The Most Affordable Quality College Apartment Essentials | 2024 Guide

June 3, 2024

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college apartment essentials guide with affordable highly-rated products for apartments

Welcome to the College Apartments Essentials Guide, a new addition to our family in 2024.

After spending the past 2 years helping dorm shoppers find the highest-rated, non-toxic products at the best prices, we’ve brought our same testing and researching approaches to college apartment shopping.

As your student transitions from dorm life to their first college apartment, we want to help them create a space that feels like a home away from home. This shoppable list has been curated to include everything your student will need for their college apartment, emphasizing quality, comfort, and style. From the kitchen to the bedroom, every item on this list meets high standards, including CertiPUR-US certified bedding and OEKO-TEX certified linens (non-toxic certifications), ensuring your student’s well-being is at the forefront.

As with our Complete Dorm Room Essentials Guide, this is meant to be a full list of what might be needed addressing most situations, you will only need a fraction of these items. Again, every situation and every student is different, so please work with your student and their roommates to develop the plan perfect for their situation.

How Items Make Our List

We look for products that are:

  • At least 4.5* rated with at least 1000 reviews. This is 90% of the list below. There are exceptions due to availability, shipping problems or customer confusion about the product’s intentions, but we’ve selected the best options for each category.
  • All bedding and textiles are non-toxic/no harmful substances. This is so important as many cheap items coming from overseas are unregulated and full of toxins.
  • Made in the USA takes priority. While there are so many items not made in the USA, we’re prioritizing those that are.
  • Not strangely foreign named brands other than 1 or 2 that we know and trust to be high-quality and non-toxic.
  • Customer approved by either being personally tested by us, recommended in our Dorm Shopping Group or thoroughly researched.
  • Forward-thinking – as we were thinking ahead from dorm to apartment for reusability, we’re further considering longer-term use for the items for your first college apartment. These could very well take you throughout college and beyond. We’re looking for affordable and quality items for your apartment.

How We Select The Retailer For Each Recommendation

With so many brands now selling on multiple marketplaces, not just Amazon, we looked for the best current price and chose that retailer (Amazon, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, etc).

When prices are the similar, we opt more toward Walmart for 3 reasons.

1) This list includes many larger items. If you need to make a return, you can bring it directly to the store and not worry about repackaging for shipment.

2) For items sold by Walmart, their return policy is typically 90 days. Check the policy for items as you shop, but a longer return window combined with reason #3 below makes earlier shopping, when deals are better, less risky.

3) Almost every college town has a Walmart. If you find a product doesn’t work at move-in (there are always surprises!), you can bring it to the local store to return.

Walmart also has their Walmart+ premium program which is more affordable that the comparable premium programs with free 2-day shipping. Check out all of the benefits including free same day deliveries from the store with no markups (minimum order required), free next day and 2-day shipping, early access to deals, in store mobile scan & go in, travel cash back, Paramount streaming subscription and more. You can sign up for the free 30-Day Walmart+ Trial here.

SAME DAY DELIVERIES FROM STORE can go to multiple addresses – this means you or your student can have groceries, first aid/OTC meds, school supplies and more delivered right to their apartment using your account.

Start With Research

Things To Know Before you Shop

If you want to be REALLY prepared for off-campus college apartment/house shopping, you’ll need to get some answers first! Below are the recommended details to find on an apartment complex website or by asking the management office or landlord directly. Your questions will be a little different if you have a furnished or unfurnished space which you’ll see indicated in the list below.

If you’re having trouble getting in touch with a college apartment management office, check to see if they’re on Instagram. I’ve had great luck messaging with my son’s complex there. Not so much luck with email – these offices are often staffed by students, and we all know how today’s students are about checking email. (eye roll)

College Apartment Bedrooms

  • [Furnished] Exact bed size including mattress depth (for encasement). Is there a headboard or can one be attached to the bed frame?
  • [Furnished] Desk dimensions + chair information. Assume there is not a desk hutch but worth asking.
  • [Furnished] Dresser dimensions.
  • [Furnished] Is a nightstand provided? If not, how high is the bed?
  • [Unfurnished] Room layout including door and window locations for furniture planning.
  • Is there an overhead light? Ceiling fan?
  • What other types of furniture or storage do students typically bring for their apartments?
  • What is the closet size and setup? Just one hanging bar across the top?
  • What is the flooring in the bedroom?
  • Are there blinds on the windows? Do students typically bring curtains? What is permitted to hang curtain rods?

College Apartment Bathrooms

  • Is there a shower or a tub/shower combination?
  • Is a shower curtain needed? Is it a stall shower or a tub-length shower opening?
  • What storage is in the bathroom – cabinet under sink?
  • How is the counter space?
  • Is there room for an over-toilet storage shelf or a cart to slide between the toilet and sink?
  • Are there towel bars or hooks?

College Apartment Living Room

  • [Furnished] Length of couch, loveseat, chair(s) (you’ll see why below….)
  • [Furnished] What type of coffee/end/console tables are included?
  • [Furnished] Is a TV provided?
  • What is the room layout including door and window locations for furniture planning?
  • Is there an overhead light? Ceiling fan?
  • What is the flooring in the living room?
  • If there is a window or sliding glass door, does it have blinds?

College Apartment Kitchen

  • Is there an ice maker and/or water dispenser in the fridge?
  • Is there a dishwasher?
  • Is there a microwave?
  • Is there a pantry?
  • What types of storage or other kitchen items do most students bring?
  • Do you need to bring a kitchen trash can? How far is it to the trash receptacle?
  • If there is a window or sliding glass door, does it have blinds?

