Welcome to the most complete list of college dorm room essentials, must-haves and a whole bunch of nice to haves.
You will find a very long list of things to consider below, but you only need a fraction of them.
Because when it comes to setting up your dorm room, less is more.
Everyone is different in terms of what makes them comfortable, so while this list is comprehensive to help you with ideas, narrow it down based on what is right for you.
How Items Make Our List
We are in our 3rd season of helping parents and students with dorm shopping recommendations, and there are a LOT of learnings from years of doing this day in and day out.
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 just not made in the USA, we’re prioritizing those that are.
- Customer approved by either being personally tested by us or thoroughly researched.
- Forward-thinking – dorm life may only be a year or two, but with each item selection, we’re looking for opportunities to reuse as the student moves into apartments and other off-campus housing.
Navigating The List
You will be clicking around to various retailers to view different dorm room essentials, so make sure to bookmark this page before you start browsing so that you can find it again!
We very much appreciate you clicking through our links as we may earn a small commission on eligible purchases. This is the only revenue supporting this ad-free website, and it is our goal to keep this website free of ad clutter for as long as possible.
Ready to get started? Grab a cup of coffee and start scrolling.
Or jump to any of the following categories if you’re looking for a specific recommendation.
If you aren’t already in our Dorm Shopping Recommendations and Deal Alerts Facebook group, be sure to join us there for Q&A and deal alerts on these items. Don’t see a recommendation for what you are looking for below, ask us in the group!
Probably the most essential part of the dorm room is the bedding. Making that uncomfortable thin vinyl over springs mattress into something dream worthy is found in the layering.
Dorm Bedding – Building The Layers Of A Dorm Bed
The foundation is comprised of the layers to make a dorm bed comfortable.
Every recommendation in this bedding section is not only highly rated but also meets the following certifications to ensure a toxin-free healthier dorm bed.
- Foam toppers and pillows – CertiPUR–US®
- Textiles including sheets, comforters – OEKO–TEX®
The following links are for Twin XL sizes, but all should be available in Twin or Full sizes if needed.
If you are looking for Full XL, scroll down past encasements, toppers and mattress pads to the Full XL dorm bedding recommendations.
Dorm Mattress Encasement
A mattress encasement is used to ‘seal off’ or ‘zip away’ the used school-provided mattress. A mattress encasement, also called a mattress protector, is a tight-fitting enclosure with a zipper at one end.
Dorm mattresses are typically 5-8″ thick, so you’ll want to use a narrow encasement on your mattress to avoid having a bunch of extra fabric sliding around.
We have only one recommendation for the encasement as it comes in multiple sizes, and there is a fit for every situation.
- Hospitology Mattress Encasement Twin XL – choose the Twin XL Ultra Low Profile (6-8″) size to fit a typical dorm mattress.
Note: While many choose to separate the provided mattress from their own mattress topper and bedding, some choose to put the mattress topper inside the mattress encasement. The benefit to this is to keep the mattress topper from sliding around. That can also be accomplished by a tight fitting mattress pad over the topper and mattress, but if you choose to put the topper inside the encasement, go up one thickness size. So instead of the Ultra Low Profile 6-8″, go up to the Low Profile 9-11″ thickness.
Dorm Mattress Topper
- Premium 3″ Topper – An extra supportive luxurious topper that comes with a removable washable cover
- Our Recommended Under $100 3″ Topper – All the certifications plus Made In The USA
- Basic 3″ Topper – A 3″ certified topper for a plush sleep experience
- Non-Memory Foam Topper – a down alternative to memory foam
Mattress Pads For Dorm Beds
Dorm Bedding For Full XL Beds
Dorm Bedding – Sheets
Everyone needs at least a fitted sheet. My son would argue the top sheet is not necessary, but it is a lot easier to wash sheets than a big soft blanket regularly!
All sheets below are CertiPUR-US® certified.
- Microfiber Sheets (soft, but can run warm)
- Microfiber Fleece Sheets (soft, but can run warm)
- 100% Cotton Cooling Sheets – 100% cotton is cooling. A bit more crisp than microfiber.
- 100% Hygro Cotton (moisture wicking, antimicrobial) Cooling Sheets
- Percale Sheets (crisp, cooling) – Crisp, cool, moisture-wicking.
- Easy Care Cotton Blend Sheets
- 100% Supima Cotton Damask Stripe Sheets
Dorm Bedding – Blankets, Comforters & Duvets
- Ruffle Comforter, Sham and Decorative Pillow Set
- Pinch Pleat/Shabby Chic Comforter
- Faux Fur Comforter Set
- Soft Sherpa Comforter Without The UGG Price Tag
- Simple Waffle Stitched Quilt
- Plaid/Solid Reversible Comforter
- Duvet Insert
- Ruffle Duvet Cover, Sham and Decorative Pillow Set or also available here
- Cotton Chenille Geometric Duvet Set
- Jacquard Pom Duvet Set
Dorm Bedding – Pillows
Bamboo Cover Memory Foam Pillow CertiPUR bamboo cover shredded memory foam 4.7* rating:
2-Pack Molecule Cooling Gel Memory Foam Pillows
Quilted Fiber Fill Side Sleeper Pillow
Quilted Fiber Fill Stomach/Back Sleeper Pillow
Typical dorm beds have no headboards. You’ll want something between your pillow and a concrete wall. For the following headboards with legs, you’ll attach them to the dorm bedframe with zip ties. Therefore, do not use these for upper bunk or fully lofted beds.
For a Twin XL bed, you’ll want a twin-sized headboard. Twins and Twin XL’s are the same width.
More Feminine Headboard Options With Legs
- Pink Diamond Tufted Headboard
- Pink Velvet Tufted Headboard – also available in white, blue and gray
- White Upholstered Headboard with Nailhead Trim – or also available at Amazon
- White Faux Leather Tufted Headboard – also available at Walmart or Target
Want more white headboard options? We have a whole article on just white headboards for a dorm!
More Unisex Headboard Options With Legs
Pillow Headboard Options
- Headboard Pillow If you don’t use a structured headboard, this is another option to provide a barrier to the wall. A good option for a lofted bed.
- Triangular Wedge Pillow Another pillow option more supportive for sitting up in bed but not as tall. Also good for a lofted bed.
