Dorm Essentials

My dorm room from freshman year

My dorm room from freshman year

August is almost here which means dorm shopping and college packing is underway. As a rising sophomore, I’m already set but last year I spent the summer talking with peers and doing google searches in the hopes of creating a flawless dorm shopping/college packing list. This blog is for everyone wondering what to bring, what to buy, and what they’re forgetting. Enjoy!

Note: for basic items that you’re guranteed to find at your local Target consider buying those on Move-In Day. This could save you a lot of money (if the sales taxes are lower) and it will save space in the car. (Though I still bought everything beforehand).


  • shampoo/conditioner
  • shower tote
  • body wash
  • deodorant
  • bath sponge 
  • flipflops
  • robe
  • towels
  • hand towel
  • toothbrush/toothpaste
  • face wash & benzoyl peroxide (great for spot treatments!)
  • moisterizer
  • razors and shaving cream
  • floss
  • purell
    Buy the one you can clip onto your backpack. I’m by no means a germaphobe but it’s a must have. Have a bottle in your room as well in case you want to clean your hands without treking down the hall or use it when your communal bathroom runs out of soap (it happens).
  • nail clippers
  • Q-Tips


  • Dayquil
  • *Nyquil
    only take this if you don’t have school the next day OR any homework to do. Trust me. 8hrs of sleep, 12hrs of sleep, it doesn’t matter. You will have a nyquil hangover that will leave you groggy all day.
  • Vicks custom care (ex. Dry cough)
    This works miracles.
  • Advil
  • decongestants
  • cough drops
  • Bandaids
  • Kleenex (boxes + to-go packs for your bookbag)
  • Multivitamins
    because eating pizza and rice probably isn’t gonna cut it
  • feminine products (if applicable)

Space savers

  • plastic bins
    Can be stored under the bed. You can use them to move in with and then later for general storage/as a pantry of snacks.
  • (collapsable) fabric drawers 
  • Closet storage hanging slots
  • under the bed storage bag
    I used this for random things I had no use for, but it kept them from getting dusty!
  • pop up hamper
  • hamper bag
    that way you can just toss your sac of laundry down the flight of stairs rather than lug it (at least thats what I used it for…)
  • hangers
  • milk crates
  • A set of plastic storage containers (one of the best things I purchased!)
    This is an example of what I mean: though the ones I got at target were cheaper and not as large. This is a must have. You can use them for anything! I, myself, had one with my morning routine in it: i.e facewash, toothpaste, toothbrush etc). Some of my peers just used their caddy to hold everything but I found that a little messy because I always just brought my caddy into the shower with me. I used another to hold the sponge I used for my dishes that way it didn’t drip everywhere. Another held extra school supplies.

Cleaning supplies

  • Detergent, fabric softner, tide pods, dryer sheets
    I recommend having a container of Tide Pods as a backup for when you run out of detergent (since they are countable, it’s easier to see how many loads you have left, this will help you avoid that awkward moment when you go to do laudry and the liquid only fills 1/8th to the first line).
  • garbage bags
    Make sure the bags are a decent size, even if your wastebin is small. It’s a struggle using the tiny bags and they only hold two containers
  • trash bin
  • (Makeshift?) recyling bin
    looking back on it having some place to store recylable things would’ve been great. My floor had a recycle trash can but it was oppositie of the regular trash can so I never recycled anything. Oops.
  • lysol disinfectant wipes
  • febreeze
  • swifer vac (if you have tile) or vaccumm if you have carpet
    your college has cleaning supplies you can rent out but trust me, it’s a pain.

Dorm decor

  • XL Twin Bed Sheets
  • pillow 
  • Eggcrate mattress pad
  • Fiber Bed mattress topper
    The eggcrate mattress pad does not cut it. You can get one of these at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. I’m pretty sure the only I got was $30-$50 (make sure its Twin XL so it will fit your dorm bed)
  • Seat cushion
    because who knows how comfortable your desk chair actually is
  • Desk lamp LED
    my desk came with a desk topper that included a light but its still nice to have your own that’s adjustable.
  • back pillow 
  • cork board
  • mirror
  • month calendar
  • posters/prints/pictures
  • christmas lights
    they look great year-round. My roommate and I didn’t put any lights up until late november/december but they really spruced up the room. We left them up for the rest of the year.
  • dry erase dots + dry erase markers
    My roommate brought these and they were excellent. My roommate and I put one on our door to leave each other messages and reminders. They also come off the wall without leaving any adhesive or ripping.
  • command strips
  • command hooks
    These are great for extra closet space, your keys, or for hanging lights in your dorm room.


  • plates
  • bowls
  • cups
  • mugs
  • napkins
  • coffee maker/coffee filters
    I got a 4-cup coffee maker because my roommate doesn’t drink coffee. Also because it came with a stainless steel pot (that won’t break during the move) and it included a timer, nothing like waking up to coffee brewing.
  • dish washing liquid
  • dish washing rags
  • scotch brite dish wand (dishes sponge)
  • ziploc containers
    Excellent for snacks and storing muffins from the dining hall (I’ve definitely gotten a to-go container for breakfast and taken 6 muffins, ate a few and saved the rest for later. It sounds a little janky but for 40k a year I’m taking all the muffins I can).
  • ziploc bags


  • Shoe tray (not just a mat, you want it to hold liquid and dirt)
    Especially important in the winter with the snow and sleet. Also because apparently it’s easier for my campus to sand the sidewalk rather than salt it: this resulted in a very sandy dorm room.
  • duct tape
  • extension chord and power strip (with circuit breaker)
  • water boiler
    this isn’t the exact one I have but it’s pretty close. Excellent for making ramen, though most people use it to boil water for tea. It’s a lot easier than going all the way to your communal kitchen, which for me was 4 floors down.
  • mini sewing kit
  • Personal info
    your social security card, your passport, your state ID.
  • Fan (if your dorm doesn’t have AC)
    In my opinion, don’t bother spending 80 dollars on a quality fan, it’s not going to cool down the room anyway. Just spend $20-$30 on a little personal fan that you can face at your desk/have near your pillow at night.


  • Buying a mini ironing board
    “It’s cute, saves space, and clips right to any table!” It also doesn’t work. So don’t bother buying it. Consider buying a full size board and storing it under the bed. Portable steamers are mediocre as well.
  • buying a tiny wastebasket
    make it a decent size, not as big as your kitchen but something that you can actually put trash in. A small mesh one is perfect.
  • Cheaping out on the bedding.
    This is college. You probably won’t be sleeping often. But when you do, let it be a good sleep. My roommate made the mistake of only buying an eggcrate mattress pad and as a result her bed felt fake and plasticy. After sitting on my bed she opted to upgrade. Bedding can be expensive but there are certain things you can’t skimp out on.
  • buying these cups but adult sized.
    You see them at target. They match the plastic plates you’re buying. There’s only two (all you really need). And look, they’re on sale!
    It’s a trap. Plastic cups are just what you need but these are the cheap kind, the kind you can’t drink out of without tasting the plastic. Spend a few extra bucks and get a better (and trendier) plastic cup for your dorm.

Please comment with any dorm essentials you feel are missing from this list along with your dorm don’ts! This is just a basic list, but I’ve actually done a lot of DIY decor projects in my dorm so let me know if you guys are interested in hearing about it.

Thanks for reading and let the Move-In Day Countdown continue!


3 thoughts on “Dorm Essentials

  1. Pingback: What not to bring to college | College In The Cornfield

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