Back-to-school essentials for your college abode

by Chloe Chang

Are you an incoming freshman preparing for your first year away from home, feeling uncertain about what to bring? Or perhaps you are a returning student who always seems to forget something during move-in? Whatever your identity, don’t worry because BruinLife is here to provide you with a list of dorm and apartment essentials to make the start of your school year run smoothly.


Bedding for dorms or apartments are not provided, so make sure you purchase them before moving in. If you order them online, make sure they arrive before your move-in date. Students often purchase from Amazon, Ikea, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond or online sites like

Towels, toiletries and shower caddy

Make sure to bring towels and toiletries during move-in. It would be wise to bring extra towels just in case! For many dorms, specifically the classic and deluxe dorms, the bathroom is shared between the residents of one floor, so many students bring a shower caddy to bring their toiletries to and from their dorm. If you are in a shared bathroom, please bring shower shoes! You don’t want to be walking barefoot on the public bathroom floor.

Non-halogen desk lamp

For students that love to work late at night, a non-halogen desk lamp is a necessity for your dorm and apartment life. To limit fire hazards, the lamp must have non-halogen bulbs.

Laundry basket

To bring your clothes to and from the laundry room, make sure to purchase a laundry basket. Common ones that UCLA students have are the foldable bags from Target or the baskets with wheels so that you won’t have to lug your heavy laundry around your building. Make sure to also buy detergent and Tide To Go pens for stain clean-ups!

Desk fan

Many of the apartments and dorms do not come with air conditioning, so if you are sensitive to the heat, a desk fan will help keep you cool during the hot Los Angeles summers.

Full-length mirrors

Although some dorms and apartments come equipped with mirrors on the insides of the closets, others do not! If you want to make sure your outfit looks good before going out, make sure to get one before you settle in. Target sells cheap mirrors that many students buy!


Specifically for those living in apartments, a kettle is an essential item that many college students may forget about when packing. Whether you want to make a hot cup of cocoa or tea, or if you accidentally sleep in and miss the lunch hours and want to make a bowl of ramen, this item will be your best friend.

Command hooks and push pins

To decorate the dorm and make it feel a little more like home, many students like to pin photographs, posters and various other decorations to their walls. Since the dorm walls have corkboards, you will be able to easily attach your decor using push pins. For hanging other things like picture frames and mirrors, you will need strong Command hooks because you won’t be able to nail things into the wall.

Brita Filter

While there are various spots for students to refill their water bottles around campus as well as on the Hill, most students opt to get a Brita water filter because it is more convenient to use. For students living in the apartments, it may be ideal to purchase the bigger size (10-12 cup capacity), while dorm residents could use the smaller size (6 cup capacity).

Mini fridge and microwave

All of the university-owned student apartments come with a large fridge and microwave in their kitchen, but in the dorms, many students choose to rent a mini fridge or microwave on a year-by-year basis with the school, making it super convenient to store cold drinks, ice cream and heat up leftovers throughout the school year.


Although the apartments come with a fridge, microwave, stove and oven, they do not provide other kitchenware such as pots, pans and utensils. If you are someone who would potentially be cooking a lot throughout the year, make sure to include that in your move-in list. For dorm residents, many students like to bring a set of utensils for takeout meals, but other items won’t be necessary! Most dining halls that have takeout also provide single-use utensils.

Feature Photo by Xian Li/BruinLife

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