- Husband Pillow (Backrest with arms) This is probably too big to stay on the bed when sleeping, but it has great height for sitting up working or reading in bed.
Accessories for bunk beds or full lofted beds
- Bed Shelfie For those in a fully lofted or upper bunk bed, a Bed Shelfie is a great option for a ‘nightstand’. A shelf instead of a hanging organizer allows you to place a fan, clock or other upright objects next to the bed.
- Bedside Caddy Another option for bedside storage when a nightstand is not an option, this one folds over the railing.
- Bed Rail for Lofted or Bunk Beds – Most schools should provide this, but if not, you will need to provide your own. EVERY lofted bed or top bunk absolutely needs a bed rail. Please see the Rail Against The Danger website for more information.
Dorm Bedding Decor And Extras
- Chunky Knit Throw Blanket – These are really popular but hard to find with OEKO-TEX certification!
- Cozy Fleece Throw Blanket – Naps and late-night studying are best done outside of the covers but with a cozy blanket.
- Custom Pet Pillow – If your student will be missing a pet at home, they will love a custom pet pillow for their bed at college. This link will give you 25% off your first order.
- Throw Pillow with School Name – A little bed decor with school spirit.
- Pair Faux Fur Throw Pillow Covers (Covers Only) + Throw Pillow Inserts
- Step Stool To Reach A Semi-Lofted Bed Or High Closet Shelf – Most dorm beds can be raised to accommodate the provided dresser and other storage below. Most take advantage of this to create more usable space. But this puts the bed into ‘jumping’ distance from the floor, for the tall students!
Dorm Room Storage & Furniture
After bedding, the next most important of the dorm room essentials is storage. Dorm rooms are typically 180-240sqft. That’s about the size of a basic cabin on a cruise. Or the smallest bedroom in a 4-bedroom house. And TWO people are probably living there.
Creative storage to the rescue!
Under Bed Storage
Drawer Towers – Weave Finish
- White Or Gray Wide 3-Drawer Weave Tower – 21 7/8″W x 15 7/8″D x 24″H. Or in Espresso.
- White Narrow 3-Drawer Weave Tower – 12 5/8″ W x 15″ D x 24″ H. Or in Gray. Or in Espresso.
The following are 4-drawer options and are 31 3/4” high. If you plan to use these under the bed, please be sure you have enough clearance.
- Wide 4-Drawer Weave Tower – 21 7/8″W x 15 7/8″D x 31 3/4″H.
- Narrow 4-Drawer Weave Tower – 12 5/8″W x 15″D x 31 3/4″H.
Drawer Towers – Clear
- Wide 5-Drawer Tower – 21 7/8″W x 15 1/4″D x 31 3/4″H
- Narrow 5-Drawer Tower – 12 5/8″W x 14 1/2″D x 31 3/4″H
Drawer Tower Carts
- Wide 3-Drawer Cart – 21 7/8″ W x 15 1/4″ D x 24″ H
- Narrow 3-Drawer Cart – 12 5/8″W x 14 1/2″D x 24″H
- Sterilite 16qt Clear Front Drawer – 14 3/8″W x 17″D x 6 7/8″H
- Sterilite 27qt Clear Front Drawer – 14 3/8″W x 17″D x 10 1/4″H
- Clear Or Colored Front Drawers from The Container Store. A little bit better quality with the ability to create custom looks and a little more privacy with the colored fronts.
Large: 15-3/4″ W x 19-3/4″ D x 8-1/8″ H. Small: 7-1/2″ W x 13-1/2″ D x 4-1/4″ H.
If you’re looking at cube organizers for under bed or elsewhere in the room, know that they typically come with cubes that hold either 11″ square bins or 13″ square bins. Just be sure to match your cube size with the bin size.
These organizers can be placed horizontally or vertically.
- 6 Cube Organizer – 11″ cubes. 35 7/8″H x 24″W x 11 5/8″D
- 8 Cube Organizer – 11″ cubes. 24 1/8″H x 47 5/8″W x 11 5/8″D
- 11″ Fabric Foldable Bins – Available in 15 colors.
The Open Space Behind The Under Bed Storage
The under bed storage options above will not take up the entire depth under the bed.
Twin XL beds are 38″ wide, and most of the options above will sit in the front 12″-17″ deep. The space behind these storage options is great for out of season storage, sports equipment and items that will be used less frequently.
Out of season clothes, jackets, extra blankets and bedding should be stored in a zippered container such as a moving bag or these large foldable storage bags.
Dorm Rolling Open Storage Carts
- Narrow 3 or 4-tier Rolling Cart Use for bath & body supplies, cleaning supplies, food storage, school supplies. Narrow is perfect for sliding into that little bit of extra dorm space.
- Wider 3-tier Rolling Cart For more storage in a slightly wider cart. This one is 5″ deeper and 3″ taller than the 3-tier cart above.
- Wider 4-tier Rolling Cart For more storage in a slightly wider cart. This one is 6″ deeper, 2″ wider but 2″ shorter than the 4-tier cart above. But only 9″ between shelves on this one.
Dorm Room Safes and Locking Storage
Many students choose to keep important documents, prescription medicines, sentimental jewelry and electronics in a locking storage box.
- Locking Medicine Box – 5″H x 8.5″W x 2.8″D. You can tether this to your bed frame with a cable lock like this one.
- Small Locking Storage Box – 7.5″D x 11.5″W x 2.5″H Good for medications and small valuables. Comes with a tether cable so that you can attach it to your bed frame.
- Locking Storage Box – 6.5″D x 13.5″W x 23″H. Large enough for a laptop and other valuables.
- Locking File Cabinet Offering more locking storage than a box, a filing cabinet gives you room to safely lock up even more personal items. It also provides more tabletop space for a microwave, printer or storage bins.
- Desk Hutch With Locked Storage Section – Planning to put a hutch over your desk anyway? This hutch comes with a closed section with a lock and key. The locked area is 16″W x 13.25″D x 9″H, so it will hold a laptop and other valuables easily.
- Fireproof Waterproof Document Storage Protect personal documents carefully. Be sure you have a printed copy of your Young Adult Power Of Attorney documents with you at college. Be sure your roommate can access these in the event of an emergency.
