College Campus Checklist — Huge Guide with 37 College Essentials for Guys
High school graduation season — when young adults are full of promise and expectations, ready to begin their journey into adulthood.
Some may be college bound, some may be entering the workforce. Others may make the decision to serve our country.
But one thing’s for sure — their lives will inevitably be changing.
No longer a teenager in high school, they will be encountering new opportunities and facing new challenges.
Having raised two sons myself, I can definitely testify at times it was hard — for all of us.
But once they had that diploma in their hands, it was clearly worth it — the significance of what they’d accomplished — and where it might lead them in the future.
So what kind of gift can you get a graduate to help meet life’s next challenge?
Are there practical gifts that can provide a small boost, that step up to their next stage in life?
I don’t know about you, but I really believe finding a graduation gift for a boy is so much harder than for a girl.
Maybe because my sons are a little more reserved, and less likely to share details or expand on their personal thoughts. I swear, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get a full sentence from them!
But I’ve seen many posts out there with graduation gift ideas for college-bound girls, and not so much geared toward males. That’s why I really feel like it’s sooo much harder to find graduation gifts for guys.
I did a lot of searching 5 years ago when my son finished his high school journey and was preparing to go to college.
And then, over those next four years, I discovered what products and tools were the most beneficial to him, and would allow him to begin his own personal journey to independence.
In other words, by providing him with a head start, without hindering his ability to transition into adulthood.
For example, making him a starter kit of laundry essentials, vs. allowing him to bring dirty clothes home once a month for mom to do his laundry 🙂
So call it a college freshman survival kit, or just call it an away-from-home care package.
Here is a SUPER LONG list of college essentials for the guy in your life who is ready to move on to the next stage as an adult. And if you’re looking for some unique yet useful “graduation gifts for him”, look no further. HERE is the only list of items you’ll need. Whether he’s graduating high school, or already a college freshman — these essentials will give him everything he needs to feel at home.
This page includes affiliate links. This means I may receive some sort of compensation (at no cost to you) if you make a purchase through these links.
For guys who have graduated and will be heading off to college, there are several essentials that you’ll need to be aware of. Many universities send an email list of what you need to buy for an incoming freshman, but there are many other items that are not even mentioned in those materials. Some things you just need to figure out as you go along.
Here are some essentials we picked up for my son to help him settle in when he was a college freshman. These are also some useful gift ideas, if you’re trying to figure out what to buy a new graduate.
The benefit will be two-fold. He will have what he needs to start his college journey, and he also won’t have to worry about buying everything under the sun once he’s on campus.
You’ll be giving the gift of security so he has everything he needs. And he won’t have to worry about all the basics on top of everything else that will be new and unfamiliar to him.
1. Bed-in-a-Bag –
College dorms specify that they’ll provide a bed but you need to supply the linens. Most dorm-sized beds are called Twin XL, which means they are longer than a traditional twin-sized bed.
Years ago, it was more difficult to locate these oddly-sized sheets. Companies catering to colleges even would advertise these items at a so-called “group” rate. But the set would typically cost more than what you’d spend for regular sized sheets. In addition, they were often made of poor, scratchy material.
Thankfully, Twin XL sheet sets are a lot more common now, and you can find them in most major department or big box stores. And you also have the added convenience of buying a bed-in-a-bag set, which includes multiple matching items (fitted sheet, flat sheet, pillow cases and sometimes a pillow sham).
Click below to see this recommended set that has received great reviews, is offered at a decent price, and in a nice neutral color that I know my son would be happy with —
2. Mattress Pad –
To go along with the bed-in-a-bag sheet set, you will definitely want to pick up a mattress pad.
We learned in my son’s freshman year that the dormitory beds are very basic, and the mattresses are rock hard. A mattress pad was a needed purchase to make sure he could get a decent night’s sleep and didn’t wake up with back pain.
You can pick one of these up for a steal, and can also find ones with perks like gel cushioning or allergy and spill protection:
3. Pop-up Hamper –
One of those minor items that make you exclaim “Man, why didn’t I think of that?!”
It’s a fold-up hamper that can be shoved under the bed or into the closet when not in use. Then your guy can just unfold it on laundry day, and easily carry a week (or month’s) worth of clothing down to the laundry room.
