Simple Tips for College Shopping (Plus a Printable Shopping List)

If you have a college-aged child, you’re likely carving out some time to hit the college essentials aisle at your favorite store. And, while  shopping for college can be a bit overwhelming, it’s also one more opportunity to spend some quality time together (and isn’t that what matters most?). We’re not quite there yet, but with just a year to go, we’re already thinking about how we’ll prepare for our daughter’s big exit. I actually can’t wait to walk through the college shopping process with her to help her plan well for her first days away from the nest.

The MamaZone: Shopping for College

This post was sponsored by Michelin and contains affiliate links. Thanks for using them to shop.

I know it’s not easy to navigate that huge college supply list, so I’m here to help you (and I’m also giving myself a head start!). Enjoy these ideas to help you simplify the big college shopping trip, leaving you with the energy to enjoy some family time with your favorite student while you shop.

The MamaZone: College Shopping Trip Essentials

College Shopping Trip Strategies

Follow these tips before diving into the shopping list.

  1. Read any dorm/school checklists carefully. This will keep you from buying items that aren’t allowed and ensure you get everything that’s required.
  2. Research online before you leave the house. This will help you determine the best prices and places to shop.
  3. Try grabbing it all from one store, if possible. Unless you find AMAZING deals at several different stores, avoid the hassle of making multiple stops. (I recommend Target!)
  4. Have funThings will go smoother if you both see this as less of a chore and more of a chance to be together.
  5. Remember, less is more. Dorms are small and lots of stuff equals lots of clutter. Keep that in mind.
  6. Maximize the space available. Think about how you can store things over the door, under the bed and in bins. You may have to get real clever when it comes to storage and organization in a small space.

I’ll also add that this is a good time to reinforce the need for good spending habits. Talk about planning and saving as you shop and work together to find the best deals. They won’t want to hear it for the 90th time, but they’ll still listen. Now, on to that shopping list…

College Shopping Cheat Sheet

The MamaZone: Dorm Shopping List

This is the one time I’ll encourage your kids to cheat ;-). There’s no reason college shopping should cause you to stress out, overspend or argue with each other, so use this list and the strategies above to keep it simple.

College Shopping List


  • Mini Fridge
  • Paper Plates
  • Plasticware
  • Can opener
  • Dish towels
  • Water Bottles
  • Filtered water pitcher
  • Storage bags/containers
  • Mug
  • Disposable cups


  • 2 Sheet sets
  • Comforter
  • Pillows
  • Decorative/extra pillows


  • Dish soap
  • Dish wand
  • Laundry detergent
  • Disinfecting wipes

Take Care

  • Shower caddy
  • 2 Bath Towels
  • Washcloths
  • Shower caddy
  • Soap
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Personal care items
  • First-aid kit
  • Over the counter medication (colds, pain, etc.)


  • Hanging shoe rack
  • Hangers
  • Laundry basket
  • Stackable storage bins
  • Trash can
  • Trash bags
  • Hooks/Command Strips
  • Desktop organizer
  • Corkboard/dry erase board
  • Power strip
  • Extra phone/computer cords


  • Quality Backpack
  • Pens, highlighters, pencils
  • Paper, notebooks
  • Planner
  • Attachable desk lamp


  • Rug
  • Mirror
  • Posters/pictures
  • A few fun knickknacks
  • Bluetooth speaker


Grab the printable checklist and add/cross out things based on your specific needs. This should be enough to get you started and I do hope you’ll take the opportunity to enjoy this shopping trip with your son or daughter. If it comes in handy, please let me know and if I missed something, leave me a comment so I’ll be better prepared when it’s time for us to hit the stores!! Happy shopping…

College Shopping Cheat Sheet

Be there, no matter where they go. Have a student headed off to college? Read more stories from parents like me on Join the conversation by using the hashtag #BeThereMoments.


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