Outdoor Space & Parking

  • If there is a balcony, is furniture permitted? What will fit?
  • Is there a pool, workout facility or other amenities that may impact what you decide to bring?
  • Is parking included? Is it gated/secured? Is it covered? How far will you typically have to walk from your car?

Miscellaneous

  • If WiFi is included? If so, can you add WiFi enabled devices to the network such as a printer, smart TV’s or smart appliances?
  • Are there any rules or restrictions related to wall hangings – nails, tacks, Command products, screws/anchors, TV mounts?
  • Are there any rules or restrictions related to electrical or kitchen appliance restrictions?
  • Security-wise, can you add a Ring doorbell? Are smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in every room and tested regularly? What other security measures are in place?
  • Any issues with getting furniture through doors, narrow hallways, stairwells or elevators to know about?
  • Are there scheduled move-in dates/times? How long is your window if so.
  • Is there a printing facility on the property, and what are the fees to print?

College Apartment Bedrooms

As you move to off-campus housing, you may actually have more roommates than you had in your dorm room. However, in many of these cases, you will now have your own bedroom. Time to make it your sanctuary and your place to escape! We’ll talk about planning for the shared spaces with your roommates below.

For now, let’s start with what you may need for this new place of refuge – your college apartment bedroom.

If your new place will be unfurnished, furniture options for the basics are at the end of this section.

Bedding That Should Fit The Exact Size Of The Bed

All bedding recommendations are OEKO-TEX® certified, and mattress toppers are CertiPUR-US® certified. These certifications ensure no toxins in your bedding.

Encasement & Topper For Furnished Apartments

These should fit the exact mattress size.

Mattress Encasement – For a furnished apartment, you’ll want to put a mattress encasement around the used mattress. It may not be the vinyl covered dorm material, so just zip it away. If you’re bringing your own mattress, you can skip the encasement.

Full XL Mattress Encasement – If you will have a Full XL bed, this encasement is available in Full XL size. Hard to find!

Mattress Topper – For a furnished apartment, see if you can find out from current tenants if the mattresses are decent or if you’ll need a topper. If you’re bringing your own mattress that’s in good shape, you can probably skip the topper.

Full XL Mattress Topper – This Linenspa topper comes in Full XL.

Mattress Pad Recommendations

These should fit the exact mattress size.

Bedsure Mattress Pad is our favorite pick for price, quality and comfort.

The Big One Mattress Pad at Kohl’s can be a better price depending on sales and coupons.

The Big One Waterproof Mattress Pad is the waterproof version of the above.

Full XL Mattress Pad – This brand and the Bedsure above are my favorite two Amazon mattress pad brands. Glad this one makes a Full XL!

Recommendations For Bed Sheets

100% cotton is cooler and more durable than microfiber which tends to be very soft but also thin and sleeps warm. The fitted sheet should fit the exact mattress size.

400TC 100% Cotton California Design Den sheets are a huge winner with my kids. Cotton is so much cooler than microfiber (polyester), and these are quite affordable. For a splurge, step up to their 800TC 100% Cotton Sheets, I put these on a guest room bed at home where I sometimes get a really good night’s sleep, and they are thick, cool, soft and amazing.

400TC 100% Cotton Fitted Sheet Only! – For those that just won’t use that flat sheet because the need to be right up against the soft blanket. If you go this route, these are the matching pillowcases.

If you want to step up the luxury on the sheets a bit, these are the 600TC 100% cotton and the 800TC 100% cotton of the same brand. I have the 800’s at home and love them. They’ve really made a big difference with hormonal night misery!

Sonoma Ultimate HygroCotton Sheets – HygroCotton technology is spun in a way that makes it more temperature regulating and moisture-wicking. They also get softer with each wash. Is that the incentive that will get our kids doing laundry more frequently?!

Microfiber Sheets – Microfiber is soft, but runs warm. Not recommended for warm or hot sleepers.

Full XL 100% Cotton Sheets – Really hard to find highly-rated, OEKO-TEX® certified Full XL sheets!

Full XL Microfiber Sheets – Microfiber is soft, but runs warm. Not recommended for warm or hot sleepers.

Blankets, Quilts Comforters

You don’t have to have the exact size blankets, quilts or comforter.

If you will have a Full-sized bed in your first apartment, you may want to consider queen-sized blankets and comforter. It will be a little longer on the sides and over the footboard, but you can get more long-lasting use out of Queen-sized blankets and comforters as they work on Full, Full XL and Queen-sized beds.

100% Cotton Blanket – Cotton is more breathable and lightweight, but still warm.

Fleece Microfiber Blanket – I know how important it is for these young adults to have super soft blankets!

100% Cotton Quilt – This can be used as a blanket or as the top layer. Or fold up a big fluffy comforter at the foot of the bed with the quilt covering most of the bed.

Boho Comforter Set – A very affordable set that comes in a variety of colors and a few patterns.

Koolaburra by UGG Comforter Set – Fashionable watercolor with a faux-minx reverse side.

Faux Fur Comforter Set – Super soft, minky-feel comforter in 5 colors.

Solid Box Pleat Down Alternative Comforter – A simple, neutral option available in several different solid colors.

Plaid/Solid Reversible Comforter = Lightweight comforter with plaid on one solid, solid on the reverse. 5 color options.

Bed Skirt

If you’ll be using the space below your bed to store lesser used items, you might consider a basic bed skirt to hide the items below and give your bed a more finished look.

Nightstands

Many furnished apartments do not include nightstands. If you have room, you may want to add one on at least one side of the bed.

1-Drawer Charging Nightstand – An affordable option available in 3 wood colors with 2 outlets, 1 USB and 1 USB-C port.

3-Drawer Charging Nightstand – Another option with more drawers. 2 outlets and 2 USB ports.

Carved Front Nightstand – In 3 different finishes.

