The Complete Dorm Room Essentials Guide: A Shoppable List

May 10, 2023

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Complete Dorm Room Essentials List

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!


Dorm Bedding

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.

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. This is an optional layer, but many choose to go with this to keep their new bedding separate from the used mattress.

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.

Our Recommendations:

Note: Please do not put foam mattress toppers inside an airtight fully zipped mattress encasement. Foam toppers need to breathe and allow heat to escape so that heat and moisture won’t build up in the foam. If you choose to use an encasement, it should only go around the dorm-provided mattress. The topper will go on top.

Dorm Mattress Topper

Mattress Pads For Dorm Beds

Dorm Bedding For Full XL Beds

If you will have a Full XL bed, you’ll want exact fitting mattress encasement, mattress topper, mattress pad and fitted sheets. A Full XL bed is 54″ wide and 80″ long. A queen bed is 60″ wide and 80″ long. While queen-sized fitted bedding would fit, it will be looser and not do a good job of keeping the layers in place. Queen blankets and comforter would be just fine.

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!

100% cotton are recommended as they are cooling, and many dorm rooms are hot. Microfiber is soft and often marketed as ‘dorm sheets’, but they run warmer (they’re polyester). All sheets below are OEKO-TEX® certified.

  • 100% Cotton Fitted Sheet Only! It is amazing how many in this generation want nothing to do with a flat sheet!
  • 100% Cotton Sheets Cooling & more crisp than microfiber. This 400 thread-count set is great, but this brand also comes in 500, 600, 800 and 1000TC if you really want to up the experience and softness. Check the 2-packs to see if those are priced better than buying 2 single sets.
  • 100% Hygro Cotton Cooling Sheets These are cooling, moisture wicking and antimicrobial. The Twin XL size comes and goes in inventory.
  • Microfiber Sheets (soft, but can run warm)
  • Microfiber Fleece Sheets (soft, but can run warm)

Dorm Bedding – Blankets, Comforters & Duvets

Not sure what size comforter (or blanket) for a Twin XL bed? See our article comparing the pros and cons of Twin vs Queen comforters for a dorm bed.

Blankets

Comforter Sets

More comforter information and recommendations in our Twin vs Queen comforter for a dorm article.

Duvets

Dorm Bedding – Pillows

Pillows are such a personal preference, but these are a few options that are highly rated and certified toxin-free.

Set of 2 Cooling Down-Alternative Pillows – For side or stomach sleepers.

Memory Foam Pillow – Adjustable foam loft. CertiPUR-US® certified. Side, back or stomach sleepers.

DORM HEADBOARDS

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

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. This can also be found at Kohl’s and at Belk. Check all 3 for the best current sale price.
  • 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

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

We also have an entire article about how to measure and plan for under dorm bed storage.

Drawer Towers – Weave Look

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.

Drawer Towers – Stripe Look

Target ‘Striped’ Drawer Towers – A little more masculine that the weave towers above. My son uses these wide and narrow towers under his bed as shown in the picture below. His are shown in the picture below in gray, and these are also available in white.

Boy dorm room at auburn university with twin comforter size for a twin xl bed

Drawer Towers – Clear

Drawer Tower Carts

Stackable Drawers

Clear plastic drawers under a dorm bed
Sterilite Stacking Drawers

Storage Cubes

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.

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 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 Metal 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 Footlocker With Wheels – I love this one for the large size plus ability to roll it in and out from under the bed. Add a padlock to the front closure with the holes and a cable lock to attach it to your bed frame.
  • Locking Storage Ottoman – A safe hidden inside an ottoman you can use to step up onto your bed or for extra seating. You can tether this to your bed if you are concerned it may be carried out of the room.
  • 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. This is a very similar option at Walmart.
  • 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.
  • BunkTrunk – An expensive but amazing dorm room solution. Good for any bed height, but especially useful for those high lofted beds or upper bunks. The locking trunk is large enough to hold all of your valuables and also serves as a desk with the opening flipped down. BunkTrunks are made by a small family business in California, and their customer service is amazing. You can use these after dorm life as a locking trunk by removing the legs.
Bunk Trunk locking storage for dorm rooms
The BunkTrunk On A Dorm Bed

Dorm Jewelry Storage

Stackers also has makeup organizers and glasses organizers if you’re looking to have a consistent look across storage components.

