This post is the best guide on the internet for all the best dorm room essentials you will actually use throughout your four years at college.
With my time in college coming to an end, I have experienced the best and worst of college with everything from living in the dorm rooms, getting a college apartment with friends, and taking exam after exam (at least that's what it felt like).
These last four years have allowed me to really discover the dorm room essentials I couldn't have lived without and the ones that I continued to use year after year even after I moved out of my college dorm room.
I am breaking down every single part of college for you and showing you all of my most recommended products (with advice from my friends too) with everything from my top dorm room essentials, dorm bedding, "cool" going out clothes, the most popular backpacks...literally EVERYTHING.
I really thought about what I would have wanted to know when I was going into college and included everything I could think of. This is a huge post so buckle up but it is seriously one of the best and most comprehensive posts on my website going over every single thing you will need for being a freshman in college.
This post is all about the dorm room essentials you will need to buy before moving in.
ALL-TIME BEST DORM ROOM ESSENTIALS:
These are the top 10 absolute best dorm room products that I really recommend. The products that are so good I made sure all my friends in the grades below me had when they went to college and the things I have used even after moving out of dorm rooms.
There are some things I've included in this post that are "wants" but the next 10 things are the things that I think you NEED. Or at least I needed them ;).
1. 4" Mattress Topper
Having a mattress pad is CRUCIAL in college. Actually, it's my number #1 product purchased off my website and I couldn't agree more.
The mattress pad above is what I used my first two years of college and then passed down to my sister when she went to college. It is GOOD and truthfully, made my bed even more comfy than my mattress at home.
I recommend getting 4" or more and make sure you get the twin XL size.
Other Mattress Pads I Recommend:
- If you're against a foam mattress pad, try this Extra Thick Cooling Mattress Pad Cover. I'm moving into my own apartment next month and got this in a queen because the reviews are insanely good for it.
- Get this 2.5" Memory Foam Mattress Pad that's under $50. I personally would spend the extra $20 to get the one I have above that's 4 inches though :).
2. 10' Phone Charger
LIFE-CHANGING. If you don't already own this, treat yourself and buy one! It's under $10 and so nice to have even if you're not living in a dorm room.
However, these are extra nice in a dorm room. Dorms have very little outlets so an extra long charger is essential to being able to lay in your bed on your phone when it's dead...which I know you like to do ;).
These are also great for using at the library or coffee shop when chargers aren't right next to you. I've used my 10' charger all four years of college!
3. Towel Wrap
One of the BEST gifts I got when graduating high school.
I received one of these at my graduation party monogrammed with my name. Truthfully, I thought I would never use it. Well, guess what...I STILL use this every single time I shower.
Showering in the dorms is a whole process especially if you are doing it in a communal bathroom. You have to carry all your things to and from the bathroom and if you want to minimize the chance if your towel falling to your ankles in front of your neighbors, you need this towel wrap (especially if you're in a co-ed dorm haha).
Here's the towel wraps I recommend:
4. Blackout Curtains
If you're a light sleeper and get woken up by the light easily like me, blackout curtains are definitely a college essential you need to get.
I still use mine in my apartment to this day because they work sooo well. Seriously, such a life saver for my sleep and sanity.
If you want shorter blackout curtains, take a look at these.
Also, these no-drill curtain rods are PERFECT for college!
5. Small Clip-On Fan For Your Bed
You will be praising this little fan when you're trying to sleep at night in your non-air conditioned dorm room. This is the only thing that kept me from not losing my sh*t in a room that was literally probably 85 degrees.
I love this fan because you can clip it to your railing of your bed. And it's less than $20...win-win.
Unfortunately, it's not rare for a dorm to not have air-conditioning so if you know that yours doesn't, get this clip-on fan. a lot of college dorms don't have air conditioning so some sort of a fan is crucial when it's hot outside.
If you have a larger dorm room, check out these larger fans:
6. Extension Cord + Power Strip
This is a no-brainer but something that a lot of people forget about it. We have SO many things that we plug into dorm rooms and with most dorm rooms only having two plugs, there is almost never enough spaces.
I really like this Power Strip because it has places to put USB cords.
7. Hydro Flask
Hydro Flask's are actually life-changing. I swear I drink 10x as much water using this water bottle vs anything else.