Very Simple Set of 2 Charging Nightstands – These are a couple of inches shorter than those above, so compare the height with your bed setup.

Cube Organizer – A simple cube organizer makes a great nightstand. You can always attach a surge protector strip to the top or back and turn it into a charging nightstand.

Bedside Lamp

Tall Gold or Bronze Lamp – 30″ tall. This is the bronze version.

Gold Circles Lamp – 26″ tall.

Pair Dimmable Bedside Lamps With USB Ports – Touch control, LED bulbs included.

College Bedroom Storage

My son is moving into a furnished apartment in the fall of 2024. Each bedroom has a platform bed frame with mattress, a set of drawers for under the bed, a desk and a chair. You need to bring your own nightstand. Below are a couple of images from his complex.

College Apartment Furniture Guys Room and Girls Room Ideas
College Apartment Furniture Examples Where Nightstands Are Not Provided

Under Bed Storage

It is not typical to raise a larger bed higher to create more storage space like you may have done in your dorm. Interestingly, in the photos above from my son’s apartment complex, they provide the low 4-drawer ‘dresser’ to fit under the bed. I can already see his golf clubs going right behind those drawers in the left picture. If you really need to create more space, you could consider bed risers.

But for many, you’ll have a regular dresser that isn’t under the bed.

In speaking with many college students living in apartments, they tell me that under bed storage is very popular. Whereas dorm beds are taller and accommodate drawer towers and cube organizers, apartment beds are usually lower and will require shorter under-bed storage. The following are suggested lower storage from the students, just be sure you know how much clearance you’ll have before purchasing.

Fabric Storage Bins

Sterilite Rolling Storage Bin

Container Store Rolling Storage Bin

Container Store Under Bed Drawers

Closet Storage

Hanging Closet Doubler

Stackable Shoe Shelves

Over Closet Door Shoe Storage

Hanging Purse Organizer

If moisture is an issue in your apartment or suite-style dorm, consider hanging a bag of Damp Rid in your closet. It collects moisture from the air and is good for odor control too. Be sure to replace the bag when it is full of water.

Hair/Makeup/Jewelry Storage

If you’re coming from a dorm room, you probably already have all you need for makeup and jewelry storage. If you’re moving into an apartment as a freshman, please see our Dorm Room Essentials Guide for ideas.

An additional consideration if you’re going to have your first private bath is have a simple heat mat or another option to protect counters from hot hair tools. Just a little insurance against end of year fines and assessments.

Many students love these full-length mirror jewelry cabinets once they move into a private bedroom. See bedroom extras below for more options.

Desk Storage

This is another area where you are probably all set with desk storage, desk lamp and supplies from your time in a dorm. If you bought a desk hutch for your dorm desk, check to see if the size will work on your apartment desk. Or perhaps it will work on your dresser for extra storage.

One thing you may not have brought to your dorm is a printer since you probably lived within close proximity to the library or other places where you could print when necessary. This probably will not be the case in off-campus housing, so if you are one to print school work, you may want to bring a printer. Unlike in the dorm, you’ll be able to put your printer on your private WiFi network and use wireless printing – keep in mind, so can your roommates sharing the network! Also check with your apartment complex as they may offer printing services.

Bedroom Extras

Still have your mini fridge from your dorm room? Many students appreciate having their own small fridge in their private bedrooms. I recommend putting it on a large rubber mat to protect the carpet or flooring in the room.

Blackout Curtains – You’ll probably have blinds on the windows, but if you want to block more light, these are affordable blackout curtains. If a curtain rod is not in place, you can hang one and either patch the walls or pay a fine at move-out, or you can use one of a few more temporary options to limit wall damage. What to use will depend on the window structure and casings. I bought this pair of room darkening curtains for my son’s dorm window – they are high quality and thick, but I wouldn’t buy these unless they are on sale and you have a coupon. I paid a little less than the full price shown now!

Full-Length Floor Mirror

Over Door Full-Length Mirror

Over Door Jewelry Organizer With Full-Length Mirror – Lockable, 5 finishes.

Floor Jewelry Organizer With Full-Length Mirror – Lockable, 4 finishes.

Storage Bench – If you have room for a bench at the foot of the bed, this can will hold shoes, bags, folded clothes and more.

Bedroom TV – You’ll want a Smart TV as most students won’t bother with cable, they’ll simply stream through TV apps. 42-50″ is a good size for a bedroom TV, but be sure you. know where you can put it in the room. If you don’t have a dresser or other furniture to a TV on, consider a rolling TV Cart as installing a mount on the wall is probably not the best idea in a rental property.

Smart Plug – I’m such a huge proponent of smart plugs to add both safety and convenience to a bedroom. Set the lamp to come on at sunset (it will know when sunset is and always come on at just the right time), and if you have an Echo dot in your bedroom, you can tell it to turn off the light when you’re ready. Or use the app. I love this brand and probably own 20 of their plugs, switches and outdoor plugs. Beyond dorms and apartments, smart plugs are amazing for decorating with holiday lights and putting everything on a sunset-dependent schedule with a set off-time.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bed & Furniture)

If you’re moving into an unfurnished apartment, you’ll need your own bedroom furniture. I took this opportunity to spend money on my home instead of the apartment when I could. We had a guest room queen bed and dresser that we’d had for decades, so I decided to send those to college and buy new furniture for my own home. My son was totally fine with this, but this response will vary by student. 🙂

This approach works if your family home is close to your school and you have access to a truck or an affordable U-Haul truck or trailer to move things to college.

Consider Buying Used Bedroom Furniture For College

  1. Look for a School Facebook Marketplace group. Students who are graduating may be selling some of their furniture.
  2. Look in a local Facebook Marketplace or a group for a local university if you are within driving distance to the school.

