When our daughters told us they would be living off campus, I was able to help them come up with some college apartment must-haves. Why? Because my senior year in college, I decided I’d rather live in an apartment than the dorm.
This is a natural progression for many college and university students, especially if their school doesn’t guarantee housing all four years. In addition, some schools have college apartments that students can rent or live in like they would a dorm.
For example, my older daughter’s senior year housing was an apartment with four other women. However, it was an apartment building that her college owned. So its residents were students as well as faculty and their families.
Nonetheless, she, like my other daughter who moved off campus her senior year, needed to figure out what to buy for a college apartment. So I figured my readers might have children in this same situation.
Your college apartment checklist
Therefore, I decided to write this article which could be your veritable college apartment checklist. I’ll go through most rooms in a typical apartment to help you figure out exactly what you need to buy before you pack up the car. Or, after they get to school.
For example, lots of retailers offer ship to store options. Here are my two favorites for college students:
Hopefully, you’ll find this article helpful for all of your college apartment shopping.
Kitchen Essentials for College Apartment
When your student moves into a college apartment, chances are the kitchen basics are going to be there. And when I say basics, I mean appliances.
For example, even though both of my daughters lived in entirely different apartment settings their senior year at college, their places all had a refrigerator and stove. One apartment had a dishwasher as well as a stackable washer and dryer. Therefore, you likely don’t need to think about buying those items for the kitchen.
However, you’re going to need to bring everything else. And before we get into the shopping part, let’s talk about the cleaning part.
Clean the kitchen first
Because in every apartment I’ve ever moved my daughters into–undergraduate college or even grad school housing–the kitchens needed a thorough cleaning. So be sure to arrive with plenty of cleaning wipes, Swiffer mops, Softscrub and more. I can almost guarantee you’re going to need to give the kitchen a good cleaning.
Also, buying these cleaning items in bulk will be good to leave behind. Because besides the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the areas in an apartment (really, any home) that needs to be cleaned regularly, if not daily.
So add to your shopping list the following:
- Tubs of Clorox, Lysol or another brand of cleaning wipes.
- A Swiffer bundle starter kit so they can use both the dry and wet Swiffer pads to keep the floor clean. You can find Swiffer starter kits on Amazon.
- A good vacuum cleaner. The Shark brand has never done us wrong.
Essentials to stock the kitchen
Obviously, the kitchen is going to need countertop appliances for cooking and making meals, including snacks. Plus, you’ll need cooking tools.
Here is a list of must haves for that apartment kitchen, based on my own childrens’ experiences:
- Crock Pot or Instant Pot
- Magic Bullet or blender
- Air Fryer
- Pots, pans, cookie sheets, etc. You can find plenty of cookware options on Amazon. They range from the really cheap (under $15) to the very expensive. Here is my article about cookware with a lifetime warranty.
- Don’t forget about cooking utensils as well as eating utensils–forks, spoons and knives. Check out these essentials in the cooking utensils and gadgets category.
- Glass storage containers for leftovers
- Plates, dishes and cups. Shopping at either Target or IKEA can get you everything you need.
College apartment bedroom furniture
When your student moves into their college apartment, they’re going to have three options when it comes to bedroom furniture. One, it will be provided for them, as it was with my older daughter. If you recall, she lived in a college-owned apartment building. Therefore, it was furnished with dorm-like furniture throughout, including in the bedroom.
Two, your student may have the option of buying furniture from the previous occupants. This is what happened with my younger daughter. The apartment she was moving into was previously occupied by her sorority “big.” So, they negotiated a price for the bedroom she would be taking over from her.
Or, three, you have to bring your own. At one time I might have suggested shopping at IKEA for a cheap bed. However, IKEA furniture can be cumbersome to transport and build, though I do love this IKEA bed frame we got for my older daughter’s grad school apartment.
Instead, these days I would say this: the best bed for a college apartment, would be a bed frame from Amazon Basics and a mattress from a bed-in-a-box company. It’s just so much easier and, frankly, so much more affordable.
Right now, Mattress Firm has a deal going on: Students & Teachers, Get up to 50% off Sleepy’s & Tulo mattresses in a box Plus, an exclusive offer: Extra 10-20% off mattresses & more.
College apartment bedding
If your student is moving from a dorm into an apartment with a twin bed, then you can just reuse the bedding you had for dorm beds. However, if they’ve upgraded their bed to something bigger, then, of course, you’ll need new bedding.
As I said in my dorm must haves article, I stand by my recommendation that Target has the best college bedding. Even if you don’t need the Twin XL sheets anymore, Target is a great place to shop for sheets, pillowcases, comforters, blankets and more.
In fact, my husband and I are decades out of college. But when it comes time to buy bedding for our home, we always shop at Target. Their sheets really are that good.
Other bedroom furniture
If you’re buying new furniture for the whole bedroom, I would recommend checking Facebook Marketplace for cheap options. Or, if there is a local ReStore run by Habitat for Humanity.
Basically, unless you know your student is going to take this furniture with them after college, I wouldn’t spend a lot of money on it. Thrifting is probably your best option for spending as little as possible.
Nice to haves in a college apartment
Of course, your student is at school to learn. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t have a little fun. So here are a few nice-to-haves (versus must haves or essentials) for that college apartment.
Firestick if you don’t have a Roku or Chromecast
Overall safety in a college apartment
In this review of Simplisafe, I talked about how we invested in Simplisafe systems for both of our daugthers. This included when the youngest moved into her college apartment. Simplisafe was simply an easier and more affordable option than a traditional alarm system from ADT.
Luckily, you can buy Simplisafe in stores. Also, you can get it at Best Buy, Sam’s Club and Costco.
There are so many benefits to a Simplisafe system. One, you pay for it once. Two, the equipment is yours to keep. And three, you can take it with you and set it up in a new location when you move.
Have I missed any categories for a college apartment shopping list? If so, please post a comment and let me know.