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College Apartment Checklist: Everything You Need

By: Justin Chaplin
March 31, 2021

Moving out of your college's dorms and into your first apartment? You might not be sure what to bring and what you can leave behind.

If this is your first time moving on your own, it can be overwhelming. We've put together a college apartment checklist to make sure your new apartment has all of the essentials. Follow this checklist and jot down everything you're missing.


Upgrading from a dorm to an off-campus apartment, your new bedroom will feel like a blessing. But the cost of setting up your own bedroom could be a little high, considering your dorm came equipped with a bed and desk.

Buy affordable furniture at places like Target and IKEA for all your essentials. Remember, most of this stuff will be temporary. So there's no need to break the bank on luxury furniture.


Saying goodbye to that twin-size bed rested upon a slab of wood is going to feel so good. Although we recommend investing in cheaper furniture, you shouldn't skimp on a mattress. You'll likely be sleeping in it for the next three years at the minimum.


The mattress is only one part of a good night's sleep. Don't forget the rest of your bedding.

  • Mattress pad/mattress topper
  • Sheets
  • Pillows and Pillowcases
  • Comforter
  • Duvet cover
  • Blankets

Bedroom Furniture Must-Haves

Make sure your personal space is equipped for both relaxing and long nights of studying. First, a few furniture essentials to cross of your college apartment checklist.

  • Desk
  • Desk chair
  • Dresser
  • Nightstand

Other Bedroom Essentials

You've got the basics. Now buy the things to make the room fully functional.

  • Fan - If your apartment doesn't have A/C or it doesn't reach your room, a bedroom fan is crucial.
  • Space heater - Similarly, if your apartment’s heat isn’t the strongest, a space heater could save you during the cold winter nights.
  • Additional storage boxes/containers
  • Trash bin
  • Hangers
  • Shoe rack - Buy a hangable one if you need extra space.
  • Mirror
  • Alarm clock - If you don't trust your phone.
  • Dry erase board
  • Additional lighting
  • Bed bug mattress cover


Leave behind your shower shoes, shower caddy, and bad memories! The bathroom in your apartment will be a huge step up in terms of quality and cleanliness. Before moving in, check out the bathroom and take note of what is or isn't included. In particular, check for towel bars and adequate storage above or under the sink.

Bathroom Essentials

Buy these things first. No functional bathroom is complete without these essentials.

  • Bath towels
  • Shower organizers (Suction cup baskets)
  • Shower curtain
  • Hand towels
  • Towel hooks/towel bars - if your apartment doesn't have them already
  • Bath mat

Bathroom Accessories

Finish up your bathroom with these additional items. If you are living with roommates, make sure to split the cost on these things. The bathroom requires lots of small purchases. Make sure to keep track of them by checking them off your college apartment checklist.

  • Air fresheners
  • Scale - To watch out for the freshman 15
  • Toilet brush
  • Toilet paper
  • Plunger
  • Rug
  • Handsoap
  • Soapdish
  • Toothbrush holder
  • Toiletries (toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, etc.)
  • Bathroom cleaning supplies
  • Hair towel
  • Washcloths
  • Small trash bin
  • Hairdryer & styling tools


If you are coming from a dorm room that had nothing more than a microwave and a toaster, you might not realize just how many things you need to stock a sufficient kitchen.

Some of these items can be purchased cheaply, and other things you won’t want to skimp on. Cheap coffee machines might still make a great cup of joe, but a dull chef's knife from the dollar store has a better chance of cutting you than your food.

Cooking Essentials

Even if you're not planning on cooking much, you still should have the essentials. You might be used to microwave mac n cheese and cafeteria food. Now's the perfect time to develop some cooking skills.

  • Pots and pans
  • Baking tray
  • Measuring cups and measuring spoons
  • Colander
  • Knife set
  • Cutting board

Cooking Utensils

You can find all of these items in a set. This will also often include a utensil holder as well. Check sites like Amazon and Wayfair for different utensil sets.

  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Tongs
  • Ladle
  • Spatula
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Cheese grater
  • Pizza cutter
  • Kitchen shears
  • Utensil holder

Kitchen Appliances

Now not all of these are necessary, but we will list them here anyway just so you don't forget.

