The 15 College Essentials I Always Buy at Target

From freshman to senior citizen, you’ll need these things every semester.

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This post will show you my Target college essentials for back to school.

Target college essentials - photo of a shopping cart in the beauty aisle

I never thought I’d be excited to see herds of freshmen walking around in lanyards with bags of Target supplies in their hands. But a pandemic will do that to a girl. And herd-walking and lanyard-wearing aside, Target is a must stop shop every semester for any college student.

As a non-American, I still remember the first day I walked into a Tar-jay. From pet-strollers to unicorn onesies, it had it all. (Don’t even get me started on the first time I went to a Costco!) But honestly, Target has everything you need, and also don’t need.

Now, there are certain things we buy once as freshmen and use for the next four years (see our college packing list for all of these), but there are also some things we need to restock on every year.

So if you’re an upperclassmen or a glorified freshman (a sophomore), and you’ve been feeling left out because every article is helping freshmen get it together in college and you’re thinking, “I don’t have it together,” this article is for you.

Also, no hate intended towards lower classmen, I’m just jealous that I lost out on my sophomore and junior year of college. But this will be the best one yet, until classes go online again because some people won’t wear a mask or get vaccinated. (Side note, please do your duty and keep your campus safe!)

Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe as a senior I’ve gotten to that point in life where I just appreciate the little things, but I LOVE going to Target. It’s like I want to buy everything!

But I’m also a senior who’s over having a room filled with random things that will serve me no purpose once I graduate. So for the sake of minimalism and saving money, every item on this list is either an essential or something that lasts.

Without further ado, let’s get to my Target college essentials:

Dry Shampoo

Am I the only person who thinks dry shampoo is better than normal shampoo? Like it makes your hair look better?

Even if you don’t agree with me on this, dry shampoo is a college must have. We all know you don’t have time to wash your hair in between finishing up a project and going out at 11:00 pm. Dry shampoo to the rescue!

First Aid Kit

You might be thinking, you probably don’t need to get a new first aid kit every semester.

But any college woman can attest to the fact that you’ll wake up at least once a week with enough bruises to question why you applied self-tanner last night.

Wall Décor

No Target college essentials list would be complete without dorm room decor.

Redecorating your room every year is a little wasteful, unless it’s your freshman year room. (All the tinted blue pictures have got to go!) Focusing on buying cool artwork and especially nice frames ensures that this isn’t money wasted because you can keep them for after college.

Target has an awesome array of cute wall art, so toss a few pieces in your cart during your next shopping trip and thank yourself later.


You’ve probably heard a professor say that taking notes by hand on paper leads to better retention, and while it can be really annoying when you’re used to typing your notes, it’s actually something that’s been studied by scientists.

The best way to think about it is that it will help with better retention in class and it takes no extra time. So stock up on notebooks so you’ll have one for every class.


Take it from me: Writing a huge to-do list in your notes app is not the best way to organize your life.

If there’s one huge difference in terms of classes from high school to college is that professors will not remind you of when you have assignments due. So do yourself a favor and stay organized with a planner. (See our guide to the best planners for college for more options!)


One of my favorite Target college essentials!

It’s the start of a new semester, a new year, and you’ll be buying a few new clothing items, so get ready for them with new hangers.

Matching hangers make your closet look so much more organized, and these slimline hangers let you fit more items into your wardrobe. (Just remember to properly get rid of your old clothes!)

Cerave Moisturizer

Life-saver! Even if this isn’t the moisturizer you use on your face, if you ever are feeling like your skin is really dry from the climate or not drinking enough water, this cult favorite cream will save your skin.

Bed Head Styling Cream

I’ve been using this styling cream since I was 13 and the reason I love it is because it helps my hair dry naturally. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered to blow dry my hair, and this just makes sure that it will still look styled. For reference I have fine, wavy hair.

Cleaning Wipes

I just cleaned my brother’s freshman year dorm and from the potato chip bags we found in the desks on move-in day, I can tell you it was never cleaned in between uses.

So you’ll need a few packs of Clorox Wipes. In general, these are just really easy to use to clean your room when it starts getting dusty. I can’t go without them because I literally can’t study or sleep in a dirty room.


I was constantly reapplying chapstick without any results, so I decided to google if Chapstick is actually effective. Lo and behold, research shows that only Vaseline is able to help your skin retain moisture.

So switch out whatever you’re using and get yourself some Vaseline. Sometimes the cheapest option is your best option.

Candle or Aromatherapy Oils

This may not apply to everyone, but smells can be really relaxing for me.

No matter what year you’re in, college is hard. So invest in a candle that relaxes you and that you can always set up before you do some self care.

Or if you’re in a dorm and can’t have candles, aromatherapy oil diffusers are a flame-free option for that scent.

A Plant

Did you know plants die when you go away for three months and don’t water them? Get yourself a new plant, it will also pull your room together!


There will be some days where you will dread waking up for class or for an interview the next day, and melatonin will be your best friend. You need your sleep to be ready and to look ready for those moments.

Stain Remover

I think when I went to college, I became a toddler because I stain my clothes all the time. Stain remover pens are quick and hassle free. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll go through them really fast.

Wrinkle Spray

I bought a steamer for college and to be honest, I’ve used it a grant total of one time. If there’s one thing that isn’t hassle-free, it’s a steamer.

But a wrinkle spray, on the other hand, has saved me on several occasions, especially since half my closet is silk/satin.

Image from Pexels

What are your Target college essentials?

Now that you’ve added all that to your shopping cart, go ahead and message Target so they can sponsor me. This list should avoid quite a few emergency situations and make everyone’s transition back to college a lot easier.

Good luck this year, and stay safe so we can stay on campus!

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