Top Ten Dorm Room Must-Haves

College student dorm

My eldest child will be moving back to campus next month to start her sophomore year. Just over a year ago, we were up to our eyeballs in Pinterest and other websites with tips on what students need for their dorm rooms. First off, let me just say that, unless your kid is rooming with two friends and they have completely coordinated their color scheme and décor—or they’ve got a single room—there is no way their room will ever look like a Pinterest board!

A dorm room is going to be their home for nine months, so it should reflect their personality, be practical but comfortable, and not too cramped—a place they’ll sleep, study, eat, and socialize in. Most likely the university will provide the minimum: a bed, a desk, and a chair. Everything else is on you.

Here’s the “Top Ten” list of items that are beyond the basics (e.g., bedding).

Cube Storage Unit for Dorm

Cube Storage Unit

Whether under a lofted dorm bed or off to the side, this is an excellent place to keep books, food items, and school supplies organized. They come in a variety of colors and configurations, and you can also add bins.



mattress pad for dormCooling Mattress Pad

Every parent I know mentioned this! The reason your kid is constantly hungry is because of their speedy metabolism, which is why most teens “run hot”. The pad also adds another supportive layer over that hard (and very used) dorm mattress. Be sure to top this with a mattress protector.



power strip for dormPower Strip, Surge Protector, and Extension Cords

Dorm rooms are not hotel rooms—they have so few electrical outlets! Definitely bring one of each, along with cord organizers to keep the loose, messy, might-trip-on-these cords to a minimum.



LED desk light for dorm

An LED Desk Lamp

An LED desk lamp with adjustable lighting and eye-care features. They’ll sometimes need to be studying late when the roommate went to bed early because they’ve got an 8am lab, and various light levels with steady, flicker-free, and non-glare light will make this possible…as well as keep their eyes healthier. Bonus if it has a USB charging port.



dorm drawer organizersDrawer Organizers

For their school supplies, their toiletries, everything. Using these to maximize their very limited storage spaces will keep the “scary drawer” from happening.



corded charger for dormA Long, Corded Phone Charger

The reality is that most teens sleep with their phones next to them; many use it as their alarm clock. It’s likely the outlet will not be near enough, and if they have the top bunk, then you’ll need an even longer one. The corded kind is sturdier and can handle a lot of bending and twisting.



tea kettle for dormSmall Tea Kettle 

Sure, it’s great for tea—but it’s also fantastic for instant soup, ramen, hot cocoa, and oatmeal packets. Be sure to get one with an automatic shut-off feature.



Command Wall Hooks for dorm roomCommand Wall Hooks

A variety of sizes, colors, and weight capacities. Stick them on the bed frame, the walls, behind the door, the inside of the closet—then remove them at the end of the school year, with no damage to the surface (or to your damage deposit!).



wall mirror for dormOver the Door Mirror

There is no mirror in their room, and #realtalk: College kids want to look good! ‘Nuff said.




Dishes for the dormAn Insulated Water Bottle, a Mug, and one set of Dishware

Keep them hydrated with a good water bottle; many colleges now have water bottle fill stations. A mug, dishes, and flatware for their room is always nice to have; if your student is not going to wash dishes, disposable or compostable ones are probably better.


This list could double in size if I added in everything else I thought of (okay, quickly, here they are: a bulletin board, a wall calendar, storage bins, a reading pillow for the bed, Brita water pitcher, string lights, backup smartphone battery). Good luck, and most importantly…have fun! This is an exciting, new journey for both you and your new college student.



Author: Myriam Pollock