  • Blender
  • Coffeemaker
  • Toaster/toaster oven
  • Slow cooker/crockpot
  • Food processor
  • Teapot


If you can, look for an apartment with a dishwasher. This will save you time and energy, allowing you to catch up on your studies (or sleep).

  • Dishtowels
  • Dish soap
  • Dish drying rack
  • Sponge
  • Dishwasher pods - if you have a dishwasher
  • Stainless steel scrubbing pads
  • Dishwashing gloves

Food Storage and Other Kitchen Items

  • Tupperware
  • Kitchen timer
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Paper towels
  • Paper towel holder
  • Trash bags
  • Large trash can
  • Over mitts


You've got everything you need to cook. Now you need somewhere to eat. Make sure to check these items off your checklist. You should be able to find affordable sets of dinnerware and glasses at places like Target, Ikea and Costco.

  • Dining table and chairs
  • Large and small plates
  • Large and small bowls
  • Glasses
  • Plastic cups
  • Coffee mugs
  • Paper plates
  • Plastic utensils
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • Placemats
  • Coasters

Living Room

For the most part, you will likely have many of these items that you can bring along from your dorm room. If you live in a city with a lot of other students, check out Craigslist for things like couches and coffee tables. Students are constantly moving in and moving out, so you will often see this type of stuff pop up for a cheap price or potentially for free.

Living Room Furniture

Start with purchasing some entry-level furniture to make your living room come together. If you are looking for places to score affordable furniture, we've compiled a list of some of our favorites.

  • End tables
  • Coffee table
  • End tables
  • TV stand/Small entertainment center
  • Chairs/additional seating

Making it Cozy

Now, make it come to life! The level to which you decorate your new home is going to depend on your personality. But some couch pillows and blankets are going to make it feel a whole lot cozier.

  • Couch pillows
  • Throw blanket
  • Area rug
  • Floor lamp
  • Wall art
  • Blu-ray or DVD player (If you still look to buy physical copies of your movies/shows
  • Wall art


You will soon learn that having in-unit laundry is one of life's greatest gifts. Honestly, if you can find an apartment that has this amenity, it's a huge perk. If you need to make your way to a laundry room, worry not. Here's everything you'll need.

  • Laundry basket
  • Laundry detergent or detergent pods
  • Fabric softener sheets
  • Rolls of quarters - If your apartment has coin-operated laundry machines or you have to go to a laundromat
  • Iron/handheld steamer
  • Ironing board
  • Stain remover
  • Sewing kit
  • Drying rack - Go green and save some money while doing it!
  • Mesh laundry bags


There's a good chance you already had plenty of these things in your dorm, but if you didn’t, don’t forget them. Keep your eye out for sales at Best Buy and Costco for great deals.

  • TV - Make it a smart TV and have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon at the ready! Or, buy something like an Amazon Fire Stick or Roku to get the same benefits.
  • Blu-ray or DVD player - If you still look to buy physical copies of your movies/shows
  • WiFi router - A WiFi extender could come in handy if you have a spotty connection
  • HDMI cable - To connect your laptop to the TV without a smart TV set-up!
  • Printer with copy paper
  • Power strips/surge protectors
  • Extension cords
  • Game consoles
  • Lap desk
  • Smart speaker (i.e. Alexa, Google Home, Homepod)

Cleaning & Other Supplies

If you are prone to spills and stains and want to make your new home equipped for any emergency, make sure to have these items readily available.

  • Vacuum
  • Broom
  • Duster
  • Dustpan
  • Mop
  • Swiffer
  • Cleaning products
  • First aid kit - Set up the optimal first-aid kid with these tips from Red Cross. This first-aid kit checklist will go way beyond the simple band-aids and gauze, and keep you prepared for any emergency.)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • School supplies
  • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Air conditioner - if your apartment doesn't have A/C, look into portable and window units
  • Reusable water bottle

So there you have it, the complete college apartment checklist with all of the apartment essentials. Hopefully, this helps make your transition from dorm to college apartment a smooth and successful one.

Seeking out your first college apartment? Apartment List is here to help. Just click the button below to begin apartment hunting.

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Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More
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