The Ultimate College Dorm Room Shopping Guide: What You Really Need

Towards the end of July advertisements start arriving in the mailbox. Those glossy pages proclaim to have everything you need to experience college living at its best. If you’re lucky your college may even send you a “shopping guide” explaining exactly what you need to buy. Let me tell you something though, it’s all bull.

When I first started at college I bought every single thing on their little list and carted it off to college. At the end of the year a lot of that stuff got left behind and some were thrown away sooner. Take for instance the over the door rack, good in theory but I don’t know a single person who actually used theirs. So if you’re about to head to college, take a look at what you really need.


You can never have enough towels. As someone who watched in humor as her roommates dug through their laundry bag to find a towel that wasn’t “too dirty”, I can tell you that towels are a valuable commodity in college.


Express your individuality with a new bedroom set, but don’t go overboard on the price. Those extra long sheets will probably never be used again. Make sure you bring along a few extra blankets too for those nights when your roommate decides to leave the windows open.


I once had a roommate who didn’t realize our place had a lack of air conditioning. While I was enjoying the breeze from my fan, she was roasting. After less than a week she caved and bought her own fan.

MP3 Player.

Bring along an MP3 player or at least a CD player with headphones. It will come in handy on those nights when your roommate and her boyfriend get into a screaming match over the telephone and the next day when they’re “making up” just a few feet away.

Husband Pillow.

I wouldn’t have survived college without my husband pillow. These pillows have a wide back and short arms on either side. They’re perfect for curling up against when you just can’t handle your desk chair anymore.

Lap Desk.

The lap desk is useful when you want to study, but you hate your desk. Just plop down on your bed and place your desk on your lap.


Those cinderblock walls get the best of everyone, but if you bring along a few things to brighten them up you’ll feel a lot better. You can also cover your side of the room with pictures of your friends and family or things you ripped out of a magazine.

Alarm clock.

College dorm rooms do not come equipped with an alarm clock so unless you want to miss your first class, tuck one in your bag.

Laundry bag/detergent.

At some point your roommate will freak out over the growing mess of cloths on the floor. Shove those dirty cloths into the laundry bag you brought along and you’ll both be a lot happier. Look for one with a wide strap so it’s easier to carry.


Yes you will need to do your own laundry at some point, unless you have enough cloths to last you until Thanksgiving. Those quarters will also come in handy when you’re down to your last few dollars and craving an off campus coffee.

Under the bed storage boxes.

These boxes were a life saver for me throughout college. They slide right under the bed, but are big enough to store just about anything. I ended up using one just for those things I brought and never used like an iron and sewing kit.


Bring along anything you use everyday including deodorant, hair spray, makeup, etc. You’ll quickly find that the campus store is ridiculously overpriced on the simple things.

Shower caddy.

Unless you want to drag everything with you to the shower, invest in a shower caddy. Stock it full of your supplies and then leave it next to your bed or stored in the closet. When you need to shower, everything will be at your fingertips.


If you’ve ever seen a college shower stall, then you know how important flip-flops are. Remember that you’re sharing a shower with dozens of people and the housecleaning crews aren’t always the best.

Kitchen items.

Usually your dorm has a room specifically for cooking complete with an oven, sink and stove. Toss in a few things you think you might need like a couple of cups, plates, bowls and silverware. The next time you have a craving for cereal and the dining hall is closed you’ll thank me.

Snack foods.

The first time you get hungry and no one is open, you’ll be wishing you brought along some snacking foods. Popcorn, beef jerky, trail mix, cereal and even candy are great choices because they store well and don’t need a refrigerator.

Desk lamp.

There will come a time when you or your roommate need to study while the other is sleeping and you’ll probably fight over the light in your dorm room. Use a desk lamp to keep the peace.

Power strip.

Ever lived in a small room where two people had to share two electrical outlets? Once you start college, you’ll know all about this.


College students do read and a good book will keep you company when you just don’t feel like hitting that next party. Plus a few favorites will help when you start feeling a little homesick.

Trash can.

I can attest to how many times we watched the one small trash can in our room start overflowing with things. We’d take bets on how soon it would tip over and argued over who should take out the trash. Keep a small trash can under your desk and you’ll have to take out the trash less.

Lastly, check with your future roommate about things like a microwave or small refrigerator. If you both show up dragging one behind you, you’ll find that your dorm rooms seems even smaller than usual!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 2 = three