4. Nylon Laundry Bag –
I actually own three of these for home use. But these are also great for transferring dirty laundry for washing while at school. These can also be used to pack clothes and linens on move in/move out days.
Let me just tell you that these bags are HUGE, and have a neat toggle closure at the top to make sure the contents don’t spill out. It’s a lot easier to haul one of these babies up & down flights of stairs than to manage a jam-packed plastic laundry basket.
And there are also some cool color & print options. I personally have the zebra and leopard prints …
5. Shower Caddy –
Most college dorms have community bathrooms that are located down the hall. So you need to gather all of your toiletries, haul it down to the showers, juggling shampoo, soap, toothbrush, etc.
A waterproof shower caddy is a great way for guys to keep all of these necessities together. They can just grab-and-go when they head on down to hit the showers.
6. Towel set –
It goes without saying that your guy will need to bring his own towels to campus. And you can get a great deal on a towel set, including bath towels, hand towels and wash cloths. PLUS they can all MATCH — (extra points towards true “adulting” for your graduate.)
7. Flip-Flops for Showers –
So just to keep it real — it is a community bathroom, after all … He may not think he needs these, but better to be safe than sorry. There is some weird fungus out there in the world.
8. Bathrobe –
A quality terry cloth bathrobe will get him from the shower back to his dorm room in no time.
The one below has great reviews with multiple color and size options.
BONUS: Create a “Starter Kit” of laundry products –
A graduation gift for the guy who has it all — but doesn’t realize it. The means to do his very own laundry! (Thanks Mom!)
Step #1 – Find a plastic hamper and fill it with detergent, stain spray, wool dryer balls, and anything else you can find to give your student a step up on managing his own laundry duties.
Step #2 – Make sure he knows exactly how to use all of these items!! Even if he does his own laundry at home, not all washing machines and dryers work the same way. It might be a good idea to go visit the campus laundry room before getting in your car & leaving for your homeward journey.
Otherwise, you may be getting a phone call at 3 am as your son desperately tries to figure out these contraptions.
(Yes, a friend of mine said her son called at that late hour when he first attempted to do his laundry on campus.)
9. Box Fan –
Many campuses (especially in the north) don’t have air conditioning in the dorms. Having a fan to put in the window is a must-have during the summer months.
Also, when turned in the opposite direction, it helps remove stale air from dorms that have sweaty gym socks laying about. Which brings me to the next recommendation.
10. Febreze fabric refresher –
This stuff is great. It eliminates odors and leaves behind a super-fresh scent. And when you have a bunch of guys living together in a college dormitory, eliminating odors is a must. Enough said.
11. ATM/Debit Card
This one is important – If he doesn’t already have a checking account, you’ll need to get him one. For starters, he’ll have to deposit all of the checks and cash that he’ll receive as graduation gifts from friends and relatives.
Because you don’t want to be his personal check-cashing service. And also, because that money will be burning a hole in his pants pocket, and will be gone before you can even say “Benjamin Franklin”.
A debit card will also be a requirement in order to ease into the independence of college life. Sure, he’ll have his college ID badge for purchasing meals in the cafe and supplies in the bookstore. But once in a while he’ll need to grab some staples from the local grocery store. Or pay for an oil change for the car you eventually let him bring onto campus.
Having a debit card will make it easier for you to transfer funds in a small emergency. It will save time from having you make phone calls on his behalf, to make payments for service appointments.
A smart way to sign up for a checking account that your child can use ANYWHERE is through Aspiration online checking. Money Magazine awarded Aspiration’s Summit account as the “Best Checking Account in America”.
The Summit account offers up to 1% annual interest (100 times HIGHER than other banks), with No ATM fees worldwide, ZERO monthly service fees and your own personal impact score — so you can see where your individual contributions are making a difference in the world.
12. Dorm Fridge –
One of the things that’ll make his dorm room feel more like home — A place to put those home-cooked meals that you bring whenever you visit. Or after stocking up on a grocery store run — filling with those fruit and veggies that you know he won’t go buy himself. Lots of dorms have community fridges, where you have to label any items that belong to you. And hope that no one else gets the late night munchies, with the snacks you bought. Having a small, individual dorm fridge will make it easier for him to keep the staples on hand. And that’s less worrying for you!
13. Yeti tumbler –
Apparently these are all the rage, according to my son. Great for water, cool drinks, or even hot coffee.
