Jen Jackowski

Moving out of a dorm and into your first college apartment is a big step– say goodbye to sharing a tiny room! Instead, you’ll share a somewhat larger space with your friends and have more freedom about what goes in the apartment and what you’re allowed to do there.

However, with great freedom comes great decorating responsibility , and that’s often a financial burden. Unlike living in a dorm, you have to fully outfit your place. And even if the unit has some furniture (mine had a desk, bed, and sofas), you still have a lot of work to do before it feels like home.

Before you get lost in the euphoria that is shopping at home stores , however, make a list of everything you need . As a matter of fact, why don’t you use our college apartment essentials checklist:


College Apartment Essentials Checklist - Infogrpahic


Your bedroom will be your haven in your college apartment. Other spaces are shared between you and your roomies, and the bedroom is where you can close the door, unwind and focus on your studies. So, it’s a pretty important space. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Bed Frame and Mattress: Some college apartments provide the bed for you, but double check before you make any assumptions. If you do have to bring you own, measure your bedroom. You don’t want to pack up your queen-size bed just to realize it takes up the entire room. Full-size beds are great for college apartments – they’ll fit in most rooms and they’re still big enough to let you spread out.
  • Mattress Pad: College apartments don’t have TempurPedic mattresses. They may be downright uncomfortable. Save yourself a backache and get a mattress pad.
  • Bedding: No matter how furnished your apartment is, you’ll need to bring your own bedding. See how large the bed is and purchase based on that. Also, the bedding you choose will determine the color scheme in your room, so pick wisely. Neutral bedding allows you more freedom in picking colors later on, and you can always change things like pillow covers and art to alter your color scheme. Also, consider getting two sets. That way, when you wash one set, you can put another on your bed.
  • Desk and Chair: Again, many college apartments provide a desk, but if yours doesn’t, get one! This is where you’ll write your papers, study for finals and lounge around on Facebook. Make sure your chair is comfortable – you’ll use it a lot.
  • Lamp: Make sure your desk is well-lit so you don’t strain your eyes trying to read “Crime and Punishment” for your classical literature class – don’t make it any harder on yourself.
  • Dry erase board: Sometimes, it’s just useful to stand and look at a board while working on something. Even if it’s not for class, pacing around while writing on a board can really help the thinking process.
  • Lap desk: Your desk isn’t the only place you can work. Lap desk plus lying in bed can equal good work done, even if it looks like you’re just lying down.


Near You

Organizational Tools

While your bedroom in a college apartment will be larger than your dorm, it’s not a mansion. Keeping your things organized will prevent clutter and give you plenty of room to live. These tools will help maintain order in your space:

  • Shoe rack: Even if you don’t have a lot of shoes, this will give you a lot of space to put a lot of things.
  • Storage bins: Look for bins that fit under the bed, and a few you can stash in the closet. This will let you keep the less often used things around while not cluttering the place up.
  • Laundry basket/hamper: Because clothes lying all over the place is only sustainable up to a point.
  • Desk trays/organizers: Because random things strewn all over your desk is only sustainable up to a point.
  • Adhesive wall hooks: These let you hang things off the wall, be it clothes or anything else, without needing to nail or screw things to the wall. It’s both easier to do and less likely to get you in trouble with the landlord.
  • Hangers: Because that bar in the closet is no use if you don’t have hangers to put on it.
  • Bookshelf/other shelves: These are perfect for keeping infrequently used items more accessible, displaying decorative items, and even occasionally storing books.


Additional Items

While these may not be essential, they’ll are great to have:

  • Nightstand: You want to keep some water and maybe other things near you while you’re sleeping, right?
  • Alarm clock: You do have to wake up in the morning. You can use your phone for the alarms, but nothing forces you out of bed quite like a dedicated alarm clock in the most inconvenient location in the room.
  • Fan: Do you have air conditioning? Even if you do, that’s shared across everyone in the apartment. Having a fan helps make it feel exactly as cool as you want it to – or as close as you can get, at least.
  • Area rug: Because it looks nice. Insert The Big Lebowski reference if you’d like.
  • Blackout curtains: If you have a TV in your room and just want to watch something alone, you can make it dark like a theater. Or you come back from a late night out and don’t want the sun glaring on you while you’re trying to sleep.
  • Power strips, extension cords, and surge protectors: How many things in your room require electricity? Almost all of them? Then you’ll want as many more outlets as you can manage.
  • Art and other decorations: Because they look nice, and you want your space to look like somewhere you want to be. Even minimalist white walls are a decorative choice.



Now onto shared spaces: You may only have one bathroom split between multiple roommates in your college apartment, so plan accordingly. Essentials include anything that helps you manage clutter and keep your roommate’s stuff out of your area.

