What to Bring to a College Dorm: Checklist

After getting a bunch of college acceptance letters from your top-choice schools and selecting the one that you like the most, there’s a very important step you need to take: preparing to move to your college dormitory, which will serve as your home away from home during your stint as a freshman student.

You should fill your dorm room with all the must-haves for all teens, from the ones that you will need to study to the ones that you will need to eat or stay entertained.

However, you can only put as many items in your college dorm.

In this article, I will tell you the various dorm room essentials to pack, dividing them into 7 groups to make it easier to stay neat and organized as you gear up for your life as a first-year college teen.

College Dorms: What to Expect

Before we talk about each individual category, it is essential that you understand what to expect from a college dorm.

You should have a general idea of the amount of space you have for your stuff and what kinds of furniture are included in a college dorm.

College dorms are typically 12 feet by 19 feet, which gives the two students living there 228 square feet. This means that you will only have about 114 square feet of space to keep your stuff, so you really need to pack light when going to college.

While you should pack light so that you have enough room for all of your stuff, you should also make sure you don’t forget anything that you’ll need later on in the semester.

Another thing to be aware of in college dorms are the furnishing in your dorm.

Most dorms have at least a bed, a desk, and a closet or wardrobe.

These things take up some of that space, though if you have a closet, it is probably set in the wall so it will give you a little more room.

Some dorms even have a small counter for making simple meals or a nightstand. Whatever the specific furnishings of your dorm, be prepared for the amount of space you will have.

Top 7 Things to Bring to College Dorm

1. Bedding (Mattress Cover, Sheets, Pillow)

Bedding items are the very first category of college dorm stuff to include in your checklist for the semester. While dorms have beds and mattresses, they do not have bedding, so you need to bring your own.

Bedding includes a mattress cover, a fitted sheet, a top sheet, a pillow, and any other pillows or blankets you want to include.

Most students have a comforter as well.

A mattress cover is often required to keep students from damaging the mattresses if accidents happen. You can also get a mattress pad, as many college mattresses are quite stiff and uncomfortable.

A super important detail to know about college dorm beds is that pretty much all of them are twin XL beds.

This way, they are longer for taller people, but not wider to preserve any extra space in the room. College dorm beds are often rather tall to conserve space as well.

A tall bed makes room for storage underneath it. Some beds even have drawers on the bottom of them as built-in storage.

Can You Bring Your Own Mattress to College?

Most colleges provide mattresses for students, so bringing your own may is unnecessary. College dorms typically offer bed frames, so you must go with the predefined size even if you choose to bring your own mattress.

However, bringing a foam mattress topper to make the standard bed more comfortable is a good idea.

Do College Dorms Have Pillows?

Since colleges only offer bed frames and mattresses, other bedding items, such as pillows, you must bring yourself. Also, don’t forget the pillowcases.

Is a Duvet or Comforter Better for College

Comforters are better than duvets for colleges for two reasons: comforters are cheaper and warmer, especially if the dorm room is too cold. On the other hand, duvets are harder to maintain for college students.

2. Clothing And Laundry Items

Bedding is incredibly important, and so is clothing.

You need to make sure you have all of the clothing you will need. This is where packing compactly can get difficult, especially for those with an extensive wardrobe.

You might be tempted to take every pair of pants you own and every top to go with them, but the reality is that you don’t have room for all of that; you will need to narrow your college clothing options down.

One of the best ways to do this is to first asses what kind of weather you will have while you are at school. If you are living in a dorm during a winter semester, you will want to have a coat, pants, boots, and sweaters to keep you warm.

If you are going for a summer semester, then you should take short sleeve shirts, dresses or skirts, and lighter pants and shorts to keep you cool.

Don’t bring clothes for every season, just the season that you are going to be there for.

Another great way to pack lightly is to plan out the outfits you will want to wear.

This does not mean planning out every outfit for every day, but instead, putting together a general idea of the kinds of outfits you will wear.

Maybe you want to wear nice tops and pants, or maybe you are just going to wear hoodies every day. Plan for your aesthetic and create more of a capsule wardrobe.

This way, you can leave the clothes that don’t fit into any of those outfits at home and give you more space.

One other huge part of the clothing category is laundry supplies. Your dorm probably has an in-house laundry room, and if it doesn’t, you will have to go to the laundromat to do your laundry.

You should bring a laundry basket, detergent, fabric softener, stain remover, dryer sheets, and a lint brush.

You should also bring clothes hangers and a small sewing kit to take care of your clothes properly.

3. Toiletries

Next up are toiletries.

