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Our Recommended College Supply List — What Your Student REALLY Needs

With the graduation of our third homeschool student recently, we are once again in the throes of planning and shopping for a college supply list. This is not necessarily an easy task — there is a lot of advice out there.  I thought it would be fun to check with my older two college students to see what they recommend buying, since they are the ones with experience of what has been helpful and what has not.

I remember the summer before the eldest’s freshman year. She is a researcher and a planner, and on the internet somewhere, she found a list of “what every freshman should buy for college.” It was a long list, let me tell you! But we faithfully bought it all… and she told me later that a lot of it she never really needed.

Wondering what to buy for your college freshman? The Annie & Everything college supply list recommends only what your student will REALLY need! So we’ve learned from that mistake and have narrowed down the list to what we feel are the necessary things.  Obviously this is not an exhaustive list — it’s just the things we think most college students will find helpful, based on our experiences shopping and my girls’ experiences living at college.

UPDATE:  A year later and with that much more experience, we have developed a PART TWO to our recommended college supply list.  Again, it includes only what is really helpful!  Check it out here: College Supply List Part 2.

Our Recommended College Supply List

Things to arrange with the roommate

Make sure one of you brings the following:

1) A small fridge. Drinks, yogurt, cheese sticks — snacking is a necessary thing.

2) A small microwave.  Frozen dinners, baked potatoes, nacho cheese — sometimes ya gotta have something warm to eat that is not from the cafeteria.

3) An electric teapot. This is easier to use than heating water up in the microwave; and you can get one for around $15, so it’s worth it. There are SO many things kids can make with hot water. They may not be nutritious, but these are college students we’re talking about, after all. 🙂  Most dorms will not allow a regular coffeepot in the room, so this makes a good substitute.  Your kid can use instant coffee or a special filter that goes in the cup to make regular coffee.

A TV is not necessary, y’all. Nor a DVD player. If you happen to have an extra of either of those lying around the house, then fine, but don’t go out and get one. Most kids can watch TV episodes and DVD’s on their computers, anyway.

That’s it for the big things for the room. Don’t go overboard.  Many dorms provide a communal printer.  Music can be played from the computer.  An ironing board is not something a college student is going to be likely to use, even if they probably should.  Keep things light and simple.  If your child needs to add something later, you can send them the money to get it.

Related Post: Family Finances: Guess What? Teens Cost More

Things that your child may like to have individually

Some of these are not functionally necessary but may be emotionally helpful, lol:

4) A laptop computer. Obviously kids need a computer for college these days. A laptop (as opposed to a desktop) is a good idea because then they can take it to the library to work when their roommate is being loud or needs to sleep.

5) To go along with the laptop computer, a lap desk is VERY handy. It provides a place other than their legs and blanket (which can be a fire hazard) to put the laptop on when they are working in bed. I use one myself, when I am sitting anywhere but at a desk or table. It makes using the laptop much more comfortable.

6) Another comfort item is one of those pillows with arms that looks like the top half of a chair (also called a reading pillow or a bedrest). Again, for working on the bed, this is a top priority item. Both of my girls use theirs religiously.

7) A good planner. My eldest uses a store-bought one to write all of her assignments, tests, and work hours into.


7) A memo board. My second prefers to see the big picture at all times, so she has a big white board in her room, set up as a calendar, that she writes everything onto. When she is away from her room she types new information into her phone, then transfers it to the white board later.

Related Post: Preparing for College Independence: 6 Ways to Help Your Child

8) For physical and emotional comfort, a nice fuzzy blanket is a wonderful thing, lol. I don’t have a son in college yet, but I bet boys would like this just as well as girls, although they would not admit it! Who doesn’t like to wrap up in a blanket at all times of the day and night? I bought a twin-size fuzzy blanket (the softness of the fuzzies is a big consideration, y’all) from Target for #2, expecting her to use it on her bed, but she uses it as a blankie instead. She recommends the actual bed-size blanket rather than a throw size. And since I was given one for Christmas, I have to admit that I now love my blankie, too!

9) #2 recommends LOTS of pencils, because she has a habit of misplacing them… She also recommends one giant three-ring binder for ALL subjects, rather than individual notebooks for individual subjects. Again, it’s an “I will lose it if it is small” issue. Know your child, lol. And don’t forget highlighters – different colors make studying more fun!

Related Post: Parenting: Two Types of College Students

10) Nice bedding sure helps. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something the student likes to look at. You want them to feel comfy and at home in their dorm room. That’s their safe haven while they are away from home.  If your child wants to communicate with their roommate for matching stuff, that’s fine — but make sure your kid is happy with the selection.  If not, matching bedding is SO not necessary.  Get them what they like.

And you DON’T have to give in to those mailers that say they are the ONLY place to get extra-long twin sheets. (If you haven’t gotten one of those in the mail yet, you will.) We bought from them with #1, then two weeks later found nicer sheets in the correct size for less money at Target and Bed Bath and Beyond. So yea; lesson learned. Those stores tend to feature them at the end of the summer, so if you don’t see them now, don’t panic.

Wondering what to buy for your college freshman? The Annie & Everything college supply list recommends only what your student will REALLY need!

11) The eldest recommends an umbrella. This is something easily overlooked – but it’s miserable walking to class in the rain without one!

12) Another helpful item has been a bucket or waterproof basket/bag (with a handle) for shower items. Keep the shampoo, soap, razor, etc. in the shower caddy, and then it’s easy to just grab it, get in the shower, and take it back to your room when you are done. (If the student shares a suite, there may be storage right in the shower, so this might not be necessary.) Also get some small storage for toiletries that will be kept under the sink or in the dorm room. Plastic drawers, modular baskets – things that will not take up a lot of room, in case cabinet space must be shared with the roommate(s).

Related Post: What to Expect When Dropping Off Your College Freshman

So there you have it, the Annie and Everything college supply list.  Most other things are just a matter of personal preference, and you don’t have to give into the pressure from all those really long “must-have” lists out there! Because why spend money if you don’t have to? 🙂

Don’t forget to head over to Part Two of our college supply list to make sure you haven’t missed anything that is actually important! 🙂

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  • I love the suggestion of a bucket for shower items! Even when I was in a suite it would be handy with 4 of us sharing the bathroom. We still needed a spot to keep everything. 🙂

    • Especially with all the “product” kids need nowadays — there may not be enough storage in the suite shower, lol! Thanks for stopping by, Sara! 🙂

  • Boys usually need even less stuff than girls! 🙂 Sending my 4th boy to college this year. Yes, boys do like a ‘fuzzy’ blanket. My sister makes a polar fleece tied blanket for the high school grads, often in their school colors, so they are set for the blanket. Some dorms don’t let you have a MW, so be sure to check before getting any appliances for the room. Also, all my students (#6 headed off this year) found the plastic drawers handy for either their room or their bathroom (suite style rooms). I agree that the lists you find on the internet are waaaaayyyy too long!

    • What a great gift idea for a grad! Wow, six kids off to college — you are my new hero! I’m not looking forward to my emotions when I send three of them off this fall… I may be back in touch with you then… 🙂 Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  • If for whatever reason you can’t afford a lap desk or you’re waiting for yours to ship, a drink tray like the ones at Starbucks are great flipped over for a makeshipe computer stand. I use three stacked together for a little extra sturdiness. It’s a good substitute!

Hi! I’m glad you’re here!

I’m Ann (aka Annie), a veteran homeschool mom of five who HATES complicated!
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