It also keeps your water cold for hours. I bring this everywhere with me! It's definitely a dorm room essential but also a college essential that will last you forever.
Also, like every college girl on the planet owns one of these haha. Also! Get the 40 ounce.
Here's some of my favorite Hydro Flask accessories:
8. Mesh Shower Caddy
I am very passionate about this...get a mesh shower caddy NOT a plastic one!
I made this mistake my freshman year and got a plastic shower caddy. Here's what happened with that...every time I would shower water would get stuck in the plastic grooves. I would go back to my dorm room, put the shower caddy on the ground, and five minutes later there would be a huge puddle on the ground.
So moral of that all, get a mesh shower caddy because water drains out of it way better. This one is my favorite mesh shower caddy (used my sophomore year). Once you move out of dorms you'll probably throw it away but it is an essential for when you do live in a residence hall.
9. Sound Machine
The first few months I lived in my dorm room I was having such a hard time sleeping and studying because I am one of "those" who need it silent to get everything done...ya know, ADD kicking in.
When I was babysitting that semester, the baby had a sound machine that the mom would have me turn on every time he went to bed to block off all the noises happening around his room.
That got me thinking...DUH! This could block off noise when sleeping and studying in my dorm room. I ordered the exact Sound Machine the baby had (pictured above) and I kid you not, have used it every single night since. My sister also got one for her dorm room and can't sleep at night anymore without it on.
Short story summed up...if you have issues studying/sleeping around noise, a sound machine will change your life.
10. Small & Cheap Dirt Devil Vacuum
I am a clean freak and probably keep my room cleaner than 70% of college students BUT this vacuum is amazing in any dorm room. It's cheap and small but let me tell ya, it's mighty.
Dorms usually offer vacuums but in both of the dorm halls I was in these vacuums were from the 1960's, 100+ pounds, and spit out more dust than actually clean.
So, spending $20 on a vacuum saved
my sanity and gave me a really clean room.
DORM BEDDING ESSENTIALS:
A bed is one of the (if not THE) most important parts of a dorm room. You sleep on it, study on it, eat on it, hook up o- okay I'll stop there ;).
But for real, sleeping is one of a college students favorite activities and having comfortable bedding is SO important and debatably the most important dorm room essentials.
1. Twin XL Mattress Topper
If you read my Top Dorm Room Essentials section above, you know how passionate I am about having a mattress pad. Like, I should be a spokesperson for them because I think they are so important ;).
You never know what and who has been on those dorm room beds. They also make your bed so much more comfortable!
My Top Recommended Mattress Pads:
2. My Favorite Dorm Sheets
The first set of sheets above (these ones from Amazon) are the exact sheets I used and truthfully one of my favorite sheets ever. I just bought some for my queen bed actually. They come in a 3-piece Twin XL set and is less than $30!
About two years ago when I was in my college apartment, I discovered the other set above that's Twin XL sheets with a pocket on the side. These are GENIUS for anyone who plans to loft their bed so you can put your phone and other small essentials in it. I probably would have bought those instead if they were around during my freshman year :).
3. My Favorite Places To Get Dorm Duvets
I got my duvet cover from Target and used it throughout all four years of college. I remember getting it for $20 which is honestly kind of unheard of now :(. My sister who went to college two years after me got hers from Pottery Barn Teen which was definitely more expensive but SO cute.
A duvet is something that doesn't have to be Twin XL imo but there are plenty of cute Twin XL duvets out there.
My favorite places for Twin duvet covers:
For All You Boy Momma's...
Target sells a "Bed In A Bag" which includes everything you need for a bed (minus sheets I believe). It is extremely reasonably priced and I love this duvet for a guys dorm room! For a girls room as well, of course, but sometimes guys are harder to shop for.
3. Bed Skirt
I never personally had a bed skirt, but I know a lot of people that did. This is a special bed skirt made specifically for dorm beds and is a great way to hide everything that you have stored for a more put together room.
Here is the special bed skirt made specifically for colleges.
4. Bed Shelf
These bed shelves are the best for holding your laptop, phone, and whatever else you like to have near you when you sleep.
These are super popular and perfect to have on your bed.
You can get a dorm bed shelf for $29.
