Dolce and Gabriella

Little thoughts from the Big Apple

The Freshman Fifteen…Things You Didn’t Know You’ll Need


Alright chickadees, I’m back with a vengeance. The swelling’s reducing, the headache’s retreating…a few more days and I’ll be able to put this whole wisdom teeth thing behind me. It’s been one rough ride. From what I hear, getting your wisdom teeth out isn’t usually this bad–I just had a series of bad reactions to first the anesthesia and then the painkillers. If anyone has extractions of their own coming up, my biggest tip is to take Dramamine (the motion sickness drug) with your painkillers. I wish someone had told me that sooner, because I had a couple awfully woozy, nauseous days.

So. Thank goodness that’s almost over. Back to regularly scheduled programming:

A lot of my friends are heading off to college for the first time in a couple weeks, and they’re understandably freaking out. This time last year, I was in Total Panic List Mode. I made pages and pages of lists with the idea that if I could plan the move to college down to a tee, I could take the fear and overwhelm out of the transition. Not so; fear and overwhelm are a completely necessary and unavoidable part of going to college. Looking back at it, they’re actually part of the fun. I over-planned, overpacked, and definitely over-stressed.

On the plus side, I had everything I needed. There are some weird, silly things that you might think are overkill to pack, but I give you my word: at some point in the year you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you threw them in at the last minute. Here’s my list of the fifteen must-haves you didn’t know you needed.

fifteen things freshman

Hey! You should pin me!

1. Water pitcher with filter

Staying hydrated is the #1 easy way to be healthy in college. Drinking lots of water gives you energy, helps with weight management, and boosts your immune system. Unfortunately, water from the drinking fountain doesn’t always taste good…and if you’re drinking a lot of it, you want to know it’s clean. I have this slim pitcher and it’s perfect. It doesn’t take up much room at all, and it makes my water taste so much better.

My suggestion: Brita Slim Water Filter Pitcher, 5-cup, $19.60 on Amazon

2. Bra Balls

Industrial washing machines wreak havoc on delicate lingerie, but you won’t want to hand wash in the dorm bathroom. These are the next best thing–they keep your bras and underwear from being flung around and bent out of shape.

My suggestion: Woolite Bra Wash Bag, $12.99 for two on Amazon

3. A bright desk lamp and extra lightbulbs

I’m sure you already got a desk lamp. But did you get a lightbulb that’s bright enough to study under? There will be plenty of nights your roommate wants to go to bed before you, leaving your desk lamp as the only source of light in the room. Make sure it’s not too dim, or you’ll get headaches squinting at your history reading. Don’t forget to bring a couple spare bulbs in case yours burns out.

My suggestion: KVART Work Lamp, $12.99 at IKEA

4. A second pair of sheets

Someone will cry/vomit/bleed/track mud onto your bed at the least opportune time. If you bring a second pair of sheets–even an inexpensive Target set or a $1 garage sale find–you’ll be able to swap out your linens without doing laundry.

My suggestion: Xhilaration Sheet Set, $12.58 at Target

5. Sewing Kit

Even if you don’t have a wardrobe malfunction–a torn hem or a popped button–someone else will. They’ll walk down the hall asking, “Who has a needle and thread?” and you’ll get to be the cool kid who says, “I do!” You can pick up mini sewing kits in hotel bathrooms for free sometimes. I got mine at a garage sale for a quarter.

My suggestion: look around and get something cheap. Or try the Smooth Trip Unisex Compact Travel Sewing Kit, $6.29 on Amazon.

6. Dry shampoo

Face it: however frequently you want to wash your hair, you’re not going to hit that mark. There are days when you’ll think, “UGH–I need to shower. I can’t believe I didn’t shower.” And then you know what you’ll do that night? You won’t shower. Or you’ll shower, but you won’t have enough time to wash/brush/dry your hair. Take it from someone who knows.