Dorm Jewelry Storage
Hanging Jewelry Organizer – A super affordable and least space-intensive way to store jewelry – an organizer that hangs in a closet.
Desktop Jewelry Box – This small 10″x10″ 2-layer box holds a LOT for its size.
Stackers Modular Jewelry Storage System – This system has various trays, drawers and lids to create a stackable jewelry storage to perfectly hold your jewelry collection. A vegan leather exterior surrounds the velvet insides of each component.
Stackers also has makeup organizers, glasses organizers and travel cases if you’re looking to have a consistent look across storage components.
Dorm Kitchen Storage
- Microwave Storage Cart – A great way to elevate the microwave and create storage below for food, snacks, plates, cutlery, etc.
- Mini Fridge Organizer Caddy – A simple and affordable way to create extra storage on the sides of the mini-fridge.
- Magnetic Storage Shelves – Keep food and condiment items close at hand with these shelves that firmly attach to the fridge or microwave.
- Over the Fridge Shelving (4 shelves above) – This unit creates great vertical storage above the fridge on 4 18″x24″ open shelves.
- Over the Fridge Shelving (2 shelves above) – This would be a good option if you have less vertical space but want to create additional storage above the fridge.
- Over the Fridge Shelving (another option) – A less expensive over-fridge shelving option but with more narrow shelves as this is officially over-toilet shelving.
- Under Sink Storage – If you have an en-suite kitchen, bathroom or sink with a cabinet below in your dorm room, consider under-cabinet storage units to double the storage, help delineate your space and keep things neat.
Nightstand Storage Options
If you have space next to your bed, a nightstand with extra drawer storage is a great idea.
- Dormify Sutton Charging Cart – probably the most popular option for those with raised beds, this nightstand on wheels with charging ports is just over 39″ tall making it the perfect height for a 30″ off-the-floor bed frame, the ~6″ dorm mattress and a 3″ topper.
- Tall Nightstand/Dresser Another fabric drawer option but without wheels, the charging ports and the price tag, this is a good option for a raised bed at 37.5″ tall.
- Cabinet/Nightstand – Need more storage and have a slightly wider area next to your bed? This cabinet can hold shoes or other low-profile items and is the perfect 41″ height nightstand. Just be sure you have room for the 29.5″ width.
- Shoe Cabinet/Nightstand – Need more space for shoes? This shoe cabinet doubles as hidden shoe storage plus the 41″ height needed for a tall nightstand. This cabinet is 31″ wide.
- 3-Shelf Bookcase – Prefer the look of open storage next to the bed, this 3-shelf bookcase is 36″ tall.
- Storage Ottoman – Another way to step up to a semi-lofted bed. But also a good option for some storage as well as extra seating. And of course, can be used as a footrest too.
- Butterfly Chair – An extra chair for visitors or just chill time that folds away when not in use. It gets tiring sitting on the bed all the time.
- Saucer Chair – Another chair option that folds away when not in use.
- Step Stool – A step stool that folds away is helpful in a dorm room. Use it to reach storage space at the top of or above the closet hanging rod or any other high point in the room. A stool also helps with hanging (or re-hanging) decor and even hopping up on a semi-lofted bed. And in a pinch, it can serve as extra seating for visitors.
Affordable Futons For Dorm Rooms
If you are fully lofting both beds (be sure you have bed rails!) in your dorm room, a popular plan is to put a futon/couch under one bed, and a TV/kitchen area under the other. The following are affordable futon options as you likely don’t want to make a huge investment in something that may only be useful for a couple of years.
- Fabric Futon with USB Port (66″ long)
- Fabric Futon with Pillows And Cup Holders (66″ long)
- White Faux Leather Futon (66″ long)
- Pink or Yellow Futon With Arms (66″ long)
- Camel Faux Leather Futon (66″ long)
Dorm Clothes And Closet Organization
- Hanging Shelves – If you need additional folded clothes space or room for hats or other accessories, this will give more vertical ‘shelf’ space while only taking 12″ of horizontal hanging space.
- Closet Hanging Shoe Organizer – If you have more shoes than clothes to hang up, these will add shoe storage and keep them from piling up on the floor of your closet.
- Slim Plastic Non-Slip Hangers – Slim hangers help you get more items in a small closet. These tend to be a little easier to put clothes on and off than the velvet hangers.
- Slim Velvet Hangers – Slim hangers help you get more items in a small closet. Velvet helps keep items from falling off the hangers.
- Space-Saving Hanger Organizers – Create even more space by putting 5 garments onto 1 hanger organizer.
- Hanging Jewelry Organizer – The least space-intensive way to store jewelry in a dorm room is in a simple thin hanging organizer.
Over Door Organizers
- Over-the-door organizer – Add 5 storage shelves/compartments to the back of your closet door. Store kitchen items, snacks, clothes, personal items, medications, etc.
- Over The Door Shoe Organizer – No room on the closet floor or for a hanging shoe organizer? This over-the-door shoe holder stores 12 pairs of shoes.
- Over The Door Mirror – Check to see if your dorm room is equipped with a mirror. If not, an over door model is often the best choice.
Closet Bins and Organizers
- Large Bins For Upper Closet Shelves – If you have an upper shelf in the closet, keep small items neatly stored in a few large bins.
- Closet Floor or Top Shelf Shoe Organizer – Keep shoes organized in this bin with a clear lid. This organizer could also slide under the bed.
- Under Bed Shoe & Boot Organizer – Store extra shoes and even 4 pairs of boots in this zippered storage under the bed. A great for long-distance students to store out-of-season shoes.
- Shoe Deodorizers – No garage or mud room to capture stinky muddy shoes, so not only are those shoes going to their room, they’re probably going into a small closet without ventilation. Drop some shoe deodorizers in the couple of pairs that are most worn/most sweaty.
- Sock & Underwear Drawer Organizer – Keep small items organized AND from touching the dresser. 🙂
- Non-Adhesive Drawer Liners – Line those previously used dresser and desk drawers with your own liners (after cleaning first!). Schools do not allow adhesive drawer/shelf liners, so these non-adhesive liners are a great option.
- Additional Drawers and Drawer Units – these are listed in the Dorm Under Bed Storage section above.
