College Survival Kit: The Ultimate Dorm Checklist
Going off to college or university is such an exciting milestone – but it can also be a stressful time. Whether your (now fully grown) child is the first in the family to leave home for a dorm room, or if they’re following in their sibling’s footsteps, we’ve got a checklist of what they’ll need most.
For the Backpack
- Backpack: Choosing the right backpack for college or university is key – it needs to be roomy enough for everything (including a laptop!), but still cool enough that they’ll want to wear it. Parkland has a great range of backpacks that come in funky prints like daisies or camo. Be sure to check each bag’s laptop sleeve measurements as they offer different sizes. If you’re looking for a bigger backpack, Jansport has big student backpacks that fit up to 34L with lots of pockets for much needed organization. If they only carry their laptop around, a smaller bag like the Fjallraven Kanken would be a better bet.
- Laptop sleeve: Chances are they’ll be bringing their laptop with them almost everywhere they go, so make sure it stays safe on route with a reliable laptop case. Parkland Pilot Laptop Sleeves feature a cushioned interior and plush fleece lining so their treasured device is in good hands during travel. For cuter options, MYTAGALONGS has laptop sleeves made with neoprene in silver, black with a quilted pattern, or quartz.
- School supplies: Unlike grade school students, undergrad students will do most of their school work digitally. However, they’ll still need some basic school supplies like pencils, pens, highlighters, a ruler, permanent markers, and correction tape to get through note taking, studying and group projects. Sticky notes and clips will be handy for studying, and a stapler is helpful to have on hand for essays.
- Agenda: Between classes, deadlines and school activities, a good daily planner is essential for staying organized. Add a monthly calendar like this unicorn one from Studio Oh! to really stay on top of things.
- Notebook: Some people learn better by writing their notes by hand instead of typing them, so make sure you get a few notebooks for lecture notes or studying. Studio Oh! has really trendy prints like mermaids and sloths. Glitter notebooks aren’t just for kids either—OOLY has colourful sparkly notebooks and writing supplies that are fun for all ages.
- Lunch bag: Lunch bags are must for keeping food separated from expensive laptops in backpacks! Flexibility is even more important than size as you want to make sure the lunch bag can fit comfortably in the backpack—with some extra room to spare just in case. Fluf and Baggu offer great options that can fit a ton without taking up a lot of space. And Funch foldable lunch bags look just like paper bags, but they’re reusable—and way cuter!
- Bento box: The best way to avoid the dreaded “freshman 15” is have them (or help them!) pack their own lunches, and the best way to pack variety in one container is to use a bento box! For a smaller bento, try the Russbe Double Stack + Chill Bento With Ice Pack, complete with utensils and an ice pack. For full meals on the go, opt for a bento box from Fuel or Bentology.
- Reusable snack bags: Save money by using reusable bags! One (re)zip reusable lunch bag replaces up to 300 disposable baggies so not only are they saving money, but you’re also helping reduce plastic waste. Itzy Ritzy has the coolest avocado, cactus and sloth print snack bags too.
- Snack containers: Snacks fuel brains and the best way to reduce waste on campus is to use reusable containers. Sistema and Nude Food Movers have lots of different containers for different needs—so a half-eaten sandwich from the food court or yogurt, berries and granola can be kept safe in a backpack.
- Water bottle: They can hydrate in style with a S’well or bkr water bottle. For more budget-friendly options, there’s Nalgene (which also clip easily on backpack straps), Klean Kanteen and Camelbak. Camelbak Podium Bottles are a great choice for athletes, as the easy-squeeze bottle quenches thirst quickly.
- Utensils: Utensils are great for eating on-the-go – and for avoiding long lines in the food court. To-Go Ware has natural wooden utensil sets that come with their own cases, and the Monbento MB Pocket Litchi is made with stainless steel for strong cuts through chicken or steak.
- Reusable straws: The plastic bottle ban is on the rise and straws are next, as they create unnecessary waste and wreak havoc on ocean creatures. Luckily there are some wonderful reusable options available like Kikkerland’s colourful reusable straws, Onyx’s stainless steel straws, or GreenPaxx’s silicone reusable straws with a wide diameter that’s perfect for smoothies!
- Healthy snacks: Keep the dorm room stocked with healthy snacks so you know they have proper food to fuel their brains. MadeGood snacks ensure they’re getting some veggies, KIND Granola Bars are a great on-the-go option, LesserEvil Buddha Bowl Popcorn is great for movie nights, and SmartSweets are the perfect sugar-free candy.
For Their Health
- Multivitamin: Late nights, new friends, and lots of homework can take a toll on their health. Multivitamins can help ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need at this critical stage in life. Getting them in gummy form doubles the chances they’ll actually take them! If they’re coffee drinkers, Coffee Booster is a cool new brand that offers liquid supplements they can add right to their java.
