ten college + dorm room essentials

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Ahhh, back-to-school. This truly used to be my favorite time of year and kind of still is even though I'm a few years out of college now. Life is great now, but I do really miss being at university quite a bit.

There were ups-and-downs, but I truly loved every bit of my experience at Flagler College in St. Augustine. From being on the exec team of our school's biggest organization and having classes in a beautiful building from the 1800s to eating at the dining hall with my friends under the Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass and all of the crazy antics we got up to around town. My school didn't have football, but I made sure to drive to Gainesville for a game at University of Florida just so I could have that SEC experience. 

When this time of year rolls around, I get nostalgic and remember what my first days at school were like. I thought it might be helpful to share ten of my essential college and dorm room items so incoming freshman have some ideas (beyond the basics) about what to pick up from Target or The Container Store.

P.S. Scroll to the bottom for some random throwback photos from college, a time when I obviously very rarely wore makeup. 

legal pads + clipboard
After much trial and error, this was my favorite way to take notes in class. I'd have one clipboard, then a legal pad for each of my classes. In the morning, I'd pack my bag with the single clipboard and just the notepads I needed for that day. This made my bag so much lighter and easier to carry around campus. 

binders + printable covers
Like I said, I only carried legal pads to class but in my dorm, I kept a slim binder for each of my classes to store old assignments, tests, and other materials. Each semester, I'd print out new (cute) binder covers for my classes. 

id holder
I can guarantee you'll need to carry your student ID with you around campus, so it's smart to carry it in a cute ID holder. I vividly remember my little green Kate Spade id holder that I'd carry with me everywhere. This prevents you from losing your ID and also makes it easy to find quickly in your bag. 

colored pens
Another note taking strategy I liked was to use different colors for different sections of your notes. I typically used a color-coded version of Cornell notes. Learn more about color-coded note taking here and here. In order to do this, I kept a bag full of different color pens and took it with me to every class. Even if you don't use a specific system of color-coding, just breaking up sections into different colors is helpful when you go back to review them later. 

extra thick mattress pad
If you're living in a dorm, you'll want at least one of these but two if you can. Dorm mattresses can hardly be called mattresses and are quite uncomfortable. I had one mattress pad, but my roommate layered several and made the most comfortable Twin XL bed ever. 

led candles
Most dorms don't allow real candles, so I made sure to always have a couple of LED ones in our room. It makes such a difference to turn these on with a desk lamp instead of your overhead light in the evenings. Kind of makes late night studying have a slinky cafe vibe!

shower organizer
I was lucky to share my shower with just one roommate, but you may have to share with suite mates or even the entire hall. In any of these scenarios, it's important to have a good shower caddy. I recommend mesh because they drain easier and don't accumulate gunk at the bottom like the plastic ones do.

surge protector
It's amazing how many things you need to plug in at your desk. Laptop charger, phone charger, mini-fridge, lamps, and so on. Plus, dorm electricity can sometimes be sketchy. I know my roommate and I blew the power a couple of times! So, be sure to have a surge protecting power strip for all of your plugs.

tote bag
A good tote bag is one hundred percent essential. I mostly carried a canvas Vineyard Vines tote (customized for my school, which was so fun) because they're cute, durable, and are pretty lightweight. Even when the cotton portions begin to wear, it still looks good.

individual oatmeal cups
Even if you're on the dining hall meal plan, you'll need to keep breakfast and snack items in your room. I was (and still am) obsessed with individual oatmeal cups, particularly from the brand Love Grown. They're the quickest and easiest healthy meal option you can get in a dorm situation and so good to have around when you randomly get hungry. I love the strawberry flavor!

What are your college essentials? Are you going back to school this year? Let me know!