Many students find themselves shopping for dorm items not fully knowing their future needs. Imagining yourself in a situation that you’ve never experienced can be difficult. Many lists found online and in stores can be so comprehensive that some items seem like overkill. So how do you know what to put on your college dorm list?
Take it from college students firsthand and learn what their beyond-the-basic college dorm list essentials are and what they wish they hadn’t brought.
What to bring:
1. Coffee maker
Caffeine becomes a good friend of many college students. From early morning classes to study sessions where you don’t want to leave your dorm, having a coffee maker in your dorm increases convenience. “Living in a dorm, I definitely found that a coffee machine was the most important item in my room, especially during exam season,” said University of Florida sophomore Justin Rietberg. This also can save some money by making fewer trips to coffee shops. For students looking for caffeine who don’t drink coffee, a water heater and lots of tea bags alternates a coffee maker.
After an intense day of classes, you’re going to want a cozy place to relax and destress at the end of the day or in the middle of the day for a quick nap. A foam mattress topper effectively creates this space. A mattress topper makes the thin college mattress more comfortable and hygienic. Sara Sarmiento, a junior and resident assistant at a liberal arts college in Massachusetts recommends a mattress topper and an extra set of sheets to her residents and all college students. “The biggest essential is a mattress topper so you can have quality rest at school,” she said. Having two sets of sheets allows students to alternate between laundry trips.
3. Wall decor
Dorm walls are an empty canvas waiting for your creativity and personal taste to fill them. Because walls can’t be painted, wall decor can add a touch to your dorm to make it your sanctuary. “My dorm felt like home when I added nice lights and a tapestry of Frida Kahlo. I also have a warm blanket and pillows to unwind on my bed, and I put art and pictures of happy memories it reminds me of home,” Sarmiento said. Jenna Callison, a UF sophomore, decorated her walls with posters and pictures of her loved ones. “I always looked at these when I felt homesick or missed my friends,” she said. Lights, posters, tapestries and photos are some of the ways you can cover up your walls to your liking.
If you’re in a dorm with communal showers, a shower caddy and shower shoes make this experience as smooth and hygienic as possible. Shop for a shower caddy that fits your needs best –– Do you want one that hangs? Do you want a compact caddy? Do you want a different sink caddy and shower caddy? Keep questions like this in mind as you’re looking around. Shower shoes become essential for walking down the hall to shower for hygienic reasons. “Private stalls are private for a reason. You can’t see what happens in there. When you go in, even though they are washed, you just don’t know how well they’ve been washed and it’s just a lot of risk,” said Natalia Rovira, a University of Miami sophomore. When sharing a shower with multiple people, protecting yourself enables you to stay healthy.
A mini fridge can be found in most dorm rooms and is often split among roommates. A small refrigerator with a freezer provides more storage possibilities. “One thing I wish I would have brought that I didn’t was a mini fridge that has a freezer on it,” Callison said. Mini fridges come in handy for students without a meal plan to keep fresh groceries and cook often so that they don’t eating out for every meal. Students with a meal plan can bring back food and fruit from the dining hall for a later moment.
Bonus items to bring:
- Water jug with a filter: Fill this up at a sink and keep it in your mini fridge so that you don’t have to head to the water fountain as often.
- Command strips/hooks: These adhesive strips attach posters and other items to the wall in a way that doesn’t damage it.
- Tupperware: Whether you’re cooking or bringing some food back from the dining hall, Tupperware conveniently helps with storage.
- Lamps: Brighten up your space with a desk lamp or another lamp.
What not to bring:
Most dorms have a common area with a microwave. “I found it was kind of redundant to have a microwave in our room because we had one in the common room kitchen,” Rietberg said. Stepping out to the common kitchen allows you to take a study break and change your atmosphere, even if it’s only for a few minutes. It also saves space (and potentially smell) in your dorm room.
Nowadays, a lot of people watch TV from their laptops. Not only are college students busy with limited time to watch TV, but when they do so, a streaming website will usually be their go-to. TVs take up a lot of surface space, since they can’t be attached to a dorm wall, and will likely not be used often. Similar to a microwave, many dorms have common TVs, so you can have movie nights or watch a show with your hallmates.
3. Excessive school supplies
College students do more work via computers than you might expect. Even pen and paper note-takers find themselves using computers for assignments and studying more than they did in high school. For this reason, it may not be necessary to bring the same amount of school supplies that you used in high school. “I think that students don’t need to bring school supplies that are typical in high school because pretty much everything is done online,” Callison said. Bring the items that you think will allow you to do best.
4. Clothes you won’t wear
Pack for the seasons. Space in dorm closets can be limited and you won’t want to have something that you’re not using. “I brought all my sweaters down too early for it to be cold, and left them long after it was warm. You’re wasting space, chill, you need like a third of the clothing you have,” said UF sophomore Kat Hutt. If your schedule permits and you attend a school with warm weather at the start of the fall semester and at in the spring, you can bring more cold weather clothes after Thanksgiving Break and take them back home during Spring Break.
5. Vacuum cleaner
Yes, we encourage you to clean your dorm, but you may not need to bring a vacuum cleaner to school with you. Depending on your school’s accommodations, they likely provide vacuum cleaners to their students so that the cleaning supplies you personally bring are more limited and don’t take up as much space. “I had a Swiffer to pick up dust and dirt on the floor but I realized by the end of the year that I didn’t have to have it with me necessarily because the front desk gives out vacuum cleaners to people who request them,” Rovira said. With the carpets that many dorms have, you’ll definitely want to vacuum the floor, but bringing your own may just take up unnecessary space.
Bonus items not to bring:
- Desktop: Most college students use laptops or tablets because they are portable, so a desktop may be redundant.
- Printer: Many colleges have free printing, so bringing your own printer would help with convenience but is not necessary.
- Bulky furniture: Unless you have secure summer storage in your college town, make sure that you can take home anything you bring to your dorm.
Moving into your college dorm usually marks the first step of your college career and bringing the right items allow it to be a place that you look forward to coming back to at the end of the day and having friends over.
Whether you stay in a dorm throughout college or move into an apartment, many of these items help you enjoy your college experience and supplement a smooth transition. Having the right items will help create an excellent dorm experience, but the people you’re with will supplement that.
“The dorm felt like home because I had people I enjoyed coming home to every day. If you’re on a social floor, lucky you, but if not, reach out and make some friends,” Hutt said. Dorm life can feel like home with good preparation and great company.