College Freshman Survival Kit

a student wearing a plaid shirt holds a briefcase and vinyl records

Going off to college is an exciting time. You’re looking forward to your freedom and beginning your life as an adult.

However, inside, you may secretly be dreading this major change. And that’s okay! Without parental guidance, you’ll have many hurdles to navigate on your own.

Nobody wants to come home for winter break with several extra pounds, an unfortunate injury from a hazing prank gone wrong, or a report card full of Fs.

Our tips will help keep you on track. Here’s what to pack in your college freshman survival kit.

1. Freshman 15 Fighters

All-nighters, parties, and unlimited access to food can take their toll on your health — and your waistline. Don’t go off to school with a tote full of candy and soda. Pack healthful, nonperishable snacks instead, such as pretzels, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, and protein bars. Have a refillable water bottle on hand, too. Take advantage of your dorm kitchen’s refrigerator, or purchase a mini version for your room.

You will find more helpful tips in our ultimate guide — How to Avoid Freshman 15.

2. Sleep Aids

The likelihood of being woken up by someone in your room or hall (or a maintenance worker) is about 100 percent on a daily basis. If you want to maintain your own regular sleep schedule, you’ll no doubt want to pack some highly rated earplugs and a sleep mask.

A fan will keep you comfortable and provide white noise for better sleep. A stuffed animal or favorite pillow will make bedtime more familiar and relaxing.

3. Doctor’s Bag

Aside from good nutrition and sleep, basic health care should be a focus when packing for college. You’ll surely have access to a campus health center, but many ailments don’t warrant official medical treatment.

Always pack a mini first aid kit:

  • Pain Reliever
  • Alka-Seltzer
  • Cough Drops
  • Tissues
  • Bandages
  • Hydrogen Peroxide or Rubbing Alcohol
  • Cotton Swabs or Squares
  • Tweezers

You might consider taking a daily multivitamin if you don’t already.

4. Laundry Loot

Good old Mom won’t be around to wash your clothes anymore, so be prepared. Of course, detergent is a must, as is fabric softener if you use it. The most fun college activities often lead to stains, so be sure to take a stain treatment of some type.

You’ll also want a travel-size sewing kit to take care of missing buttons and other minor wardrobe malfunctions.

And, of course, hangers and a laundry basket or bag. If you have room for it, a drying rack saves money and the environment.

5. Office Supplies

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to forget good old-fashioned stationery supplies. Things go wrong, and devices fail. You’ll still want some notebooks or paper, pens and pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, and a stapler. Take a journal with you, too. Write in it whenever you’re stressed or homesick. A journal is a great portable and low-budget therapist. (Just be sure to keep it safe from your nosy roommate!)

6. Organizational Basics

You’ll need a few basics to keep everything neat: a power strip or two, a shower tote, Command hooks, duct tape, and Super Glue.

You should also pack a few basic cleaning supplies. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are awesome. Cut up an old T-shirt so you’ll have a few rags for dusting and wiping up spills. And you’ll certainly want some type of air freshener! Just be sure your roommate doesn’t have allergies or hate the scent.

7. Party Picks

We know that partying is a part of the college experience. Therefore, you shouldn’t leave home without a few fun extras. Playing cards, dice, Ping-Pong balls, a shot glass, Mad Libs, and other small items should be readily available whenever an impromptu party occurs.

Surviving is only one side of life of the first-year student. To get tips on other aspects of student life, such as studying and networking, check out this awesome infographics with useful tips for freshmen students.

If you missed anything or have limited room for transporting your personal belongings, you can always pick up what you need locally once you arrive at school. But taking care of as much as you can up front leaves you free to focus on more important things.

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