22 Unexpected College Necessities (Things You’ll Def Wannna Bring)

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The top recommend necessities for college that freshmen often forget!

orange and teal fan on white dresser

Thousands of fresh high school graduates will be starting college in the fall. It can be hard to imagine what this life change is going to feel like, especially if you’re moving somewhere completely new!

College is uncharted territory for college freshmen and that can be……well, a bit intimidating!

There are many different factors that create stress for incoming freshmen. But, the most common worries revolve around college necessities.

As you’re going through the preparation phase you may be having thoughts like:

  • What supplies do I need for college?
  • Do I have everything I’ll want in my dorm?
  • Have I missed anything important?

Showing up unprepared on move-in day is definitely less than ideal. I get that!

First impressions are important and we all want to start out on the right foot. It’s totally normal to feel anxious and to start fretting as the big day approaches.


You might be so busy thinking about your class schedule, what your roommate will be like and what to wear on your first day, that you end up forgetting some things. It can be difficult to remember it all when there’s just SO much going on.

That’s why I put together this list of unexpected things to bring to college.

Unexpected Things to Bring to College

This post is here to make sure that any important college necessities aren’t accidentally left behind.


Knowing you’ve got it all taken care of will help take some of the stress out of the whole going to college process.

Start your semester off right by making sure you have everything you need!

I divided this article into three sections. The things to bring to college that you wouldn’t think of are as follows…

Table of Contents

General College Necessities

I’ll begin with the more general things every college student needs in this first section.

So, for starters…

1. Wrinkle Releaser Spray

Downy Wrinkle Releaser Spray big and small bottles

While I can’t remember the last time I ironed something – I’m definitely not a fan of wrinkly clothes. Wrinkles still happen, though.

My easy solution –wrinkle release spray.

This stuff works amazingly well, I’m just mad I didn’t discover it earlier in life!

It only takes minutes to get rid of wrinkles. And on those mornings when you’re running behind, the spray is just way too convenient to have.


The spray is especially handy when it comes time to interview for jobs or internships. So cross the ironing board off your college packing list and add wrinkle release spray instead.

2. Umbrella

woman holding yellow umbrella

If you’re going to school anywhere where there’s even a chance of it raining –

An umbrella is going to be a college essential you’ll regret to forget.

This is an item that often gets forgotten about in the rush of back to school. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. ‘Cause on a day where it’s pouring, you’ll be glad to have one!

3. Dry Shampoo

dry shampoo in hand

Between classes, social outings, homework, and studying – yeah, you’re going to be a liiiiittle busy.

Showering often enough to have clean, manageable hair is gonna go by the wayside. Sorry – it’s just the truth!

That’s why dry shampoo is a lifesaver (at least when it comes to hair). It soaks up extra oil/grease that accumulates at your roots and leaves you with fresher looking hair. And guys, you can use it to your advantage too!

I’m a BIG fan of the stuff. It’s enabled me to go more than a day between hair washes without looking like hot garbage. It’s easy to see why dry shampoo is always high on my list of necessities for college.

4. Bathrobe

pink bathrobe (things every college student needs)

A bathrobe made my list of necessities for college because, sometimes, getting fully dressed just sounds like so much of a chore. And who needs that, right?


A bathrobe is nice to have when you have communal showers for your dorm which are located down the hall. It allows you the freedom to choose to get dressed back in the comfort of your dorm room, instead of in the muggy shower room. Which is a lot more comfortable, IMO!

5. Shower Shoes

stripped flip flops for shower shoes

Remember how I just mentioned communal showers?

If that’s going to be your living situation, you’re GONNA want a pair of shower shoes.

I mean…unless you’re trying to get a foot fungus. Toenail fungus, ringworm, and athlete’s foot are just a few of the fungi that thrive in warm, moist environments – like communal showers. Yuck!

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to prevent picking something up:

Pick up a cheap pair of flip-flops at Walmart for less than a couple of bucks to save yourself from experiencing problems down the line.

6. Shower Caddy

grey shower caddy with bathroom necessities for college

While we’re on the topic of showering:

If you’ll be using shared showers, you’ll also have to deal with hauling all your shower supplies to and from your dorm room.

Might as well make it easy on yourself by investing in a shower caddy. I recommend a mesh one because it air dries quickly.

As a bonus:

A portable caddy will keep your stuff organized and away from prying hands during shower visits. It can hold your toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and anything else you want to use in the bathroom.

Backpack Essentials for College

These are the 5 college essentials for class that I always appreciate having stashed in my bag.