A way to instantly make your dorm room feel more decorated is by having a headboard. The easiest way to do this is by simply using a twin headboard which is sold so many places.
I am a bed snob so I'll link some of my favorite places to get dorm headboards below:
6. Cozy Blankets
If I don't have a blanket wrapped around me, it's surprising. I got the BEST large blanket my freshman year of college that I still sleep with everything.
Make sure when you get a blanket to get it in a queen size so you can really snuggle with it.
If you're looking to splurge or get your daughter a gift she will thank you for over and over again, get her a Barefoot Dreams Blanket...they are pure HEAVEN.
DORM BATHROOM ESSENTIALS:
1. A Mesh Shower Caddy
A shower caddy is a dorm essential, especially if you have to use a communal bathroom.
I definitely recommend a mesh shower caddy over a plastic caddy. The reason is because the plastic caddy would retain the water once I got out of the shower and once I would bring it back to my dorm, it would get my whole dorm floor wet which is annoyingggg.
2. Towel wrap
Let me tell you, I used this dorm essential every single day in college. So much so that I included it in my "Must Buys" at the top of this post.
Most dorms have you walk from dorm room to shower. You will see all kinds of people in the hallway (boys and girls). It's nice to not have to worry about your towel coming off. I also like to wear it as I do my makeup and blow-dry my hair.
3. Plastic Shower Shoes
Doesn't matter which type you get, having shower shoes is an essential. Trust me, you don't know what and who has been in those showers. Makes me gag thinking about honestly haha.
Keep your feet safe and clean and get some shower shoes. I think I bought $3 ones from Target but I had friends who used the slide versions because they found them to be a little more comfortable.
4. Waterproof Speaker
My friends would go shower together (in different stalls obvi) and would play music. It was actually really fun and one of the better memories that occured in communal bathrooms lol.
Having a bluetooth speaker is definitely a college essential so having it be waterproof crosses two things off.
5. A Comfy Robe
I lived in my fuzzy robe freshmen year and I still do 4 years later!
A robe is a classic essential that will last you all throughout college. It's honestly just something good to have in life haha I love getting out of the shower and putting my robe on right away! It makes getting ready so comfy and relaxing.
6. Towel Set
It's great to have 2 of every towel type so when one is dirty and you haven't had time to do laundry you'll always have a clean backup...which will happen I promise ;). Towels are actually the only thing I recommend having double of (aka you do not need two sets of sheets imo).
This towel set is great because it has just what you need for the college dorms. It's important not to bring too many towels just because they do take up a lot of space.
If you have a Costco membership, they have the most amazing towels there...so fluffy and really cheap.
7. Makeup Organization
Because there isn't a lot of storage or desk space in the dorms, it's essential to keep organized. If you're anything like me, my makeup is all over the place when I get ready if I don't have a specific place to put it.
Having a good organization system for it is a good way to keep it all in one place and off of your desk.
Another way to organize your makeup is using drawer separators! This is what I did since my desk had very little counter space. I used these drawer organizers.
8. Vanity Mirror
Lighting SUCKS in the dorm rooms so this vanity mirror is perfect for the dorms if you like having professional lighting when you get ready!
There are also a lot of high tech mirrors on the market now that have the ability for you to hook up bluetooth and stuff to them. Here's one of those for just $37.
DORM CLOSET ESSENTIALS:
Dorm closets are basically non-existent so maximizing as much space as possible is crucial for staying sane AND fitting all your clothes. They now have so many organization products for closets that I am listing the ones that I think will actually work for a college dorm.
1. Closet Organization Essentials
Dorm room closets have absolutely no space so any way to maximize the amount of clothes you can fit is essential.
I love these hanger expanders because you can basically have 5 times the amount of shirts in one hanger! Honestly amazing invention and perfect for the dorm room. If you're anything like me with clothes, you're going to need as much space as you possibly can. This is one of my favorite dorm closet hacks and the organization tool that I think would work best.
This laundry basket/hanging shelves from Target is SO smart and just $10!! One of my readers actually sent in a picture of their dorm and had this in it and I hunted for an hour to see where she got it and couldn't believe it was from Target and that cheap!
And lastly, finding a place for your shoes is honestly hard. I had a door on my closet one year so I used an over-the-door shoe storage and the other year I did hanging shoe storage from a rod. Not all dorms have closet doors so definitely check with your dorm to see whether you do or not!
