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College Apartment Checklist: All the Essentials You Need for Your Home-Away-from-Home

bathroom shelves organization

Whether you have lived in a dorm room before or are moving into your first college apartment, such a transition can be as stressful as it is exciting. Planning is a good way to tame the worries that come with this experience, starting with a college apartment essentials checklist.

As a general piece of advice, before investing in anything, measure out the apartment. If you are not renting a furnished apartment, you will have to bring your own furniture and you want to make sure it fits. If you decide to go for a furnished apartment, moving will be more comfortable, but you will still need a college apartment packing list. Talk to your roommates as well, so you can divide tasks and split costs for the common areas. When you go shopping, don’t buy the first thing you see. Check different stores online or in person, and compare prices and quality. You won’t have an unlimited budget, so it’s better to invest in high-quality things that you actually need.

For the best start to your most exciting life experience yet, we put together a complete checklist of the things you need for your first college apartment: 


The bedroom is your place, a private room where you can rest, study, and be yourself. It’s tempting to jump straight to posters and pictures—things that will give it your personality, but there are more important items that shouldn’t be forgotten. See below an example of how a college packing list should look like:

  • Must-have furniture: the essentials are a bed, a nightstand, and a desk. The apartment might already have some of these, but check with your landlord to make sure.
  • Bedding: bed sheets (2 sets are recommended), pillows, mattress pad, and comforter.
  • Whiteboard: it might not be essential, but it sure is helpful for your thinking process. Those all-nighters will need a focus point, and a whiteboard full of ideas is a cheap item you’ll appreciate to have.
  • Storage: hangers, shelving, under-the-bed boxes. You will pack too much and you will also buy more things once at college. Make sure you have plenty of storage solutions.
  • Lamp
  • Fan: whether you have AC or not, this can prove useful to keep you cool and drown out noise.
  • Electronics: laptop and smartphone, with chargers.
  • Lap desk: if you like studying or typing papers in bed, this can help get the job done.

college bedroom design

Living Room

The living room is a shared space, the place where you and your roomies are going to have Netflix binging sessions, late night talks, and parties. You will want to discuss with them before buying anything for this space, so you know who has to buy what.

  • Must-have furniture: sofa, chairs, coffee table. These are essential for a living room, so check with your landlord to see if your apartment has them. These big expenses should be discussed with your roommates, as all of you will use the furniture.
  • Entertainment: a TV, wireless router, a gaming console, board games, or whatever you might want for a chill night in with your friends.
  • Bookshelf: display your books and make them accessible.
  • Bean bags: not necessary, but they are a comfy solution for when you’re having a lot of people over.


Eating out or ordering food will cost you too much to do it every day, no matter how tempting it is. You will sometimes cook, and although you are probably not going to become a master chef overnight, you still need some basic items that should be on your first apartment checklist.

  • Pots and pans: get a small and a large one of each, so you don’t clutter your kitchen. You should be able to prep a meal or fix a quick snack without overloading your sink.
  • Plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, silverware: the basics you will need for eating. Relying on plastic dinnerware will cost a lot more and it is no fun.
  • Small appliances: blender, toaster, coffee machine, and microwave. You probably won’t have a lot of time to cook, so having these appliances will come in handy when you’re in a rush.
  • Reusable water bottle, coffee mug, food containers with lids, cloth bags for groceries: these will save you so much money in the long run, and they are also great for the environment. Keeping your food in airtight containers will prevent it from going bad and you won’t have the unpleasant surprise of finding bugs in your kitchen.
  • Can and bottle opener: don’t wait until you are starving or you have friends over. Get them on your list and save yourself a headache.
  • Trash can, trash bags, dish sponge and dish soap. 

college students hanging out in living room


If you have just one bathroom in the apartment, you will share it. In this case you want to bring only the essentials, so you don’t end up cluttering the place with items you won’t use.

  • Personal hygiene essentials: soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, nail clipper, toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, and everything else you need to take care of yourself.
  • Towels
  • Clothes drying rack and laundry basket
  • Hair products and devices: hairdryer, hair brushes, and other grooming items you use daily
  • Cosmetics and personal care items
  • Rugs and shower curtains: it will help keep the bathroom clean and keep water off the floor.
  • Storage solutions: a shower caddy or some shelves are going to be useful if you share a bathroom. Everyone needs their own space.
  • Medicine: first-aid kit, including headache medicine, calcium and vitamins, stomachache pills, and anything you know you might need. Just in case.
  • Other: toilet brush and plunger, iron and ironing board, scale


These important items should be on your list, including ones that might save your life:

  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Smoke detectors
  • Toolkit
  • Documents or notarized copies of the important ones

Here are a few extra items that you will likely need for your new apartment:

  • Shoe rack
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Vacuum, mop, and bucket
  • Extra trash cans and bags
  • Door stops
  • Carpets
  • Blankets
  • Mirrors
  • Plants
  • Decorations
  • Sewing kit
  • Extension cords
  • Flashlight
  • Small suitcase or travel bag

Of course, don’t forget your school supplies; you are going to college, after all. Start your packing a few weeks ahead of time and add items as you go. Consider there might also be stuff you don’t want to pack (such as toxic substances or perishable foods). This will help you keep your college essentials together. Unpack these items last, for quick and easy access. Stay organized and remember to have fun.

Now that you know what you’ll need for your first college apartment, find a rental on RENTCafé and get ready to enjoy your new home away from home!

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About the author

Mihaela Buzec

Mihaela is an online content developer for RENTCafé.com. She has a BA in English Language and Literature and is now studying for an MA in Current Linguistics. She is a passionate reader, writer, and researcher, with a background in academic writing. You can get in touch with Mihaela at mihaela.rentcafe@yardi.com.


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