Dry shampoo is my best friend. It soaks up the oil in your hair, making it look bouncy and freshly washed. The best thing about the brand I use is that you can’t overdo it–I’ve used dry shampoo three days in a row before. Am I proud? No, but it worked. Wait til Psst! is on sale and stock up.

My suggestion: Psssssst! Instant Dry Shampoo, $8.73 on Amazon

 7. Emergen-C or Airborne

Living in a dorm is like going to preschool: germs are everywhere and there’s no way to avoid getting exposed. Unless you have Superman’s immune system (and I certainly don’t), you’ll eventually get at least a little of whatever’s going around. And a LOT will go around: strep, mono, and the flu passed through my floor a few times each last year. I protected myself as best I could by drinking Emergen-C packets a few times a day as soon as I suspected I was getting sick. Even if you can’t prevent yourself from getting sick, you can often postpone it for a few days or shorten the illness’s duration.

My suggestion: Emergen-C Super Orange 30-count, $13.05 on Amazon

8. An overnight bag and cosmetics case

At some point, you’ll hopefully go on a short trip and will have to pack a couple days’ worth of clothes. Don’t be the kid who packs her stuff in a Walgreens bag (ahem.)

My suggestion: The Twill Weekender, $95, and The Twill Dopp Kit, $35 at Everlane

9. Granola bars

On the days you oversleep and can’t make it to the dining hall for breakfast (um, every day for me), protein-filled granola bars are much healthier and more cost-effective than a muffin from the coffee shop. I order mine in bulk on Amazon.

My suggestion: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clif Bars, $13.99 for 12 on Amazon

10. A sleep mask

Some nights, your roommate will want to go to bed before you; others, you’ll be the one crashing early. Don’t let her study habits get in the way of your beauty sleep. I have a plain jane fabric mask, but my roommate has this one with molded cups to protect her eyelashes. It’s so handy.

My suggestion: Dream Essentials Sweet Dreams Contoured Sleep Mask, $9.95 on Amazon

11. Comfortable headphones

You’ve heard you need headphones to block out the noise in your dorm or library…but have you heard how much you’ll be wearing them? All. The time. When you’re constantly surrounded by other people, there’s no such thing as a no-distraction environment. Make sure the set you’ve picked out still feels good into hour three (or six, if you’re a design student chained to your laptop.) Mine are excellent and worth the splurge, considering I wear them for about 25% of my life. They fit comfortably over my ears, which I prefer to the on-ear designs–they give me headaches–and they’re lined with a fuzzy material that doesn’t get sticky or sweaty.

My suggestion: Incase Sonic Over-Ear Headphones, $89.99 on Amazon

12. A plant

Everyone agrees: plants are great for your health. They clean the air, they lift the spirits, and above all, caring for a little-bitty living thing is a great stress reducer. Don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry. Plenty of options like succulents and cacti require very little care. You can pick up a potted plant (or four) at Trader Joe’s for just a few dollars.

My suggestion: Head to your local stores and check out the options! Trader Joe’s, the Home Depot, IKEA and most grocery stores have decent selections. Image from Bliss Bloom Blog.

13. Extension cords and power strips

My dorm had exactly two power outlets, one on each side. I had a lot more than two things to plug into mine, so I used a system of surge protectors and extension cords to plug in my laptop, phone, lamps, and hair dryer.

My suggestions: Tripp Lite Surge Protector, $8.49 on Amazon, and Axis 3 Outlet White Indoor Extension Cord, 6 Feet, $4.99 on Amazon

14. A big ass bottle of hand sanitizer

Refer to #7: germs are everywhere on a college campus. Protect yourself how you can by keeping your hands clean–put the sanitizer on your dresser and make a habit of using it every time you come in your room. Buying a big bottle like this is a lot more economical than buying a dozen little bottles. You can refill your little bottles from the big bottle.

My suggestion: up & up Hand Sanitizer, $4.59 for 32 oz. at Target

15. A fun random plaything

Break the ice in your dorm by initiating an activity that everyone loves. Think classics: no one can resist a game of Cards Against Humanity or a casual Frisbee toss. Some of my favorite memories of my first year are sitting around in my dorm room with friends playing Taboo, Twister and Apples to Apples.