First up is:

7. Stain Remover Pen

tide to go stain remover pen

A stain remover pen is just the thing you need when an inopportune coffee spill happens. And if you’re a bit of klutz like me, that usually a weekly occurrence. One of these has saved my white shirts and pants more times than I can count!

A Tide to Go pen is a kind of out there unexpected college necessity, but I’m attached at the hip with mine. I like to keep one in my backpack and in my purse because it’s small, portable, and I know my track record.

To me, it’s well worth having one within arms reach when something stains my favorite piece of clothing.

8. College Planner

open college planner

Another one of my backpack essentials for college is a planner. It’s a major help for keeping your sanity while going to school.

You may have not needed one in high school – but trust me here. It’s going to make staying on top of your class schedule, assignment due dates, social outings, and everything else A LOT more manageable.

I always like to simplify my life in any way possible and a planner helps me achieve just that.

Any old planner won’t do, though. An academic year planner specifically made for college will serve you best.

9. Breath Mints

hand reaching for an Altoids breath mint

Coffee is an almost universal staple among college kids and coffee breath is a real thing.

You may not have time to brush your teeth in between classes but you do have time to pop a mint in your mouth. Breath mints are an unexpected, but much needed, thing to bring to college that will get steady use.

You never know when an opportunity to talk to your crush will pop up! Having a tin of breath mints stashed in your backpack will definitely come in clutch.

10. Water Bottle

black metal water bottle

It’s important to stay hydrated!

Especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking around campus. A reusable water bottle is a college necessity that’ll get everyday use and it can last for years, if not indefinitely.


It’s CHEAPER than buying bottled water and more convenient than stopping to buy a drink. Not to mention, it’s better for the environment.

Save yourself some bucks where you can, ’cause you’re gonna need all the extra money you can get once college starts.

11. Portable Charger

white anker portable charger

Being busy, busy, busy on campus often means not a lot of downtime. If you’re not stopping much then there isn’t really time to charge a phone.

Which is why:

One of the necessities for college classes that I recommend for all students is a portable charger. I don’t have to tell you that phones get tons of use.


Besides being used for leisure they’re pretty helpful for college. Make sure you don’t run out of juice at a bad time by having a portable power bank ready to go in your backpack. If you get a beefy one, it can even charge a laptop!

College Necessities for Dorms

Here are the unexpected things to bring to college for freshmen who will be living that dorm life.

Is this first item on your dorm packing list?

12. Portable Laundry Hamper

grey laundry bag with handles

In college, the laundry facilities are typically a ways away from your dorm room. And if your college doesn’t have washer and dryers, then you’ll be venturing off campus to take care of your laundry.

For that reason:

You’ll want to have a travel-ready laundry basket. ‘Cause you’ll be spending some time hauling that thing around.


It’ll probably be pretty HEAVY. Busyness, procrastination, and good ol’ laziness are a mix that keeps college students scrambling to keep up with laundry. One day you’ll realize you’re down to your last outfit and pretty much everything needs to be washed. That laundry basket will be FULL.

Which is why…

…handles are a must for this college necessity.

13. First Aid/Medicine Items

red box of ibuprofen

No one likes to go to the store when they’re sick. And the first time you get sick at college may very well be in the middle of the night…

…that’s why I suggest being prepared ahead of time.

A DIY first aid kit using dollar store items is easy enough to throw together.

College dorm necessities video: DIY first aid kit

Or it’s just as simple to bring along some medicine items, such as:

  • Emergen-C
  • Bandaids
  • Cough drops
  • Tissues
  • Teas
  • Lip balm
  • Excedrin, Tums, Rolaids, etc.
  • Yin Chiao (I swear by this stuff for preventing and stopping colds)
  • Anything else that helps when you feel sick

Having these college necessities on hand will help you out big time, even when something as minor as a headache strikes.

14. Power Strip Surge Protector

black power strip with surge protection

Out of all these college necessities for your dorm room:

A power strip with a built-in surge protector is what I would deem to be the most crucial item.

Ever been in the middle of typing a long essay only to lose everything due to a power surge frying the computer? It’s the WORST!

It’s a wise investment because power outages can strike at any time – storm or no storm. Plus, extra outlets to plug in all your devices are always nice.

The good things is:

Surge protectors are inexpensive. And of course, they’re much cheaper than replacing a laptop.

Another option that you can use in lieu of a power strip:

A charging station like this is surge protected + it has extra outlets, USB outlets, and a shelf to hold your phone.

22 dorm room essentials no one bothered to tell me to bring...

15. Fan

small white Honeywell brand fan

When you live in a dorm, don’t assume that it will have air conditioning. It’s a bummer, but it’s true! Not all rooms are equipped with the latest in cooling technology.

