Welcome to college, students! Most teens who head off to college and stay in the dorms will be living away from home for the first time. While dorm life can be a lot of fun, it typically offers only the bare minimum: a bed, bathrooms, a food plan, and laundry facilities. The rest is up to you — so here is a checklist of some of the top dorm room must-haves!
Dorm Room Essentials
Because dorm amenities tend to be very minimal, there are some everyday items you may need for your daily life. While it's great to be prepared and have all of these items on move-in day, don't stress if you forget things or don't have all these items either.
A typical dorm has a single bed and a (cheaper) mattress. Unfortunately, most dorms don't provide any bedding. In order for you to actually enjoy your sleep, you'll probably need the following:
- A mattress topper (we love memory foam!)
- One or two sets of twin or twin XL-sized sheets and pillowcases (check with your school on what size to bring)
- One or two blankets or a comforter
Most freshman dorms don't have private baths. Instead, dorm living often means communal toilets and showers. In many cases, the showers are a walk down the hall from your room. With this being the case, the following items are helpful:
- A shower caddy to carry personal hygiene items to the bathroom
- A bathrobe for trips to the shower or middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks
- Shower shoes
- A couple of bath towels, hand towels, and a sponge, etc.
Private Bath Items
For dorms that do have private bathrooms, more often than not, you're responsible for keeping the bathroom stocked up and clean. In this case, here are some items you should bring:
- Toilet paper
- Toilet brush
- Bath mats
- Cleaning supplies (bleach, surface cleaner, etc)
- Cleaning brush
Hygiene is important, and it's easy to forget all of the items you will need for personal hygiene. When you move into the dorms, be sure to have the following:
- Toothbrush and toothbrush holder
- Dental floss
- Bath soap
- Facial soap
- Hair dryer
- Nail trimmers and nail file
- Shaving cream
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Feminine hygiene products
- Personal toiletries such as makeup, hair gel, moisturizer, etc.
It can be worth it to stock up on basics like shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste so you don't run out at the worst moment. Use places like under-bed storage to stash the extras.
Many dorms offer washers and dryers in common areas for your use, but you'll need to supply the rest. You will need:
- A laundry basket or laundry bag
- Laundry detergent
- Fabric softener
- Dryer sheets
- Stain remover
- Rolls of quarters (if the machine is coin-operated)
- An iron/ironing board
Keeping your dorm room clean is a necessity. Purchase cleaning supplies and store them in a bucket in the back of a closet. For cleaning you will need:
- Cleaning wipes
- Window cleaner
- Paper towels or reusable cloths
- Small vacuum or hand vacuum
- Dish soap
- Garbage bags
- Other cleaning products you might need (for example, if your dorm room has its own bathroom, you may need to bring a toilet brush)
Health and Safety Supplies
It's always good to have a few items on hand for emergencies, such as:
- Assorted bandages
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Antibiotic ointment
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Cold medication
- Hand sanitizer
- Proof of health insurance/vaccination card
- Locks or safe storage for valuables
Electronics and Computing
A laptop is practically a necessity for modern-day colleges. If you're unable to purchase a laptop, contact your school and let them know your situation. Apart from a laptop, some other items you may need include:
- Cell phone and charger
- Extension cords/cord holder
- Power extenders and surge protectors
- Clock/alarm clock (optional)
Food Storage and Preparation
Even if you have a meal plan, you'll probably want snacks from time to time. The following items are great for dorm rooms.
- A dorm refrigerator typically fits underneath a desk — use it to store small food items, leftovers, and cold beverages
- A small microwave, so you can heat foods, pop popcorn, or have hot beverages
- Plastic food storage containers, so you can keep snacks fresh or dry foods fresh and keep pests outs
- A set or two of dishes and silverware so you to eat the occasional meal in your room
- A good water bottle allows you to carry water or your favorite drinks to class or around the dorms
Some schools require you to use specific brands of fridges and microwaves, so be sure to check with your school!
Most dorms have common areas where you can congregate to listen to music, play games, or watch and play games on the TV. Many students also want to have their own personal entertainment items in their dorm rooms, such as:
- Small TV
- Amazon Fire Stick (optional, provides more channels)
- Game consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, etc.)
- Mini speaker for music/wireless speakers
- Card/board games (Uno, Monopoly, etc.)
- Earbuds or headphones
Since dorm rooms are often bare bones, you can bring items to increase your comfort, including:
- A comfortable desk chair/chair cushion
- Task lighting such as desk and bedside lamps
- A small fan or portable air conditioning
- A beanbag chair
- String lights
- LED lights
Storage space is limited in dorm rooms. Typically, you will have a bank of drawers and a small closet. Make the most of valuable storage space with these items:
- Under-bed storage boxes will ensure you don't waste the space under your mattress
- Desk caddies are perfect for storing pens and other desktop items
- Stackable storage bins can be arranged around your room to create more storage.
- Hanging storage, such as a shoe tree, can make the most of vertical closet and wall space.
- Wheeled carts can double as bedside tables.
- Closet door organizers allow you to store toiletries and other items neatly.
Dorm rooms can be pretty plain, so it's up to you to make it feel like home. Consider the following decor items.
- Decorative comforters and sheets brighten up your bedding.
- Colorful throw pillows turn your bed into extra seating.
- A message board allows dorm mates to leave messages on your door.
- Bulletin boards and push pins allow you to put up pictures and other meaningful items.
- A throw rug can add warmth to the space.
- Wall decor allows you to bring personality to your dorm room.
- Decorative task lighting creates ambiance and adds color.
Making the Most of a Small Space
If you know who your roommate(s) will be, you can coordinate on the big items so you don't wind up with two of something that takes up valuable space, like a microwave or refrigerator. You can also coordinate with your roommate on decor and other space-saving options. By working with roommates and bringing all the items you need, you'll be well on your way to comfortable dorm living.