In full disclosure, I’ve been waiting my entire mom life to furnish and move my kids into their dorms! My son chose not to live on campus, and I was so bummed, but I knew I had two girls who would definitely would! I’ve had dorm room Pinterest boards since Pinterest was a thing! (My kiddos were VERY young then!) I just can’t help myself-I love organizing and furnishing small spaces, and a dorm room is the ultimate challenge!!! My oldest daughter is finally moving into her dorm room very soon, and I couldn’t be more excited!!! So needless to say, I’ve been researching and planning for about 20 years! I’ve come up with THE best college essentials packing list for dorms!
**Update-we are moving our oldest daughter home this weekend from her first year in college. We purchased almost everything shown here, and it all worked out perfectly. (Besides the sheets, which I have commented on below.) Thankfully, there was not anything else that she needed that was not included here! Now, I’m using this list to furnish our youngest daughter’s dorm, who will be going off to college this fall. Yes, that’s two in college at the same time! Pray for us!!!
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There are a few really important factors to consider while shopping for dorm room essentials:
Campus Housing Policy
First, what is the campus housing policy on things like fridge’s, microwaves, coffee makers, etc.? You can usually just google the name of the school and housing policy if you are unsure where to find it. The policies are typically very specific as to what wattage the microwave can be, what size fridge, what can be put on the walls… Most campuses now have the policy that no holes can be made in walls, so when shopping for things that are wall-mounted, you have to take this into consideration. Can the beds be lofted? Can you use bed risers? Are you allowed to have coffee pots, or does it have to be more like a Keurig? Can you bring your own furniture? Knowing the policy and having it readily available while shopping will save you a lot of wasted time and money later!
Secondly, what is the floor plan of the dorm room? Is there a bathroom in the room, or is it down the hall? How many occupants will be in the room? What does it come with? Will the windows need curtains? Is there a kitchen area or living room space? What are the closets like? Don’t assume it’s all uniform either-some campuses vary from dorm to dorm! At the school my daughters will be attending, thankfully each dorm room in each dormitory are pretty uniform.
Thirdly, what is the temperature in the dorms? Is it very cold, or very warm? Are the thermostats adjustable? Will you need fans, are portable heaters allowed? This one is a little harder to find out, the best way is to ask someone who already attends, or someone in campus housing. But this is very important, as it will determine the kind of bedding you need, and if you need to bring fans or heaters.
How to Transport Your Dorm Room Essentials
Fourth, if you are coming from out of state, does the school provide a shipping address and will they store your packages if you ship them early? Or does everything have to be delivered/purchased move-in day?
A great way to find out many of these answers is to watch dorm room tours on YouTube that are specific to the dorm you will be living in. It’s also so much fun to watch! Often, the students will tell you things like what essentials you need, what not to bring, what the temperature is like, what you can or can’t have. And you can see how they set it up and get some great ideas!
Time to Shop!
Now that you have considered all the factors above, it’s time to shop!!! You don’t have to look any further than Target for all of the best dorm essentials!
The Best College Essentials Packing List-Bedding!
Dorm beds are always extra long twin, so be sure what you are purchasing is XL-twin!
~Mattress protector-Dorm room mattresses are often used for years prior to you! You don’t want to come in contact with the gross mattress!
~Mattress topper-Dorm room mattresses are typically hard, you will probably want some kind of foam or down topper!
~Two sets of sheets-It might be a good idea to buy a set, wash them, and sleep on them a week or so before you go to be sure they are comfy! You can always throw sheets in your suitcase. These are the ones we use, and my super picky kids love them! **Update after a school year of use-the microfiber sheets pilled for one kid, but not the other kid. Same sheets, different pattern. So you might want to consider purchasing the easy care set instead.
~Washable comforter, duvet, or bedspread
~Comfy pillow, or two-again, it might be a good idea to buy your pillow ahead of time to be sure they’re comfortable!
The Best College Essentials Packing List for Dorms-Electronics
~TV-You’ll need a smart TV, or a Roku, or Firestick to stream shows!
~Headphone, air pods, or ear buds
~Laptop-check with the school or another student to see if one is provided, or if a particular kind is recommended!
