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15 Must Have Items for College Freshmen

As this school year draws to a close and the next rolls closer, a lot of our high school grads will be excitedly planning for their freshman year away from home.  For the majority, this will be the first time that they will be living on their own, without all the familiar comforts of their childhood home. There are a LOT of items in a home that can be taken for granted because, hey, they’ve been there since forever as far they’re concerned.

Thinking of everything you might need to buy (and hoping you don’t forget anything) and wondering just how to afford it all? Setting up a home away from home can get expensive real quick. However, if you learn how to shop smart and take the time to browse your local Dollar Tree, you’ll find that you can get some great quality products at a great price. So whether you’re starting the year in a dorm room or an apartment, here are 15 must have items for college freshmen who are living away from home.

These are the items everyone needs:

Washcloths and Drying Towels

Two items you never really think about until you need them.  While there are a surprising number of things that your college may supply you with, these are not one of them. Unless your family is donating some old towels for your new adventure, you might want to look at purchasing washcloths and drying/bath towels at the Dollar Tree. Why? Chances are your towels will not survive to the end of the year.  They will become lost, misplaced, or borrowed.

Pillow Cases and Bed Sheets

Consider purchasing a spare set of pillow cases and bed sheets. Why? Because there is no spare linen closet to grab new sheets from should the need for clean sheets arise. Spill food or a drink on your bed while eating? Trust me, it will happen at least once. You now have the option of clean sheets instead of sleeping in the mess until you get around to laundry day.


Unless you plan on dumping your dirty clothes in a corner and hauling them by the armful to the laundry room, a hamper of some sort is needed. Also, hanging space for clothes can be limited.  Some dorms don’t have closets, but it’s still a good idea to have a couple hangers on hand.

First Aid Kit

Another thing you never think about until you need it is a first aid kit.  Think about items such as band-aids, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, etc. Create a small, preferably water-proof, box filled with items needed for scrapes and cuts.  Any major injury can be treated at the campus clinic, but it’s nice to be able to treat the small things yourself.

And these are items most people forget about:

Mattress Covers

I don’t know of any dorm rooms that don’t supply a bed. Chances are your mattress has been slept on by a dozen or more students over the years. If thinking of the hygiene of others makes you shudder, consider getting a mattress cover.

Sleep Mask

If you and your roommate keep different hours, or you have an odd work and class schedule, consider a sleep mask.  Keep in mind also how your sleep habits might compare to your roommates. If you need absolute darkness to fall asleep, but they’re used to sleeping with a light on, a sleep mask is an easy compromise.

Broom and Dustpan

Unless you are in a carpeted room, which is rare, chances are you will want to sweep your floor at some point. And if you do find yourself in a carpeted room, if it is a low-pile dense carpet then a broom will work surprisingly well.  You will be amazed at the amount of dirt and dust that will accumulate on your floor out of no where. Be prepared.

Waste Bin/Trash Can

You may or may not be supplied with a waste bin. You most definitely want one. You don’t realize how much you throw away until you find yourself with no where to place the items you want to discard. Keep your waste bin clean by lining it with used plastic shopping bags.

Cleaners & Microfiber Towels

At some point you will need to clean something, whether it is a mirror, a window, a spot on your desk, or something spilled on the floor.  Have a very, very basic cleaning kit. You can purchase multiple kinds of cleaners, as well as sponges or microfiber cleaning towels. The microfiber towels work great for dusting too.

Junk Drawer Items

Think of those odd items you rummage for at home; batteries, flashlight, rubber bands,  scissors, paperclips, etc.  Have a small box with odds and ends you can keep in your desk drawer, then if the sudden need for a rarely used item occurs, you’re covered.

If you have a private bathroom you should think about getting:

Shower Curtains and Liners

If you are provided a room with a private bathroom, chances are the shower will have a curtain of some sort.  If you’re unsure if the curtain provided has seen better days, pick up a spare.

Soap Container/Toothbrush Holder/ Bathroom accessories/Toilet Brush

Pick up a bottle of hand soap or two.  Remember to grab a toothbrush holder or else you’ll be laying your toothbrush on the counter or sink…not the most hygienic thing to do.  Need a bath mat so you’re not a fall risk when exiting the shower? A private bathroom means you’re in charge of cleaning it, so make sure you have toilet cleaner and a toilet brush.

Open Weave Plastic Tote

If you’re sharing a bathroom with a roommate, or if you’re using a communal shower in your dorm, consider getting an open weave tote. By that I mean a flexible plastic tote or bag with large holes or an “open weave” look.  This way you can fill it with your personal items (shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving essentials, washcloths, etc.), and the holes allow for water drainage.  Your items can stay in your tote and you don’t have to work about a container full or water or your items getting moldy.

If you have access to a kitchenette or will be cooking/eating in your room, you might want these:


If you’re allowed a microwave, you’ll want to bring a few potholders and kitchen towels with you.  The potholders because, of course, you don’t want to burn yourself taking hot items out of the microwave.  The kitchen towels can act as a temporary place-mat or napkin, and will be handy in case you spill something.

Ice Cube Tray

Ice is nice to have, and if you are given access to a fridge of your own, chances are it will be a micro-fridge with a teeny-tiny freezer and no ice-maker. Not only can you use the ice to cool your drinks, ice wrapped in a kitchen towel can double as a cold compress.

Go forth and shop for your upcoming adventure

There are a lot of “dollar stores”, but only the Dollar Tree sells everything for a dollar.  Everything I’ve listed here can be found at your local Dollar Tree. Keep in mind that selection will vary from store to store. So if you’re dead-set on having a certain color, you might have to go to more than one location depending on what they have in stock.

This is definitely not a complete guide to everything you need for college either, it’s more of a handy “Hey, did you think of this?” list. Most college dorms will provide you with a list of items they supply and a list of items you should consider bringing. Use those, this post, and your own experiences to create your “must haves” dorm room shopping list, and then drop by your local Dollar Tree to get those items for an amazing price.

All items mentioned in this post can be found at