Dorm Essentials: Everything You Need for College

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by Staff Writers

Published on October 5, 2021 · Updated on March 4, 2022

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Dorm Essentials: Everything You Need for College

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That first move onto a college campus can feel intimidating. Effective preparation can help ease some of those new-school jitters.

We've compiled the top 40 dorm room essentials to help you with the move-in process. These items can add comfort to your dorm room and help you find academic success. After double-checking this list, students can rest easy knowing they have what they need to begin the school year.

Keep reading to see what essential dorm items rise to the top.

Top 40 Dorm Essentials for College Students

Bedding and Sleep | Shower and Bath | Laundry | Storage | Room Essentials | Desk and School Supplies

true Price Legend

$ = Under $10 | $$ = $10-$25 | $$$ = $25-$50 | $$$$ = Over $50

Bedding and Sleep


Our Recommendation: Mellanni Bed Sheet Set

Most colleges only provide students with a mattress. Incoming students must purchase sheets for their beds. Many dorm beds require twin XL sheets, but students should confirm the mattress size before they buy anything. Students also should consider buying more than one set of sheets so they always have a clean set handy.


Our Recommendation: Bare Home Extra Long Twin Comforter Set

Not all dorms offer thermostat control for each room. To stay warm and cozy, you should buy a comforter for your bed. Consider choosing a hypoallergenic comforter to minimize allergens in your dorm room.


Our Recommendation: Utopia Bedding Premium Plush Gel Pillows

Finding a comfortable pillow is important. Good pillows can help improve your sleep quality and reduce the chances of neck and back strain. Standard-size pillows also offer the most options when choosing pillowcases.


Our Recommendation: Green Orange Fleece Blanket

Everyone needs a cozy blanket, and this 90-by-90-inch fleece option is a great choice for a dorm room. Students can use this lightweight and breathable blanket during all seasons. For those averse to wool, it can be a great alternative. These fleece blankets come in more than 30 color options.

Mattress Cover

Our Recommendation: SafeRest Extra Long Twin Premium Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector

Colleges typically reuse the same mattresses year after year. Who knows where your mattress has been? Students should consider buying a mattress cover to fully wrap their mattress before putting on any bedding. These covers can help keep bedding clean.

Mattress Pad

Our Recommendation: LINENSPA Gel-Infused Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Not all college mattresses provide the same level of comfort as your mattress at home. A mattress pad can add a layer of cushion and comfort to a dorm room bed. Students can customize the size of the pad to fit their mattress. They can even choose the level of thickness for the pad itself.


Our Recommendation: Mack's Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs

Many college dorms bustle with activity, even late into the night. Most students go to bed at different times, including your future roommates. You may want to purchase earplugs for sleeping to block out ambient noise, particularly if you are a light sleeper.

Eye Mask

Our Recommendation: Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask

Dorm room curtains may not block out all ambient light, and roommates don't always share the same bedtime. Students can purchase eye masks to block out both exterior and interior light while they sleep. An added bonus: These masks also can come in handy for napping during the day!

Alarm Clock

Our Recommendation: DreamSky Compact Digital Alarm Clock With USB Port

Waking up for early classes can be a struggle. This compact digital alarm clock can be a valuable tool in any dorm room. Boasting a discreet design and large display, this clock is user-friendly and also acts as a USB charging port.

Shower and Bath

Shower Caddy

Our Recommendation: Attmu Mesh Shower Caddy

Most dorms provide communal showers. Students cannot leave personal items like shampoo, conditioner, and soap in the bathroom. To keep everything organized and easily transportable, students should purchase a shower caddy. They can store shower caddies in their rooms without sacrificing much space.

Shower Flip-Flops

Our Recommendation: Finleoo Shower Sandal Slippers With Drainage Holes

Students should avoid walking barefoot in a communal shower. An easy solution: Buy slippers specifically for showering. These shower shoes keep feet clean and don't get waterlogged when worn inside the shower.

