Looking for the ultimate list of dorm essentials? You're in the right place!
photo courtesy of Evin Photography
As if it wasn't hard enough applying to colleges and choosing a school, you now have to figure out every last thing you need to pack to survive in a dorm room. I know, it's a lot. I was in this position just last year, and I was SO overwhelmed by tons of people giving me advice about what to bring and what not to bring to college. But who better to get advice from than someone who just moved out of her freshman dorm and knows all of the tips and tricks current college students swear by? I’m giving you a no B.S. list of things I really used in college practically daily and would recommend to my best friends and family. These products will make your college life easier, comfier, and homier (which we can all agree is the main goal here).
You’re definitely going to need a lot of stuff, which can also be overwhelming. Something that I did that made my life so much easier was collecting all of my dorm decor and dorm room essentials throughout the year leading up to my move-in date! It’s like I got to make a lot of small purchases instead of placing one huge Amazon order all at once. I’m telling you, there are ways to make this so easy, and lucky for you I am sharing them all here with you. If you want to make packing so easy that you could do it in your sleep, you need to check out the BSL college packing list (which is free)!!
You’re probably here because you’re wondering what a freshman dorm needs? The hardest part about moving to college is that it’s more than just decorating a room (because that’s kind of what I wanted it to be haha). You have to think about laundry, storage, mini appliances, and pretty much everything you need to live your daily life - which is probably more than you think! The moral of the story is, you’re going to need a lot of stuff, but it’s all right here and will be super easy for you to order, so don’t stress!
To make your life as easy as possible, I organized this long list into categories. Click here to jump to dorm bedding, dorm bathroom, dorm decor, dorm cleaning, dorm storage & organization, dorm school supplies, dorm food essentials, and other college student favorites.
This post is all about dorm essentials.
THE BEST DORM ESSENTIALS:
After spending long days in classes and walking miles around campus, there is no better feeling than crashing in your cozy bed. This is going to be your place to relax, so make sure you get everything you can to make it as comfy as possible *cough cough 4" mattress topper*. Plus, bedding is one of the first things you see in a room, so pick something cute!
The supplied dorm mattresses are definitely not comfortable, but that is nothing to stress about! I had this exact 4-inch twin xl mattress topper for my dorm bed and it was literally the most comfortable bed on Earth. I still think about the naps I had on this mattress topper, truly heavenly.
Twin XL Sheets
I originally bought these sheets for my twin xl bed, and let me just tell you, I have put everyone on to them. My whole family has Mellanni sheets now. They feel way more expensive than they are, and they come in a ton of colors and sizes!
Twin XL Bedding
There is so much cute dorm bedding out there you will have a hard time making a decision. One of our BSL go-tos is Target dorm bedding which is affordable and super cute! This Amazon comforter is what I currently have on my bed, and I am obsessed with it. Pro tip: get a twin XL comforter for college NOT a duvet cover and duvet insert (washing those is not fun).
I think a blanket is one of the most easily forgotten things to pack for college. My recommendation is to get a throw blanket that is cute and decorative but also warm and comfortable (because some of them are not comfortable).
You probably are going to want to bring your pillow from home that you are used to, but if for some reason you are looking to buy new ones, these are amazing. I have this set on my bed at home and I look forward to using them when I am home for breaks!
Dorm bathrooms are a lot of things, but luxurious is not one of those things. Okay, don't worry, they're not that bad. Just make sure you have some shower shoes!
Mesh Shower Caddy
This is something that I am so adamant about - get a mesh shower caddy NOT a plastic one! I had a plastic one and the water would leak all over the place in my room after I showered. The mesh shower caddies will drain, they have a ton of room, and they lay flat so they're easy to pack!
All I'm going to say is in communal dorm halls, the last thing you want to risk is your towel falling while you're walking past the girls and guys that live in your building. I was obsessed with my towel wrap while living in the dorms!