Dorm Bathroom/Shower Essentials
Towels and Bathrobes
- Quick Dry Towels (Amazon option) – Dorm rooms have little airflow and are often older, damp and musty. Not a great environment for drying towels, especially when there isn’t a lot of room to hang them.
- Quick Dry Towels (Kohl’s option) – Available to purchase as individual towels or as a set, these are affordable, highly rated, OEKO-TEX® certified quick-dry towels perfect for a dorm room.
- Women’s Bath Wrap – Girls will want a wrap or bathrobe to go to/from the shower.
- Personalized Embroidered Towel Wrap – Available with a monogram or first name.
- Hair Towel Wrap – Wrap up long hair right out of the shower so it doesn’t drip all the way back to and around the dorm room.
- Women’s Bathrobe Something lightweight and simple to get to and from the shower if you have a community bathroom.
- Over Door Towel Hooks For multiple towels, or towels and bathrobe, a place to hang them to dry is important. Hang this over your closet or private bathroom door.
- Single Over Door Hook For Closet Or Bathroom Not so much over the door hanging space, grab a couple of hooks that have more versatile hanging locations.
- Mesh Shower Caddy – This is a must if you have a community bathroom down the hall and have to tote your shower supplies back and forth.
- Personalized Mesh Shower Caddy – Available with an embroidered name or monogram.
- Plastic Shower Caddy – A simple caddy perfect for guys.
- Boot Tray For Wet Caddies, Shoes, Umbrellas – You know those shower caddies that come back drippy? A boot tray is the perfect answer. Its also great for wet shoes and umbrellas coming back from class.
Some like the holes to allow the water to run through, some don’t like them for fear they may let the water rise through them. Your choice!
- Women’s Thong Shower Shoes With Weep Holes
- Women’s Thong Shower Flip Flops
- Men’s Thong Shower Shoes With Weep Holes
- Men’s Thong Shower Flip Flops
- Crocs Thong Shower Flip Flops (unisex)
- Crocs Shower Slides (unisex)
Community bathroom floors and walking around the dorm hallways in general – you never want to go barefoot.
Poo-Pourri Whether you have a communal or connected bathroom, a little spray before you go helps keeps odors in the bowl.
Private Dorm Bathrooms
Feminine Shower Curtains
- Ruffle Shower Curtain
- Diamond Ruffle Shower Curtain
- Boho Shower Curtain (includes liner)
- Gold Kissing Lips Shower Curtain
Neutral Shower Curtains
- Striped Spa Waffle Tub Width Shower Curtain and Matching Striped Spa Bath Mat
- Basic Waffle Shower Curtain
- Woven Stitched Stripe Shower Curtain
Shower Curtain Liners, Rings and Bath Mats
- Shower Curtain Liner
- Shower Curtain Rings For Liner and Curtain
- Long Bath Mat For Bathtub/Shower Combo – A long rug in front of the tub/shower reduces a wet mess on the floor.
- 2-Piece Bath Rugs For Shower And Sink Areas – For a private bath with a smaller footprint, go with 2 rugs, one for the shower and one for the vanity.
Shower Stall Width Curtain and Bath Mat
If you have a shower only, no bathtub, you will want a more narrow shower curtain. A regular-sized curtain in there will have an even harder time drying in a dorm than a well-fitting curtain.
- Shower Stall Shower Curtain
- Matching Striped Spa Bath Mat (Shower Stall Width)
Dorm Bathroom Accessories
- Corner Tension Rod Shower Shelves
- Extra Shower Curtain Rod – Use an extra shower curtain tension rod up against the back wall to hold individual shower caddies.
- Over Toilet Storage Shelves
- Narrow Rolling Cart – Just have a slim space to fit a little extra storage? This 4-tier cart is only 6.3″ wide.
- Under Sink Storage
- Toilet Brush Set
- Cleaning Supplies – With your own bathroom, you’ll likely be cleaning it yourselves. Be sure to bring supplies to clean the toilet, floor, shower, sink and mirror.
Dorm Temperature And Air Quality
Air Purifier – Freshen up the old musty dorm building and furniture, repel germs, pollen and bad smells and breathe clean air that is refreshed about every 15 minutes.
WOOZOO Fan – If you follow any dorm groups, you know that you MUST have a WOOZOO fan. They really are far superior in air movement than any other fan on the market, and they are compact too. Perfect for a dorm. Just make sure you get the right one with the perfectly round head on a pedestal and at least 5-speeds. These typically come with a remote as well. The best price is usually at Costco, or you can find them sold by the manufacturer at Target (the newest model) or Walmart. Or sold by a third party on Amazon.
Door Draft/Noise/Light Stopper – My son purchased this 1 week into college. The light from the hall under the door. The noise from the partiers under the door. Not sure if drafts were an issue, but this will stop that too.
Dorms are damp. Well, maybe brand new dorms are not, but so many dorms are older buildings with dampness issues. You may be able to manage it with a simple bucket of Damp Rid every couple of months. But for the extremes, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier. On the flip side, if you are in a particularly dry area or dorm, you may consider a humidifier.
- Damp Rid (for damp/humid dorms and private bathrooms)
- Dehumidifier – My son’s school dorms need dehumidifiers. This was the most recommended model when I asked in the parent group. There are some slightly less expensive, but their tanks only hold 1 pint (16oz) of water. The model linked here holds 52oz.
- Humidifier – A small model but will easily cover a dorm room. Features auto shut-off and an optional night-light.
Dorm Room Desk / Study Area
Dorm Desk Hutches
Check with your school, some actually provide a hutch for the dorm desks. If not, find out the measurements of the desk for your specific dorm building. A popular size is 42″W x 24″D x 30″H, but it definitely varies. See if your housing department has this information on the website, and if not, send a quick email to housing to inquire about ALL of the measurements for the room and it’s contents.
- Classic Dorm Desk Hutch – 37″W x 12″D x 29″H. Wide opening for computer monitor or makeup mirror.
- Taller, More Narrow Dorm Desk Hutch – 29.75″W x 14″D x 43.75″H. One wide opening at the desk level for a computer monitor or makeup mirror.
- Locking Cabinet Dorm Desk Hutch – 27.75″W x 13.25″D x 41″H.
- Steel 2-Tier Desk Hutch – 36″W x 12″D x 28″H.
