Shopping for college is bittersweet. You might have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to your dorm room, and you’ve probably saved every college shopping list you’ve found, but when you finally get to the store, you’ll realize pretty quickly how expensive all that stuff really is. Am I really about to spend $30 on a cover for my mattress?? Let alone the mattress itself if your place isn’t furnished!
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It’s not always obvious which items you should splurge on, and which ones you can buy the generic version of. Fortunately, you can find quality store-brand versions of most things on your list (like laundry bins, extension cords, and index cards) at places like Target, which is where I bought the majority of my dorm and school supplies.
There are a few things that you should really invest in though, with the intention of using them all four years of college. You’ll save money in the long run by not replacing these items every year, and you’ll thank yourself later when you’re using something you really love! Depending on your major and other activities, you might need to add to this list, but these are the things I splurged on and am still using after two years of college.
Carrying two textbooks and five notebooks across campus all day isn’t easy on anyone’s back, so having a backpack with comfortable straps and padding is a must! I love The North Face backpacks because they have tons of room, they’re made of a tough material, and the laptop pocket is padded really well, so I don’t have to worry about dropping my backpack on the ground. I’ve been using their Recon backpack, although I see a ton of students with the Jester version that works just as well!
A comfortable backpack and comfortable shoes go hand in hand when it comes to preventing back pain. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking, and flat sandals with zero support aren’t going to cut it. Most of the time I wear my Nike’s, which are super lightweight and comfy! If it’s insanely hot outside though, I’ll switch to Chacos (which are a great investment anyway if you love the outdoors!).
If you didn’t have one in high school, laptops are basically a necessity in college. Whether you’re taking notes in lecture, working on group projects at a coffee shop, or doing homework in your dorm, having a personal computer will make your life so much easier.
Depending on your major, you might need a laptop with certain specifications (this is mainly important for computer science or engineering majors), but even as a computer engineering major, I’ve been completely satisfied with my MacBook Pro. I’d say around 70% of people at my school have a MacBook, so it’s definitely the college student laptop of choice! In general though, just make sure your laptop has a decent amount of memory, a big enough display (don’t go for a 10″ display unless you know you’ll be comfortable with it), and isn’t so heavy that you’ll dread walking around with it in your backpack.
Walking to classes all day is exhausting, and if your classes are back-to-back like mine, it can be hard to find time to stop by the cafeteria and pick up a water bottle. Aside from being environmentally-friendly, reusable water bottles are a serious money saver and absolutely worth the investment! Two dollar water bottles add up quickly, which is why I spent around $40 on a Swell bottle. They’re extremely cute, and they keep liquids ice cold for the entire day. If that price is a bit much for you, I also love CamelBaks, which I used throughout high school! They don’t keep your liquids cold nearly as long, but they’re super durable and have a convenient spill-proof sipping top.
When buying school supplies, one of the only things I ever buy the brand-name version of is notebooks. I use them for every class, and I go through at least six every semester! They spend a lot of time stuffed in my backpack, so I knew I needed a quality notebook that wouldn’t start ripping after the first week. I’ve always used Five Star notebooks because their covers are extremely durable, and I never have issues with their spirals falling out or getting bent in my backpack. I usually buy a three subject notebook for each class, and then a separate five subject one that I keep in my room to do homework.
You never know when you’re going have an interview or attend an important dinner, so to avoid freaking out the day of, you should always have a business casual outfit on hand! I have a few staples, like black trousers, blouses, dresses, blazers, flats, and heels, but initially you’ll be fine with one simple outfit you feel confident in. For me, that’s a black blazer, black trousers, a pastel blouse, and black flats.
I avoid wearing heels whenever possible, and seriously advise that you invest in a comfortable pair of flats! You don’t want to end up with horrible blisters after your first career fair (like me), and you’ll thank yourself after hours of standing on your feet in them. My favorite places to shop for business casual clothes are J.Crew and Ann Taylor, although I’ve found some great stuff at Old Navy as well!
If you have any questions on specific products or anything else you might need, feel free to let me know in the comments!