* The perfect freshman staple * — One of these babies paired with a new Keurig, which will allow him to get through those 8 a.m. classes that he couldn’t schedule his way out of.
My son tried to avoid 8 a.m. classes at all costs, which worked just fine until his senior year. And it was during this particular semester that he developed a taste for black coffee. Apparently waking up at 7:55 didn’t allow enough time to add cream or sugar, as he ran out the door to get to class …
14. Keurig and K-Cups –
This gift also comes with a 12 K-cup trial pack —
15. Floor Lamp –
His dorm room may have a dim, built-in ceiling light, but more than likely doesn’t have anything. He’ll need a couple of floor lamps, and maybe even a desk lamp to keep the room bright all hours into the night.
Because he’ll be studying. That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it. And really, some things we are better off not knowing. As long as he graduates. And he will.
We bought our son a Macbook Pro, which was quite pricey. However, most Mac users swear by them, and say they last forever. We were absolutely shocked that it actually lasted all four years of college.
This is coming from the kid who during those four years shattered two iPhone screens, and rendered three more phones totally unresponsive. There is definitely something to say about paying for quality. The Macbook Pro performed like a champ, and is still going strong.
But a cheaper alternative to getting a Macbook would be to pick up a new Google Chromebook. Gone are the days when you need a disk drive to install programs, because everything can now be downloaded. And even Microsoft Office programs can be either accessed on the cloud, or replaced entirely by other web-based programs (like Google Docs and Google Sheets).
We have three Chromebooks in our house, and they are constantly in use. Especially mine — I am always online, and am amazed with speed and responsiveness of this device.
I remember back in the day it would take my Windows computer F-O-R-E-V-E-R to boot up, and the lag time was unreal. But my Chromebook boots up instantly, and is super fast, so I couldn’t be happier.
(Seriously — I tell everyone — friends & family — how much I absolutely LOVE my Chromebook …)
Other things you should buy when you get a laptop:
17. Surge Protector –
Investing money in a computer, even a more budget-friendly model, is something you’ll want to protect. Whether it’s from a thunder storm or heat wave, an unexpected power surge can render your electronics useless. And that’s not something to risk if he’s been up all night writing a paper.
18. Portable Hard Drive –
Going along with protecting your investment, you want to make sure that if something does happen, he is able to recover all of his hard work. Having a portable hard drive as backup ensures all of his documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos and yes, even music, are backed up appropriately. Just in case.
19. Smart Phone Charging Station with USB Ports and 3-Outlet Surge Protector –
Another one of those “Why the heck didn’t I think of that?!” items — A surge protector that also has USB ports. So he can charge his laptop and his phone at the same time. Also a godsend for anyone who has a habit of losing those phone-charging “cubes”, that always seem to go missing. He can plug his charging cable directly into the outlet, without having to use one of those cubes.
20. Extra charging cables for laptop and phone –
Kids lose things. Maybe I’m biased because I feel like I replaced 413 phone chargers and 316 computer charging cables over the years for my sons. It’s a great idea to buy some extras, just in case …
21. Quick Chargers & Charging Pads –
And last but not least –
For the guy who leaves everything to the last minute, including letting his phone or laptop get down to single digits in battery life.
22. Amazon Prime Student subscription
This is also very important for the student away at school. Amazon Prime Student is a service we used often during the four years my son was away at school in New Hampshire.
Sometimes I would add a bunch of things to my cart and have Amazon mail it to his address on campus. And other times he would order necessities directly from his Prime Student account.
Especially with guys who tell you at the last minute that a book is needed for class next week.
Yes, you could transfer money to him and trust that he’ll find what he needs at a local store. Or you can find the exact thing he needs on Amazon, and have it shipped directly to him.
Sharp Dressed Man
23. Suit –
Okay, so maybe he doesn’t have one right now, or maybe he does. If your guy had a formal college interview before he graduated, then he’s all set.
But if not, then this is something you may want to consider as he starts his college journey. Because sooner or later, he’ll need to get dressed up for a job interview. And it’s always good for a guy to have one or two suits in his closet.
24. Portfolio –
Here’s another essential that has multiple uses. This can be used when attending college interviews. Then throughout college he can use this for presentations and projects. Then ultimately, it can be used when he goes on job interviews after graduation. It adds to his professional persona and will help him to feel more confident.