- Adjustable Dorm Desk Hutch – 20″-40″W x 9.5″D x 28″H.
Dorm Desk Accessories
- Protective Desk Mat – Inexpensively protect the dorm provided desk from scratches, spills, pen marks and anything else that may result in a damage fee. Keep laptops and other peripherals from moving around.
- Desk Lamp with Wireless Charging Pad and Sanitizing Light! – I love this solution for a lamp that prevents eyestrain, easy phone and AirPods charging without the cords AND the sanitizing feature perfect for college students.
- Desk Lamp with USB Charging Port
- Desk Organizer – School Supplies A small organizer to catch pens, binder clips, push pins, sticky notes, etc.
- 2-Sided Desktop Dry Erase Whiteboard – A place to jot down ideas, to do’s and other notes that won’t get lost like a piece of paper. Can be pushed up against the wall or left down in easel style.
*** For those who have a community bathroom or even a shared bathroom, their desk will very likely be the spot for skincare, hair and makeup. See below for options for lighting and storage. ***
Desk Chair And Other Study Tools
- Faux Fur Desk Chair – If you prefer to bring your own chair, and your school will remove the dorm-provided chair, many choose to go with a fun faux fur option. This one is available in several colors.
- Lumbar Support Pillow For Desk Chair – Most dorm desk chairs are solid wood with a slight (and worn) seat cushion only. Unfortunately, almost no dorms allow you to remove their furniture and replace with something better.
- Chair Back Cushion And Organizer – Dual performing desk chair cover with a cushion on one side and storage on the other.
- Adjustable Lap Desk In a small dorm room, there aren’t many options for changing scenery when studying, so some of it is going to happen while sitting in bed.
College Planners And Stationary
It’s fun to plan out your doom room essentials and decor, but don’t forget to plan for college academics too….
- Academic Year Planner – 60+ happy, positive academic planners with a July start for the academic year.
- Daily Time Block Planning Sheets – Not a full planner type of student but having a little trouble fitting it all in or staying on schedule? These one-day-at-a-time sheets help with time blocking for busy students.
Thank You Notes For College Students
College students should have thank you cards on hand for situations such as 1) Thanking grandparents or loved ones sending care packages, 2) Thanking college faculty or staff for an opportunity, extra help, networking introductions, etc, 3) Thank you note following an interview, 4) Thanking friends and family for donating to a cause you are supporting (fundraising is a big part of Greek life and other organizations).
Dorm Room Hair And Makeup
Lighted Makeup Mirrors
A must-have for anyone with a skin care or makeup routine. Don’t stand in front of the community bathroom mirrors or take up that much time in a busy suite-style bathroom. A lighted mirror on your desk will give your own space to get ready, no waiting.
- Hollywood Lighted Makeup Mirror With Touch Control – (22.8″W x 18.1″H) Hollywood mirrors are the in thing these days. Be sure it will fit within your desk hutch if you have one.
- Hollywood Lighted Makeup Mirror With USB Charging Port – (22.8″W x 18.1″H) Keep your phone charging nearby while you get ready.
- Hollywood Lighted Mirror With Bluetooth Audio – (22.8″W x 18.9″H) Play music through the mirror while you get ready.
- Basic Lighted Makeup Mirror – (13.38″W x 9.54″H when opened) A smaller version that can fold closed when not in use.
- Smaller Travel Lighted Makeup Mirror For the frequent traveler and especially student athletes who share a hotel bathroom with 3 others when on the road. Take the hair & makeup outside the bathroom with a travel makeup mirror.
Makeup and Hair Storage
- Large Acrylic Makeup Organizer – also available at Kohl’s if you have coupons or Kohl’s Cash to use
- Small Acrylic Makeup Organizer – Makeup, Makeup Brushes, Hair Accessories Many items will probably need to be contained on the desk. Storage will help keep it neat.
- Create Your Own Acrylic Makeup Organizer – Choose your own setup with this modular system.
- Desk Drawer Organizer Trays – A great way to organize a shallow desk drawer for makeup and skincare.
- Hot Hair Tool Storage & Mat – 3 reasons to consider this mat. 1) Protect in-room surfaces from hot hair tools. 2) Using the attached loop, wrap the mat around still-warm hair tools that need to get right in the suitcase. 3) Bonus benefit – use it to help open tight jar lids.
Dorm Room Electronics
Powering Your Dorm Room
UL-Listed Surge Protectors – Some schools require all electronics, including power supplies, to be UL-Listed. You’ll want at least 2 long surge protectors for your side of the room. Outlets are few and far between.
UL-Listed Extension Cords – Soooo many schools do not allow extension cords of any kind. But if yours allows them, they likely need to be UL-Listed to reduce fire hazard.
ETL-Listed Charging Station – If you can have ETL-Listed power sources, this is handy to have on your desktop for your computer, monitor, lamp, makeup mirror and other peripherals that you may have in your study area or on your desk.
Apple Device Charging Station – My college son loves having this next to his bed to charge his phone, Air Pods and Apple Watch overnight without having to find their individual power cords. Now he carries those cords in his backpack so that they’re close at hand if he needs them during the day. It travels well too (folds down), so you don’t need to travel with all of your charging cables either.
Please do not buy any laptops for college until you are very clear if your school and your major have specific requirements. Everyone should check, but majors that typically have very specific requirements or restrictions include Engineering, Architecture & Industrial Design, Computer Science, Graphic Design and Nursing. Specifications may require or disallow an operating system (Windows or Mac) or require certain memory, processing speeds or software.
When you’re armed with that information, here are links to educational discounts for popular brands. Check these out and also check with your University Bookstore to see if they offer institutional discounts and/or additional benefits such as extended warranties, low-cost repairs or helpful included tech support.
- Apple Education Discount
- Dell Education Discount
- Lenovo Education Discount
- Acer Education Discount
- Hewlett-Packard Education Discount
- Microsoft Education Discount
Also check with Best Buy, Sam’s Club or Costco for additional deals. These links will take you right to their laptop categories.
HDMI Cable – HDMI cables connect your laptop to a printer (if you bring a printer, you’ll need a wired connection as printers typically can’t go on school WiFi networks), a monitor, a TV and other peripherals.
