Top 10 Dorm Room Essentials

If you're packing for college, don't forget to throw these dorm room essentials in one of your boxes. (Or make a Target run if you're already moved in.)

As a new semester approaches, many students are finishing their dorm room shopping or unpacking for the upcoming school year as a resident of their college. Make sure you’re ready with these top 10 essentials to buy or pack for your dorm this year.

1. Mattress topper

One thing that dorms are infamous for are uncomfortable beds. Not only are you living away from home, but you’re living where dozens of students have lived before you. Mattresses in dorms are almost always stiff, and you want to make sure you get a good night’s sleep when you’re resting your head after a long day of classes, studying, and work. So it’s absolutely necessary to invest in a mattress topper of some sort. These range from $50–$150, but if you’re near Ross Stores, make it a point to see if they have any left in stock—I found mine for under $40 there.

2. Linens, comforter/quilt, pillows, and blankets

May as well call it a bed set, but either way, these items will keep you comfortably tucked in and help you get a good night’s sleep while you’re in college. Usually college beds are Twin XL’s, but check the residence hall pages on your school website in case they provide alternate dimensions. While you’re at it, pack doubles of any linens you buy so that you’re guaranteed fresh sheets when you get too busy to do laundry right away.

Related: Essential Packing Tips to Make Your College Move Easier

3. Clothing and shoes

Don’t bring too many clothes or shoes with you. Have a set amount of outfits for professional occasions and maybe a couple “going out” outfits. If you’re going to a place with extreme weather like snow, bring maybe one or two jackets, but not more than you need to, because you often aren’t afforded that much space in your dorm. You could also leave seasonal clothing at home to bring back with you after you visit on a weekend or holiday.

The same principle goes for other personal belongings such as books. Bring one or two for your own leisure, but leave the rest. You won’t have room for a library in college as much as you won’t have all the room in the world in your closet for sweaters and all your clothes. Plus, you’ll be getting school swag anyway—a T-shirt here and there to show your spirit—so don’t worry about packing too little.

Related: Video: University of Southern California Dorm Tour

4. Microwave

The age of dollar store snacks and cheap ramen is upon us, and the only way to function with heated food is with a microwave. Some residence halls can provide means to rent them in addition to community kitchens, but it’s often a worthwhile investment to have one in your own room. While prices for these vary even more drastically than mattress toppers, some colleges have watt limits (with most at about 700w, which are going to be about $40­–$90). You and your roommate can at least share this item, so look into either renting or buying this room-safe oven for your convenience. And always check the school website before investing in one to see if you’re allowed to have one in your room.

5. Laptop or computer

This has been a must-have for me since junior year of high school, but with the digital age we live in, having a device where you can access not only the internet but essentially your whole life is necessary for you to have in your dorm. Some residence halls have computer labs, but for the ease and convenience that laptops and personal computers provide, it’s well worth getting one for yourself for all your online needs in college. It may even be a requirement at your school, so be sure to check what they recommend. 

6. Storage

Welcome to your space, where everything is cluttered and nothing is used. But honestly, with the right amount of bins and a limited amount of knick-knacks, nothing is truly unnecessary, and you can make the most of the limited room you have in your dorm. In any case, buy as many bins as it takes for you to be able to bring and store what you need. These are usually on sale at Target for various prices depending on the size and quantity.

7.  Surge protectors

My dorm room only has two outlets. Two outlets for two girls who have several things to plug in at once each. Modern technology allows for us to change this, however, and on the eighth day, we were blessed with surge protectors. Phones, laptops, tablets, lamps—you name it, it’s now able to be plugged together with the fridge and each others’ devices. Surge protectors can be found pretty much everywhere, and they’re important because they help prevent electrical fires.

Related: 18 Easy Dorm Room Hacks You Need to Know

8. Personal forms

Forms you need or forms that are essential to keep in your dorm (under lock and key if necessary) include government-issued IDs, your school ID, birth certificate, driver’s license, medical insurance card, emergency contact card, blood type information card, and financial aid forms. Other good forms to have proof of residence and

9. Pictures from home, plants

Because many dorms don’t allow pets, pictures of friends and family including any furry, scaly, or feathery loved ones are vital to making your new living area truly feel like home. If you feel you need to liven the place up, get a plant or two to help bring a living element into your room. You have more to take care of and more to give that extra attention to. Plus, a plant will improve the air quality in your stuffy dorm room.

10. Decorations

My mom nearly died when I picked a theme for my dorm room. There’s something to be said in general for a well put together room, and it shows when everything coordinates for once in your life. Nothing has to be expensive, but having a set color scheme or matching your linens to your pillows and towels brightens up the room, makes everything feel more complete, and gives you a better sense of self as you navigate the new world around you during college. Adding your pictures and posters, twinkle lights, and plants is what’s going to make it all feel welcoming every time you come back from class and settle into your space for the night.

Related: Dream Dorm Design Challenge

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Rachel Bullock

Rachel Bullock is excited to be writing for CollegeXpress. She has been on staff of the DPMHS Media team for two years. This year, Rachel is a photo editor. A logophile, she reads dictionaries, grammar books, and constantly consults thesauruses for fun. When she’s not studying for her APs or college classes, she’s usually obsessing over music or reading fandom theories. Rachel strives to set a good example for others and help out in any way she can. 


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress


High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress is a multi-maneuver platform that has been helping students in their college applications and scholarship hunt process. For me, CollegeXpress has been a boon. I've been able to find my dream university via CX, and I've also been able to apply to thousands of scholarships through it. All the thanks to CollegeXpress for doing such a great job for free. I express my sincere gratitude to you for doing such a wonderful job. I recommend CollegeXpress without any reservations.

Victoria Fuss

Victoria Fuss

March Madness Scholarship Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me dramatically. Moving on to the next level has been a dream of my mine since I was just a young kid, and the support and help CollegeXpress has given me will help me further my education. I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone at CollegeXpress!

Lexie Knutson

Lexie Knutson

High School Class of 2021

This whole website has helped me overcome the attitude I had before. I was scared to even approach the thought of college because it was so much. I knew it wasn’t just a few easy steps, and I panicked mostly, instead of actually trying. Without realizing it, CollegeXpress did exactly what I usually do when I panic, which is take it one step at a time. With college I forget that because it’s more than just a small to-do list, but this website was really helpful and overall amazing. So thank you!

Alexandra Adriano

Alexandra Adriano

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2016

I've used CollegeXpress quite a bit as a senior, particularly for colleges and scholarships, so it's been a very big asset in that respect! I would recommend it to anyone looking to pursue a college education, especially seniors! This scholarship will help me achieve my goals in ways I couldn't have before, and I know that there are opportunities like that for everyone on the website and in the magazines!

Jessica Rinker

Jessica Rinker

Student, Fairhaven High School; CollegeXpress Student Writer

My high school counselor introduced me to CollegeXpress freshman year. It has made such a difference in high school, and I plan to continue relying on it in college. CollegeXpress is my go-to because it addresses each aspect of being a student. There are the articles you’d expect regarding college applications and financial aid, but you will also find advice on things like de-stressing and maintaining relationships while balancing a heavy course load. CollegeXpress will also keep you updated on current scholarships through e-mails each Saturday. (They don’t harass you with any product promotion like so many other sites do.) CollegeXpress is a lot like an older sibling who has already conquered the challenges you are facing. Now, they are reaching out a helpful hand. I say take it.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Pacific University

Forest Grove, OR

Siena College

Loudonville, NY