College Non-Essentials

Ah, move in day. The start of your first four years of freedom.  I was walking through target the other day and passed so many groups of people buying “essentials” for their freshman dorms, discussing color schemes they’d made with their roommates, and worrying about all sorts of other nonsensical and entirely exciting things.

There are thousands of lists on Pinterest and all over the internet telling you what you NEED for your freshman dorm, how to survive your first year of college, how to deal with being away from home, and other things of that sort.

This isn’t one of those.

Instead, I’ve compiled a list of my college non-essentials.  These aren’t things that you absolutely NEED, but I found my life to be a lot easier when I had these things in it. Adjusting to life away from home is hard enough, so you really want to make the transition as easy as possible on yourself, and these simple luxuries make quite a difference.

1. Water Cooler


I was lucky my freshman year because my dorm was small so I didn’t have a problem walking the two seconds to a water fountain to refill my water. I also had a Brita water filter pitcher, but it was too big to fit in my mini-fridge so I didn’t end up using it too much.

Sophomore year however, since the rooms are so much bigger, it was a much farther walk to the water fountain all the way on the other side of the building. My roommate suggested we get a water cooler subscription that would bring us water jugs every other week, and it was a life saver! Check if your school does any sort of water cooler subscription, because it’s really convenient to have around, especially once school starts and your priorities aren’t on hydration so much as all the other stuff you have to get done.

2. Slippers


And not just a pair of slipper socks or anything flimsy. I brought a pair of Minnetonka moccasins and I wore them every day. They have a hard sole so you can slip them on if you’re in a rush to class or want to take a quick walk to Starbucks and want to stay comfy. I also had a dorm that opened to an outdoor courtyard so unless I was in my room, there was no carpet, and I was always outside, which makes comfy slipper shoes the essential non-essential.

Shop my favorite slippers here.

3. Backpack


This may seem like a total “duh” but you’d be surprised how many people I see running around with all their books in their arms or fumbling around because they forgot a pen. Buy a backpack, and buy a good backpack with function over fashion in mind.  I have a sturdy (and cute!) backpack from Victoria’s Secret that can hold my laptop, textbooks, notebooks, and planner, as well as various other odds and ends.  And every night before bed I put all my stuff back in my backpack so I don’t have to worry about it when I inevitably oversleep.

If you keep your backpack well-stocked like I do, then you don’t have to keep making trips back to your dorm whenever you need something, I go straight from class to get food to go to the library quickly and efficiently because I keep stuff organized in my backpack.

Shop my VS Pink backpack here

4. Power Strip

In this age of technology, we have so many devices that all need to be charged at any given time:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Computer
  • Camera
  • and who knows what the heck else

so a power strip is an easy way of keeping all your chargers in one place and all your devices charged at all times.  Make sure to check your dorms rules about how powerful your power strip can be, because you don’t want to be the kid who blows a fuse for the whole dorm (trust me, it’s happened before).

5. Hanging Lights/ Lamp/ Any Personal Lighting Preference

soph dorm

All girls know fluorescent lighting is THE WORST, and for some reason, it’s the one all dorms have.  My roommates and I decorated our room with hanging Christmas lights to give the room a warmer feel, and we also had personal lamps that helped. It makes the room slightly less dreary and gives it a cute, personalized feel.

6. Whiteboard and/or Cork-board

A major rule for dorms is to not put any holes in the wall.  An easy way to get around that rule is to use Command Strips to hang posters and pictures and… basically anything.  I loved having a whiteboard right above my desk with all my big plans/ tests/ events for the month in order to keep me organized and on top of my life, but next to that, I always had a big wall of pictures that I’d spent hours working on to make look good. In hindsight, a cork-board to use a bulletin inspiration board would have been a smarter idea, and much easier to clean up at the end of the year as opposed to taking down each individual picture with tape attached to the back.

7. Planner

MY PLANNER SAVED MY LIFE.  Last year I used a Lilly Pulitzer one that I loved and it was so easy to throw in my backpack or my purse and carry around with me.  This year I just got one from Target since I’m going to be traveling and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that I might end up losing or destroying because it won’t be in the same secure spots.

My planner has all my appointments, assignments, presentations, work schedules, random events and memories, and when I don’t have it or I haven’t filled it out, I feel slightly incomplete. Having a basic overview of my day or week makes me feel more organized and it also gives me a visual representation of how I have to manage my time.

Shop the Lilly Pulitzer here

Shop my new Target planner here

8. Headphones


Headphones and earbuds come in handy when you’re trying to study in louder places like Starbucks or your student union because music or Netflix or YouTube videos can distract you from the hustle and bustle of everyday campus life. I usually use my apple earbuds but recently got a pair of Beats which help cancel out noise even more and keep me focused on myself and the task at hand.

9. Vacuum


I didn’t have a vacuum in my freshman dorm, and I think we vacuumed the room once. ONCE. RA’s have vacuums in their room, but my RA lived downstairs and all the way down the building, so lugging the clunky old vacuum was hell. My sophomore year, I put a vacuum on my list of essentials and my roommates and I took turns vacuuming the room once a week. I know it doesn’t seem like much but dust and dirt and crap collects so easily in a dorm and vacuuming makes such a difference in making the room look and feel more clean.

10. Personal Fan

A large fan is good for cooling off an entire dorm room if you don’t have A/C, but I had a personal fan pointed directly at my bed as well as one that cooled down the room, and especially at the beginning of the year when it’s still summer and scorching hot, that extra fan does a lot to make it easier to sleep without sweating through your sheets.

11. Stepping Stool


I had a raised bed in order to create more storage space and as a result, my bed was a little harder to get into. Bed, bath, and beyond have small step ladders that make it easy to get onto your bed, and also to reach the top shelf in your closet or cabinet or bathroom.  This little thing really comes in handy and I’m glad I have a small one for various everyday uses.

Shop my favorite step stool here

12. Extra Bed Sheets

I’m a freak about clean bed sheets, because they collect a lot of sweat and germs and dirty sheets/ pillowcases can contribute to acne flare-ups.  During midterms or finals, forget about having time to brush your hair, let alone take an hour and a half out of your day to wash your sheets.  That’s why I recommend a spare set of sheets, that way you don’t have to do any laundry, and your skin will thank you later.


Hopefully in the sea of college essentials, this helps you navigate your freshman year a little bit easier.  Shopping for your new room is always fun, but don’t get too carried away buying a bunch of stuff you’ll never use!




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