Ethernet Cable – If you have access to a parent page for your school, search for or ask if kids bring an ethernet cable to get faster internet. WiFi can be slow, especially in peak times, and many rooms have network ports in them that can be turned on (made ‘hot’) with a service request. If you don’t have an ethernet port in your computer, you can get an adapter to plug it into your computer. Adapter for MacBook (USB-C to Ethernet).
Hub/Docking Station – A hub/docking station plugs into one port on your laptop and provides several other ports/inputs so multiple peripheral devices can be connected. This recommended model connects to a USB-C port and has:
- an ethernet port (so the separate adapter above would not required)
- HDMI ports for connecting/mirroring a monitor, TV or printer
- USB 2.0, 3.0 and USB C ports for various small devices
- SD-card reader for media from cameras and dash cams
Apple iPad And accessories
So many college students are bringing iPads to school for note-taking these days. These apps will digitize hand-written notes and drawings, incorporate photos/video/audio, provide for collaboration with other students and more.
iPad Air 10.9″ – 64GB Wifi
iPad Pro 11″ – 128GB Wifi
Apple Pencil – To take hand-written notes, make drawings and annotations on the iPad.
Apple AirPod Pros The ultimate college fashion accessory with at least one in an ear almost all the time. The noise canceling Pros are a great study accessory as well.
Silicone AirPod Pro Case – The glossy white AirPod cases are beautiful and shiny, but they are slippery. A silicone case (really a skin) adds enough texture to keep them from slipping out of your pocket. This is the version for the regular AirPods.
Phone Charging And Accessories
- Basic Portable Charging Block – Keep your phone charged for safety and your tablet charged for school.
- Dual Portable Charging Block – A higher powered (mAh) charger to take care of multiple devices at one time as well as more total recharges. Help your friends stay charged and safe as well.
- Set of Charging Cables – A set with different length cables for any occasion helps ensure your devices are charged when necessary. Keep a short one in your backpack with your charging block. Use the longer ones to move around your dorm room or for passengers in the back seat of the car.
- Apple Air Tags – A good idea for valuables and items that tend to get lost. Track your car, bike, scooter, luggage, backpack, purse, wallet, keys, gym bag, etc. Depending on the item, you can attach Air Tags with a key ring holder, a sticker mount, or a card case.
Dorm Room TV’s And Accessories
Yes, many college students will watch streaming content on their phones, but there are definitely those who want to watch shows and sports on bigger screens.
- 43″ 4k Ultra HD Roku Smart TV – The built-in Roku means no keeping up with an external Roku or a Fire Stick. Use the Roku to stream your subscription platforms (Netflix, Hulu, etc) or to potentially connect to your home cable provider if your school does not provide any cable options. My son uses the Xfinity app on Roku at college to watch our channels from our home subscription.
- 65″ 4k Ultra HD Roku Smart TV – A larger screen version of the TV above if you’ll have a living room and room for a larger TV.
- Roku Streaming Stick – Have a TV already but want to add a Roku to connect to your streaming platforms or possibly your home cable provider.
- HDMI Adapter for iPhone/iPad – If you want to connect your iPhone or iPad to a TV, this adapter plugs into the phone’s charging (Lightning) port and has an HDMI port on either end. You’ll need an HDMI cable.
- LED backlights for TV – Just for fun and to add a cool glow to your room, add these to the back of your TV for an inexpensive sound-sync light experience.
- TV Cart – Wondering where the heck you can put a TV in a dorm room? A TV cart is often the answer. In addition to having it on wheels so that you can see it from various parts of the room, it can also be placed near the foot of the bed for those not in lofted or upper bunk beds.
Dorm Room Lighting
- The Hot Desk Lamp – A desk lamp that reduces eye strain, charges your phone AND sanitizes devices? This wellness Ottlite is the new hot trend for 2023.
- Clip-on Lamp – For studying at your desk or reading/studying in bed, a clip-on bed helps provide more light while keeping it fairly contained to space if roommates are trying to sleep or rest.
- Reading Light – USB rechargeable light can attach to a book for reading or studying at night while not distributing your roommate.
- Table Lamp With Outlet and USB Ports – If you have a nightstand, a lamp is a nice option and can also provide charging ports without taking up more outlet space.
We recognize that matching nightstand lamps are often the plan, especially for college-bound freshman girls. Our recommendations for these will be part of our upcoming Dorm Room Decor article(s). Be sure to follow our Dorm Shopping Facebook group and/or subscribe to our newsletter updates to be notified when these articles are published.
Dorm Room Health And Safety
- Carbon Monoxide Detector – Yes, every campus building should be equipped with a carbon monoxide detector, but unfortunately, it is not always the case. Or they are not always operational. Read this article from 2021 at a major university. The detector linked here has a helpful digital display to let students know that it is functioning, and it can be plugged directly into an outlet, or mounted nearby an outlet.
- First Aid Kit – If the student will not have easy access to a drug store on campus, you can put together a first aid kit for them to have handy in their dorm room. You can see a recommended list of items for this kit in our Dorm Room and College Campus Safety article. This link will take you right to the First Aid section.
- She’s Birdie Personal Safety Alarm – She’s Birdie is a personal alarm that attaches to a keychain, backpack or school lanyard.
- The Original Birdie is a 130 decibel keychain safety alarm with a flashing strobe light.
- The recently released Birdie+ includes the alarm, but also offers a subscription service that includes location sharing, excuse calls (will ring your phone if you need to get out of a situation), and a live rep to stay on with you until you arrive safely at your destination or else will dispatch first responders.
- You can use our code PSA15 to save 15% on your purchase on the Birdie website. This code is stackable on top of any current promotions.
- Drink Cover In A Scrunchie – A protective drink cover that is carried inside a wrist/hair scrunchie to help you keep a cover on those drinks while you’re out in crowded public places.
For safety purposes, all young adults should consider putting the legal documents in place to give their parents or other trusted adults the ability to make decisions for them should they become unable to do so themselves. You can learn more about this in our article The Important Documents You Need When Your Child Turns 18.
Dorm Kitchen Appliances
Before purchasing any appliances for your dorm room, please check the rules and restrictions for your particular dorm building. Some dorm room essentials are just not allowed. 🙁
If you decide to bring your own mini-fridge, please determine if there is a size limitation. Often you’ll see a cubic foot maximum such as 3.1 or 4.5cuft. We highly recommend 2-door models versus a freezer compartment inside the refrigerator.
