If this is the first time you’re preparing for dorm life, you’re probably wondering what are some of the college dorm must-haves that every student needs. I’ve created this useful dorm room essentials checklist that you can print off to help you shop.
These college dorm items range from room decor to appliances and are great for guys and girls heading off to university.
College Dorm Must-Haves
Twin XL Bedding
Most colleges use Twin XL beds for the dorms, so you’ll need to make sure you buy a comforter and sheets in that size, plus wash them, before moving in.
Twin XL Sheet Set
It's a good idea for your college kid to take two sets of sheets along for their dorm. That way they can remake their bed and then wash the dirty set when they get around to it.
Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Most college dorm mattresses are thin and not very comfortable. A nice 3" memory-foam mattress topper can add some comfort that will help your kid sleep better and enjoy their bed.
Twin XL Mattress Encasement
Zippered mattress encasements can come in handy if your kid feels that their mattress is dirty but also as a way to protect your mattress/mattress topper protected from any spills that might happen.
Help your kid keep their phone and water nearby their bed while lounging with one of these bed organizers.
If you kid likes to do school work in bed, or if they want to watch some movies on a laptop, one of these reading pillows can be useful.
Custom Pet Pillow
We have a dog and my daughter is really dreading being away from her. One of these pet pillows can be a great addition to any dorm room bed when your kid is saying goodbye to their furry friends at home.
If you want a bit of space under your dorm bed to store bins or a mini-fridge, these bed risers can help you raise the bed by 3", 5", or 8".
Storage Ottoman Stool
If your college dorm bed will be elevated, having a step stool will be handy for getting on and off the bed. A storage ottoman like this can serve two uses, although it probably isn't ideal for lots of weight pressure stepping on top. You might want a simple foldable step stool if you're worried about strength.
An area rug is a great way to make a dorm room feel a bit cozier. You might just want a small one that goes next to their bed, or they might want a full-size room rug that they share with their roommate(s).
These lap desks can come in handy for kids that like to do work while lounging in bed or on a sofa.
Towels are a dorm room must-have and having a double set will be useful. You'll want them to have at least two bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths. Your kid might want a few more washcloths if they use them daily for face washing or showering.
A bathrobe is a college dorm must-have if your kid will be sharing a bathroom outside their room and especially for communal bathroom dorms.
A mesh shower caddy can be useful if your teen will be sharing a shower. They can keep their shower supplies together and bring it in and out of the bathroom as needed. The mesh ones help allow items to dry.
Sharing a shower with others can be a bit gross and a pair of shower shoes is a necessity for dorm life. These sandals have holes that help allow them to dry quickly.
For college students who have bathrooms in their suites, these bathroom rugs are useful for the shower and/or in front of the bathroom sinks.
Power Strip with Long Cord
Most dorm rooms have limited wall outlets, so a power strip can come in handy. I recommend getting one with a really long cord – this one has a 15’ cord – as your kid may need to route along an entire wall. Also, be sure to check the rules for your dorm as most require power strips to have an overload shut-off (which this one does).
One of the biggest things I’ve heard is that dorm room lighting can be harsh and most college kids don’t enjoy hanging out in their rooms with the harsh overhead lights on. These battery-powered string lights can be hung above a bed and give some ambient light perfect for hanging out or studying.
Dorms can sometimes not smell the best, and an air purifier can come in handy for keeping the air in your kid’s room clean and fresh. This is also useful for any kids who are moving to new climates as they may find allergy sensitivities when exposed to a new environment.
Mini Box Fan
If your college dorm doesn't have air conditioning, a small box fan can come in handy for placing near windows to help pull in cool air or push out warm air.
Clip on Fan
Clip-on fans can be useful for clipping onto bed frames and desks. This one is small and can be plugged into a USB plug on an outlet strip or even a laptop.
Slim Non-Slip Hangers
Dorm rooms normally have very limited closet space and these slim non-slip hangers can help you squeeze an extra item or two into a wardrobe.
Closet Space Saving Hangers
If your kid plans to bring a lot of hanging clothes, these drop-down hanging expanders can come in handy to make the most of small closet space.
Hanging Closet Organizer
If you need more drawer storage versus hanging clothes storage, one of these hanging organizers can help create more shelves/drawers.
Over The Door Mirror
Your kid might not care about having a full-length mirror, but it can come in handy if there are no mirrors in their dorm room. Typically you can talk with any roommates and share one for the room.
Over The Door Hooks
Over-the-door hooks are ideal for hanging up bath towels, coats, or other general items you want to keep handy.
Storage Bag Organizer
These storage bag bins can be useful for storing clothes in the off-season or for holding additional bedding or supplies.
If your kid will be working out or living in a wet climate, you might want to pack some of these shoe deodorizer inserts. They and their roommates will thank you!
Clothes Drying Rack
This is mostly needed for kids who have clothing items that can't be dried, like bras & other delicates.
Backpack Laundry Bag
Instead of using a hamper that takes up floor space, these hanging laundry bags work well for dorms, plus the backpack style means kids can easily bring their dirty clothes to and from the laundry room.
Laundry Detergent Sheets
Instead of storing and lugging bottles of laundry detergent, these laundry detergent sheets are extremely convenient for dorm laundry loads.
As I mentioned before, the lights in a dorm room often aren’t what teenagers enjoy. So, a slim LED desk lamp works well for them when studying. Some even have USB or plug ports which are handy for laptops and phone charging.
Desk Pad Protector
If your kid plans to work on a laptop often at their desk, they may enjoy having a large desk pad that also serves as a mouse pad. These are especially useful for covering up marks and dings that may be on the top of the desk.