Bath Towels

Our Recommendation: Utopia Bath Towel Set

Before heading to college, students need to add bath towels to their must-have list. Universities typically do not provide towels in the bathrooms. So be sure to purchase your own.


Our Recommendation: Simplicity Luxurious Plush Kimono Bathrobe

In most dorms, reaching the communal shower requires walking through a public hallway. Bathrobes help students stay covered and feel comfortable while walking through that public space. Most college showers provide hooks to hang towels and bathrobes.


Clothes Hangers

Our Recommendation: AmazonBasics Velvet Non-Slip Clothes Hangers

While many colleges provide closet and wardrobe space, they do not give students hangers for their clothes. To maximize space, students should hang as many clothes as they can. They can purchase thin hangers in bulk to make the most out of their closet space.

Laundry Basket

Our Recommendation: DOKEHOM Laundry Basket

Dorms do not provide in-unit washers and dryers. A laundry basket can help you carry dirty laundry between your dorm room and the communal laundry room.


Under-Bed Storage Bags

Our Recommendation: Lifewit Under-Bed Clothes Organizer

If a college dorm room is small, maximizing space is a necessity. Students who don't loft their beds (or don't have the option to loft) can purchase under-bed storage bags. These can help make the most of limited space options. Consider buying multiple storage bags for clothes, shoes, extra school supplies, and winter gear.

Storage Ottoman

Our Recommendation: YOUDENOVA Storage Ottoman Cube

Space management plays an important role in a small dorm room. A storage ottoman provides a comfortable footrest or seat while offering additional storage space. Students can select a color that matches their decor and keep useful items such as blankets and remotes stored away until needed.

Hanging Closet Organizer

Our Recommendation: SimpleHouseware Hanging Closet Organizer

Hanging closet organizers offer an alternative way to use closet space. Shoes, hats, and other clothing items that can't fit on a hanger can go in this shelving unit. Students can easily collapse the organizer when it is not in use — it can be packed away until it's needed again.

Room Essentials

Desk Fan

Our Recommendation: Genesis Tabletop and Clip Fan

Many dorms do not have air conditioning. A fan with adjustable heights and speeds can help you stay cool, even during the hottest days of the year.

Trash Can

Our Recommendation: Greenco Mesh Trash Can

Some dorms don't provide in-room trash cans or recycling bins. So students should consider buying their own. Without an in-room trash can, the closest trash receptacle may be down the hall. Having a nearby trash can also cut down on messes and clutter.


Our Recommendation: BLACK+DECKER Compact Refrigerator

While colleges provide places to eat on campus, students may want something a little more conveniently located. A minifridge allows students to keep snacks and specialty food items that dining halls may not provide.

Handheld Vacuum

Our Recommendation: BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster Handheld Vacuum

Students should consider investing in a handheld vacuum to clean up dust, food crumbs, and dirt. Handheld vacuums are easy to use and don't take up much space.

Area Rug

Our Recommendation: Andecor Soft Fluffy Bedroom Rug

Many dorm rooms don't have carpeted floors. An area rug can help make your room feel cozier, keep your feet warmer, and add a little style. Before you order a rug, measure your room. This can ensure you buy the right size.

Coffee Maker

Our Recommendation: Chefman InstaCoffee Single Serve Coffee Maker

While most colleges offer coffee in the dining hall or on-campus coffee shops, students don't always have time to wait in line. A personal coffee maker allows students to make coffee whenever they want. It could also help save money in the long run.

Microwaveable Food Storage Set

Our Recommendation: Rubbermaid Storage Containers

These plastic containers can help students store leftovers, prep meals, and stay organized. The containers' splatter-resistant vents even help to minimize microwave messes.

Utensil Set

Our Recommendation: Devico Portable Utensils

Having a few sets of utensils on hand in your dorm room can come in handy when you want to eat meals or snacks without visiting the dining hall. This set features chopsticks and metal straws, in addition to a fork, knife, and spoon.


