back to school

Back-to-School Shopping Guide: The College Years

Moving into your college dorm can be one of the most daunting processes of your young life. Especially as a freshman, editing down a list of dorm essentials when you don’t know exactly what you’ll need can feel like a guessing game. Scroll down for an edit of the back-to-school items you’ll actually use, from room décor to clothing.

Study Time

Start off your school year right by treating yourself to these leather Frends earphones — they’ll be especially useful for finding your quiet, happy place during late-night reading. Fun stationery can help ease the boredom of note-taking, but if you prefer to take notes on your laptop, a keyboard cover helps diminish typing noise in class. And at this point, your phone is probably your most valuable tech accessory, so it’s helpful to carry a portable battery for emergency situations. Nathalie pencils, $4 at; Notebook, $12 at Saks; Frends Layla Headphones, $150 at Net-A-Porter; Polanfo External Battery, $17 at Amazon; White Marble Keyboard Cover, $12 at Urban Outfitters; Asos Leather and Croc Embossed Backpack, $90 at Asos.

Dorm Décor

Your dorm might not be the spacious apartment you’ve always envisioned for your collegiate life, but you will probably spend more time there than any place else, so you might as well make it comfortable. Ikea is always the best place for inexpensive rugs. Add a floor lamp that’s so polished no one will know it’s from Target, then throw in a couple of decorative pillows, plants, and wall art, and you’ve got yourself a grown-up space.

Art Print, $9 at Indigo; Ikea PS 2014 Rug, $139 at Ikea; Threshold Floor Lamp, $70 at Target; CB2 Potted Succulent, $10 at CB2; H&M Faux Fur Cushion Cover, $18 at H&M.

The Clothes

Minimal effort and maximum comfort are key here. During the first week of classes you may take more time for styling, but once the realities of the semester set in, your objective will be getting out the door fast. Topshop’s loafers could not be easier to slide into, while a striped shirt looks tailored without trying. If you tend to be an egregious oversleeper, an easy throw-on-and-go dress like this one from Mango will be your best friend.

& Other Stories Contrast Neck Striped Tee, $29 at & Other Stories; Topshop Backless Buckle Loafers, $85 at Topshop; Zara Cropped Mom Jeans, $70 at Zara; Mango dress, $40 at Mango.


Because the freshman 15 doesn’t suddenly stop after your first year, knowing how to create quick, healthy snacks on your own can be a godsend. Try splurging on fancy-looking flatware and bowls — you’ll be able to use them all the time, and any concoctions you whip up will look like five-star cuisine.

Izon 5-piece Flatware Set, $20 at Target; Power Snacks Cookbook, $15 at Urban Outfitters; Crate & Barrel Essential Dinner Plate, $5 at Crate & Barrel; Hard Strong 7oz. Glass 6-Pack, $29 at Need Supply; Prouna Marble Azur Cereal Bowl, $30 at Gracious Style.

Shower Essentials

Probably the least pleasurable part of dorm life is the public bathroom, so it’s critical to have good shower accessories that can take the brunt of daily use. A hard shower caddy will be easier to wipe down than a softer one, while Nike’s slide sandals are classics for a reason. A lush robe will also make your shower experience feel infinitely more enjoyable.

Nike Benassi JD Slides, $25 at Urban Outfitters; Dorm Shower Tote, $17 at Dorm Co; Zara Home Premium Towels, from $6 at Zara Home; H&M Waffle Textured Robe, $35 at H&M.

Quality Bedding

If there’s one thing to blow your budget on, it’s quality bedding. Knowing how to maximize the small amount of sleep you will get is important; go for a supportive mattress pad to increase the comfort of your (probably) subpar college mattress, and plush pillows and soft sheets to make your sleep extra luxurious. Bedface’s sheets are made with 100 percent long-staple cotton, and the company claims they get softer with each wash. A bright and patterned duvet set adds another decorative touch to make your bed feel like home.

The Cotton Loft Mattress Pad in Twin XL, $90 at Crane & Canopy; Bedface sheet set in Twin XL, $97 at Bedface; BioPedic 4-Pack Bed Pillows, $22 at Amazon; Zara Bedding Set, from $12 at Zara Home.

Back-to-School Shopping Guide: The College Years