What are things you need for a college dorm room? For many, that may be a question you find yourself asking as move-in day is less than a month away! Whether you are moving a student in for their first time, or moving in someone for another semester of college dorm room living, the list of things you need for a college dorm room can seem a bit daunting.

Never fear, we’re providing our list of things you need for a college dorm room so that your student can live their “best dorm life”! One thing to keep in mind when packing–less can sometimes be more. Keep in mind that the living space in a dorm is roughly 15×15 square feet, and it will be shared with another person. These quarters are likely to get very cozy so don’t go overboard on the knick-knacks. Also, it is a good idea for roommates to coordinate on who will be bringing larger items (seriously, you most likely will not need two area rugs).

Find out what is already there

Something else to check into before making purchases or packing up, is what will the dorm include. Many dorms today already have mini fridges, microwaves and stackable furniture. These all can be a lifesaver when it comes to saving on expenses and having less to move-in (and eventually move-out). Most colleges and universities have a wealth of information online through student housing that often includes room dimensions, furniture dimensions, etc. Take advantage of those resources before you pack up and head off for this new chapter of life.

Of course you’ll want the basics–bed linens, a backpack, soap, shampoo, clothing. But what are some other items you might need?

In this post, we’ve collaborated with first year students and parents, and students and parents who have lived through move-in day, but have also experienced dorm living. We hope you’ll find this list of things you need for a college dorm room helpful and of course, we’d love to get your feedback on what we’ve missed–so PLEASE, leave us a comment!

Foam Mattress Pad and Mattress Cover

Most beds in a dorm room are twin size and often require extra long (XL) linens. You will want to confirm this with your individual college or university before making purchases because you don’t want to arrive on campus and not have the stuff you need to create a comfy sleeping space. One of the first things you will want to bring along is a mattress cover–these mattresses have been in use for YEARS by HUNDREDS of students so an extra layer between you and the mattress is a good idea for hygiene purposes. In addition to a mattress cover, invest in a good foam mattrress pad (unless you don’t mind sleeping on VERY FIRM surfaces). This will be your home for the next several months so make sure your bed is comfortable. You will be glad that you took the time to make this a spot you look forward to. Below are two examples we recommend to “cover” the bedding category.

(FYI, you’ll of course want to bring along your own sheets, a pillow and a bedspread. Also, we’ve read in multiple online forums that one of the first things you will want to do when you arrive at your dorm is make the bed completely. As you unpack other items, your bed will be the space you use to unpack things and will be a valuable space.)

Clip on Bed Fan

Back in the day, most dorm rooms did not have air conditioning. Luckily for most students, A/C is included in dorm living but a little extra air flow can come in handy. Another nice thing about a fan–it makes a fairly economical “sound machine”. Dorm rooms can be a bit noisy and what happens if your roommate snores? Some extra sound can come in handy for a variety of reasons.

Over Fridge Storage Organizer:

Maximizing your dorm space is key and we love the design of this fabric storage caddy which offers pockets on both sides when placed over a mini-fridge. One side is perfect for small items such as cutlery, condiments, etc., and the other side is perfect for larger items such as plates. Another suggestion we’ve read on multiple forums is stock this with paper products on move-in day.

Collapsible Utility Wagon:

You may think you’ll have plenty of hands to help, but having something with some extra capacity is guaranteed to come in handy. Some folks choose a dolley but you can’t go wrong with one of these collapsible wagons. Tons of capacity and space, plus they fold down for easy storage when on the trip to and from move-in day. The plus with a collapsible wagon, they’re perfect for taking to the beach…can we say “MULTIPURPOSE”!

Heavy Duty Storage Bags/Totes:

This is one thing I would not have thought of, but it comes highly recommended by veteran college “movers”. These bags not only hold a ton of stuff, they have handles that are large enough to allow you to carry backpack style, they’re clear so you know what’s inside and they don’t take up much space when not in use. Comparable to the IKEA Frakta bag, these bags serve their purpose long after move-in day as they work great to transport things when your student packs up for a weekend visit back home.

Heavy Duty Storage Bags/Totes

Bed Husband Pillow:

It may seem like a luxury but those extra arms that hug and provide space to lean things on, prop your arms, etc. really does work better than a regular bed pillow. On top of that, your pillow is for sleeping and this works great for relaxing in between.

Rubber Mallet:

You’re gonna need some tools on move-in day. Since so much of the furniture in dorm rooms is stackable/interchangeable, a mallet is rated as one of the most valuable tools you can bring along on move-in day. Whether your student decides to loft a bed or not, a rubber mallet on college move-in day will most likely come in handy.

rubber mallet for college dorm room
Rubber Mallet

Disinfectant Wipes:

There really isn’t a lot to explain here. College students, dorm rooms, YEARS of use and occupancy–you’ll probably want some supplies on hand to give everything a good wipe down. We’re a fan of these Amazon brand (Solimo) disinfectant wipes–cheaper and just as effective as name brand wipes.