My suggestions: Cards Against Humanity, $25.00 on Amazon, and Discraft 175 gram Ultra Star Sport Disc, $8.69 on Amazon


So, college students (and graduates): what’d I miss? What couldn’t you have lived without your freshman year?


All images are from the web store I linked to in the item’s description (except for the potted succulent image from Bliss Bloom Blog.


24 thoughts on “The Freshman Fifteen…Things You Didn’t Know You’ll Need

  1. My freshman year of college I wish someone had told me to halve the clothing I brought. Definitely bring some cute going-out clothes, but your prom heels, graduation dress and anything else you’ve only worn once or twice will NOT get worn on a college campus!

    • Hi Gabriela! I TOTALLY agree–you’re spot on with that advice. I ended up bringing half of my clothes home at the semester break totally unworn. Although I will say, it’s really nice to have one or two formal outfits for events on campus–I actually did end up wearing my prom dress once!

      Have a great Wednesday 🙂

  2. love this list! my boyfriend’s mom always gives us emergenc because it is a great source of vitamin! and i never thought of buying hand sanitizer for my dorm. thanks for all the tips, i’ll keep them in mind this fall when i became a freshman

    • Hi Orly! Yeah, Emergen-C is the bomb. It totally saved my butt last year when everyone on my floor got sick. Glad you liked the list–thanks so much for checking out my blog 🙂

      Love, Gigi

  3. I totally agree with all of these, especially the sleep mask! I ended up buying one when I got to my dorm my first year, and it was the best thing I bought. I also bought little mini hand sanitizers and put them in my backpack, workout bag, purse, and then had a big one in my room. Thanks for the advice!

    La Vie en Zoe

    • Hi Zoe! So glad you liked the post–I totally agree, a sleep mask is 100% necessary when your roommate is a crazy night owl. Unfortunately for my roommate and me, we’re BOTH crazy night owls, but seemingly always on different nights…our masks came in handy!

      Love, Gigi

  4. Great tips! Luckily back in my college days I was able to still live at home and everything was just a car drive away.

  5. I love all of these suggestions! I was just like you before I went to college. I made lists upon lists upon lists of things that I would need. A few of these things were actually on some of my lists, like the sewing kit. I love that you threw in the bra ball. That really is a lifesaver and so is the water filter! These are all really awesome suggestions!

  6. So glad you are feeling better! These are such great things to have at school!

  7. I would have loved to have Emergen C when I was in college, what a life saver that is.

  8. All great must haves for surviving college. the headphones in particular majorily important because there is so many things going on, I remember wearing my pair at the library.

    • Hi Erika! You’re totally right–part of what’s so fun about college is the constant commotion, but it can be a huge distraction when you really need to be productive. Headphones are necessary for me to focus!

  9. For me, coffee was also crucial. I relied on it many nights in college to pull all nighters and finish my papers. Also, Pssst dry shampoo is the BEST!

    • Hey Amanda! So glad I found another Pssst addict…it’s amazing. And yeah, I try not to rely on coffee completely, but I love the taste and I end up drinking way too much.

  10. Hi Gigi! This was such a thoughtful and useful post for new college students! You made many great points — having a water pitcher would have been so useful, and a big, resounding yes to hand sanitizer, air-borne/emergen-C/cold-eeze, and the eye mask.

    I’d also recommend earplugs to light sleepers — there’s always something going on in the dorms at night, and sometimes, inevitably it’ll be on a night that you need to get quality sleep!

    • Oh, I totally forgot earplugs! You’re absolutely right. My roommate, who is a really light sleeper, used them all the time last year. I always wished I had a pair on the nights when the commotion outside my door got too loud (it’s incredible how late the party goes some nights!)

  11. Thanks for linking up! I’ve added this to our Pinterest Parties board 🙂


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