Please take caution using Facebook Marketplace and be especially leery of hard-sales, turning off comments and people insisting on deposits to ‘hold’ the item. Common scammer tactics.

Buying New Bedroom Furniture For College

Here are some affordable, but quality options that should get you through college and beyond. For all of these, no box spring is required, only a mattress.

Simple platform bed frame. No headboard or footboard (see headboard options below). I like this frame with the metal horizontal slats versus the loose wood slats which can move around and slide off the supports. You may want to add a simple bedskirt for this option to hide the metal legs below.

Metal Circle Bed With Headboard & Footboard – An affordable option for a complete bed.

Tufted Upholstered Platform Bed – Available in 5 colors.

Velvet Vertical Channel Platform Bed – Also available in 5 colors including pink.

I would add a least a 10″ mattress to these. An 8″ would be thin especially on a platform bed. We’ve had great luck with the Zinus memory foam mattresses. As with memory foam toppers, leave this in the box until you are in the apartment!

Headboards For College Beds

Whether you have a furnished apartment with a bed frame only, or you bring your own bed frame, you should be able to attach a headboard to that frame (without zip ties this year!). Here are a few options:

White Faux-Leather Headboard – A larger size of the headboard often brought for Twin-width dorm beds.

Rectangular Performance Velvet Tufted Headboard – In 5 colors.

Vintage Glam Performance Velvet Tufted Headboard – In 5 colors.

Or you can skip the headboard and opt for some big pillows to put up against the wall.

Bedding When You BYOB (Bring Your Own Bed)

If you bring your own bed and your own mattress, you can likely skip the mattress encasement and the mattress topper. Of course, if you student fell in love with their dorm mattress topper, we’ll let you negotiate whether they need one for their bigger (and probably newer) bed!

You will need a mattress pad, sheets, blanket and comforter, and you’ll want to be sure these are all OEKO-TEX® certified. These are our recommendations, following the same quality certified brands that we recommend for dorm bedding. These are links to Full sizes, be sure to change it to your bed size if not Full.

College Apartment Bathroom Essentials

Will you have your own bathroom or will you be sharing with roommates? If sharing, be sure to split up the list of bathroom essentials and have each roommate buy a few things. I recommend against splitting the costs of shared items so that there is no question about who takes what when it’s time to move out.

Depending on the number of roommates sharing and the storage space available in the bathroom, you’ll need to determine what you need and what will fit. The following is a list of things to consider for various situations, but you certainly don’t need them all.

Bathtub/Shower

I recommend minimal investment in shower curtains for college – multiple students, lots of showers, minimal cleaning. The following options are all very affordable but still stylish.

Tub Length Shower Curtains

Tub Length Shower Curtain Liner – With magnets to help it stay in place.

White Ruffle Shower Curtain

Ruffle Tie Shower Curtain – Several colors available. OEKO-TEX® certified.

Yellow, White Gray Floral Shower Curtain

Embroidered Aqua or Blue Shower Curtain

Waffle Shower Curtain – Several color options. OEKO-TEX® certified.

Navy & White Striped Shower Curtain

Shower Curtain Rings – These 2-sided rings are simple to install perfect for holding a liner and the shower curtain.

Shower Curtain Rings – Another option

Stall Width Shower Curtains

Stall showers are just that – a shower only, no bathtub, usually about half the width of a full bathtub base shower. You will be much better off with a stall-width shower curtain and liner so there is less wet material bunched up growing science experiments. Leave those for the lab classes.

Stall Width Shower Curtain Liner – 36″ length and with magnets to help it stay in place.

Ruffle Stall Shower Curtain – Several color options.

Waffle Stall Shower Curtain – Several color options. OEKO-TEX® certified.

See shower curtain ring options above.

In-Shower Storage

Over Shower Head Caddy – Love this one with 2 separate soap dishes. Don’t recommend bringing toothbrushes in the shower though unless you are using them to clean the shower!

2-Pack Adhesive Shelves – 3 colors available. These ratings!

Tension Shower Caddy – Give each roommate their own shelf. Be sure you have a solid ceiling as well as a ledge around the bathtub for this to work.

Bath Mat(s)

Chenille Loop Bath Mat/Rug – This comes in several sizes and colors. OEKO-TEX® certified. Machine washable.

Memory Foam Bath Mat/Rug – This comes in several sizes and colors. Machine washable.

2-Pack Hotel Style Towel Bath Mat – Available in many colors. If you just want a clean mat everyday, use these towel-style bath mats and throw them in the laundry with your towels. OEKO-TEX® certified. Machine washable.

Towels

I always recommend quick-dry towels for dorm rooms, and they are typically the best option for college apartments as well. I recently tested 5 popular quick-dry towels if you want to do a quick read through the results.

These are the towels to consider. All are OEKO-TEX® certified.

Fastest Drying:

Kohl’s Sonoma Quick Dry Towels

Maintays Performance Quick Dry Towels

More Plush But A Little Slower Drying

Threshold Performance Towels – These include a sewn-in loop for easy hanging.

Threshold Total Fresh Antimicrobial Towels – These include a sewn-in loop for easy hanging.

Towel Hooks

5-Hook Over Door Towel Holder – 1 towel bar and 2-4 students sharing a bathroom? Help the towels dry by giving them all their own hook.

S-Hooks For Towel Bar – If you have one long towel bar, you can consider hanging S-hooks from it for individual towels.

Under Cabinet Storage

2-Pack Under Cabinet Storage Drawers – An incredible price for such a highly rated item.

2-Tier Storage Tower – Only 1 unit but more clearance for taller items on the lower shelf.

Sterilite Plastic Drawers – This can be stacked under the sink or even on top of the counter depending on available space.