2. Dorm Closet Curtains
Recreate this dorm room closet with these products:
A ton of dorm room closets are open with no door at all. This makes the room seem so much messier than it actually is because you can see all the clothes.
Check pictures of your dorm room and see if you have a door or not. If not, I highly recommend getting a cute curtain to hang up.
3. Storage Bins
My closet had shelves at the top and I used three of these bins to allow more things to fit up there. I used one of the bins for sweatshirts, one for feminine products and towels, and one for purses. It worked out great!
4. Non-Slip Hangers
The worst is when your clothing falls off your hangers and onto the floor. These non-slip hangers make sure that never happens. They are seriously life-savers for anyone borderline OCD like me that likes their closets always extremely clean.
5. Laundry Basket
TBH, getting your laundry from your dorm room to the laundry room can be an absolute b*tch.
I recommend a laundry basket that easily turns into a bag (like this one from Amazon) or one that can be rolled (like this one from Amazon). Trying to take a "regular" laundry basket to the washing room will be a pain!!!
6. Over-the-Door Full Length Mirror
I don't know how people go without a full length mirror. I always need to see my full outfit before I leave the house.
If you know your dorm room doesn't have a full length mirror, an over the door mirror is perfect since it doesn't take up any extra space! For me, this an absolute must for dorm room products.
7. Recommendation For Laundry Detergent in a Dorm Room:
MAJOR DORM ROOM TIP: I highly recommend NOT using pods. Yes, I know they're easier than detergent but at both of my dorms the washing machine did not get hot enough (or whatever it needs to be) to break down the plastic and it would randomly stick to clothes and totally ruin them.
After I had one of my favorite shirts ruined, I always used liquid laundry detergent.
BEST DORM DECORATIONS:
My favorite part!! Seriously, decorating a dorm room is so fun and one of the first times that you truly have your own space to personalize.
Some of my most popular posts on dorm decor:
1. Throw Pillows
I would ONLY stick to having three pillows (max) on your bed! Any more than that will drive you crazy. I bought like seriously 20 pillows for my dorm room and they looked cute for a day and then ended up being a pain in my a--.
I personally like to get pillow inserts and then you can find super cheap pillow covers on Amazon. I showed some of my personal favorites above :).
Also, HomeGoods (duh) also has some really good pillows. I'm so-so on Targets pillows.
2. Wall Decor
I'm putting the most popular dorm wall decor above. So many girls have these in their rooms and it always looks SO cute.
I'm Amazon all the way for dorm wall decor.
3. Hanging Lights
Can it really be a dorm room without hanging lights?! No, definitely not ;).
Hanging lights are the perfect (and cheap) way to decorate a large wall while also making the room feel so much cozier.
4. A Cute Area Rug
You NEED a rug in your dorm!! Dorm floors are disgusting and adding a cute rug can make it so much cuter. They seriously can make a dorm room look so much homey and cozy.
5. Desk Lamp
Don't forget a desk lamp! You need them for studying but they can also add a cute element to your room. Amazon and Target have great options for this!
BEST DORM TAPESTRIES:
Tapestries are great way to decorate a dorm room because they take up so much space (and can cover as much of the ugly dorm room walls as possible). They are also CHEAP.
There are a ton of websites that have really cool & trendy tapestries. I found SO many good ones for this year.
Also, keep scrolling down...I have a section for guys too!
Here are some of my favorites:
Favorite Tapestries for Girls:
Favorite Tapestries for Boys:
DORM FURNITURE ESSENTIALS:
You definitely don't need or want a lot of dorm room furniture but you do need a few essential things like a futon. I had the best futon ever that I'll show below.
This was the futon I had and it was the BEST!! Seriously, getting a futon with fake leather makes it so easy to clean up all the spills that *will* happen in your dorm room.
If you can fit a futon in your dorm, I highly recommend you do. Whenever I had friends over, this is where we would hang out.
You can also put bins under your futon for more storage (which I did):
2. Storage Ottoman
Having a storage ottoman like this is awesome because it has so many purposes. It's the perfect place to hide shoes or food, allows for extra seating, or a place to put your feet up while sitting on the futon.
AND, if you plan on having your bed high it's a good stepping stool :).