This category is non-negotiable for obvious reasons.

You should want to smell and look clean and presentable at college when meeting new friends, going to class, and going on dates.

While you should not pack every hygiene item under the sun, you also should not skimp out on hygiene products.

When packing toiletries, you should pack everything that you use daily, weekly, and bi-weekly.

This is a good rule to go by so you don’t pack something that you will use once or twice during the semester and it will just take up storage space.

If you stick to this rule, you will have everything you need to keep yourself properly groomed throughout the semester. Toiletries also include things like towels and washcloths.

Many dorms have communal showers in them, which means that you will need a few extra items when packing your toiletries.

You should bring a shower caddy and shower shoes. The shoes can just be a pair of flip-flops, but you do not want to step on the shared shower floor with your bare feet, as it can be quite unsanitary.

You will want a shower caddy so that all of your shower toiletries, like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, razors, etc., stay in one place.

This way, you can just take the whole caddy with you and you will never forget to bring one item or another.

4. Room Decor and Family Pictures

The next category of college dorm essentials is the decor.

Some students don’t care about having decor in their dorm, so if you want to skip this step entirely, you can do that. However, there are some great benefits to decorating your dorm.

Again, you should not pack an excessive amount of decor items, but definitely pack what you will use. You can even plan out how you are going to decorate before going to school so you will have everything you need.

Decorating your dorm can really benefit a student mentally. You are going to be living on your own, and you should make your living space as inviting as possible. This way, you feel like you come home every night instead of just going back to the four bare walls.

Bring pictures, decor you have in your room at home, and some sort of lighting.

Pictures can help you feel like your friends and family are there with you, decor from your room at home can help the room feel familiar, and some sort of lighting will help make the room feel cozier in the evenings.

Any other decor should help keep your space feeling like home. Your decor can also help you save space, like a shelf, organizational items, and hooks to maximize the wall space available.

5. School Supplies

At the end of the day, you are living in a college dorm because you are a student at a school.

This means you will need to have school supplies with you. For some, school supplies are just their laptop and a charger.

However, it is a good idea to at least have a couple of notebooks, a desk lamp, some pens and pencils, a highlighter, and an eraser. If your major requires you to have other supplies, you should include those too.

This category of supplies is usually contained on or in the desk in your dorm, or in your backpack, so be aware of how much space you have for those things. In addition, it is also a very good idea to get a power strip.

This way, you can plug in your lamp, laptop charger, phone charger, and any other items that require an outlet without needing to hunt for a new outlet that might not even be there.

6. Kitchen Items

One category that often gets overlooked is the kitchen items category.

Many students don’t consider bringing kitchen items because college dorms don’t really have kitchens.

However, if the cafeteria is closed late at night or you miss a meal for whatever reason, you are going to want to have some food options in your dorm and ways to prepare them.

This does not mean you need pots and pans, but rather a few easy things to prepare when you don’t have any other options.

One major kitchen item that people don’t always think about getting is a microwave.

If individual microwaves are allowed, you should get one for your dorm and a mug. There are meals called microwave mug meals, and you can look up recipes for these mug meals.

You pretty much put all of the ingredients in the mug and microwave it, and then you can make things like pasta, pizza, soup, and even muffins in the mug. You can also keep microwavable meals on hand for late-night study sessions.

A couple other kitchen items that would be great to have on hand during the semester are a can opener, a mini fridge, a kitchen knife, a cutting board, a plate, a bowl, and eating utensils.

Keep in mind, these are items that you will use when you need to make a simple meal to eat and the dorm kitchen or the cafeteria is closed.

A mini fridge is especially helpful to have so that no food items go bad, you can keep drinks and other snacks cold as well.

7. Personal Items and Documents

Finally, you should make sure you have any other personal items that you will use or want to have with you. This category is quite miscellaneous, as everyone has different essentials for them, but we will give you some ideas of items you might want to have.

These things are in no way essential to being a student, but remembering to bring them will help you feel more at home and more prepared.

You might want to bring any musical instruments that you play frequently like a guitar, ukulele, flute, or whatever it is that you play. Just make sure they are small enough to not take up too much space.

Bring a journal to document your college experiences.

It is a bummer when you have something crazy happen to you in college and you don’t have anywhere to write it down. You can also bring a skateboard if you want to skate to class or just enjoy going to skate parks.

Whatever your personal items are, don’t forget to bring them for times when you have nothing else to do.

Personal items not only include hobbies, but they also include documents like insurance cards, driver’s license, student ID, and your social security card.

You are an adult now, and you never know when you might need any form of documentation.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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