Tall Bathroom Cabinet – Under 1′ square but 4.5′ tall, this small footprint cabinet can add a lot of storage to a small bathroom. The shelves/drawers can be configured to meet your needs.

Vertical Storage

Going vertical in a small bathroom may be the only way to add enough storage for multiple roommates. Carts, over-toilet organizers and tall yet skinny cabinets are popular solutions.

4-Shelf Narrow Cart – This will slide into 8″ of space, and the top shelf will be about 4″ above the countertop.

3-Shelf Over-Toilet Organizer – As of May 2024, this has had an incredible price drop to under $40!

3-Shelf Over-Toilet Organizer – Another option with a slightly different look.

4-Shelf Over-Toilet Organizer – If this is still under $50 when you see it, this is a great price. More shelves + some helpful side hooks.

Hot Hair Tools

Heat Resistant Mat – This is a simple solution to protecting your bathroom countertop or bedroom desktop where hot hair tools are used. You can also use the mat to wrap around your hair tools for safer storage or travel.

Hair Tool Organizer – Place this on your bathroom counter or where you will do your hair to hold not only the hot hair tools but also all of your products and accessories.

Trash Can

While I’m a fan of the covered kitchen trash can, a cover seems like a barrier in a college bathroom. I would use a simple plastic bathroom-sized trash can (this one is under $1!) and provide a months-long supply of trash can liners.

Cleaning Supplies + Paper Products

You’ll need shower cleaner, toilet cleaner, countertop cleaner and a mop for the floor.

Swiffer Power Mop – This was a good option for my son in his dorm room (with private bathroom), and he’s taking it to his apartment next year.

Clorox Toilet Wand Starter Kit – If you want them to clean the toilet, you’ve got to make it EASY!

Bathroom Extras

Damp Rid – Damp Rid helps with moisture and odor control. If you have known moisture issues in your apartment or dorm bath, a bucket of Damp Rid can be helpful.

First Aid Kit – If you didn’t create one for the dorm, see our article with first aid kit ideas with both what to include and containers to store it all.

Portable Speaker – This is a great little speaker with big sound. Waterproof too!

Nightlight – Need a little light to find the way in the middle of the night? You can put this in the bathroom or maybe just outside in the hallway if there is an outlet.

College Apartment Kitchen Essentials

Whether your student just needs to cook enough to get by or looks forward to cooking dinners for roommates and friends, cooking in a college apartment doesn’t have to be daunting or expensive.

The recommendations below are intended to be affordable and high enough quality to be reusable throughout college. And you really only need one set of most of what is below. I recommend going through this list with your roommates, discuss what you need and who already has items to bring, and then split up the rest of the list equitably.

Cookware

It’s a good idea to look for a basic set of non-stick, non-toxic and dishwasher safe cookware. Here are a few options.

Farberware 13-Piece Cookware Set

Beautiful 12-Piece Cookware Set

Ninja Premium Ceramic 9-Piece Cookware Set

Bakeware

You may not need any of these, but if your student will bake or wants to create oven-based meals, you will need some of these.

Pyrex 6-Piece Glass Baking Dishes With Lids

Wilton Set of 3 Cookie Sheets

9″x13″ Cake Pan With Carrying Lid

Kitchen Utensils

Along with spatulas and cooking spoons, you’ll potentially need measuring spoons, measuring cups, a whisk, can opener and more.

28-Piece Kitchen Utensils & Gadget Set – Has everything right down to the vegetable peeler, can opener, pizza cutter and a crock to hold it all too.

30-Piece Kitchen Utensils & Gadget Set – Another set full of everything you need.

Dishes, Silverware and Drinkware

The following options are all entry-level, affordable and highly rated with a mix of Target, Walmart, Kohl’s and Amazon. Note that some of the Kohl’s options are incredible buys during a sale with a coupon, but if you happen to click on it at full-price, it won’t be nearly as affordable!

Dish Sets

I prefer for the dish sets to be primarily plates and bowls. No saucers or small coffee cups necessary.

Food Network 40-Piece Dinnerware Set. Dinner plates, salad plates, pasta bowls and small bowls – service for 8. If Kohl’s is not having a sale or offering coupons, this is likely not a buy price.

Threshold 12-Piece Dinnerware Set – Dinner plates, salad plates, large bowls – service for 4. Just the essentials.

Mainstays 12-Piece Dinnerware Set – Dinner plates, salad plates, large bowls – service for 4. White glazed stoneware with blue rim.

Flatware

Better Homes & Gardens 20-Piece Flatware Set – In 3 finishes including gold. 4 place settings.

Room Essentials Teagan 20-Piece Flatware Set

Oneida 20-Piece Flatware Set – High quality, would be a great option if the price is right and you have a coupon! 4 place settings.

Cups/Glasses

Set of 8 Pint Glasses – Highly rated and a great deal for just over $1 per glass.

Set of 12 High & Low Boy Glasses – The low ones could almost double as stemless wine glasses.

Coffee Mugs

6 Multicolor Mugs With Metal Stand – I really love the different colored mugs so you can keep track of yours in a busy apartment. Use the metal stand if cabinet space is an issue. Setup a coffee bar on a separate table?

Ombre Coffee Mugs In Multiple Colors – Would be super cute to get one of each color, but wait until they go on sale!

Small Appliances

Coffee Makers

Keurig Mini – If you didn’t grab one of these for your dorm, this is still a good choice for an apartment due to the small footprint.

Keurig K-Iced – For iced coffee drinkers, this Keurig has the option to brew at a lower temperature.

Programmable Drip Coffee Maker – Or just grab a regular 12-cup coffee pot for under $20!

Cooking Appliances

We’re going to assume your apartment has a built-in microwave, but if not, hopefully one of the roommates has one from dorm life.