~Phone chargers with extra long cord
~Power strips with built-in surge protector
~Extension cords-Check your housing policy before purchasing extension cords and power strips
Your dorm room probably won’t have a full kitchen, but you’ll want something to make hot drinks, keep water and sodas cold, make ice, and heat up that Ramen! You’ll also need to do those pesky dishes-because your mom doesn’t live there!
~Fridge-Be sure it has a freezer section for ice and frozen meals! Remember to check the housing policy before purchasing!
~Microwave-Again, check that housing policy!
~Keurig or other instant coffee maker-You might not be a coffee drinker, but you can make Ramen, oatmeal, hot chocolate, and more!
~Plastic dishes, silverware, cups, cold cups, mugs
~Food storage containers
~Plastic storage bags
~Measuring cups and spoons
~Water filtration system, like a Brita picture, or faucet filter
~Ice cube trays shaped to fit inside water bottles
~Large trash can
Be sure you know if your dorm room has it’s own bathroom, or if there’s a communal bathroom!
~At least two sets of towels
~Shower curtain, hooks, and liner, if there’s not a door
~Small trash can
~Makeup mirror (for girls)
~Over the door hooks
~Shower basket (if communal bath)
~Shower shoes (if communal bath)
Organization items are essential in dorms! Look for pieces that can double as furniture, like an ottoman that opens for storage, a stack of drawers that can be a nightstand, a cube bookshelf that can be a TV stand. Also, be sure to think outside the box! A round hamper can hold balls and sports equipment. If your bed is lofted, use every inch under the bed for storage.
~Bins, baskets, tubs
~Storage for food items
~Hanging closet shelves for shoes, sweats, or sweaters
~Loft bed organizer to hold your phone and remotes
Don’t forget to add a little decor and coziness!
You will want your dorm room to be a home away from home! Don’t forget to add in lighting, and some cozy!
~Wall art (must be able to hang with Velcro strips)
~Extra seating like a bean bag or butterfly chair
~Throw pillows, but not too many!
~Full size mirror-for girls
~Essential oil diffuser or room fragrance plug ins-candles are not allowed, but dorm rooms can be stuffy and smelly!
~Velcro strips, Command hooks-you just about can’t have too many!
The Best College Essentials Packing List for Dorms-Emergency Necessities
Having some basic first aid and medicine in your room can avoid a trip to the Health Center!
~First aid kit
~Cold medicine, Tylenol or Advil, throat lozenges
~Heating pad and ice pack
Finally, Cleaning Supplies
Unless your dorm comes with maid services, you will need to clean! Some dorms have a vacuum you can borrow, so be sure to check on that before purchasing one.
~Mop (if tile)
~Vacuum (if one is not provided)
~Bathroom and glass cleaner (if there’s a bathroom)
~Disinfecting wipes to wipe down all the things
~Dish soap and brush
Wheh! That seems like a lot, doesn’t it! But don’t worry-you can get all the college essentials you need in one stop from Target!
Do you need some more dorm room advice? Check this out from my friends at Simply 2 Moms!
Shopping for a teen girl? My girls put together this gift guide!
Annmarie Christiano - simply2moms says
Great informative post Danielle! thanks for including our college post. 🙂
Of course! I meant to message you and tell you, but I got busy and forgot!
So much better than what I took to my first dorm room! Great suggestions!
Right! My grandma gave me a few things from her house, bought me some towels, and off I went!
Linda Johnston says
My girls commuicated before they went with their assigned roomates which meant they decided who would bring what of the common use items like fridge and microwave. Also, we pretty much only took her personal decorative things, clothes and items with her. we were able to preorder from bed bath and Beyond. That was a saver since we could join all the other familiesn the crowded but organized store to pick up our order, eliminate and add items after we unloaded our. car and got a good look at the space. Both had firm ideas about how to decorate. Next is decorating one’s first home. she is renovating now and the other who graduate and is till looking for a full time job looking forwardto her own place. More FUN for mom!
These are great tips! My daughter is going locally, so she is bringing a ton of stuff! We’re pretty much supplying everything for the four of them.