Getting ready after showering in a shared dorm room can be a tad awkward if you're not covered up haha. I lived in my robe in college and I can't recommend one more to you!
When I was going to college I thought it was ridiculous to bring a set of towels (I thought I just needed one bath towel). Let me tell you, I used every single one and was thankful to have washcloths, hand towels, and bath towels!
Yay, the most fun part of moving into your dorm room, decorating!! There are a TON of dorm room ideas on our site and all over Pinterest, so it is hard to decide what style you want to go with. My advice to you is to make a mood board and stick to it!
There is no better way to display your friends and family than with a ton of printed photos. Also, I recently found out you could order prints on Amazon, and I was so excited!
Like I said before, dorm lighting is horrible, so help yourself out with a cute desk lamp! Plus, you're going to be happy you have a desk lamp when you're studying at 2 am while your roommate is sleeping!
Having a plant in your dorm room gives you a sense of responsibility (and it adds some life to the space). You will not only have to take care of yourself but also another living thing! They make great decor too.
Over the Door Mirror
You literally do everything in your dorm room, not to mention that most times more than one person is living in the room. Dorm rooms get dirty quickly! If you're a clean freak like me, you're going to be all over cleaning your dorm room!
Out of all of the dorm cleaning supplies that I had, a multipurpose cleaner was by far my most used! It's really nice to have this on hand because you can use it for everything, and it will come in handy far more often than you may expect!
Doing laundry while living in a dorm building can be sort of a chore, but this basket would make it so much easier! I love that it's a hamper with bags that can be removed and lugged down to the laundry room.
I know I was really hyping up the multipurpose cleaner, but these Lysol wipes I honestly used just as often (maybe even more). Especially when you first move in, you will want to wipe down everything!
This is an unpopular opinion, but I hate laundry detergent pods! The dorm washers often don't get hot enough, and the plastic case on one of the pods didn't melt fully and damaged my clothes. That's why when I'm doing laundry, I stick with liquid detergent.
Mini Trash Can
Some dorm rooms may come with a small trash can (like mine did) but, I still recommend you bring one! I ended up having one under my desk and one by the door, and it was so convenient. This one with the lid will be good to keep all gross smells trapped in the can!
DORM STORAGE & ORGANIZATION
Something that's often overlooked is dorm room organization. When you're living in such a small space, it's crucial that you stay organized. Squeeze organization into every available space in your dorm room, and trust me, it will not feel claustrophobic and cluttered.
I had a shoe rack at the bottom of my dorm closet, and it was so convenient! I have also seen girls put shoe racks under their beds, and even stack them for more storage in their dorm rooms.
When your bed is raised so high, you probably will need a little step stool to get into bed! These storage ottomans are perfect for dorm rooms because they give you that step up to your bed, they are decorative, and they give you one more hidden storage space.
If you are lucky enough to have some drawers provided in your dorm room, I highly recommend utilizing that space to the max with some drawer organizers. Not only will they allow you to fit more, but you will always know where everything is!
Three Tier Cart
Is it even a dorm room if you don't have a three-tier cart? Kidding, but seriously everyone has one of these carts in their dorm room. You can use it to store school supplies, beauty supplies, food, mini appliances, or even jewelry and accessories.
You are going to need storage bins either under your bed, at the top of your closet, or on shelves in your dorm room. Whether you are storing cleaning supplies, random things from home, or snacks, it's nice to have a bin to throw stuff in!
If you do not have the space for a shoe rack, I highly recommend getting an over-the-door hanging shoe organizer. Like I said before, utilizing the space on the back of your door is one of the smartest things you can do in a dorm room!
DORM SCHOOL SUPPLIES
When I was going to college, I was so focused on my decor and organization that I completely forgot about bringing any school supplies (shoutout to the bookstore for having everything). Don't be like me, and bring all of your school supplies!
You probably have a backpack from high school, but there are so many cute college backpacks out there, why not treat yourself and get a new one for college? I am obsessed with Herschel backpacks and definitely would suggest them to all college students.