Over the Door Hanging Racks:

If for nothing else, have this for wet towels! Nothing is worse than finding a wet, mildewed towel in the bottom of a laundry basket. Go ahead and prevent that from happening by placing a rack with multiple hooks on the back of a door to hang towels after using. Not only is it convenient, if you hang towels up immediately after using, you will allow yourself to get multiple uses out of said towel, helping to avoid excessive trips to the laundry facilities. Other things that these racks come in handy for: hanging items such as an umbrella, jackets and hats. Again, a rack with multiple hooks is super handy.

things you need for a college dorm room Over the Door Hanging Racks for Dorm
Over the Door Hanging Racks

Multi-Outlet Power Strip with Long Cords (a couple of them):

You may be lucky to have three outlets in your dorm room. That’s six plug in ports for two people to share. Multiply the efficiency of those outlets by plugging in power strips. You can never have too many outlets.

First Aid Kit:

Accidents happen and people get sick. Unfortunately, you’ll be away from home so plan ahead. No one wants to have to make a trip to the drug store when they’re already under the weather. We LOVE this first aid kit that includes six common FDA approved medicine, first aid supplies, user friendly color coded instructions, and individually labeled unit dose meds. Plan ahead and have one of these in your dorm when you need it!

Long Ethernet Cable:

Most dorms will include WIFI and that may be sufficient. However, if you are moving a guy into a dorm that will also be bringing along a heavy duty gaming PC or gaming system, bring the ethernet cable and make sure it is long. You may not know where the port is until you arrive so we recommend one that is the perimeter of at least 1/2 of the room.

Over the Door Pantry Organizer:

Again, we go back to how important it is to maximize your limited space and that means using the space on the back of doors. An over the door organizer with multiple pockets well on closet doors, and the see through plastic makes it super easy to find things you’ve stashed away. So many things can be stored in one of these so you may want to consider purchasing a couple.

Over the Door Pantry Organizer

Extra Long Phone Charger:

This is a necessity, especially if you loft your bed.  Seriously, the outlet can be a longgg way away. Charging your phone is an essential to waking up on time, remembering your course schedule and keeping in touch with all of your new friends so be sure you have an extra long phone charger.

Lights, lights and more lights:

Those fluorescent dorm room lights can be harsh. Brighten up your room by hanging twinkling lights, with old string lights and of course, lamps. You can always turn the lights off, but if they aren’t there to begin with, well, you’ll just be sitting in the dark under one harsh fluorescent light.

dorm room lights

Pictures of friends, family and pets

Make your room more cozy and fight off home-sickness with pictures of your favorite memories and favorite people. You’ll fight to the death that your dog is the cutest dog that’s ever graced the face of the earth and you’ll need a picture to prove it. You can never bring too many photos.

pictures of family, friends and pets
Lots of pictures from home

Command Strips and Velcro:

Want to do a bit of decorating? Well, don’t take the hammer and nails because that won’t fly. In fact, many dorms have cinder block walls–so obviously, nails will be no match. Thank goodness for command strips which hold weighty objects and are easy to remove and reuse when you change your mind on where that poster needs to hang. Basic velcro comes in handy too–whether you need to anchor the power strip to the wall or close a gap around those light blocking curtains.

Basic Velcro

Step stool:

It’s easier to step onto a step stool than it is to crawl on top of your desk to reach stored items. Make sure it is collapsible because again, you’re looking to maximize space.

Storage Trunk:

This will be where you can store all of the extra things you accumulate through the year. Got an extra set of sheets? Put them in the trunk! Get a free foam finger at the basketball game? Put it in the trunk! Need a place to play a round of cards or use as “table”? Get a trunk! Want to escape your roommate for awhile? Get in the trunk! No, just kidding. Don’t do that, really, no don’t. But yes, get a trunk!

Light blocking curtains and blinds:

Saturday finally arrives and you have plans to sleep until noon. Don’t let Mother Nature ruin those plans with sunshine streaming in your room at 7 a.m. Light blocking curtains or shades can come in super handy depending upon where your dorm is located. However, you may not want to use them during the week.

Bluetooth Sleep Mask:

We’ve already mentioned the Clip On Fan, but you may need a bit more to tolerate a noisy roommate who doesn’t have class till noon and they “study better late at night”. This bluetooth sleep mask can ensure you get the sleep you need by blocking the light from your roommate’s desk lamp and the incessant clicking of their keyboard.

sleep mask for your college dorm room
Bluetooth Sleep Mask


Whether they’re fake or live, plants and greenery will liven up your room and make it feel more homey. Not only is it important for your dorm room to be a place where you can be productive academically, but it also needs to be a place where you can relax.  Besides, some people claim the oxygen plants produce can help you study! Maybe? Well, it’s worth a try.

plants for your college dorm room

Bedside Caddy:

Access to a bedside table may not exist, especially if you choose to loft your bed. A bedside storage organizer such as the one below has two cloth pockets and four mesh pockets, that are suitable for things of various sizes. Maybe you want to keep your phone, iPad, or water bottle at arms length. If so, this bedside storage organizer should do the trick.

Amazon – Prime Student:

And if something is forgotten, it will be ok. For some, a trip back home may be an option, and if not, there is always Amazon. If you already have an Amazon account, you can request items to be shipped to your student–just be sure to update the shipping information at check out. If you don’t have Amazon, an account especially for students is available for $59 per year and includes a FREE 6 month trial membership.

That wraps up our recommendations for things you need for a college dorm room! What did we miss? We’d love to hear from you and get your feedback on what you consider to be college dorm room must-haves so leave us a comment!

(This post contains affiliate links.  Learn why we include affiliate links in our content by visiting our Affiliate Disclosure Statement page.)

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