- Probiotics: Young adults likely aren’t thinking about keeping their gut in check, but studies show that a healthy gut helps with overall health and happiness. A great way to keep the gut happy (no matter what goes in it) is with probiotics – again, gummies are a great option.
- Tissues: Most dorm rooms don’t come equipped with tissues, so stock up on facial tissues and facial tissue pocket packs to help your son or daughter get through the Canadian winter and dreaded cold & flu season.
- Hand sanitizer: No explanation needed for this one – germs are everywhere on campus! Purell Jelly Wraps are convenient for travelling, but if a great smell would entice them to use it more opt for Everyone’s Lemon Coconut Spray or Bronner’s Lavender Spray.
- Sunscreen: When it’s nice out, the last place they’ll want to be is their dorm room – so send them off with sunscreen to keep them protected all year long. Bare Republic has a convenient sports sunscreen with SPF 50 in stick form, and Goddess Garden has a spray option for quick application. If you’re worried they’ll stay in the sun a little too long, send them with Badger’s After Sun Balm.
- Cold & flu treatments: When you share a floor with twenty other people, you also share their germs. Help ease them through the dreaded cold & flu season with any of these cold & flu treatments. You won’t be able to give them mom’s chicken noodle soup—but you could give them Amy’s, which is the next best thing.
- Ener-C packs: Ener-C packs are delicious, refreshing, and are even rumoured to help cure hangovers thanks to the added electrolytes. They’ll thank you later.
- Blister bandages: A new school usually means there will be some new wardrobe items, which includes new shoes. It’s a good idea to send them with some blister Band-Aids just in case. Especially if they’re joining any sports teams.
- Lip balm: Keep lips moisturized and healthy all year long (especially through the long Canadian winter) with lip balm. Burt’s Bees minty lip balm made with beeswax is a customer fave, eos lip balms are fun and fruity, and if you’d prefer one with SPF, Green Beaver has sunscreen lip balm.
- Tylenol: Tylenol (acetaminophen) helps with headaches, migraines, fever, sore muscles and cold and flu symptoms. One bottle of Tylenol Extra Strength will help with any pain and fevers they might get throughout the school year.
- Tums: If they’re drinking more coffee to help with studying, they’re raising acidity levels in their stomachs, which can lead to upset stomachs or heartburn. Tums Antacid Tablets offer the quickest relief! If you really want to spoil them, opt for the delicious Tums Soft Chews.
Just in Case
- Travel mug: On campus coffee shops will happily fill travel mugs instead of disposable cups, and some chains like Starbucks even offer discounts for bringing your own mug. S’ip by S’well has new travel mugs that are 100% leak-free, and double-walled and insulated to keep hot drinks hot. Contigo travel mugs are also leakproof and are easy to use with one hand.
- Protein bars: Protein bars are a convenient way to get their bodies energized throughout the day, after a workout, or during a sports game. Clif Bars and Vega are popular choices but if you’re looking for more of a meal replacement or healthy snack, try Simply Protein or PrOATein
- Instant coffee: All the caffeine with none of the mess, instant coffee is perfect for students. Four Sigmatic mixes powerful superfood mushrooms with their coffee for added benefits. The Cordycepts & Chaga Mix is great for early morning classes, and the Lion’s Mane & Chaga Mix is perfect for long study sessions.
- Disinfecting wipes: There aren’t any maids in residence to clean up after your teen, so send them off with disinfecting wipes for easy clean-ups. If you want to keep it chemical-free, opt for Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes.
- Picture frames: Some home décor touches to the dorm room will make it feel more “home-y.” Print your favourite family photo, choose a picture frame from Umbra to put it in, and surprise them when you send them off. They’d also love fun frames for photos of their friends—Umbra Crowd Multi Frame can hold up to 15 photos (or postcards or doodles!) and Umbra’s Trickle Photo Display can hold up to 20.
- Shoe deodorizer: Keep their roommate and classmates happy with shoe deodorizers. Ever Bamboo has reusable bamboo charcoal deodorizers that can last an entire year or more, or there’s Shoe-Pourri from Poo-Pourri for quick fixes.
- Earplugs: Your son or daughter could be paired with a snorer, or they could be next to some noisy neighbours! Help them get the sleep they need with Pluggerz Sleep Earplugs, a reusable option that can be used more than 100 times.
- Sleep mask: Sleep without any light disturbance with the help of a sleep mask. KIT’s sleep mask is a great basic sleep mask made with 100% cotton so they’re super soft, and Urban Spa’s sleep masks even come with ear plugs!
- Weekend bag: Backpacks are great for school gear but they don’t fit quite enough for weekend trips. Choose a spacious bag from Baggu like their weekend bag, a small duffle from Parkland, or Rareform’s waterproof weekender duffle bags.
There’s so much to organize for the big send-off to school, so bookmark this list to be prepared with everything they’ll need for a great school year!