Desk Drawer Organizers
If your kid's dorm room comes with a desk with drawers, these organizing bins can be extremely useful for keeping office supplies neat and orderly (and off the top of the desk).
These simple desk organizers might be useful for kids who like to keep office supplies quick at hand. But I also recommend considering drawer bins if your kid wants to keep their room looking clean and neat.
Rocketbook Reusable Everyday Planner
Every college kid can find a planner useful, and this Rocketbook one can be reused plus it can upload your class notes and plans to your favorite cloud service and the app. But the best planner to buy is the one your kid will actually use!
Having an Airtag to slip into computer bags, keys, or backpacks can help college kids track down their items now that their parents won't be there to help.
These 3-tier storage carts seem to be popular with many college kids living in dorm rooms. They're handy for storing general items that are used regularly but also help keep things organized and reduce surface clutter.
It's always handy to have a small vacuum for cleaning floors and messes. Roommates can communicate and share one. This Bissel is affordable and can detach to use as a hand vac as well as an upright.
Mini Fridge with Freezer
While most college forms have kitchens, college kids will appreciate having a mini-fridge in their rooms to store some drinks and snacks. One with a separate freezer can also be useful for microwave meals and ice for water bottles. This Whirlpool has great reviews for being quiet which is important for dorm rooms.
Brita Water Filter Pitcher
You never know what tap water will taste like in a dorm, so having a Brita water filter pitcher for the room will help make sure your college kid is drinking water that might be a bit cleaner than straight out of the tap. This slim, 6-cup pitcher is just the right size.
Keurig Single-Serve Coffee Maker
If your college kid enjoys drinking coffee or tea, this mini Keurig can come in handy for quickly brewing a cup. It also can easily make a cup of hot water for tea bags or hot cocoa. Of course, an electric kettle also would work well if your kid isn't a coffee drinker.
The best prices I've found are direct with Keurig and at Target. Keurig direct also had free shipping and 2 free boxes of coffee when I purchased ours.
Plastic Dishes Set
It might be useful for your college kid to have a couple of simple dishes on hand in case they want to reheat some food or eat take-out in their room. Make sure whichever dishes you buy are microwave-safe.
If your kid will be doing some dishes while living in the dorm, a couple of kitchen towels are good to have on hand. Of course, paper towels could work too, but aren't ideal.
Mini Fridge Organizer
This pocket organizer can come in handy if your kid plans to cook a bit in their room and needs a handy way to store kitchen items and supplies (like spices, baggies, can opener, etc.)
Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks
Here’s a fun cookbook to help your college kid get creative with their meal plan in case they start getting sick of the standard food.
Microwave Meal Mug with Vented Cover
Most kids will be dining in a dining hall with a meal plan, but if your kid wants to cook a few single-serve mug meals, this Corningware mug can come in handy.
Mug Meals Cookbook
Another useful cookbook for college kids living in dorms, this mug meal book will give them ideas for over 100 things they can cook with a mug and a microwave. Of course, they’ll need to be able to buy grocery ingredients.
This is a fun gift idea to send to your college kid during their first week, or order one in advance to take along for move-in to keep your kid snack-happy from the start!
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit can be useful for dorm room living as your kid probably won't want to go to the health clinic for every little scrape and bump. Make sure you plan to stock their kit with medicines as well, such as pain relievers, cold & flu medicine, allergy meds, and any other meds your kid uses regularly.
Make sure you have a thermometer packed in the first aid kit, along with other medical necessities and medicines.
Plastic Storage Baskets with Handles
Storage baskets with handles can come in handy for storing cleaning supplies and beauty supplies and they’re easy to store away and pull out when needed. You can order some in advance or wait to see if a specific size would be best for your kid’s dorm space. Be sure to get plastic ones that can be wiped clean and look for one with handles.
Your college kid might be responsible for cleaning some of their own space, which includes mirrors and windows. These glass cleaning wipes are convenient and take up little space.
Bathroom Cleaner Spray
If your kid is staying in a suite with a bathroom, they’re likely responsible for cleaning their own bathrooms. Make sure they have a good bathroom cleaning spray that's easy to use.This is another useful item for kids who are staying in dorm rooms with a bathroom they're responsible for cleaning. These toiletwands are convenient to use and slightly more hygienic than the typical reuseable brushes.
This is another useful item for kids who are staying in dorm rooms with a bathroom they're responsible for cleaning. These toiletwands are convenient to use and slightly more hygienic than the typical reusable brushes.
Scrub Brush Kit
Another useful item for kids with dorm bathrooms to clean is these scrubbing brushes that work well for cleaning sinks and showers.
Colleges all have different rules about what can and cannot be used on the walls to mount things. If you’re looking to hang some posters or photos, this mounting putty works well and removes without damaging the walls.
Command Variety Pack
This recommendation comes with a big warning to check first the rules of your college. Our college actually doesn't allow command strips. If you are allowed to use them, this variety pack is useful for hanging a variety of items.
Household Tool Kit
Having a small toolkit like this can come in handy for working on a few things, but it also might not be a necessity until your kiddo is ready to move into their own home.
Zip Ties Assorted Sizes
I've read that many college kids find zip ties handy for strapping down cords in dorm rooms. It can help keep things neat and keep cords from falling behind furniture.
Extra Large Moving Bags with Zippers
Experienced parents have shared the tip that these moving bags work much better than boxes when you have to pack up and move in all the new dorm supplies during move-in days.
Some college students like to keep their dorm doors open in order to socialize with others while in their rooms. Having door stops work well for that AND they're really useful on move-in day.
Download My College Dorm Must-Haves Printable Checklist
Congrats on this new adventure for your family! I hope you found this checklist useful and will be ready to pack up and bring all the college dorm must-haves to make your student’s college life start off well.