Things to Take to College Dorm

Many teens who head off to college and stay in the dorms will be living away from home for the first time. While dorm life can be a lot of fun, it typically offers only the bare minimum: a bed, bathrooms, a food plan, and laundry facilities. The rest is up to you.

Dorm Essentials

Because dorm amenities are usually so minimal, there are some essential items you will need for your daily activities.


The typical dorm has a single bed. Dorms usually don’t provide any bedding, however. To sleep comfortably, you will need the following:

  • A pillow
  • A mattress pad
  • One or two sets of twin or twin XL sized sheets and pillow cases (check with your school on what size to bring)
  • One or two blankets or a comforter

Shower/Bath Items

Few dorms have private baths. Instead, dorm living often means communal toilets and showers. In many cases, the showers are a walk down the hall from your room. Therefore, the following items are necessary.

  • A shower caddy to carry personal hygiene items to the bathroom
  • A bathrobe for trips to the shower or middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks
  • Shower shoes to prevent fungal infections
  • Several bath towels, hand towels, and wash cloths

Personal Hygiene

It’s easy to forget all of the items you will need for personal hygiene. When you move into the dorms, be sure to have the following:

  • Toothbrush and toothbrush holder
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Tissues
  • Mouthwash
  • Shower soap
  • Facial soap
  • Deodorant
  • Hair dryer
  • Hairbrush
  • Q-tips
  • Nail trimmers and nail file
  • Tweezers
  • Razors
  • Shaving cream
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Personal toiletries such as makeup, hair gel, moisturizer, etc.


Many dorms offer coin-operated washers and dryers in common areas. You will need to supply the rest. You will need:

  • A laundry basket or laundry bag
  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Stain remover
  • Rolls of quarters
  • An iron/ironing board if the dorm doesn’t have one available
  • Hangers
  • Drying rack (for drying fine washables)

Cleaning Supplies

Keeping your dorm room clean is a necessity. Purchase cleaning supplies and store them in a bucket in the back of a closet. For cleaning you will need:

  • Cleaning wipes
  • Window cleaner
  • Paper towels or reusable cloths
  • Small bagless vacuum or hand vacuum
  • Dish soap
  • Trash can liners
  • Other cleaning products you might need (for example, if your dorm room has its own bathroom, you may need to bring a toilet brush)

Health and Safety Supplies

It’s always good to have a few items on hand for emergencies, such as:

  • Assorted bandages
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Cold medication
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sun block
  • Prescriptions
  • Proof of health insurance card
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Locks or safe storage for valuables

Electronics and Computing

While some dorms have communal computers, most college students bring their own. Other electronics you will need include:

  • Computer or laptop
  • Computer cables
  • Ethernet cables (if dorm doesn’t have WiFi)
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Extension cords
  • Power extenders and surge protectors
  • Alarm clock

Optional Items

While you can get by without the following items, having them may make your time in the dorms more enjoyable.

Food Storage and Preparation

Even if you have a meal plan, you’ll probably want snacks from time to time. The following items are great for dorm rooms.

  • A dorm refrigerator typically fits underneath a desk and can be used to store small food items, leftovers, and cold beverages.
  • A small microwave allows you to heat foods, pop popcorn, or prepare hot beverages.
  • Plastic food storage containers allow you to store foods in a sealed environment, which discourages pests and keeps foods fresher
  • A set or two of dishes and silverware allows you to eat the occasional meal in your room.
  • A travel mug allows you to carry your beverage of choice to class or around the dorms.
  • A water bottle is a great way to stay hydrated.
  • Chip clips can help you close opened packages.
  • A can opener allows you to make a quick meal or midnight snack such as a can of soup.


Most dorms have common areas where you can congregate to listen to music, play games, or watch television. Many dorm dwellers also enjoy having their own personal entertainment items in their dorm rooms, such as:

  • Small television or TV/DVD combo
  • Digital music player and small speakers
  • Electronic tablet such as an iPad for playing games and reading books
  • Deck of cards


Since dorm rooms are often bare bones, you can bring items to increase your comfort including:

  • A soft mattress topper
  • A comfortable desk chair
  • Task lighting such as desk and bedside lamps
  • A small fan
  • A beanbag chair


Storage space is limited in dorm rooms. Typically, you will have a bank of drawers and a small closet. Therefore, it’s important to use valuable space for storage.

  • Under bed storage boxes will ensure you don’t waste the space under your mattress
  • Storage cubes can double as bedside tables
  • Desk caddies are perfect for storing pens and other desktop items
  • Stackable storage bins can be arranged around your room to create more storage.
  • Hanging storage, such as a shoe tree, can make the most of vertical closet and wall space.
  • Roll away storage carts can double as bedside tables.
  • Closet door organizers allow you to store toiletries and other items neatly.


Dorm rooms can be pretty plain, so it’s up to you to jazz it up. Consider the following decor items.

  • Decorative comforter and sham sets brighten up your bedding.
  • Colorful throw pillows turn your bed into extra seating.
  • A message board allows dorm mates to leave messages on your door.
  • Bulletin boards and push pins allow you to put up pictures and other meaningful items.
  • A throw rug can add warmth to the space.
  • Wall decor allows you to bring personality to your dorm room.
  • Decorative task lighting creates ambience and adds color.

Making the Most of a Small Space

If you know who your roommate(s) will be, you can coordinate on the big items so you don’t wind up with two of something that takes up valuable space, like a microwave or refrigerator. You can also coordinate with your roommate on decor and other space saving options. 

By coordinating with roommates and bringing all the items you need, you’ll be well on your way to comfortable dorm living.

If you need help downloading the printable checklist, check out these helpful tips.

Leave a Comment