- 3.1 cu ft 2-Door Mini Fridge
- 4.0 cu ft 2-Door Mini Fridge
- 4.5 cu ft 2-Door Mini Fridge
- Retro Style 3.1 cu ft 2-Door Mini Fridge
Like mini-fridges, if you decide to bring a microwave to your dorm, please determine if there is a size limitation. These are often expressed as cu ft as well. I’ve seen up to .7 cu ft (basically the smallest possible microwave) to 1.2 cu ft.
- .7 cu ft Danby
- Retro Style .7 cu ft Galanz
- Retro Style .9 cu ft Galanz – Available in multiple colors
- .9 cu ft Toshiba – Has mute mode if you’re anticipating late-night or early-morning use
- .9 cu ft Black and Decker
- Electric Hot Water Kettle – Bring cold water to a boil in under 5 minutes. Use hot water for tea, ramen, soups, oatmeal, etc.
- Compact Blender With Extra To Go Cup – For the smoothie lover, making them ‘at home’ in the dorm saves lots of money vs buying at a smoothie shop.
- Rice Cooker – If you don’t have a microwave, a rice cooker is a great way to heat up soups, chilis, pastas, some leftover queso or cook up some oatmeal on a cold morning
- Panini Press – Just a couple of minutes to a comforting grilled cheese sandwich or a warm-up of leftovers. Can cook meat and veggies as well.
- Portable Ice Machine – Small cubes
- Countertop Ice Machine – Nugget Ice
Food Storage And Cooking In A Dorm
Dorm-Friendly Microwave Accessories
- Microwave Splatter Guard – Cover food and keep the inside of the microwave clean without depending on college students to clean it.
- All Sistema Microwave Food Cookers – Check out all of Sistema’s microwave products
- Microwave Pasta Cooker – No stovetop, no worries. You can still cook pasta in a microwave.
- Microwave-able Food Storage Containers – Pop the leftovers in here for safer keeping (and smaller footprint) than a styrofoam box, and then right into the microwave when ready to eat.
- Microwave Soup Mug – Heat up soup, noodles, tea and other hot items without risk of burn thanks to the stay-cool handle.
- Microwave Popcorn Popper – Microwave popcorn bags are filled with preservatives and also make a room smell like fake butter for hours. Easily pop your own healthy popcorn (no oil required) and control your ingredients.
Other Food-Related Accessories
- 6-Piece Colorful Kitchen Knife Set With Knife Guards – Also available in Black Ceramic.
- Small Cutting Board – For fruit, veggies, sandwiches, take out sharing, etc.
- Manual Can Opener/Bottle Opener Combo – For those cans of soup and other canned goods. The one linked here also has a built-in pop-top bottle opener.
- Multipurpose Hot Pad, Trivet, Spill Protector – For hot items coming out of the microwave, you’ll need a hotpad. These also work as a trivet under hot items or as a small placemat to protect from spills.
- Small Versatile Cooking Spoon – If you’re planning on making any food in a dorm room, you’ll need a compact spoon for stirring and serving.
- Chip Clips For Open Snack Bags – Keep the chips and snacks fresh and protected from dorm room humidity with some simple chip clips.
Making Coffee In A Dorm Room
- Keurig K-Mini – Small footprint only 4.5″ wide and can slide in almost anywhere. Great colors too. Because dining hall coffee is meh, and Starbucks is expensive. Spend your extra Dining Dollars on real food! Might be less at Kohl’s if you have a coupon.
- Reusable K-Cups With Filters – Replace expensive environmentally un-friendly K-cups with a reusable pod and biodegradable paper filters.
- Instant Pot Single Serve Coffee Maker – If you know you won’t use pods, this is a great, equally small footprint, coffee maker. In matte red or gray.
- Combo 12-cup pot and Keurig – If you want the flexibility of multiple cups some days and a quick single cup on others, check out this dual model. While it will take up more space, this would be a good option for all college years. Might be less at Kohl’s if you have a coupon.
- Cold Brew Coffee Maker – For a refreshing cup of coffee on those hot days, or a healthier caffeinated option as opposed to soft drinks or energy drinks. With a short, wide profile and under 6″ tall, this is an excellent option for a small dorm fridge.
Coffee Cups, Mugs and Accessories
- “Coffee Bar” Mat – Protect the surface under the coffee maker from heat, coffee drips and creamer spills. Also a good place to put just washed dishes to dry.
- Personalized College Logo / Student Name Coffee Mug or Tumbler
- Custom Name Coffee Mug
- Positive Thoughts Coffee Mug
- 16oz Stainless Spill Proof Travel Coffee Mug
Dorm Room Water
Brita Pitchers For College
- 5-cup Brita pitcher – The smallest version of a Brita pitcher. Dimensions: Height 9.8″; Width 4.45″; Length/Depth 9.37″.
- 10-cup Brita Pitcher With Standard Filter – (2 month filter). Height 10.47″; Width 5.59″; Length/Depth 10.94
- 10-cup Brita Pitcher With Longlast Filter (6 month filter). Height 10.47″; Width 5.59″; Length/Depth 10.94
- 27-cup Brita XL Dispenser (for full-sized refrigerators) Height 10.47″; Width 5.67″; Legnth/Depth 14.37″
Water Bottles / Tumblers For College
Brita Water Bottles and Filters
Individual Brita Water Bottle If you prefer an on the go water bottle to a pitcher, this is a great option. And it holds 36oz of water.
Individual Brita Water Bottle Replacement Filters Each filter replaces 250+ 20oz single use water bottles.
Standard Brita Replacement Filters Standard filters are good for about 40 gallons of water.
Longlast/Elite Brita Replacement Filters Longlast/Elite filters are good for about 120 gallons of water.
Stainless Water Bottles
- Stanley 40oz Tumbler – The must-have for young adult women available in many colors.
- Stanley 30oz Tumbler – The slight smaller version of the famous Stanley tumbler.
- Hydro Flask 40oz Bottle – Can be engraved for $6. Easy to clean.
- Yeti Stainless Water Bottle – 26oz easy to clean.
- Bottle Brush for cleaning water bottles A little something to ensure water bottles and other deep vessels can be properly cleaned.