Because of that:

A fan can be a majorly needed item to get for dorm life. It’s a godsend for those hot, stuffy days and for those who tend to overheat when sleeping.


Before you get one, check in with your school to see if there is air conditioning or not in your living situation. If you don’t need it, it’s just one less thing to bring.

16. Brita Pitcher

Blue Brita filter pitcher

I personally can’t stand the taste of chlorinated water. Tap water can taste a little off which is why I prefer to filter it before drinking.

For that reason:

One of the college dorm necessities I can’t live without is a water filter.

A Brita Pitcher is an easy fix for when you’re living on campus. And if you have a dorm mini fridge you can always have cold water ready in your room.

17. Ear Plugs/Noise-Canceling Headphones

white over the ear headphones

Are you a light sleep or easily distracted by noise?

If so, it’s a good idea to bring some earplugs or a white noise machine to college. These things will help you fall asleep when the rest of your floor is being loud.


Unfortunately, not everyone will be on the same schedule, nor will everyone be courteous about their noise levels. If you’re not a fan of earplugs, noise-canceling headphones may be a better fit for you.

These babies can be used for more than just sleep, too. Blocking out all noise can do wonders for improving focus during study time!

18. Safe

safe that looks like a black dictionary

One of the harder life lessons students in their freshman year face is that some people steal. It sucks, I know!

But, as a result:

I think one of the things that every college student needs is a small safe for storing valuables. It’s better to be careful than to lose something important. A book safe makes for a more discreet way to protect items you don’t want prying hands to find.

19. Bed Rest Pillow

grey sherpa bedrest pillow on blanket

When you’re making a college packing checklist, pillows are clearly evident things to bring.


A bed rest pillow is something you might not have considered. I’ll tell you though that these supportive pillows are an amazing thing to have.

As a college student, your bed consequently becomes a place where you spend a lot of time. Relaxing, studying, sleeping, watching Netflix, painting your nails, and hanging out with pals all tend to happen here.


A supportive bed rest pillow will make all those things a lot easier on your posture. Not to mention, it’s so comfy to use when reading a book!

20. Command Hooks

college necessities for dorms include command hooks like these

For all things decorating and hanging anything on the wall:

Command hooks are your best friend!

These things are great because they don’t damage walls and they’re versatile enough to work for almost type of decor. Pictures, mirrors, string lights…

You name it – Command hooks have got your back.

21. Electric Blanket

grey and white electric blanket

All my people whose feet are constantly cold (no matter the weather) understand that an electric blanket is a must have.


Even if you don’t always have borderline frigid toes, a heated blanket is a great investment. It might not be something that you use every day.

Once cooler weather hits, though..

It can easily become your most prized possession at college. I seriously LOVE electric blankets.

22. Step Stool

black folding step stool

Bet you didn’t think that a step stool would be on a list of unexpected college necessities for dorms.

Here’s why:

Dorm beds are usually pretty high off the ground, at least compared to a typical bed frame. They’re like this so that you can more storage space underneath (because dorms are tiny AF).

If you’re on the shorter side, well getting up there can be a little tough!

Other than that:

A step stool comes in handy more often than you might expect.

Final thoughts on things every college student needs…

So, that covers it! My list of unexpected things to bring to college with 22 college necessities ends here. I hope it’s helped you feel more prepared and confident about tackling your first year of college.

When you’re ready to start packing for college, be sure to use my complete college packing list (free PDF).


Seasoned college students – what are some necessities for college that you can’t live without?

I’d love to know what things you’re more than happy to keep around! If you think I missed any big college necessities (for dorms or otherwise) leave a comment below.

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Unexpected college necessities (things I wouldn't go without) college girl looking thoughtful
unexpected college essentials no one tells you to bring

22 Unexpected College Necessities (Things You’ll Def Want to Bring)

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  1. I would love to add a small tool kit to this list! Parents were even borrowing this at times especially on move in day!

  2. My school doesn’t sell disposable water bottles, so a reusable one is a must! If you forget or if you lose it, you have to use the water fountain (which sucks during class), buy a reusable one from the book store (and they’re around $40), or buy another drink so that you can fill that bottle up with water.

    Also, a fan is a must. Although I am a commuter student, I hear that the dorms on campus don’t have A/C, so it’s really hot in the summer months and if you take the screens out from the window for one of the window A/C units, you have to pay a fee due to property damage.

  3. Love this entire list! I recommend a fan even if your dorm has A/C. My dorm was old, so we didn’t have any control over when the air conditioning was turned on, or the heat was turned on. Having a fan helped circulate the air during those months that the heat was on, but it wasn’t really cold.