Ever wonder what’s on the checklist of the most popular college dorm essentials for freshmen? Here are some of the bestselling off-to-college items that Grown and Flown parents are buying for their teens.
An important first step is to search the college website in the section under “Residence Life” to see what is prohibited, the dimensions and layout of the dorm room and closet space and what furniture is provided.
Note: We are a reader-supported site and receive compensation from purchases made through some of the links in this post.
30 popular dorm room essentials
Technology and electronics
One of the most important decisions your student will make is which laptop they need for college. They will want to consider price, the field they hope to study (STEM majors may need more computing power) and whether they prefer an Apple or Windows environment. Some popular choices include the lightweight (this laptop gets carried everywhere) Apple MacBook Air with Retina display, Windows Dell XPS 13 and the lower priced Lenovo Chromebook.
Many tech companies offer student discounts so check on those offers before making a final decision.
2. External Battery Power Bank
Having a phone fully charged is genuinely the very best safety device your teen can have in college. This one by Anker is well-priced, lightweight, small, and charges super fast.
3. Belkin Surge Protector Power Strip 12 Outlets and 2 USB Charging Ports
Extension cords are banned in many colleges, so pack one of these, instead. Your teen will need plenty of outlets for their electronics and this Belkin charger comes with a 6’ft cord, too.
The choice of a printer is very much a personal one. Students turn in most of their assignments electronically and many colleges have printers available in dorms, computer labs and libraries for public use. While it is very convenient to have a printer handy in your room, especially a compact and wireless one, some students tell us that they take up space and can sometimes be found under the bed gathering dust bunnies.
5. LED Desk Lamp
This lamp has a charging USB port on the base and can be dimmed when your teen is up studying when their roommate is asleep. This model is equipped with a wireless charging port.
6. Twin Xl Bedding
Typically, dorm rooms have Twin XL beds, and your teen will need to have sized sheets to match. At the very least, they will need a fitted sheet to cover the mattress supplied on the frame. Your sheets and bedding are the very definition of dorm room essentials, and they should be comfortable.
Four of our favorite places to shop for sheets, duvet covers, blankets and comforters in this (or any) size are Pottery Barn Teen/Dorm, Target , Dormify, and the Bed, Bath & Beyond college website.
Pottery Barn has a real emphasis on sustainability with its product line, and if you have not taken a look there, you may be pleasantly surprised at the selection, style, and price points. They have The Key program with member rewards of 2—5% back at ALL their family of brands, including William Sonoma, West Elm, and Pottery Barn.
Bed Bath & Beyond has a College Savings Pass with 20% off on all your student’s purchases by 9/30/22.
7. Bed Pillow
This is another item that your teen can bring from home. However, here are two top-rated pillows that received the highest ratings from Good Housekeeping 2022. Whichever you choose, make sure to get a washable, hypoallergenic pillow protector to keep pillows clean and protect against bedbugs, dust mites, and allergens.
The COOP Home Goods pillow can be adjusted to their preference by removing some of the foam.
Make sure to get a washable, hypoallergenic pillow protector to keep pillows clean and protect against bedbugs, dust mites, and allergens.
This set of two pillows sold under the Amazon Basics brand is the second favorite on the Good Housekeeping list is a are very well priced option.
8. Mattress Topper
Dorm bed mattresses are rock-hard bricks encased in vinyl so adding a mattress topper will be something your teen will thank you for. Three options include egg crate style ones that are less expensive, a memory foam one, or a featherbed.
9. Dorm Bed Shelf
Nightstands are not supplied in most dorm rooms, so having a bunk shelf like this one can be a convenient space for students to have their phones, glasses, and other necessities close at hand when they go to bed. You can also keep a small notebook or folder next to you to jot down your thoughts or important things to remember.
Alternatively, students can use a bed pocket which is more compact but offers a place to store a phone, glasses, etc.
10. Backrest Pillow
So much studying takes place on a dorm bed, and a pillow like this will help make it much comfier, especially since there are typically no headboards on dorm beds. And, trust us, comfort is everything. This one, from Target, comes in five cute colors.
11. Bed Risers
Risers are a great way to create more under-bed storage and there are many models available. And we all know that storage space is at a premium in dorm rooms.
We caution two things. First, make sure your student is not in a bunk bed. And second, many schools have beds designed to be lofted, and bed risers are unnecessary.
A small dorm room rug can be warm in the winter and create a cozier room. Look at the rugs at Pottery Barn Teen/Dorm that are washable — an excellent feature for a dorm rug.