Dorm Kitchen Storage / Mini fridge shelving units

  • 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. Also available at Walmart.
  • 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.
  • Wood Fridge Surround Shelving – If you have a little extra floor space, this is helpful organizer with an open back (to allow ventilation). To create even more vertical space, you can use the optional shelving unit for above this station.
  • Metal Fridge Surround Shelving – A completely configurable solution to make it work in any space. Create lots of storage and even a TV stand on top. Scroll through the pictures to see many different configurations.
  • 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. Check your dorm rules to be sure additional furniture, fabric drawers and charging units are permitted.

  • 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. However, this is a premium price for this product. Similar options at better prices are below.
  • Tall Charging Nightstand – A great alternative to the Dormify Sutton above is this charging nightstand at about 1/3 of the price.
  • 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.
  • Tall 9-Drawer Wood Nightstand – The Home Depot version of the Ikea Alex drawers. They are almost identical in look and measurements.
  • 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.

Dorm Furniture

Seating

  • Storage Ottoman – A small seating option allowing for some storage space as well. And of course, can be used as a footrest too.
  • Locking Storage Ottoman – A storage ottoman with a lock to keep your valuables safe. You can tether this to your bed if you are concerned it may be carried out of the room.
  • 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.

Dorm Clothes And Closet Organization

Hanging Storage

  • 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 – I call these the “They Thought Of Everything” hangers. Never thought I’d gush over hangers, but here’s why these are so great, not just for dorms!
    • Space-saving thin profile.
    • S-shape design allows easier hanging and removing so as not to stretch collars.
    • Non-slip texture on shoulders for shirts and on center bar for pants.
    • Smaller bar for ties or scarves.
    • Small hooks for strappy tops or accessories.
    • Swivel hook.
  • 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 or the side of your over fridge storage shelving. 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.

Dresser Drawers

Dorm Bathroom/Shower Essentials

Community Bathrooms

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. Similar option available at Walmart.
  • 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. Similar options available at Walmart.
  • 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.

Shower Caddies

Shower Shoes

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!

Slippers

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

Neutral Shower Curtains

Shower Curtain Liners, Rings and Bath Mats

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.

Dorm Bathroom Accessories For Private Baths

Dorm Temperature And Air Quality

Air Purifiers

Air purifiers are often dismissed as overkill when first dorm shopping, but spend some time in dorm and college groups in the fall, and you’ll read story after story about frequent illnesses and inability to shake a bad cough or cold. Other community members will recommend an air purifier, and almost every time, that solves the problem.

Dorms have notoriously poor air circulation and worse, are often battling mold growth especially in an around the air vents in the rooms. If you’re still on the fence, I recommend asking about historical illnesses and solutions in a parent Facebook group.

Our recommended air purifiers are below. These will freshen up the old musty dorm building and furniture, repel germs, pollen and bad smells and continually clean the air in the room. You want the 12.5 minute refresh rate to be close to the size of the dorm room, larger is fine, but not much smaller.

The medical grade purifier will also clean mold from the air. Mold gets in the air in smaller particles, so you need an air purifier that filters the smallest particles in order to clean the air of mold.

Levoit H132 Air Purifier – Refreshes 129sqft every 12.5 minutes.

BlueAir HEPA Silent 511 – Refreshes 180sqft every 12.5 minutes.

Levoit Core 300 – Refreshes 219sqft every 12.5 minutes.

PuroAir HEPA 14 (Medical Grade) – Refreshes 232sqft every 12.5 minutes. In 2024, use promo code EVDXLXWD to save 15%.

Fans

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. There is only ONE model that you want, and the only place to buy the correct WOOZOO model new is at Costco. Non-members can purchase for a 5% surcharge. You’ll see other models at Best Buy, Target, Sam’s Club, The Container Store – those are all the incorrect models, and the Costco model is less expensive than these typically.

Vornado Whole Room Air Circulator (Medium) – If you like a little more white noise and don’t need the full circulation of the WOOZOO, this Vornado fan is another good desktop sized option.

Draft Stopper

Door Draft/Noise/Light Stopper – My son purchased this 1 week into college. The light from the hall was coming under the door. The noise from the partiers was coming under the door. Not sure if drafts were an issue, but this will stop that too. This could also be used at the base of the window if there is a draft (and a ledge).

Humidity Control

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 Buckets – Use in the dorm room and/or in your private bathroom if you have one.
  • Damp Rid Hangers – Will help keep the closet and your clothes dry.
  • 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 85oz. My son is dumping out the water every 2-3 days! Also available at Walmart.
  • Humidifier – If you have the opposite issue and a dry dorm room, a small humidifier should easily cover a dorm room. This one 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.

