Your sleep and I both highly recommend this pillow!

10. Pop up hamper

Those walks from your room to the laundry room can be annoying if you don’t have the right hamper. My favorite hampers are the pop up ones because they’re reliable, don’t take up much space, and are lightweight. But maybe its best feature is its ability to fold down and collapse for easy transportation.

11. Air freshener

College rooms are some of the worst smelling spaces I’ve ever encountered. From those who forego laundry for a month, leave food in the trash for weeks, or have people across the dorm making nasty smelling food, it gets gross. Take care of any and all of these orders by getting an air freshener. It doesn’t cost more than $10, and could save you in emergency times when you forgot to do laundry and have to spray your clothes to eliminate odor.

12. Advil / DayQuil and NyQuil

These are the big three for when you’re sick in college. Take Advil for headaches and body pain, or hangovers. Take DayQuil and NyQuil for when you have a cold or the flu. As I mentioned in the introduction of this post, this is one of the items you want to have before you get sick and need it.

13. Backup phone charger

With how often my phone used to run out of battery in college, I made a decision to buy a second phone charger. I keep the original charger in my room, but carried the backup charger in my backpack to charge my phone during class, at the library, or at a friend’s place. I found it made life much easier. Just double check that the charger you purchase is the right one for your phone before getting it.

14. Outlet multiplier

Only a couple of outlets in your room and too many things that require plugs? Get this inexpensive outlet multiplier so you can plug in your phone charger, laptop charger, and something else. When you get this item, you don’t need a bulky power strip cord that you might trip over. I would actually buy two of these outlet multipliers because of its value, but that’s only me.

15. Mini coffee maker

Forget the trips to Starbucks or the campus coffee shop. Use this mini coffee maker with K-cups to get your coffee the minute after you wake up without having to leave your room. For the big coffee drinkers, this item should be at the top of your college shopping list. I’m at around two cups of coffee a day, so I’m all about this item.

16. Personal fan

Situations like the air conditioning unit breaking or the buildings heat being turned up too high are miserable if you don’t have a personal fan handy. The breeze and white noise from a fan is also known to help students sleep at night. For these reasons, a fan is a versatile asset to your room.

17. Personal heater

When the winter turns your room freezing cold and you can’t turn up the heat, let this personal heater get your room warm and cozy. My housemate who lived in the basement swore by his heater tower because the house’s heat rarely reached his room thanks to our ancient college house.

18. Cork bulletin board

A list of your goals for this year, pictures of your friends and family, your class schedule, and important dates all need a place to go in your room. Add a cork bulletin board to your back to college shopping list and you’ll be reminded of what’s important each day. Small reminders can go a long way in staying motivated and following through on your vision.

19. Reusable water bottle

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of drinking water and I actually did a personal challenge to drink 1,400 ounces of water in a week. Anyway, the effects of water are outstanding on your health, energy, and happiness. So having a reusable water bottle is well worth it, and will remind you to drink water when you notice the bottle in your room. Plus, it’s much cheaper to buy a reusable water bottle than buying 200 of the plastic $1 water bottles over the year.

20. Shoe holder

The first culprit of a messy, disorganized room is usually shoes all over the ground. Disorganized shoes everywhere causes problems because you have to waste time cleaning the floor, looking for shoes, or finding room for other things. A shoe rack can fix these problems by providing a place to set your shoes and get organized, which allows you to spend your time doing more important things.

21. Personal blender

If you’re trying to eat for energy and be healthy, you will be obsessed with this personal blender. Throw together some delicious smoothies and shakes in your room. Or if you’re in a rush you can mix some ingredients, blend it, and take the container with you on the go. If only I had this guy in college.

22. Printer

There were many times when the printer in my room saved my butt because I didn’t have time to walk all the way to the campus library to print out my paper. And other times the university printers are down, so I went back to my room and printed my documents for class while people without a printer were freaking out. If you don’t have one already, buy a printer for your college room so you have the flexibility to use it when needed.

23. Amazon Fire

Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu are only three of the hundreds of thousands movies and tv shows available through Amazon Fire. I’ve also heard great things about Chromecast, Apple TV, and Roku. The differences seem to be minor, and solely up to you on what one you choose.

There you have the best back to college shopping list out there! These items improve your entertainment, health, ability to focus, room space and organization, and sleep.

If you’re looking for more college resources on Take Your Success, check out one of the following blog posts:

50 Pieces Of College Advice I’d Tell Myself

Your Survival Guide To Final Exam Week

What To Do When You Fail A Test

Did this back to college shopping list help? What’s your favorite item on this list? Do you have any items that you can’t live without in college? Are you interested in seeing resource posts like this?

Brian Robben

Brian Robben is the founder of Take Your Success, a site dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs grow a profitable business and reach freedom. For in-depth training, visit: