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  • Writer's pictureKate Pedigo, M.Ed., NCC

Dorm Room Necessities

Empty dorm room

During the summer after senior year, parents and students scramble to buy items to make dorm-living comfortable, functional, and even fashionable.

Seasoned parents often caution: Remember that whatever you put in the room must come out at the end of the year. Moving out always feels like more of a chore than moving in.

Prioritizing dorm room necessities first may be helpful as you create your move-in list. Below are some essentials to consider:

Storage bags

Containers to transport belongings: Large storage bags with zippers and handles are a popular choice because they're spacious, stack well when full, and can easily be folded down and stored until the end of the year. They can also double as laundry bags.

dorm room

Bedding: Many dorm beds are Twin or Twin XL. Consider buying a Full-sized comforter that can drape over items stored under the bed. Some dorm beds don't have headboards, so extra pillows may be needed.

Many dorm mattresses are very thin and uncomfortable. A good 3-4 inch mattress topper can make a big difference. It's best to keep the topper stored in the box until it's in the dorm room because of expansion. For the same reason, toppers can be difficult to transport back home at the end of the year, so rolling tight and wrapping in moving plastic may be the best option.

extension cord

Extension Cords and Chargers: Electrical outlets never seem to be in convenient locations. A couple of extension cords with multiple outlets can be a game-changer.

Extra phone chargers always come in handy too.

locked box

Locked Storage: Every student needs to secure items such as passport, birth certificate, social security card, medications, and valuables.

Some dorm rooms come with a locked drawer in the desk, but some students need a separate locked box.

first aid kit

First Aid/Med Kit: Include basics for bandaging minor injuries, as well as a small assortment of over-the-counter medications for headaches, stomach pain, fevers, and congestion. When students don't feel well, they definitely don't want to run out to buy medicine.

Full-sized bottles are not necessary.

tool set

Tool set: A small, basic tool set may be only used a few times during the year outside of move-in and move-out, but your student will be glad to have it when the need does arise.

If you want to keep it simple, a pair of scissors, a box cutter, a screwdriver with multiple heads, and a small hammer will cover most needs.

student walking in snow

Weather-aware items: In tornado or hurricane-prone areas, colleges will often recommend a "go bag" with bottled water, non-perishable snacks, phone charger, and other items to take to storm shelters. In cold or rainy climates, appropriate clothing and footwear will be needed, as well as a weather-resistant backpack.

household cleaners

Very basic cleaning supplies: Many parents mention that most of the cleaning supplies they provide at move-in are still unused at the end of the year. Consider keeping it simple and ask your student what they'll actually use. For example, disinfecting wipes are convenient and can be used for multiple purposes.


Toiletries: Students do not need a full-year supply of toothpaste. Making sure they have a current supply of their favorite items is perfect. They'll be able to replenish items throughout the year.

Students may also need a shower caddy and flip flops if they don't have a suite-style dorm.

stuffed elephant

Comfort items: While shopping for new dorm decor can be fun, comfort items from home are more of a necessity.

A favorite blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, pictures, etc. can help students weather the inevitable struggles with illness, loneliness and home-sickness.

Seasoned parents: If you have suggestions for other dorm room necessities, please let me know and I'll be happy to add your wisdom to this list.

Kate Pedigo, M.Ed. NCC is an Independent Educational Consultant and founder of Growing2College. Join us on social media for college planning updates, tips, and resources: Facebook   Instagram   LinkedIn    

Contact info for Kate Pedigo, Growing2College

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