You are about to embark in a once-in-a-life-time experience.


Adulting just got real.

To help you out,  I have compiled 15 college freshman must haves. The list comes from years of teaching students like you. It also comes from my own experiences as a college student, and as a mom of college students.

Make sure you view them all! They are in random order, but number 15 is by FAR the MOST important.

First a Small Lesson: Be Prepared

Learners who are prepared, achieve better academically. Being prepared saves you time. The more free time you have, the more time you have for fun. You will be happier (and so will your parents), and you may graduate sooner because you won’t be wasting time and money having to retake classes. What’s not to love?

Find out what you REALY NEED for college. Tips from a college professor!

College Freshman Must Haves

The items I have compiled are geared towards traditional students attending a college campus, taking face-to-face classes, and living away from home. I am mostly focusing on academic needs, as well as some physical needs.  All of these college freshman must haves can be purchased on Amazon, which is -in my opinion- one of the perks of adulting. Don’t you love Amazon?

I’m making it easy for you, guys. No excuses.

Affiliate links included for your convenience.  Click here if you wish to read the full disclosure. 

1. Bookbag

Let’s start with the obvious. You’ll need to carry your books, and maybe a laptop or tablet. I am not listing a laptop as a must have, because most college campuses have computer labs available for student use. However, if you have the means to buy your own computer, your freshman experience will be more convenient.

2. Planner

I am advocate of writing in a planner.  Yes, using a pen or pencil. I know, I know. You have your phone with an awesome planner app, and Google calendar. That is a fine option, too. But, electronics are not always perfect. Notifications fail, batteries die, someone edits your calendar.

Always have a back up plan to keep track of your day.  Do whatever it takes to remind yourself of deadlines and due dates.  I advise my students to sit down every Sunday and take inventory of the week ahead. Write down when that big paper is due, and -more importantly- schedule the day you are going to write it. In my experience, the most common excuse reason for lateness typically revolves around faulty electronic devices. Don’t let that be you.

3. Water Bottle

The ‘mom side’ of me says, stay hydrated. I teach in the health care field, so the teacher side believes it, too.  Carry a water bottle. Enough said. This one is my personal favorite.

4.  Inexpensive Watch

Wearing a watch will keep you from having to always rely on your phone when you’re on the go. Being on time is something you will want to get used to, as a college student. Get one you can use as an alarm clock, too. Yes, your phone works great for this purpose, but see #2 for reasons why you may not want to solely rely on your phone.

5. Cheap calculator

Again, I know you have a calculator on your phone. But, many testing centers don’t allow cell phones or fancy calculators. You’ll be glad to have an alternative.

6. Voice Recorder

This is one most students don’t think about. Depending on the difficulty of the class, you may wish to go back and re-listen to some of the class lectures.  Isn’t it nice to have an option to record  when you daydream or fall asleep?  (Side note: If you have a tendency to fall asleep, don’t sit on the front row) Please note: Always ask your professor for permission before recording class and never post recordings on any online forum without permission.

7. Comfortable Shoes

My daughter still makes fun of herself for wearing high heels during her senior year of high school. She admits looks came before comfort. That’s not the case in college. Although you don’t want to look like you just rolled out of bed (please don’t wear slippers to class) you should plan on buying a decent pair of shoes you can walk in all day long. Snowy winters? invest in a good pair of snow boots, too!

8. Dress for the weather

As a high school student, you may not be used to checking the weather regularly. I’m telling you right now, download a weather app. I can’t tell you how many students I see around campus, caught in flip flops, in the snow. If rainy days or cold winters are common, you will want to be prepared. My daughters went to college in Northern Utah.  Walking through campus during chilly winters called for umbrellas, thermals, coats, ponchos, you name it! Thermal wear actually became a regular stocking stuffer at our house.

 9. Note-Taking Supplies

Did you know that writing something down is equivalent to reading it 7 times?

Even if your professors give you access to presentations online, or if they say “everything I’m saying is in the textbook”, take notes. Taking notes helps you retain. So yes, write stuff down the good old fashioned way. In my classroom, students work in groups, and when I lecture, they take notes. They don’t love it at first, but  most admit they hardly have to study for exams because they can remember most of the material from taking notes.


10. Coins/Change

It’s always a good idea to carry a little cash on campus. Machines to get snacks, make copies, dispense feminine supplies, etc., may require cash only. Always carry cash separately from your wallet or phone.

11. First Aid Kit

Teaching in the health care field, I can’t leave out a first aid kit. You will be so glad you have this! There are many available on Amazon, but this is my personal favorite, designed by a nurse (and a mom), especially for college students.


12. Alternative Transportation 

If you can at all avoid driving to campus, please do so. Not only is it better for the environment, it will save you time and money in parking fees. Don’t forget a bike lock!

13. Bed Risers and Storage Containers

If you’re living in a dorm or small apartment,  bed risers will help you add some extra storage under your bed. Some even come with extra outlets and USB ports!! How cool is that?


14. Lap Desk

If your dorm room doesn’t have a desk, and you don’t have room for one, a lap desk would work great while you sit on your bed. Of course, if DIY is up your alley, you can check the desks I built here and here!

15. Patience, Tenacity, Ethics, and a Good Attitude

Saving the best for last. I wish I could give you links to purchase the most important attributes you will need to succeed in college. College is hard, but college is fun. It helps you grow and teaches you much more than what you learn in the classroom. College prepares you for a job and it prepares you for life.

So, be ready, be on time, don’t cheat, and most of all

Enjoy the journey!

Pin it so you won’t forget it!

College can be overwhelming. Find a compiled list of college freshman essentials from the perspective of a college professor. Don't be afraid. Adulting is fun!


Like it? Share it!

Janice| Sawdust Sisters

Novice woodworker and serial Popcorn eater, Janice Thomas writes detailed tutorials that motivate others to "dare to try". Originally from Puerto Rico, Janice is fluent in Spanish and dreams of owning a beach house on the island someday! Janice currently lives in Utah with her husband and children, where she works as a university professor.

Leave a Reply