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What College Students Need for the Dorm

Jeannie has been writing online for over 10 years. She covers a wide variety of topics - hobbies, opinions, dating advice, and more!


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The time has come for new and returning college students to begin shopping for the dorms. This can be such a fun time for any student. It can also be a little overwhelming at times. There is so much needed for the dorm or a student apartment.

Don't worry too much about it. Just remember if you forget something, campus stores and online stores exist for that reason. However, if you create a list and give the matter some thought, you will remember the most important items.

For the new college students out there, I would like to give you a helpful list of items you want to pack with you.

Towels, Towels, and More Towels

When you are stocking up on some basic needs for college, make sure to buy towels. If your parents want to get you a going away present, ask for towels. If your grandparents are redecorating the bathroom and throwing out their old towels, take them. In case you are not getting the hint, try to collect as many towels as humanly possible. You can never have too many towels.

There are going to be occasions when you do not have the time to wash your towels. This will not stop you from needing towels, so make sure you have plenty. There will be spills to be cleaned, hair wet from the rain when you forgot the umbrella, no paper towels in the bathroom and others use your towel left in there, and basic bathing needs. Trust me, you will never be sorry to have extra towels.

Quarters or Extra Cash

Speaking of laundry, you will need to do the laundry quite a bit. If you are lucky, your laundry room will take a card and you will not need quarters. If you do need quarters, start stocking up now. If you need cash for your laundry card, start stocking up now. If need be, set up a mug in your parents' livingroom and take collections for your laundry money. You can never have enough extra money for laundry.

Sheets and Comforter

Most colleges now have extra long twin mattresses. Don't stress over this too much. Many stores now carry extra long sheets for just such a bed. Some popular stores that carry extra long sheets are Walmart, Kmart, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond. You won't have to pay a lot and there are usually cute patterns to choose from. I would recommend buying two sets of sheets, or three sets at the most. You will not have much storage and as long as you wash one set while you put the other set on the bed, you will have no problem.

As for the comforter, do not worry too much about purchasing an extra long comforter. Buy a twin comforter that you really like. You don't have to worry about whether it is a standard or an extra long twin. You will probably never make the bed up anyway.

Shampoos, Conditioners, Soap, and Bathroom Supplies, Oh My!

You may as well start stocking up on your bathroom supplies early. Take as much as you can squeeze in a box. Don't get too carried away though. Unless you are moving out in the middle of nowhere, you should have access to some type of discount store and you can stock up when you go out. For the initial move in, make sure to bring at least one or more of the following:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Hair Brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Showel Gel
  • Lotion
  • Toilet Paper (if in an apartment, not dorm)
  • Paper Towels
  • Basic Kitchen Cleaner
  • Razors
  • Nail Clippers
  • Fingernail File
  • Feminine Products (if female, of course)
  • Hair Dryer
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets

Don't Forget to Take Your Meds!

Sometimes the most important items are the smallest items. Just because they are small does not mean they are not very necesssary. Don't forget to bring your medications. If you take any type of prescription drugs, make sure to pack them somewhere safe in a spot that you can easily remember. For the ladies, don't forget your birth control pills if you take them. While we are on the subject, it never hurts to take a box of condoms. Really! Whether you are male or female, just take some. You can't always count on the college health center to have a full supply.

Even if you do not take medications prescribed by a doctor, it is a good idea to take some medicine in case you get sick. Take some allergy medicine (if you have allergies), cold medicine, vitamins (if you take them), ibuprofen or Tylenol, Pepto Bismal, and any other medicine you feel you may need. The last thing you want to do is come down with the flu and have nothing in your dorm room. Plus, throw a box of Band Aids and some Neosporin in with the medicine, too.

Also, be careful with your medications. Make sure to put them in a safe spot at the bottom of a trunk or drawer. I hate to break it to you, but some college students have crazy drug issues. They will take anything if it may give them a high or save them money from having to buy their own. Watch your medication and make sure you always have the correct amount. If need be, there is a reason why trunks have a lock on them.

Dust Bust that Room!

If you like a tidy room, you will probably want to invest in either a stick vacuum or a handheld vacuum. Both can be very useful. If you are allergic to dust, it is very important to stay reasonably clean. Go ahead and buy some type of low-priced vacuum. You should also buy a duster. Swiffer and Pledge both make great, low-cost dusters.