Dorm Desk Accessories

*** 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….

College Planners

  • 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.

Makeup and Hair Storage

Dorm Room Electronics

Powering Your Dorm Room

UL-Listed Surge Protector – 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. Similar option available at Walmart.

Laptops

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.

Also check with Best Buy, Sam’s Club or Costco for additional deals. These links will take you right to their laptop categories.

Computer Accessories

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

Your dorm room will likely have an overhead light operated by a switch next to the door. These are usually pretty bright and not-dimmable. Many students choose to bring other lighting for around the room either for task lighting, ambient lighting or both!

Desk & Reading Lamps

  • 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.
  • Basic LED Desk Lamp – This has a USB port and 3 brightness levels as well as 3 color temperatures.
  • 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.

Nightstand Lamps

We recognize that matching nightstand lamps are often the plan, especially for college-bound freshman girls. Below you’ll find recommendations for both single lamps and pairs that match current dorm decor trends.

Pairs

Open Rectangle Gold Lamps – 30″ tall.

Open Rectangle Silver Lamps – With 2 USB ports on each lamp. 30″ tall.

Gold Figure-8 Lamps – 26.5″ tall.

Gold Abstract Lines Lamps – 26.5″ tall.

Cobalt Blue & Gold Lamps – 24.5″ tall.

Multi-Color Boho Stacked Lamps – 21.5″ tall. Alternative color option at Walmart.

Safari-Themed Zebra Lamps – 2 USB ports each. 27″ tall.

Single Lamps

Brass Geo Cage Lamp With White Shade – A popular option, just a little shorter than some of the others at 21.5″ tall.

Open Rectangle Gold Lamp – Another popular option and on the tall side at 30″ tall.

Ceramic White Lamp With Tassel – 24.25″ tall. Also available at Walmart.

Simple Modern Minimalist Lamp – The black would go well in a guy’s dorm. Also available in gold and silver. 24″ tall.

Floor Lamps

Gold Arc Dimmable Floor Lamp

3-Shelf Floor Lamp – Comes in several finishes.

3-Shelf Floor Lamp With Charging Station

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. 🙁

Mini Fridges

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.

Microwaves

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.

The .7 cu ft/700 watt microwaves are the smallest and have the least power. This often leads to poor reviews especially related to the smaller cooking area and cooking times being longer. If you can go larger, I would, but if not, take those ratings with a few grains of salt. It is what it is with such a small model.

Other Appliances

Please double check your dorm rules to be sure any of these are permitted and if there are size, wattage or other restrictions.

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. Also available on Amazon.

Other Food-Related Accessories

Making Coffee In A Dorm Room

Coffee Makers

  • 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 Walmart 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. This is an excellent option for a small dorm fridge. Another option that doesn’t stand quite as tall can be found here.

Coffee Cups, Mugs and Accessories

Dorm Room Water

Brita Pitchers For College

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

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.

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

It will definitely help to know where your laundry facilities are located before selecting the style of laundry hamper/laundry basket for your dorm room. I’m one who prefers not to put clean clothes back in the dirty laundry hamper, so you might need 2 vessels if you have this issue too. 🙂

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. Backpack laundry bags are helpful for situations where you need to take stairs or walk a far distance to the laundry facilities.
  • Personalized Embroidered 2-Section Backpack Laundry Bag A personalized option with 2 sections for easier sorting.
  • 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. These are often a choice for buildings with elevators to the laundry facilities or possibly to go to another building if you’re ok wheeling laundry through campus.
  • Foldable Laundry Hamper With Removable Bag This one actually comes with 2 bags to help with overflow. The bags can be thrown through the laundry too.
  • 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.
  • Collapsible Laundry Basket This is what my boys use to transport the clean laundry back to the room. It collapses to almost flat when not in use. Whether or not the clothes are folded for transport is a mystery to me!
  • Collapsible Tote This is another option for clean clothes. You wouldn’t want to use something like this for dirty laundry because of the horizontal profile, but you can store it away when not in use.

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

Clear Bags

For sporting events, concerts and large group gatherings, a clear bag may be the only allowed bag.

Travel When In College

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. Larger set available at Walmart.
  • 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 and will fill to the exact PSI you set it to. 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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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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2 Comments

  1. Jenny J

    What about rug options, or dishes?

    Reply
  2. Janice Nunez

    I am so grateful for all this content, Thanks again! Life saver information!

    Reply

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