Air Fryer – A 4-6qt air fryer should be plenty for an apartment and dishwasher-safe parts are a bonus. The one linked to the left is a 4qt, but those colors! This is a similarly priced highly rated 6-quart air fryer.

Toaster or Toaster Oven – For those students who run on toasted bagels, waffles or avocado toast. A toaster oven gives the added flexibility to cook small meals without using the big oven. I am constantly telling my kids how much better frozen chicken tenders are when cooked in the toaster oven instead of the microwave!

Personal Blender – I recommend the Ninja Fit for dorms, and works great in apartments too. If none of the roommates have a blender to contribute already, you might consider a larger blender to create a pitcher of smoothies or virgin daquiris.

Indoor Grill – My son uses the heck out of this! With no access to an outdoor grill but a desire to cook healthier high protein meals, he makes grilled chicken, grilled sandwiches and other favorites on this grill on a regular basis.

Crockpot – This is a basic Crockpot brand 7-quart model. You can get fancier with digital displays and programmability if your student will make good use of those features.

All In One Multi-Cooking Device – If your student will use an air fryer, crockpot and pressure cooker, I’d recommend a multi cooker like this one. It should cost less than multiple devices and importantly takes less space in a small apartment kitchen.

Knives & Cutting Boards

Cuisinart Knife Set With Safety Covers – This 6-knife set is incredibly affordable and equally highly-rated.

Cuisinart Knife Block Set – To step up the set with 6 kitchen knives, 6 steak knives, kitchen shears, a sharpening steel and storage knife block.

3-Piece BPA-Free Cutting Board Set – For plastic & polycarbonate cutting boards, look for BPA-free and dishwasher safe.

3-Piece Bamboo Cutting Board Set – If you prefer wood cutting boards, this is a very affordable 3-piece set.

Food Storage

Keep leftovers and preprepared produce fresh longer with appropriate storage. Pantry organizers are great for keeping each roommate’s groceries separate from one another’s.

Refrigerated Storage – This glass food storage set has airtight lids that include Microban to prevent bacteria and staining in the seal.

Dry Food Storage – These larger airtight containers are a good size for cereal, snacks, pasta, baking supplies and more.

Pantry Organizers – Label these with each roommate’s names to keep groceries straight. These can also be used in the refrigerator.

Water & Ice

Brita Dispenser – If water quality is of concern in your apartment, you can place a large Brita dispenser in the fridge. This one has the Elite filter which lasts twice as long as a regular Brita filter.

Ice Cube Trays – If your refrigerator doesn’t have an ice maker, grab some old school ice trays and make it yourself!

Ice Bin – Store ice in this bin while you make more ice. Just add a scoop!

Trash Can

Stainless Kitchen Trash Can – This is the best price I can find on a stainless kitchen-sized trash can, and they are so nice for containing smells. The linked can has the opening on the long side. If you need to wedge one into a small space, this stainless trash can has the opening on the short end. Both are step-on to open.

Plastic Kitchen Trash Can – This is a more affordable plastic option.

Other Kitchen Essentials

Dish drying rack

Dish towel & potholder set

Charcuterie board – For those who love to entertain and create cheese boards. Comes with knives and mini forks.

Wagon cart for grocery shopping – If you have to park far from your apartment, a cart or wagon can make those trips a lot easier.

Hulken bag for grocery shopping – A huge hit with college students for moving heavy items from the car to the apartment. You can take 5% off with our group code PSA5.

Bottle opener

Corkscrew

Wine glasses

UNFURNISHED APARTMENTS

If unfurnished, you will need a kitchen table and chairs. The options below are around $200 for the table and 4 chairs.

Counter Height Table With 4 Stools – Industrial wood and metal look. Great for tight spaces.

Or do a mix and match of this table and chairs, both available in several colors.

Kitchen Dining Table – Table height.

4 Dining Chairs – Choose to go neutral or bold with the several color choices.

College Apartment Living Room Essentials

As with the kitchen planning, the roommates should have a discussion about living room plans.

Even if your apartment is furnished, students often bring additional items for the living room to add seating, storage, function and decor.

Split up the list of items that you collectively decide to bring so that there will be no question who leaves with which items at move-out time.

Additional Furniture For A Furnished Apartment

Couch Covers – This is something you may not think of until you arrive at your apartment and see the condition of the couches, but it is a very frequent last minute scramble to find them. These covers come in 4 sizes and several colors. If you happen to have a pet in college, these covers are also a good way to protect the furniture from pet hair and damage.

Media Console Tables

If the apartment comes with a mounted TV, there is probably nothing below it except a good opportunity for some storage!

47″ Charging Console Table – Just under a foot deep with 3 drawers and 2 adjustable height shelves. It also has built in outlets and USB ports to setup a charging station for roommates and guests. Available in 6 finishes including wood tones, solid white and white & gold.

58″ Console Table – A little longer and lower to the ground to handle a larger TV. Industrial look, highly-rated and so affordable!

Coffee & End Tables

Charging End Table – No room for the charging console table above? These narrow end tables can bring charging capabilities neatly to the living room.

Nesting Coffee Tables – Pull them apart with a full room or push them together when not so necessary. Gold and white marble plus other color options.

Set of 2 Industrial Wire Coffee Tables – 4 different top options.

Extra Seating

Easy To Move Sling Chair – Different cushion styles available.

Retro Wingback Chair – In camel faux-leather or 3 boucle fabric colors.

Pair Velvet or Faux Leather Barrel Chairs – A great price for 2 highly rated chairs.

Accent Furniture

Gold Bar Cart With Faux Marble Shelves – A fixture in so many college apartments.