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To Buy a Mini-Fridge or Not?

When moving into a dorm, you will likely find out you have the option of renting a mini-fridge. If you are bringing a lot of items, you may want to rent one. Let's face it, if you only want to room in a dorm for a year and then you are planning on getting an apartment the next year, it is silly to buy a mini-fridge. Renting one is a much more practical option.

Furthermore, a microwave is usually attached to the mini-fridge. Trust me, you are going to want the microwave. Many dorms ban microwaves unless they are included with the rented mini-fridge. Personally, I believe you should contact the future roommate and discuss rental options. If you split the cost, it is usually really reasonable. You can eat decent food instead of mystery food from the cafeteria late at night.

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Organize It!

Dorm rooms are notorious for being extremely small. You are going to want to organize the room in the most efficient way possible. You will want to make sure to bring hangers for your clothes. You will also want some type of clothes basket. Some college students prefer the pop-up hamper, but I will say a clothes basket works just as well. Also, you may want to bring some drying racks. This is an easy, cheap way to dry your clothes. This is really helpful in saving money when you do not always use the dryer.

Depending on the size of the room, you should be able to keep a plastic storage container with drawers and wheels. This is perfect for clothes and extra items. An over-the-door shoe rack is always nice for closet doors. You may want to check out the room before buying that just in case it won't work with the door. Depending on the space under the bed, buying some organizers for under the bed can be a practical way to get organized.

You may also want to buy a trunk for the dorm room. Back in the "old days" everyone went to college with a trunk. Now, some people prefer plastic organizers. Just keep in mind you are probably moving in with one to three people you do not know. A trunk has a very handy lock on it. Sure anyone can learn to pick a lock, but that takes some time and most people won't try something like that if they might get caught.


Of course, most college students will consider the electronics the most important part of the room. I do know college students that survived on the bare minimum - just a laptop or even just using a computer lab computer when needed. They read books instead of watching TV. They listened to an MP3 player instead of bringing a stereo.

Basically, you know your priorities and you know what you like. If you constantly watch TV, you are probably kidding yourself thinking you can go a year without a TV. So here is a list of items you probably want to bring:

  • Television (with cable wires)
  • Small DVD Player
  • Clock CD Player Radio
  • MP3 Player
  • Computer
  • Coffee Maker (depending on rules)
  • Microwave (depending on rules)
  • Camera or Webcam
  • Phone
  • Fan
  • Electric Blanket (depending on rules)
  • Desk Lamp
  • Flashlight
  • Nightlight
  • Power Strips or Surge Protectors (bring at least 3)

Put Your Clothes On!

Make sure to pack plenty of clothes. You never know if your dorm is going to be too hot or too cold. You will want to be prepared. If your parents are planning on visiting you right after you move in, you may want to pack a "later box" that they can bring on their trip so you are not overwhelmed with boxes the first day. In this box, pack cold weather clothes, snow boats, extra blankets, and other items you will need for the winter, but not in August when you move in.

Make sure to bring shoes for plenty of different occasions. Don't forget pajamas, slippers, robe, and undergarments. Some people will tell you that you have to bring a pair of water shoes for the shower. Personally, I walked around barefoot all the time in showers, outdoors, and dorm rooms, and nothing bad ever happened. So don't make too much of an uptight fuss about being barefoot in the shower unless you are prone to having foot issues.

Last Minute Suggestions...

The time has come for me to pack it up for the night. I hope everything goes well for students packing up for college this summer. Just remember to take a few deep breathes and have fun. Shopping for the dorm is so much fun and living in the dorm can be an awesome time. Make sure to pack some of your clothes in at least one suitcase when you go. You will likely want a suitcase for weekend trips and it can also hold a number of items for storage purposes.

You can buy some food to take with you, but I would recommend buying that when you get there. You can assess the size of the fridge and cabinets, and you will know what to buy at that time. And who knows? You might just like the cafeteria food! Most of all, have fun... you are a college student now.

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Jeannie Marie (author) from Baltimore, MD on June 16, 2011:

Thanks for the comment and the vote up. I remember how scared I was when I went away to college the first time. Now, I just wish I could do that all over again. College and part-time jobs were way more fun than full-time work.

UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on June 15, 2011:

Very nicely done jeannieinabottle...great advice for college students....and before they know it....high graduation will be over and Fall college will be here...voted up

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