25. Professional Gift Set – Money clip, key chain, cuff links, tie clip, pen or business cards –
This is an actual gift set that commemorates his accomplishments and also serves a purpose. He can wear the cuff links and tie clip to complete his professional appearance. The money clip and key chain will round out the polished look. He can add the pen to his new portfolio. And the business card holder — well that’s something he can start using once he lands the perfect job.
Keeping in Touch:
26. Gas Station Gift Cards –
If your guy has a vehicle at school, then a gas station gift card is an essential item that not many people will think of. It can allow him to drive home for the weekend, or catch up with friends on another campus.
27. Grocery Store Gift Cards –
The same applies to grocery store gift cards. College students are always looking to save some money. Not having to worry about grocery spending will allow his spending money to go further. And it will make sure he is eating healthier meals, instead of ordering takeout every night.
28. Skype Credits –
You can purchase Skype credits as a gift to send to friends and family. What better way to ensure your graduate has the means to call home? Okay, so he can use his cell phone. But won’t it be great to see each other’s smiling faces?
Most people either have a Netflix subscription, or know someone else who does. Netflix even acknowledges that people share passwords. But sometimes you get kicked out of watching a program if too many people are logged in at once (using the same logon.) Gifting someone a Netflix subscription will allow them to enjoy shows whenever they want.
30. Amazon Fire Stick with Alexa Voice Remote –
As an alternative to paying a monthly membership to Netflix, you can buy the Amazon Fire Stick as a graduation gift for your guy. This is ideal if he is already an Amazon Prime member, since thousands of movies and TV shows are automatically included in Prime membership. And instead of a monthly fee, you only have to buy the Fire Stick once. On top of that, the Alexa Voice Remote makes it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for. You can search by show title, actors, genre — you name it. (Literally.)
31. Roku Smart TV –
Another way for him to watch all of his favorite movies and TV shows is with a Roku Smart TV. Roku is similar to Netflix and the Amazon Fire Stick because it streams shows and movies through the internet. You can access tons of free and paid channels, to watch anything you could possibly imagine. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are channels that can be accessed through Roku. So if you buy the Roku Smart TV as a gift, then you are technically providing the means to watch all of these channels. (But would still need the subscriptions and/or Amazon Prime access.)
32. Magnetic Dart Board –
A fun gift for nights in the dorm room. Or to get the creative juices flowing to write a paper that’s due the next day.
33. Motivational Sports Quote Plaque –
A cool gift for the guy who’s into sports. And a neat conversation piece to display in his dorm room.
The Comforts of Home:
34. Slippers –
Comfy, fleece-lined mocs will make him feel at home in his dorm. And they have hard rubber soles, in case he decides to wear them out and about. (Do all college guys do this, or is it just in the northeast?)
35. Noise cancelling headphones –
To help keep the peace with roommates who might have differing tastes in music. Also useful if one roomie needs to stay up studying, while the other wants to go to sleep. It’s never a bad idea to extend the common courtesy of consideration to those around you.
36. White Noise Machine/Sleeping Sounds –
Have you ever thought about how difficult it is to fall asleep in a new environment? Maybe it’s not something your guy has ever needed to consider. But if he’s away from home for the first time, he may find himself wide awake in the middle of the night. And many times, it’s because the room is too quiet or unfamiliar. A sleep machine or white noise machine will help him relax so he can get a good night’s sleep. It can also help if he has a roommate who snores, or to concentrate more while studying.
37. Framed photos of family and pets –
They’ll never admit it, but they do miss us (sometimes). Pick up one of these photo collage frames and insert some favorite memories. When he opens this gift, he’ll know it comes from the heart. And even if he doesn’t say it at that time, it will remind him of home whenever he looks at it.
And sometimes that’s all you need to feel more at home in an unfamiliar place.
Hope this list of college essentials gives you some great ideas of what to buy your recent graduate. As he transitions into college, these “must-have” items will help your guy feel more at home!
Ultimate List of College Essentials for Guys Graduating and Heading Off to College
Robin is a full-time business professional who has worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years. She is also a personal finance blogger who shares her first hand experience with the struggles of money and debt. On Mastering the Side Jam, she focuses on ways to maximize efficiencies to make & save money, pay off debt, and live your best life.
She has been been featured on The Money Mix, Rockstar Finance, The Financial Diet and Women’s Money Talk, and has been quoted in various online publications.