Gold Bar Cart With Mirrored Shelves

Industrial Bar Cart – A more neutral look if gold and glam is not your thing!

Shelving

Tall Metal/Wood Industrial Look Shelving – 70.8″ tall 5-shelf unit in 3 finishes. Also available in 84″ 6-shelf size.

Tall Folding Industrial Look Bookshelf – 68″ tall in 5 finishes (and other sizes). No assembly and folds for easy transport!

Mid-Height Modern Storage Shelves – 62″ tall in 7 finishes (and other sizes).

TV’s

Before you purchase any TV’s for a college apartment, if your apartment is furnished, check to see if TV’s are included. They are included where my son will live next year. The advertising says one in the living room and one in each bedroom, but there is some question about whether they will actually be in the bedrooms. Worth checking!

The following are decent TV’s at great prices (at time of posting). Between streaming connections and low-tier cable in many college dorms and apartments, I wouldn’t worry about paying for a top quality picture. You just need something to get them through college, and they can upgrade after they graduate.

32″ Samsung Smart TV

43″ Philips Smart TV

50″ Philips Smart TV

55″ Roku Smart TV

65″ Samsung Smart TV

Apple TVRokuFire Stick – A streaming device may not be necessary if you have a newer smart TV with current apps and the ability to add additional apps. For older TV’s or TV’s without the ability to add newer apps, you may choose a streaming device/stick. The 3rd party remote is often easier to use with streaming services than the TV remote.

Sound Bar – I have an inexpensive Roku TV in my office. The picture is fine, but the sound is pretty poor, so I put a sound bar on it, and it makes a HUGE difference. This one may seem like overkill with the sub-woofer, but it is more highly-rated and less expensive than others. Most sound bars, such as the one linked here, are Bluetooth compatible which will allow students to stream their music when not watching TV.

Apartment Living Room Extras

Card & Board Games – Definitely bring a few games for fun nights in with roommates and friends. My boys are partial to poker, so we stock up on playing cards.

Smart Plug – As with the bedroom smart plug recommendation above, add a smart plug to a lamp in the living room so you never walk into a dark apartment.

Unfurnished Apartment Living Rooms

Most furnished apartments will have a couch, a love seat and maybe a table or two. So if your apartment is unfurnished, you’ll need to bring these items and supplement with ideas above to complete the living room.

I recommend shopping at local stores during sales to find couches and love seats. Tables can be found online – some of our recommendations are found above as well as extra seating (single chairs).

College Apartment Laundry

After living in a dorm, you are hopefully all set with laundry hampers and baskets unless they didn’t survive the year and need to be replaced!

Here are some questions to ask prior to move-in:

Will you have in-unit laundry?

Do the machines require certain types of detergent? HE? No pods?

If no in-unit laundry…

Where are the laundry facilities? Is there a fee to use the laundry facility?

Is there an elevator to get there or do you have to use stairs?

Are there requirements for detergent or dryer sheets?

Other Laundry Considerations

If you have items to hang dry, do you already have a drying rack to use?

Will your bedding, especially Full/Queen comforters, fit in the laundry available at your apartment?

College Apartment Decor

Turn the boring white walls and basic furniture into a cozy place to live with the addition of rugs, ambient lighting and wall decor.

Rugs

There are so many rugs to choose from out there! Like dorms, I continue to recommend against shag rugs in college apartments. This is primarily due to the combination of their tendency to trap all of the dirt and grime, infrequent vacuuming as well as the difficulty in vacuuming well with a basic vacuum cleaner. These are a few popular low pile rugs, most available in several colors.

Safavieh Navy/Red

Nourison Passion Fuchsia

Nuloom Verona Dark Pink & Purple

Artistic Weavers Pink/Orange/Purple

Artistic Weavers Orange/Navy

Unique Loom Trellis Light Pink/Ivory

Home Dynamix Teal/Gray/Ivory

More Masculine Gray Abstract

More Masculine Tribal Motif

More Masculine Nourison Geometric Lines

Front Door: Welcome Friends Door Mat

Lighting

Your apartment likely comes with an overhead light fixture or ceiling fan/light combination in the living room. To avoid harsh built-in lightning, some affordable ambient lighting ideas are below.

Gold Arc Floor Lamp

Floor Lamp With Display Shelves – 62″ tall in 9 finishes.

Tripod Floor Lamp – 61″ tall in 2 finishes.

Pair of White With Gold Table Lamps

Pair of Farmhouse Style Lamps – Each with 2 USB ports in the base.

Floating Shelves

Apparently these are very popular in apartments. Yes, they require drilling a hole to install, but they are simple to remove and patch the wall at move-out. These are great for the living room, bedroom and bathroom, or even all 3!

Set of 5 Floating Shelves – These are currently on clearance at a great price.

Set of 3 Floating Shelves – Another good option especially if the set of 5 above sells out.

Wall Art

We are working on some amazing wall art for dorms and college apartments. Several designs are coming to our College Life Shop in early June with more than 10 color combinations in most designs. We will take custom color or design orders as well. So blessed to have incredibly talented artists (college students) on our team!

College Apartment Safety Considerations & Devices

Among the college apartment must-haves are items that help keep the roommates safe.

Smart Plugs – These are my absolute favorite – I probably have 20 of these around my house including a few outdoor models for holiday lights. Put your lamps on these and set schedules or set to random to keep your apartment looking occupied. Also nice to lie in bed and ask Alexa to turn on the lamp or the coffee pot in the kitchen!

Ring Doorbell – If your apartment does not currently have a Ring doorbell, ask you landlord or management company if they will install one for safety purposes. If they refuse, ask if you can install one yourself.

Door Lock Reinforcements – Depending on how your current locks are installed, you may need to ask your landlord for permission to install or temporarily install these lock reinforcements.