3. Storage Cubes
I had both of these freshmen year and still use them in my college apartment. They are so great for storage but also could be used as a TV stand or a bedside table.
4. Blackout Curtains
As I mentioned before, blackout curtains saved my sanity freshmen year. For those light sleepers out there, these are essential for good sleep!
DORM KITCHEN ESSENTIALS:
1. Silverware Set
Completely OBSESSED with this cheap silverware set!
This is the perfect amount of silverware for a dorm and this set comes with the organization tray. At less than $25, you can't beat it.
2. Small Dinnerware Set
Along with the essential silverware, having a few bowls and plates is great for eating in your dorm. I definitely wouldn't go crazy with this because it will be hard to clean/put places.
Truthfully, when I lived in the dorms I used paper plates and bowls for the year. I know it wasn't eco-friendly but it was SO much easier. Obviously, the second I moved into apartments I went back to using regular plates :).
3. To-Go Mugs
If you're not already a coffee person, you will be (college does that to you). Or you'll turn into a tea drinker like me (yes, I know grandmaaa). To-go mugs that keep your drink hot are essential for early morning classes.
My friend also loves these Contigo ones. They seriously keep your drink hot for sooo long!
4. Mini Keurig
To make an easy, good cup of coffee in the dorm, this Keurig is perfect. It's small enough where it won't take up a ton of room but still does the job!
Get some K-Cups to make:
I actually am obsessedddd with my Hydroflask. I literally take it everywhere.
Seriously it's one of my top dorm room essentials. It keeps your water cold forever and I swear I drink more water when it's out of my Hydroflask lol.
If you like other types of water bottles, check out these options:
7. Containers for Snacks or Leftovers
If you like to bring snacks to class or work or plan to keep leftovers in your fridge, these containers are great! They are super easy to clean and are much better for the environment than plastic bags.
8. Mini Fridge
If you plan to keep any food or drinks in your dorm room, a mini fridge is definitely an essential. We used ours a ton when I lived in the dorm!
Having a fridge helped me eat some healthier snacks like fruit and veggies since I had somewhere to keep it.
**Before buying this, make sure your dorm room doesn't already have a fridge for you!
DORM CLEANING ESSENTIALS:
I'm a total clean-freak so I loved having my dorm spotless. I didn't bring too many cleaning supplies because I knew there wouldn't be enough space for it, so I brought the absolute essentials.
My roommates and I used these all the time and it worked out great for us!
1. Trash Can
Definitely a dorm room essential. You'll need somewhere to put your trash!
This one is inexpensive AND has a top on it so your garbage won't smell up your dorm room.
If you want a cuter trash can, this is the one that I had in my dorm room.
PS! Definitely get the scented garbage bags...they are a GAME-CHANGER in dorm rooms!
2. Mini Vacuum
Having a mini vacuum on hand is soo nice. I'm so obsessed with it that I included it in my "Top Dorm Room Essentials" section at the top of this blogpost.
It is incredible and super affordable!
3. All-Purpose Spray
You wouldn't think such a small space could get so dirty so fast, but it does. I used an all-purpose spray all the time to quickly clean off surfaces that get dirty easily.
I liked having the multi-purpose spray so I could use it on everything.
4. Febreeze Trash Bags
I love these Febreze trash bags because they basically guarantee that your dorm room will never smell (at least from your trash lol).
I one-time had a throwing up incident in my room (you can guess why :/) and these masked the smell so well!
5. All-Purpose Wipes
Wipes are also a great option for cleaning products. Any sort of all-purpose cleaning is great for the dorms.
6. Febreeze/ Wall plug-in
There's a lot of different smells going on when you live in a dorm room. I would highly recommend getting some sort of scented spray or wall plug in to keep your dorm always smelling fresh!
I always had a Bath and Body Works wallflower in and you could smell my dorm down the hallway. It was amazinggg.
BEST COLLEGE BACKPACKS:
1. A Sturdy Backpack That Will Last
The best of the best for backpacks in my opinion. I've had my North Face backpack for 4 years now and it's still good as new.
It has so much room and so many pockets so it really helps keep all of my things organized. Highly recommend this for any incoming freshmen!
2. Trendy Yet Functional
I've seen these backpacks allll over campus. Definitely a very trendy backpack that seems to still be functional.