It's hard for me to tell you that you need this because it's so expensive, but it really truly is the best laptop for college. I asked for mine as a high school graduation gift and had different family members and friends go in on it. Whether you get a MacBook or not, you will (without a doubt) need some sort of laptop or tablet.
Recently BSL designed our very own college planners. There are a ton of cute college planners out there, so no matter which one you go with, you will definitely need one to keep track of all of your due dates and life schedule in college.
DORM FOOD ESSENTIALS
Even though you will probably have a meal plan, you are still going to want to have snacks and drinks in your room! As for mini appliances, it's super important to double-check what the school will be supplying before buying anything yourself! My freshman dorm supplied a mini-fridge and a microwave, so I am glad I did not bring either of those.
When picking out your dorm fridge, I think it is essential to choose one with a freezer! I think 80% of the food I bought when I was in my dorm room was frozen food that I could quickly microwave (and ice cream, duh). Of course, you will use the fridge, but you will use your freezer more often than you may have expected.
Hopefully, you do not have to buy new Tupperware for your dorm room, and you can just take a couple of containers from home. That's what I did, and I only ever used two of them at once, so you do not need a ton!
Hot Water Kettle
If you have a Keurig, you do not need a hot water kettle (because you can make hot water in the Keurig). If you don't have a Keurig, you 100% need a hot water kettle for tea, oatmeal, ramen, and who knows what else!
I was so set on having cute plates in my dorm room, but the first time I used one it was SUCH a chore to wash it without a sink in my room. My mom had bought me some paper plates and plastic cutlery on move-in weekend, and it was all I used for the rest of the semester. I know it is wasteful, but I tried to be better by using 100% compostable plates and utensils!
I was planning on buying a cute silverware set, but as I said above, it is a chore to wash dishes without a sink and I ended up using plastic cutlery the entire year. I used these compostable ones, but I also would re-use them when I could!
COLLEGE STUDENT FAVORITES
These are a couple of things that don't fall into a specific category but are seriously some of the most important things to have in your dorm room! College students (including myself) are obsessed with all of these products and couldn't live without them!
10 Foot Phone Charger
This is for sure one of my number one dorm room essentials. When your bed is lofted 6 feet in the air and you have no idea where the outlets are going to be located in relation to your bed, it's a good idea to have extension cords and definitely a 10-foot charging cable!
Like I said, you don't know where the outlets are going to be, and you'll probably need more than what's available. I had a power strip/extension cord like this that I command taped to the leg of my desk and plugged in all of my chargers and mini appliances or hair tools when necessary!
Dorm rooms can get hot as you know what. I will never forget waking up so sweaty with the room being so hot and humid, and this clip-on fan being my savior! You can clip it right onto your bed, which is super convenient and will save you from sweating all night like me.
Cheap Bluetooth Speaker
In my list of what NOT to bring to college, I list expensive speakers because for some reason so many Bluetooth speakers went missing in my freshman dorm hall. I would hate for any of your expensive things to get stolen, so I definitely recommend bringing a cheaper Bluetooth speaker that gets the job done, but won't be the end of the world if it's lost or left somewhere.
If you want to be able to take a nap in your dorm room at any hour of the day, you need blackout curtains. I had some of the best naps ever in my dorm room shoutout to these magic curtains!
Command Strips & Hooks
If you plan on hanging absolutely anything on your walls, you will need command tape and command hooks. I can't even tell you how many of these I bought for move-in day, and I used a ton! Tape just doesn't cut it, even for hanging small printed photos.
I wish I knew before going to college that the campuses can be pretty unsafe. Most girls on campus have a pepper spray keychain, which I find so upsetting that this has to be so normalized, but I would rather everyone be as safe as possible!
AirPods or Headphones
If you do not already have AirPods or headphones, I would recommend having some! I spent most of my time doing work on my laptop in the library or around campus, usually watching videos or lectures! The last thing you want to do is play it out loud and disrupt others!