Keep Calm and College On: Back to School Checklist for College

Back to School Checklist for College

If you are a headed to college in the fall or know somebody who is (son, daughter, niece, nephew, ect.) you should know starting college is an amazing experience. Yet, preparing what to bring can be mind-boggling.

FatWallet wants to help freshmen, transfer students, and every student in-between simplify the transition.

Here is the printable college checklist to make your shopping easier.

Education Supplies:

First things first, you still need the basics: pens, pencils, and notebooks to take notes and complete tests (unless you are going to a paperless school). If you ask a professor for an extra pencil they will probably give you a not-so-nice look instead of a pencil.

Also remember studying materials can help. It depends on how you study, but notecards and highlighters seem to work great for numerous people. Oh and you’ll probably need a bag or backpack to carry all your stuff in.

A few other odds and ends can come in handy too. For example tape, erasers, scissors, ruler, and post-it notes may be helpful depending on what classes you are taking. A mini stapler can be a lifesaver. Keep it in your bag, because some professors will not accept a paper that is unstapled, even if you pulled an all-nighter to finish it. Also if a classmate needs a staple too, you can be the hero and maybe make a friend.

Don’t forget to get your textbooks. You can buy or rent them from various places.,, and usually have great deals on textbooks. Try to avoid waiting until the last minute, because shipping may take longer than expected.

Finally, check to see if any of your courses require something special like a certain type of calculator or a T-square ruler.


Most colleges have computer labs along with printers, so you could possibly get by without them. In my opinion I’d rather go without my left hand than without my own laptop and printer. Most college students who live in dorms do not have printers, so it’s no biggie if you cannot get your own printer.

Laptop V Tablet…or both? In my opinion, laptops are easier to write papers on, but tablets are easier to transport. So it’s difficult to say that one or the other is overall better. I would try out both in the store before deciding. If you do choose a laptop try to pick one that is lightweight, because carrying books and a laptop everyday can become a workout. If you simply cannot decide, you may want to try a combo version.

Lenovo has a good pro and con article to help you figure out what’s best for you.

USB flash drives are major advantage when you need to transfer documents or projects. They come in an array of prices, shapes, and colors. I would recommend a flash drive with 8GB – 16GB for around $10-$20. You can be fun with a minion, fashionable with a bracelet, or studious with the basics.

Other electronics are important too. For example, a power strip will allow you to make sure everything can get plugged in. You might want to bring your iPod or mp3 if it helps you focus while studying or you just want some music. You may want to bring an extra set of earbuds, because those things are so dang small and easy to lose! An alarm clock besides your phone can be helpful just incase your phone dies or some other tragedy. If you need an extra push to wake up you might want to try clocky.

If your phone is always on the verge of dying you need a compact charger connector that fits perfectly with your keys.


If you are a college student it is likely you will not be living in a mansion. To make sure you can keep all the supplies you need in the place you have, you may want to consider some organizational supplies. Get crafty with the space you do have.

Remember shoving all your stuff under your bed when your mom told you to clean your room before you could go have fun? Well now you can use that space, but in a better way with bed totes. Try to maximize your space with items like an over the door shoe hanger, hanging jewelry organizer, and wall shelves. Also anything that can collapse, bend, or fold into a smaller version of itself is a fantastic idea. I love my folding step stool!

Here are some websites that may be helpful when thinking about organizing:


Washing your laundry can be tedious, but you can only turn your underwear inside out so many times. Hampers that can collapse are great for doubling as a laundry basket. With limited space having a small container for laundry detergent can be helpful. I recommend Method laundry detergent, which is about $12 for 50 loads of laundry.

If you do want to get extended wear out of your clothes, then invest in Febreze wrinkle release spray. All you have to do is spray it on and shake it out. My sorority sisters LOVE this stuff!

Most college students may forget a home away from home still need some TLC every once in awhile. When you have a limited amount of space universal type of cleaning products work best. Additionally, a small vacuum can come in handy for crumbs from your delicious dorm snacks.


These are some other items that may be helpful to you or just didn’t really fit into one of the above categories.

Bedding and a pillow are obviously essential unless you want to sleep on just a mattress. Twin XL is the most common bedding size for college dorms, but you should double check just to make sure.

Some colleges provide lamps, while others do not. If yours does not you’re going to need one.

Flip-flops are highly recommended if you are sharing a shower area with more than just your suitemates. If that is the case then you should also invest in a robe and a shower caddy. Flip-flops are also great to quick throw on to go change a batch of laundry.

If rain is in the forecast near your college then an umbrella and rain boots will be your friend. If you are going to DePaul (like me) then they will be your best friends.

Snacks are always needed. If your school is in a city, but you are from a smaller town then you may want to consider bringing some granola bars, pop-tarts, chips, or other snacks. The prices of groceries in the city are much higher than the prices in smaller towns outside of the city. A water bottle also comes in handy, because water from a drinking fountain is always free. That way you do not have to use money from your meal plan.

And if you have snacks you may want to consider a mini fridge and microwave. Be sure you check with your roommate first, so you do not end up with two microwaves and no fridge.

This seems like a lot of stuff, but FatWallet wants to save you from those “why didn’t I think of that?” and “I wish I had that” moments. Clearly you can make the final decision of what you truly need and what you can leave out. These are just some helpful back to school tips from one college student to another. ☺

(Click here for a printable pdf of this college checklist.)

Cash Back Resources


Additional College Resources

  • Office Depot Coupons
  • Staples Coupons
  • Best Buy Coupons
  • OfficeMax Coupons
  • Amazon Coupons
  • Sears Coupons
  • Walmart Coupons
  • Don’t Get Hustled by Your Student Loans
  • Setting a Budget for Going Back to College
  • 3 Money-Saving Tips for College Students
  • Rebates Can Pay Your College Tuition
  • Textbook Cheat Sheet: College/K-12
  • Affording College & Expensive Hobbies
  • Lowering Student Loan Interest Rate
  • Ashlee

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