13. Project Repat T-Shirt Quilt
Gather your teen’s t-shirts from camp, school, sports, or family trips and send them to Project Repat. They will create a personal keepsake quilt that can be used on the bed or hung on a wall. A Project Repat quilt is one of the most popular dorm items in the Grown and Flown community, and they get rave reviews.
Want to learn what Grown and Flown parents think are THE most helpful tools and tips for Move-In Day? Here are the 12 things that saved their lives.
14. IKEA Frakta Bag
Nothing is better for move-in day than these inexpensive IKEA bags (available at Amazon, too.) They are the #1 most popular dorm item for Grown and Flown students. They can be used under the bed for storage or stored flat and used again when moving out of the dorm during the school year. Keep dorm items all in one place during the summer in these bags.
15. Shower Shoes
All students living in dorms with communal bathrooms need shower shoes. Havaianas may be a little more expensive than others, but we love the variety of colors and designs, making them less likely to get confused with hallmates’ flip flops.
16. Quick Dry Hanging Toiletry and Bath Organizer
Most dorm bathrooms are communal and your son or daughter will need a way to carry shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush and everything they need with them down the hall and back.
You can give our freshmen some towels from around the house or buy them a few new ones. Either way, they will only need two sets, not the stack they seem to go through at home! Here are gorgeous and durable towels from Pottery Barn Teen/Dorm. These will last for all four years.
Target’s Room Essentials brand includes these towels that are a less expensive alternative and come in five shades.
18. Bath Bundles
We have fallen in love with these bath bundles, including coordinating towels, shower caddy, and robe or wrap. BTW, using a towel as a wrap for the trek to the communal bathroom is an option, but a robe or bath wrap is much easier to manage, especially when juggling a second bath towel and shower caddy.
19. Set of 5 Mesh Laundry Bags
This help washes delicate garments.
20. Laundry Bag
Depending on how far away the laundry room is from their dorm room, teens will want an easy to cary bag, hamper or backpack-style bag when they finally run out of clean socks.
21. Clothes Steamer
Taking a bulky iron and ironing board to college isn’t practical if your teen lives in a dorm. Consider a handheld steamer, instead. This Conair steamer gets excellent reviews.
Eating and Drinking
22. Hydro Flask Water Bottle
Hydro Flask offers TONS of styles and sizes of water bottles perfect for your college student. For long days on campus, studying at the library, sports practice, bike rides, workouts, hiking, or walking to class, Hydro Flask water bottles are excellent for your teen — keeping drinks cold or hot for the entirety of the day.
23. Keurig Mini
At 5″ wide, this Keurig is just the right size for a dorm room and comes in six great colors. Pair it with a couple of mugs that remind them of home.
24. Microwavable Dishes
There will likely be a microwave that your student can use to heat something simple for a snack. Having non-breakable, microwavable dishes will make it much easier and cleaner, especially if this is in a communal kitchen space and not their room.
Storage and Organization
25. Storage bins
Once your teen has found out as much as they can about the dimensions of the dorm room and what furniture is included, they will want to get one or two storage bins to keep off-season clothing or extra bedding in airtight containers.
26. Command Large Utility Hook
Inexpensive, incredibly strong, and valuable, these command strips are my favorite dorm essentials.
27. Hand Tool Set with Tool Box Storage Case
A toolset will come in very handy on move-in day, especially if anything needs to be assembled.
28. Over Door Organizer Hooks
Your student will need a place to hang a wet towel, jacket, or hat, and this set of hooks is perfect for that.
29. Desk Organizer
A desk organizer, where your student can corral pens and pencils, other desk supplies, notebooks, and more, could come in handy. This one is a classic style, but there are many to choose from.
To keep your student’s day organized, we recommend the Centered Student Planner developed by a teaching professor to help students develop good time management skills.
31. Door Stopper
Use these door stoppers on move-in day and encourage your teen to keep their door open while inside to make it easier to meet their new hall mates.
32. First Aid Kit
This bag has all the basics and more! But you can also assemble your bag with a few first aid items — bandaids, antibiotic ointment, thermometer — and the pain reliever your teen is accustomed to taking. Add some cold and flu meds, and your freshman will have the basics.
33. Clorox Wipes
College students may not do an excellent job cleaning, but we can make it easier by sending them Clorox wipes and paper towels for small cleanups.
A final note: Each college has different items that it will not allow (eg some colleges have restrictions around microwave ovens) and some colleges provide things like desk chairs and trash baskets, while others do not. We also urge close communication with roommates to avoid buying items that can be shared and, if desired, to coordinate decor.
More to Read:
There are the 12 Things All Freshmen Need to Bring to College
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