  • Shower Caddy: These lovely inventions use a pole filled with springs to stand upright in a shower or tub. Attached to the pole are a series of baskets. Make sure the caddy you use has an equal number of baskets to the amount of people living in your apartment – four people, four baskets. That way, each person can store shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and so on in their designated basket.
  • Extra Towel Bars: If your apartment doesn’t have enough bars for towels, install more. Or, get over-the-door hooks so everyone has a place to hang their towels.
  • Towels: As with bedding, consider buying two towel sets that match so you always have a clean set available. Plus, using matching towels clearly displays which belong to you.
  • Shower Curtain: You don’t want to drip water on the floor. Enough said.
  • Plunger and Toilet Brush: Keep that toilet clean and running. You don’t want to be stuck in the bathroom without a plunger, trust me.
  • Bath rug: You don’t want to track water all over the place on slippery tile floors.
  • Scale: Are you terrified of having a reminder to watch your weight and eating habits? Maybe you need it more than you think.
  • Toiletries: Don’t forget to bring the basics.
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothbrush holder
    • Hair products
    • Soap (both body and hand)
    • Toilet paper (seriously, don’t forget this!)


Decide amongst yourselves who will bring what items for the kitchen. Remember that whatever you don’t buy now, you will need down the road.

  • Dining Set: Get a dining table that fits in the space and that’s large enough for all of the roommates to use at once – roomie dinners are tons of fun! Also, don’t forget chairs.
  • Plates, Cups, Mugs, and Bowls: Purchase a set that includes a variety of sizes and make sure you have enough for everyone.
  • Silverware and Utensils: This includes your basics (forks, knives, and spoons) as well as tools like spatulas, serving spoons, and so on. Make sure you have enough that you don’t have to do dishes every single day.
  • Pots and Pans: You can actually cook now that you have an apartment, so go crazy! You’ll need pots and pans to bring out your inner Julia Child.
  • Trash Can: Buying a trash can for your apartment is the easy part: Getting your roomies to throw out the trash is another matter entirely.
  • Coffee machine: Even if you hate coffee, at least one of your roommates probably can’t function without coffee.
  • Microwave: Don’t lie: the main food groups for college students are “frozen dinners” and “takeout”. This will help with the first, though many apartments already include a microwave, so wait to buy one until you know for sure.
  • Toaster: Sure, store-bought bagels and toast aren’t the greatest breakfast, but you have to make due with what you can get.

Living Room

You and your roommates will call the living room a shared home. It’s where movie nights, viewing of the big game and even parties will occur.

  • Sofa and Chairs: If your apartment has this furniture, consider buying slip covers to add your own personality to the space.
  • Coffee and End Tables: People need a place to set down their beers, right?
  • Lamps: Whether you’re doing homework in the living room or just chilling with friends, lamps can make the space feel cozier.
  • Throw Blankets: If someone needs to crash on your sofa, you’ll be ready to accommodate with throw blankets.
  • TV: Preferably with the ability to hook up to your game console or laptop – because, Netflix.


Cleaning supplies

You’re going to have to clean something at some point, even if you try to avoid it. You’re not going to constantly need everything on this list, but when you need it, you’ll be glad you were prepared.

  • Broom and dustpan: The most obvious, but just make sure that you have it.
  • Mop: A little more involved than a broom and dustpan, but if you don’t have one when you spill something sticky, you’ll regret it.
  • Paper towels: They’re both for cleaning and can double as napkins. You’ve now saved yourself another regular purchase.
  • Disinfectant wipes: Do you know how much bacteria is in raw food? If you cook regularly, you’ll also need to use these regularly to clean the counters.
  • Trash bags: Because a garbage can without a bag in it is so much more difficult to empty.
  • Vacuum: For all the dust and other little things it’s impractical to sweep up or pick up yourself.
  • Carpet cleaner: Does anyone drink red wine, coffee, or anything else colored in a room with carpet? Then you’ll probably need this sooner or later.
  • Window cleaner: Rubbing things off the window will only work for so long. Eventually, you have to address the streaks of grime on the windows.



Like cleaning, there are a bunch of little things you’re not going to think of that will be very useful if you need them. File these under “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it”.

  • First aid kit: You can find a basic one for pretty cheap at just about any store. Some basic disinfectants, bandages, and other supplies aren’t just convenient – in some cases, they’ll save your life.
  • Fire extinguisher: This one should need no explanation. Even if you never do anything with a high risk of fire, there’s too much you can lose not to keep one around.
  • Smoke/carbon monoxide detector: These should already be installed by your landlord. If not, there’s a very serious issue. Just make sure to test that they’re functional when you move in.
  • Basic tool kit: A hammer, screwdriver, electrical tape, and some extra screws and nails will come in handy a lot. Even if you’re not allowed to make modifications to the apartment or drill holes in the walls, you’ll still have furniture you need to assemble.
  • Sewing kit: Some basic fixes to clothing can save you from having to replace them later on. This is probably the least essential, but will save you more money and clothes than you expect.

Make sure to talk with your roommates before you buy your essential college apartment furnishings. That way, you don’t all buy the same things for shared spaces and end up with too much. Good luck getting settled and have fun in a space that’s finally yours!



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