Carbon Monoxide Detector – Should all rental properties have carbon monoxide detectors installed? Yes. Do they? No. And same goes for functioning smoke detectors. Sometimes, you have to take these things into your own hands. I love this one with the digital display, but you can save a little money with this detector without a display. Whatever you choose, be sure it is the plug-in variety with a battery backup, not battery powered only. Battery backup is important as some carbon monoxide leaks can occur when power outages impact appliances and air vents.

Miscellaneous College Apartment Considerations

Heating & Air

Air Purifier – This is another item that I hope you’ll be bringing from dorm life. If not, check with the roommates on what they already have. You may just need a smaller one for your bedroom. See our full article on how to shop for air purifiers to help narrow down the best options for your situation. An app-controlled WiFi model may be a great option now that you should have a private WiFi network.

Space Heater – Roommates trying to keep the heating bill down? A small space heater in your bedroom (with all of the safety features, of course) can do the trick.

Humidifier – With the heat or AC running continually, you may find the apartment too dry. This BPA-free humidifier has so many great features – auto-sensing humidity levels, app control, ability to add ‘aroma pads’, a nightlight (with on/off), a cleaning brush, and the tank is dishwasher safe.

Dehumidifier – With control of your thermostat in an apartment combined with what is hopefully a better air circulation system, hopefully you won’t need a dehumidifier. If you’re in a super humid environment and can’t get the moisture down with the use of AC, this is a good dehumidifier with auto shut off and a 95oz water chamber. This size chamber won’t need to be emptied as frequently as some of the smaller models with 16-32oz chambers.

Entryway Shared Storage

Coat Rack – No coat closet? Is there room for a coat rack somewhere to catch wet coats, umbrella, bags and lanyards?

Shoe Rack/Bench – If the shoes come off at the door and there is some room in the entry area, give them a place to store the shoes as well as a spot to sit down to put them on and take them off. If shoes get wet frequently, slide a boot tray underneath the bench to pull out and use on rainy days.

Cleaning & Repairs

Tool Kit – One of the roommates should have a toolkit for minor repairs and decor purposes.

Vacuum Cleaner – If your apartment is carpeted, you’ll want to consider a vacuum cleaner with a beater brush to pull more dirt out of the carpets and rugs. The Bissell linked here is a great price for an entry level upright corded vacuum cleaner. While cordless would be more convenient, you’d have to mount a charger somewhere and honestly, to get a cordless vacuum that does a good job, you have to spend into the $200’s.

Swiffer Power Mop – This was a good option for my son in his dorm room (with private bathroom), and he’s taking it to his apartment next year.

Clorox Toilet Wand Starter Kit – If you want them to clean the toilet, you’ve got to make it EASY!

Out & About

Beach Towels – If your complex has a pool, you’ll need a few pool/beach towels. Same goes if campus is near a beach or lake, or even if your friends live in a complex with a pools. This set of 2 is quick-drying and OEKO-TEX® certified.

Camp/Patio Chairs – Everyone should have a basic camp chair for outdoor events or gatherings. These also make for super affordable patio furniture if your apartment has a patio or balcony. These chairs are rated up to 225lbs, but bigger guys may be more comfortable with the oversized camp chair.

Other items such as personal safety alarms (use code PSA15 to save 15%), clear bags for stadiums & arenas (check your school policy), umbrella, waterproof backpack cover, portable phone charger are all important when living in an apartment too.

Bringing A Car To College

When bringing a car to an off-campus college apartment, you may be looking at a driveway for a rental house, a large parking lot for an apartment complex or covered parking deck parking. Regardless of your parking situation, you’ll want to consider the following helpful ideas for taking your car to college.

Portable Car Jump Starter With Tire Compressor – A must have for any college student taking a car to college with 4 helpful functions to help keep students safe. 1) This little box will jump start an up to 8-cylinder car, truck or SUV (and includes the jumper cables too). No other cars needed. 2) It has a digital tire pressure reader and pump to fill tires to the desired manufacturer recommended PSI. 3) It can be a flashlight, strobe or SOS lighting. 4) It can charge phones and devices through its USB charging ports. The version linked is the upgraded 2024 version with a more powerful and longer-lasting battery.

Trunk Organizer – Help keep their trunk neat and organized. Store their portable car jump starter in here along with a small first aid kit. These are great for grocery trips to keep items from rolling around and for road trips keeping small items secure and together.

Snow Brush/Ice Scraper – If you’re going to cold weather and will park outside, you’ll need one of these!

Apartment Planning With Roommates

Now that you have an idea of what you want/need for your apartment, make a list of the items that will be shared. This list will be primarily for the living room and kitchen and also the bathroom if you don’t have a private bathroom, of course.

The same advice that I recommend for dorms applies to apartments as well. Don’t add up costs and split the investment. Rather, split the list and buy things individually in roughly equivalent investments. When it is time to move out, you take what you brought. You don’t want to end up in a disagreement about who takes what come move-out time.

Conclusion

Equipping a college apartment is a mix of functionality and personal expression. This guide combines highly rated affordable product ideas to bring the comforts of home and ensure your student is set up for safety and success. Remember, when choosing items, consider the ease of moving them as students often move year-to-year.

No matter the living situation, our focus on certified-safe bedding and toxin-free materials remains constant because we believe that every college apartment should be a safe and healthy home base.

Our weekly newsletter keeps you informed of trends, major sales and deal alerts on all of the items in this guide. You can subscribe here:

Happy planning & shopping, and here’s to the start of a new chapter filled with learning, growth, and comfort!

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Important Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, a lawyer or a financial advisor. Please use this content as informational only and as only one input as you consider what options are best for you and your family. This is not professional advice.

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