15 Most Essential Items for a College Dorm

15 most essential items for a college dorm cover photo

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Yes, this post might seem premature as most college students don’t know what their semester will look like this fall. However, I always find that it’s good to be prepared for every situation. If you will be new to the dorms next semester, here are the 15 most essential items for a college dorm that saved me my freshman year.

1. A mattress topper

Most lists similar to this also include a mattress topper, and for good reason. The mattresses in college dorms aren’t really mattresses, but a flimsy piece of foam instead. Once you move into college, that is your home. You will sleep in that bed more than you do at your house for the rest of the year, so you want to make sure it’s as comfy as possible. Mattress toppers can get pricey, but the one below is THE most valuable for its price point. It literally doesn’t get any better. Pro tip: dorm beds are Twin XL, so keep an eye out for that size when buying any sort of bedding.

a mattress topper is also one of the most essential items for a college dorm
This is the exact mattress topper that I bought, and it is AMAZING. Click the pic to buy 🙂

2. A fan

Now THIS is truly an essential. During the first three weeks of my freshman year, New York City had a record long heat wave where it was at least 95 degrees every single day. The kicker? My dorm building didn’t have air conditioning. And that’s honestly the reality for many college dorm buildings. Even after the heat wave passed, I don’t think I slept under my covers until October. My fan was my best friend, and it will be yours too.

a fan is definitely an essential item for a college dorm, especially if there's a heat wave during the first few weeks of school

3. Mirror

Most dorm rooms come with one mirror mounted to the wall, but if you have more than one roommate you might want to bring an extra. Sometimes it’s hard to share one mirror, especially if you are all getting ready to go out at the same time. Target or Amazon have small, lightweight mirrors that are easy to mount onto your closet door with Command Strips no problem.

4. Speaking of Command Strips…

These are so essential for all of your decor and storage. They are great to prevent paint chips come the end of the year when you need to move out so that you don’t get charged with room damage. Fair warning: make sure you use the correct type of Command Strip for what you need. I once used the wrong type, and tore all the paint of my wall that cost a whopping $50 in damage.

These are perfect for heavier decor like picture frames or white boards!

5. Extension Cord

Coming in hot at number 5 in the most essential items for a college dorm is the oh so mundane extension cord. For some reason, dorm rooms are laid out in ways that make zero sense. One side of the room could have 10 outlets while the other only has 2, so an extension cord is absolutely necessary for a dorm room. Make sure to check your school’s dorm building regulations, as many require extension cords to have surge protection.

6. A rubber mallet

You’re probably thinking “what? A rubber mallet? For what?” My freshman year, my mom randomly threw this into our car on our way out of the house to go up to Fordham for the first time, and thank goodness she did. While many Universities allow bed risers for their dorms, mine did not. Most college students, however, like to raise their beds a little higher than the default setting to create space for storage bins underneath. Fordham’s dorm beds are adjustable but nearly impossible to change… unless you have a rubber mallet! So, if your school is like Fordham and doesn’t allow bed risers, don’t forget the mallet.

7. A super long phone charger

Like I said, you never know where you’re outlets will be in your dorm. Pair that with a lofted bed, and a standard length phone charger won’t cut it anymore. I recommend getting a charger that’s at least 10 ft long, because there’s nothing worse than having to stretch your arm out as far as it can go just to reply to a text.

8. Shower shoes

If you’ve never worn shoes in a public shower before, you’re gonna want to start. ASAP. Even before covid, college bathrooms were gross. Now that we’re living in a pandemic, you’ll want to be as protective as possible. While not all college dorms have communal bathrooms, most of the time the freshman dorms do. These shower shoes are sure to get you through the year (not to mention they’re super cute):

shower shoes are a classic college essential! make sure your pair is sturdy and cute

9. A laundry bin

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I get the feeling that a laundry bin might be easily forgotten on people’s college packing lists. There’s always that one boy in the laundry room using a whole suitcase for his laundry bin. Obviously you do you, but that’s not always the most convenient vessel for your dirty clothes. The bin below comes in a variety of patterns and colors to fit any dorm aesthetic, and has a few sizes to choose from! I would go for the largest size since there’s nothing worse than doing laundry 3 times a week just because your bin is full.

laundry baskets- a college dorm essential, but sometimes overlooked

10. Drying Rack

I didn’t have this item in my dorm until my sophomore year, but I wish I had thought to bring one my freshman year. Overall, college laundry facilities can be unreliable. For your clothes that will shrink in the drier, are delicate, or you’re afraid will get stolen (awful yes, but it does happen), I recommend getting a collapsable drying rack for your laundry. My freshman year, I just ended up draping my wet clothes over my desk chair or closet door, which was unsightly and inconvenient.

a drying rack is definitely a college dorm essential that i wish i had last year

11. A multi-level storage cart

Storage is extremely hard to come by in a college dorm. I mentioned earlier that many students like to raise their bed for extra storage underneath, but if you live in a triple like I did my freshman year, you might have bunk beds that make this option impossible. In a room where storage space is already hard to come by, bunk beds make it even harder. This multi-level storage cart is an absolute lifesaver because it offers 3 different levels while only taking up the room of one. It’s great for snacks, books, cleaning supplies, or any other items that don’t have another place in your room.

12. Utensils

If you live in a dorm without your own kitchen, you might think you don’t have a need for your own utensils. I am here to tell you that you are wrong. I can’t count the amount times I’ve gotten yogurts from the grocery store for breakfast only to not have a spoon to eat it, or when I get a bagel to-go and don’t have a knife for the cream cheese. It’s seriously so frustrating. I recommend getting maybe one or two sets of utensils instead of buying plastic ones just to be a little more eco-friendly. A quick wash in the sink will do just fine to clean them off 🙂

frequently forgotten, utensils are definitely essential for a college dorm!
This bamboo set is the perfect eco-friendly utensil set! Even comes with a toothbrush 🙂

13. Cleaning supplies

These will go so fast I’m sure, but cleaning supplies are so essential for a college dorm. College is one giant germ fest, so it’s so important to wipe down your surfaces at least once a week to disinfect. Don’t forget: paper towels, disinfecting wipes, dish soap (for your utensils and water bottle), a duster, and a big ol’ pump bottle of hand sanitizer.

A great cleaning set to get you started. Eco-friendly too!

14. A diffuser/humidifier

I didn’t get a diffuser/humidifier for my dorm room until late my sophomore year, and that might just be my biggest regret so far. No joke, my diffuser changed my life. Dare I say that this humidifier is 100% the most essential item for a college dorm. If you go to college without everything else on this list except for the humidifier, you will be okay. Dorm rooms are so dry to the point where it is legitimately painful. The dry air keeps me from sleeping, literally makes me sick, and is just uncomfy. Sometimes diffusers are prohibited by dorm regulations, but if you get a small one and tuck it out of sight during room inspection, you should be okay (don’t worry, I won’t tell).

A humidifier is THE most essential item in a college dorm.
I love this thing so freaking much <3

15. A speaker

There’s seriously nothing better than the immaculate vibes of a Friday night with early 2000s on the aux getting ready to go out. Your computer speaker will only go so loud, and once your friends starting showing up, your tunes will get drowned out. My speaker is perfect for a dorm room because it’s small but mighty. I can also bring it with me to the quad for a relaxing afternoon in the sun, or to a club meeting for a pizza party.

And that ends my 15 most essential items for a college dorm! While I am definitely crossing my fingers that we get to go back to campus next semester, I want every decision to ultimately ensure everyone’s health. Leaving home to go to college can be scary, but knowing you are fully prepared with your dorm can bring some peace of mind. Keep an eye out for more college content as we approach the school year!

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