18 Dorm Room Essentials You Must Pack

As your student starts shopping for their dorm room, you’ll want to keep these 18 essentials in mind. Having put two daughters through college and graduate school, I can say with confidence that living in a dormitory is so much easier and more pleasant for them with these must haves in their room our suite.

Also, do not, I repeat, do not shop without checking a college or university’s housing office’s list of banned items. You do not want to spend your hard-earned money on — and your freshman to catch a fine because they brought — something that the school considers to be a fire hazard.

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Photo credit: Target

Foam Mattress Topper

Mattress Topper Being Laid On Top Of The Bed
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Mattresses in a college dorm are likely the most uncomfortable things your child will ever sleep on. To get a good night’s sleep, a regular mattress pad isn’t going to cut it. That’s why I would recommend investing in a foam mattress topper.
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Twin XL Bed Sheets

Simple student-style dorm bedroom. Hostel dormitory room. Campus
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Dorm beds require twin extra long sheets. I’ve never been clear on why dorm beds are extra long, but here’s what it means. You cannot bring the sheets from your child’s bedroom to college. Buy at least two sheet sets, in case your student gets lazy about doing laundry. We’ve found that Target has the best twin XL sheets.
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Portable Air Purifier

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Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Chances are your son or daughter will be moving into a dorm without air conditioning. Buildings without air conditioning tend to be filled with allergens. We discovered this first-hand when my daughter Annie was a college freshman. As soon as we got her a portable air purifier, her allergy symptoms went away.
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Lock Box Portable Safe

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Things can go missing at college. Since college dorm rooms are not like hotel rooms, with built-in safes, it’s smart to get your student a lock box for personal items. A fireproof box with a key should do the trick. Since these boxes tend to be heavy and awkward, you minimize the chances that someone walks off with it. Our daughters used their SentrySafe boxes to keep personal items, including prescription medicine, locked away and safe.
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Area Rug for Dorm Room

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A plush area rug can make a dorm room feel more like home and be more comfortable for bare feet. This is true, even if your child’s dorm room has carpeting. Chances are it is old, worn down and has very little padding.
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Noise-Canceling Headphones

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Libraries on campus might be the most quiet place to study but not always. Also, sometimes your student may want to stay in their college room to study. Either way, investing in noise-canceling headphones is smart.
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Extra Charging Cords

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Smartphone users go through phone charging cords like water. Send your student off to college with extras, assuming they’ll lose or destroy one a month. You can restock over winter break. But start with two to three extra per device.
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Skinny Hangers

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Photo credit: Leah Ingram.
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Dorm room closets tend to be small. So, you don’t need bulky hangers taking up a bunch of space. I would recommend investing in the skinny “huggable” hangers that take up less room. How many to buy? At least two dozen.
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Dark Color Bath Towels

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Normally, I prefer all white bath towels. But if your student isn’t adept at doing laundry, then go with dark color towels. That way when they do the old college wash, you don’t have to worry about colors running into one another on white towels. Also, dark towels hide stains better. I would choose darker colors like navy blue, dark gray or black.
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Laundry Detergent Pods

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There are no excuses for your college student not to do their laundry when you send them off with laundry detergent pods. Enough said.
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Clothes Drying Rack

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This is probably one of those dorm essentials for girls as I’ve never ever seen a guy use a clothes drying rack. Nonetheless, the dryers in college laundry rooms can be brutal on clothing. So any delicates are best dried on a clothes drying rack.
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Keurig Coffee Maker and Coffee Pods

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If your child loves coffee, invest in a Keurig and a supply of K cup pods. This will be super helpful with caffeinating for early-morning classes and late-night studying. Our daughter had this in her dorm room freshman year. Then, she took it with her to her off-campus apartment. It saved her a lot of money by not going to Starbucks or Dunkin for coffee.
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Mini Refrigerator

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Unless your child’s dorm room is a suite with a kitchen, I would recommend getting them a small refrigerator for their room. Our younger daughter was able to stock the refrigerator with Greek yogurt and other healthy snacks. This helped when she was running late to class or up studying and didn’t have time or the ability to make it to the dining hall. She really wanted to bring a microwave for her room. Unfortunately, her college banned microwaves in dorm rooms.
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Cleaning Wipes

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You can’t make your child away at college clean their dorm room. However, you can make it easier, if the spirit moves them, by packing cleaning wipes. They can use these to wipe off furniture, clean up any spills on the floor and generally use them to clean up. Again, no promises.
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Roku TV

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My friends with gamers told me that taking a TV to college these days was definitely a dorm must have. Even though they are going to college to study and get a degree, many of their sons and daughters relaxed by playing video games. Therefore, they needed a TV. I would invest in a Roku TV because of all of the flexibility that allows.
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Power Strip with Flat Head

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A power strip with a flat plug — so it was flush to the wall — was actually a requirement at my older daughter’s college. Turns out it was a real space saver for her in a small dorm room. So when her younger sister went away to college two years later, we bought one for her, too. If you can find a surge protector with a flat plug and USB phone slot in it, that’s even better.
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Bathroom Shower Caddy

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The best bathroom caddy for a college dorm is the one that can fit a ton of stuff and has holes on the bottom or is made of mesh. Why holes or mesh? So that if you bring it into the shower with you, the water can drain out the bottom. Otherwise, soon enough you’ll have a soupy, moldy mess.
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Waterproof Flip Flops

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Flip flops can help your college student avoid picking up a foot fungus in a communal college dorm bathroom. That’s not to say that dorm bathrooms are dirty, but why risk it?
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