Dorm Room Trash Collection
Some dorms provide a trash can, so worth a check, but it also may be a small office-sized vessel vs one that can hold a kitchen trash bag. A larger trash can is preferred for many reasons. Be wary of what you see online because some of the small ones look big in the pictures. A standard kitchen trash can is about 13 gallons.
- Target Step-On Slim Profile 11 Gallon Trash Can With Lid – White
- Simplehuman Step-on Slim Profile 10.6 Gallon Trash Can With Lid – Dark gray
- Sterilite Step-on 11 Gallon Trash Can With Lid – White
- Stainless Kitchen Trash Can – We have heard from a couple of our Facebook group members that their school only allows METAL trash cans, so here is the most affordable kitchen-sized option out there.
- 40 kitchen sized (13 gal) trash bags – 1 per week It would be a good idea to leave a supply of appropriately sized trash bags on move-in day. No excuses for not taking out and taking care of the trash!
Dorm Room Cleaning
- Upright/handheld stick vacuum combo – Assuming you have a rug and/or carpet in your room, a vacuum will be important. Check with the school to see if they loan out vacuums to use, but if not, make a small investment and encourage the student to keep the floor clean. Pests are notorious in dorms, don’t give them a reason to visit your room. This vacuum cleaner can be used as an upright or a handheld.
- Magnetic Paper Towel Holder – Attach this to the side of the fridge or microwave for an easy way to keep a roll of paper towels close at hand.
- Cleaning Wipes – An easy solution for all surfaces before moving in as well as through everyday dorm life.
- Clorox Compostable Wipes – A better for the environment option.
College Dorm Laundry
Dorm Laundry Bag/Hamper Options
- Backpack Laundry Bag A space-saving gatherer and easy to carry, but you need to be disciplined to get the clothes inside the bag that won’t stand on its own.
- Personalized Embroidered 2-Section Backpack Laundry Bag
- Mesh Pop-Up Laundry Hamper This one stands on its own and folds away when not in use, but it can be a little cumbersome to carry if its really full.
- Rolling Laundry Hamper This is a favorite laundry option – stands on its own, has a lid and of course wheels to get to the laundry room. But it takes up more space than the others.
Dorm Washing And Drying
- Laundry Sheets These must’ve been made for those with distant laundry facilities. No heavy box or jug of laundry detergent, simply take 1 sheet (like a dryer sheet) and pop that in the washing machine. Just be sure they are allowed in your dorm laundry machines – there are some crazy laundry rules out there.
- Dryer Balls While we’re being eco-friendly, check out Dryer Balls. Throw these in the dryer instead of dryer sheets as a natural chemical free fabric softener.
- Mesh Laundry Bags For Delicates, Small Items & Favorites Dorm laundry room washers and dryers are commercial machines without many options or settings. They are rough and tumble (pun intended!), and it is easy to lose small items and ruin favorite things.
- Drying Rack For delicates and so much more. Dorm washers and dryers aren’t gentle. Run your clothes through the wash in laundry bags and hang dry the delicates and your favorite items.
- Handheld Garment Steamer College students just don’t iron. But they need a way to make business clothes presentable. Portable garment steamers are the answer.
Out And About On The College Campus
Off To Class
- Favorite Women’s Backpack
- Favorite Men’s Backpack
- Lululemon Belt Bag – The must have bag for phone, student ID and lip balm.
- Lanyard Student ID Case – Also available in Black and Signature Canvas in 3 colors.
- Waterproof Backpack Cover
For sporting events, concerts and large group gatherings, a clear bag may be the only allowed bag.
- Clear Horizontal Crossbody With Color Trim
- College Logo Clear Tote Bags And Purses
- Vertical crossbody with cute strap options
- Clear backpack When the clear bag policy allows slightly larger bags to account for umbrellas, ponchos and blankets.
Travel When In College
- Duffle Bag – For college & club athletes who travel or other short trips, a duffle bag is a necessity.
- Personalized Embroidered Toiletry Bag
- Men’s Toiletry Bag
- Airplane Underseat Carry On Size
- Airplane Overhead Bin Carry On Size
- Travel Jewelry Case/Box
Packing And Move In
- Veno Heavy Duty Moving Bags With Backpack Straps – Just like Frakta bags but an American company.
- Vacuum Bags – If you need to really compress your dorm haul for the move (eg flying), these will help.
- Toolbox – You’ll definitely need tools for move-in. 2 additional tools to bring are a rubber mallet and a level.
- Rubber Mallet – For altering the bed slats and putting together new items that aren’t supposed to need tools, an inexpensive mallet should come along in the car.
- Command Strips/Hooks – IF allowed in your dorm, these are the primary way students hang decor on their walls.
- Mounting Putty – Another option for hanging items if allowed by your school.
- Painter’s Tape – Some schools ONLY allow this on the walls. If that is the case, you can put strips of painter’s tape with Command products over the tape. The tape linked is an Extra Strength for Rough Surfaces version.
For all of the details, a car packing guide and a countdown planner, please see our How To Prepare And Pack For College Move In Day article.
Thinking ahead to move-in day, you may want to leave your child a sentimental gift as you part ways. We have some sweet and sentimental ideas selected just for college move-in day.
Cars And Transportation On Campus
If you’re taking a car to school, consider these safety items below. Also considering hiding an Air Tag somewhere in the car, just in case.
- Tire Pressure Reader & Inflator – These are so easy to use. Plug it into your car’s 12V outlet (old school cigarette lighter). Attach it to your tire, and it will digitally tell you the current PSI. Set the desired PSI, and it will fill it to that exact level. Cars with properly inflated tires get better gas mileage, enjoy longer wearing tires and are less likely to skid on wet surfaces.
- Jump Start Portable Power Pack/Charger – Jump start your car without another car or tow truck coming to your rescue. PLUS, use this as a phone charger, an LED flashlight, a strobe/SOS light or a hazard light behind your car if you’re on the side of the road.
- Dash Cam – Every teenager’s car should have a dash cam for their protection against accident scammers, vandals and angry adults who are quick to blame teens even when not at fault.
- Dash Sun Shade – If you’ll be parking in an uncovered lot day in, day out, consider an inexpensive sun shade to protect your car from sun damage and excess heat.
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