They have a ton of different colors and sizes so this definitely a great option if you are looking for a trendier backpack!
3. For The Girly Girls
If you're looking for a more stylish bag that isn't exactly a backpack but can fit all of your stuff, this is a great option.
My friend uses this bag and she always looks so good going to class.
COLLEGE TECH ESSENTIALS:
Laptops are essential for anyone in college these days. I use a MacBook just because I also have an iPhone so I love to have everything be cohesive together.
I love it for college and is definitely a good investment for anyone heading off to school! I've had mine since 2016 and it's still running strong.
2. 10' Charger
Having an extra long cord is essential for the dorm but also to keep in your backpack. The worst feeling is when your phone dies in the middle of the day and you have no way of charging it.
Highly recommend always having an extra charger in your backpack!
Not to be dramatic but I don't know what I would do without my AirPods haha. Seriously they are such a great investment if you can afford them.
I use them allll the time - studying, walking to class, working out, doing laundry. Definitely a college essential!
This would make amazing graduation gift!!
4. Extension Cord + Power Strip
Make sure to not forget one of these! I almost did and actually can't imagine how we would have plugged everything in without it.
If you like to take super neat notes and have everything all in one place, an iPad Pro is a great option.
It's a great alternative to a laptop for anyone that prefers to take notes rather than typing on a computer.
I don't personally have one but my sister does and is obsessed with it.
6. MacBook Charger Extension Cord
I would say this is one of the more practical essentials but one of my most used. Computer chargers are always so short so it's great to have the extra length when you're at the coffee shop or library and are far away from an outlet.
I permanently have mine on my charger because it can stretch so much further!
WHAT "COOL" GIRLS ARE WEARING IN COLLEGE:
So, this is part of the dorm room essentials that I added in last minute because I thought about what I would have wanted to know going into college and I always was worried about what to wear from classes, to going to the bars, and everything in between.
My really stylish friend and I came up with the what the "cool" girls (relative terms - I know this won't be everyone's thing) guide to what everyone is wearing out. It's actually crazy accurate and I am about to buy everything we found haha.
A good leather jacket is honestly essential for any closet. It seriously goes with anything and is such a staple!
It's such an easy thing to throw on when you don't know what to wear or your outfit needs a little somethin somethin'.
I got mine from Nordstrom freshman year and still wear it all the time.
I think this is a given lol but having a variety of jeans is definitely a must when going to college. Especially black jeans that you really love.
I usually wear black jeans when going out so have a few pair that you feel good in is a must!
Topshop has some of my favorite jeans that last foreverrrr if you're looking for a good pair. Also, Abercrombie has stepped up their game with jeans lately and I'm about to order this pair in like every single color.
Bodysuits are so cute for going out (except when you have to go to the bathroom lol). But seriously they make sure your outfit always stays in place and looks good!
I almost always wear a bodysuit when I go out!
4. Basic Black Tops
Basic black tops really won't ever go out of style. I would definitely stock up on some basics before buying any trendy tops!
5. Best Winter Jackets
If you're going off to college in a really cold climate, some sort of parka is definitely a must to keep warm on the walk to class.
Here's what most people are wearing:
Puffers are a great option for a winter jacket that is still warm but makes an outfit a little cuter than a parka.
I have the Super Puff from Aritzia and I'm obsessedddd with it. It's seriously so warm and they have so many different colors and lengths to choose from (please check it out - seriously best jacket ever)
7. Everyday Shoes
Having a good black bootie and some white sneakers is all you really need. Anything that's comfortable for class is perfect! This is what majority of girls in college wear.
8. Going Out Shoes:
Black booties are my essential going out shoes for college. They go with literally everything and are just so classic.
The bad news is that they are 100% going to get trashed at any party or bar. So don't spend too much on them! I got ones from Target freshmen year that were actually cute and lasted so long.
I also have ones from Asos that I wear basically everyday haha.
Ugg slippers are my ride or dies. I literally bring them everywhere with me haha. Especially for the dorms, these are so great to keep your feet warm and off those nasty floors!
10. Phone Wallet
If you don't like to carry around a purse or wallet, a phone wallet that sticks on the back of a phone case is perfect. You will not lose any of your cards with this baby on the back!