Our Recommendation: Stanley Thermos Tumbler

This tumbler keeps drinks hot for seven hours and cold for up to 30 hours. It has a double-walled vacuum construction and a trigger lid that makes it easy to drink with one hand. The leak-proof lid is an added bonus.

Water Bottle

Our Recommendation: Thermoflask Insulated Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is important to a healthy lifestyle. Students can buy a reusable water bottle to fill at public water fountains or in the dining hall. These bottles also reduce plastic waste and can help save money.

Poster Strips

Our Recommendation: Command Poster Strips

Give your dorm room a more personalized touch by hanging things in your room. These strips allow you to hang posters, lights, and other decorations on the wall, minimizing the risk of damage. Using and removing these adhesive strips is simple and doesn't create a mess.

Pepper Spray Keychain

Our Recommendation: SABRE Advanced Pepper Spray Keychain With Quick Release

Colleges attempt to keep students safe on campus, but it may not hurt to take extra precautions. Students can consider buying a pepper spray keychain to keep with them at all times, especially when walking across campus at night. Keep the pepper spray in an easily accessible place, such as in your pocket.

Tapestry Wall Hanging

Our Recommendation: EMMTEEY Thin Tapestry Wall Hanging

Personalize a generic dorm room or living space with this vintage-inspired tapestry of a fir forest landscape. The machine-washable tapestry comes in six sizes and various color combinations. You can use the seamless nails provided or your own double-sided strips to affix the tapestry to the wall.

Foldable Chair

Our Recommendation: Urban Shop Faux Fur Folding Saucer Chair

Featuring style and functionality, this faux fur saucer chair can be an excellent addition to any dorm room. In addition to its cozy material, this foldable chair boasts a sturdy construction. This multifunctional seating option supports up to 225 pounds.

Hanging Photo Display

Our Recommendation: LECLSTAR Photo Clip String Lights

Looking to boost your dorm room's atmosphere? Photo clip string lights can offer an inexpensive and stylish decorative touch. Utilize these warm, white LED lights in myriad ways while also using the accompanying clips to display photos and other memories.

Desk and School Supplies

Desk Lamp

Our Recommendation: AFROG Multifunctional LED Desk Lamp

A functional and stylish desk lamp is a dorm room essential. This desk lamp not only has five lighting modes but also offers a USB charging port and wireless charger. It also has an energy-saving auto-off timer and weighs just over 1 pound.

Desktop Organizer

Our Recommendation: MDHAND Desk Organizer

Desktop organizers can help students keep their workspaces tidy. Different baskets and compartments allow students to store supplies they need to complete assignments. These supplies include pencils and pens, sticky notes, highlighters, and paperclips.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Our Recommendation: TOZO T6 Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

With a user-friendly design and a reasonable price, these earbuds can help students in need of noise-canceling headphones. The waterproof design also may be good for students looking for earbuds to wear while working out.

Wireless Mouse

Our Recommendation: ZERU Wireless Bluetooth Mouse

Many students need a laptop or a tablet for classes. However, exclusively using track pads may not be good for their wrists. A wireless mouse transports easily and may improve the user experience.

Power Strip

Our Recommendation: GE Six-Outlet Surge Protector

Power strips turn one electrical outlet into several, allowing students to plug in multiple items at once. A power strip can increase the number of options for plugging in lamps, charging devices, and more.


Our Recommendation: Clever Fox Daily Planner

Staying organized may help students do better in their classes. A planner can ease stress by helping students record class assignments and track deadlines. Planners readily fit into a backpack or bag.


Our Recommendation: Matein Travel Laptop Backpack

Students need a backpack to transport books, devices, notebooks, and other school supplies to and from class. These bags offer comfort and durability, with plenty of pockets for storage.

Feature Image: James Woodson / DigitalVision / Getty Images

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