With the school year just around the corner, it’s always a good idea to get ahead of your shopping list — especially when it comes to college students. The truth is, back-to-school shopping is far from glamorous, and while buying room decor and replenishing that all-important campus wardrobe may be more exciting, you’ll want to make sure your kid has everything they need for a smooth move-in experience.
It can be easy to gloss over practical items like an umbrella or a stain remover stick, but ultimately, those will be the items they’ll need to have on hand on a day-to-day basis. To help you out, we rounded up a list of unexpected college essentials your kid will actually use when they step on campus.
Hurricane Box Fan ($35.00; amazon.com)
A box fan is a must-have for keeping the living space cool and fighting off the summertime heat.
Bedsure Twin XL Mattress Pad ($42.99; amazon.com)
Dorm mattresses are notoriously uncomfortable, so considering what little sleep college students get to begin with, that added comfort from a mattress pad will go a long way.
4-Tier Metal Rolling Utility Cart ($59.90, originally $65.99; wayfair.com)
Because of the minimal amount of storage space many dorm rooms provide, a utility cart is a great space saver for holding everything from snacks to school supplies.
Command Medium Designer Hooks (starting at $4.89; amazon.com)
Command hooks are a must for hanging up decorations and preventing wall damage.
Surblue Bedside Caddy ($13.99; amazon.com)
Nightstands aren’t necessarily efficient in terms of saving space, so this bedside caddy is the perfect spot to keep a pair of glasses, a phone and anything else they’d want to have near their bed.
Cleaning and laundry
Black+Decker Handheld Vacuum ($59.00; amazon.com)
Dust can build up fast in dorm rooms, so staying stocked with a mini vacuum is the best solution for keeping those bunnies at bay.
OxiClean Max Force Gel Stain Remover Stick ($3.69; target.com)
Without a parent to help out with laundry, stain sticks come in handy for random spills.
Pure Enrichment Puresteam Portable Fabric Steamer ($29.99; target.com)
A traditional iron and ironing board can be a bit bulky for a dorm room with limited storage, so consider buying a portable steamer to keep clothing items looking their best.
Dokehom Large Laundry Basket ($15.99, originally $26.99; amazon.com)
Laundry baskets with handles are perfect for lugging tons of clothing items to and from the laundry room.
Brita Standard Everyday Water Filter Pitcher ($27.99; amazon.com)
Ditch single-use plastic water bottles and opt for a Brita water filter instead, which will save both money and trips to the vending machine.
Anker PowerPort Strip 3 ($22.99; amazon.com)
Most dorm rooms don’t provide many outlets, so investing in a reliable extension cord for all their gadgets can be a lifesaver.
Anker PowerCore 13000 ($46.99; amazon.com)
Portable chargers are a practical purchase to ensure their devices never run out of battery again, no matter where they are. As our top pick for best overall portable charger, this one is a great choice for students.
Apple AirPods Pro ($189.99, originally $249.00; amazon.com)
Dependable wireless earbuds can be a game changer for college students on the go. Plus, the noise cancellation feature is perfect for studying and focusing. We even named them the best earbuds of 2021.
Livho Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses, 2-Pack ($15.98, originally $15.98; amazon.com)
Considering the amount of time students spend on their devices, blue-light glasses may help the body’s natural sleep cycle after a long day spent looking at a screen.
Apple AirTags, 4-Pack ($99.00; amazon.com)
Apple AirTags, which can attach to valuable items like room keys or wallets, are great for making sure students can find their belongings whenever they misplace them. Read our rave review of them here.
LED Desk Lamp With Wireless Charger ($25.99, originally $40.00; amazon.com)
Many students know what it’s like to pull an all-nighter studying in their dorm room the night before an exam. This desk lamp provides a wireless charger and allows for customization of the lighting modes for the perfect working conditions.
Weather Station Automatic Super Mini Umbrella ($5; walmart.com)
There’s nothing worse than having to walk across campus in the rain without an umbrella. Keep any belongings dry with a compact umbrella that can easily fit in a backpack.
Artfan 2021-2022 Academic Planner ($20.99; amazon.com)
Organization skills can make or break a semester. A quality planner can seriously help students stay on top of assignments and manage their time.
Yeti Rambler 26-Ounce ($39.99; yeti.com)
As one of our favorite reusable water bottles of 2021, this Yeti Rambler is perfect for bringing to class and definitely worth the splurge.
Febreze Odor-Eliminating Air Freshener ($4.94; walmart.com)
Since many colleges don’t allow candles in dorms, Febreze is great for keeping a dorm room smelling fresh.
Mainstay Small Utility Shower Caddy Tote ($9.95; amazon.com)
A shower caddy is essential for corralling all their toiletries in one place so they can go to and from the bathroom with ease.
Xomiboe Shower Shoes (starting at $10.90; amazon.com)
These waterproof shower shoes will help protect students’ feet from the bacteria and germs in communal bathrooms. Trust us, you won’t want them to shower barefoot.