Top Ten College Dorm Essentials

Top Ten College Dorm Essentials

Top Ten College Dorm Essentials

Heading Off to College

Top Ten College Dorm Essentials

Now is the time when many parents say goodbye to their once-tiny children as they move into a new chapter of their lives; college. Maybe the kids are staying close to home, or traveling far away; no matter which it is, they will still need some basic essentials to get through their new everyday routine.

It's easy to overlook items that you might think aren't important at the time. So pay attention, and you might be able to save yourself a few post move-in shopping trips.

Image courtesy of SBA73 on Flickr

Sleeping Essentials

Getting Their Rest

Believe it or not, your child will need to take a break from studying at some point. When it's time to relax and refresh, it's important to have the necessary items to recharge and help your student excel while they're away.

To start, you'll want to make sure they have adequate bedding items (sheets, comforter, an extra pillow or two). Most of the time, college dorm mattresses are not very comfortable, so you may want to look into purchasing a eggshell-foam (or something similar) mattress pad. After all, they'll need their rest for those likely early freshman classes.

On move-in day, don't forget your tool kit! When you are setting up the bed (maybe it's a bunk, maybe it's a loft but you never know) you will likely need to tighten bolts, loosen bolts, or somehow set up a study sleeping area for your child. These tools are also essential for any last minute furniture you might be putting together.

Find Bedding in XL Twin

The Standard College Mattress Size

Make sure that when you are buying bedding that you know what size you are looking for. Most dorm mattresses measure in at an XL twin. Because this is the average size, you'll usually be able to find bedding in this exact size in a variety of colors and styles.

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Size Matters

When shopping for dorm room furniture, take into consideration the tiny size of the room. Usually the college will let you know the dimensions of the room so you will know what you're working with.

Furniture to consider:

  • Futon or Small Couch
  • Collapsible Chairs (butterfly chairs are great)
  • Floor Rug (helpful for covering extension cords)
  • Desk Chair (typically colleges supply desks for each dorm room)


Top Ten College Dorm Essentials

Size Still Matters

Be sure that your child contacts their future roommate before you actually purchase any furniture or appliances, so that you know what you're responsible for bringing. And of course, don't forget a couple power strips.

Image by Mark.Seymour on Flickr

Appliances to consider:

  • Microwave
  • Small Mini-Fridge
  • Television
  • DVD Player
  • Cable Cord and Extension Cord
  • Printer

Study Materials

Top Ten College Dorm Essentials

This Isn't Rocket Science

This part you are probably more than familiar with. Notebooks, pens and pencils, highlighters, etc. So be prepared by bringing organizers and bookshelves to keep their school supplies organized.

Image courtesy of Cote on Flickr

Now here's the hard part; books. Your child will have a class list that will help you find what books you will need for each subject. Prepare to buy books before the actual move-in day because you'll find them much cheaper online on sites like Amazon or

Take my word for it, books are extremely expensive every semester, and the costs really add up. So if you can get them cheaper somewhere else just by planning ahead; do it. Otherwise, if you must, purchase them at the school bookstore but be prepared to pay top price for them. Also, if you wait until the last minute to get your books, the used copies might be sold out and you will end up buying a brand new book for twice as much.

Computer or Laptop

Top Ten College Dorm Essentials

Stay Connected and Keep It Convenient

Most kids these days bring their own personal computer or laptop into their dorm. This is where most of the paper writing, assignment reading, and test studying takes place. Generally speaking, a laptop has become more convenient for students to have in the dorms because then they can carry it to class with them and take notes or view the class powerpoints on their own screen.

Image by Pink Sherbet Photography

No need to get too fancy with the laptop, although you usually get what you pay for. It's safe to say that usually Dell, Gateway, HP and Apple have become well-known among the college kids. If you watch the sales in the paper or online, you'll most likely be able to get a better deal when you are ready to purchase a computer.

EZ Snacks

After School Snack Comeback

Just because they're in college doesn't mean they've outgrown the 'after-school snack' stage. Despite having a cafeteria plan, sometimes kids miss a meal due to meetings, class projects, class, or they're just too busy with other things. Keep in mind that the cafeteria is usually only open during set times and it's not always easy to make it there before they close. For this reason alone, it's good to stock your child up with some snacks to make sure that they don't miss too many meals. In the meantime, try to choose organic fruit or pack a healthy care package for your child.

Simple dorm food might include:

  • Easy Mac
  • Cereal
  • Pretzels or Chips
  • Granola Bars
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Gatorade
  • Bottled Water or a Water Purifier
  • Soup
  • Fruit
  • Bread
  • Sandwich Meat

Tips for Moving into Your College Dorm - Take it From the Experts

Closet Organizers

Top Ten College Dorm Essentials

Keeping it Clean and Simple

Odds are not in your favor when it comes to dorm room closet space. Since your child will most likely want to bring the whole house plus the kitchen sink, you'll need to figure out a way to make the most of their temporary storage.

For shoes, find a vertical hanging shoe holder. This helps keep it out of the way, but it also utilizes the most of the empty space in the closet. They make a similar style for clothes as well, the only difference is that they are a little wider than the shoe organizer. Use this storage for bulky sweatshirts or sweatpants.

Image by Liz ( on Flickr

Save space at the top or bottom where they can keep their clothes basket (since they likely won't want it sitting in the middle of the room). Another popular item for college dorm rooms is a laundry bag, which is another convenient item that they can even hang off the corner of their bed or stow away in their closet.

Hygiene Must-Haves

Top Ten College Dorm Essentials

It Would Stink to Forget These... Literally

Community showers are going to be a new experience for your child so make sure that they are prepared for what's ahead. A spa caddy is an awesome invention for this occasion. They allow you to carry your shampoo, conditioner, soap, razor, etc. all in one place. That way it's a fast process with no thinking involved.

Image courtesy of Flickr's Stevendepolo

Don't forget to send some shower sandals along with them. With so many people sharing a shower, and build-up of who-knows-what on those floors, they'll be glad that they were prepared with a nice pair of shower sandals. Trust me.

Be sure to stock up on towels as well. Chances are, when it's them doing their own laundry, it won't get done as often. Make sure that they have plenty of towels to last them. One final item to consider is a bath robe. This makes things easier when coming in and out of the shower area without having to lug their clothes and other items.

"Miss You" Cookie Gift Basket

Family Love

Leave Them With a Piece of Home

Last but not least, don't forget to leave them with a little piece of home. This would also make as a nice housewarming gift. Pick a favorite family photo and a nice frame to put it in. Before you're ready to leave them in their new home, give them one last item to display. They'll appreciate the thoughtfulness and they'll cherish it later when the homesick feeling starts to sink in.

Once they're settled in for a week or two, remind them that you've always got their back by sending them a fresh fruit basket or cookie gifts. Your kids will enjoy the treats and it will remind them that their family will always be there for them.

About Matt 304 Articles
Matt Yheas has been a part of All About Gifts & Baskets for nearly 10 years. He travels the world looking for inspiration on gifts for babies, moms and corporations (seasons change!) Having studied art and design at the Art Institute of San Francisco, he's charged up to make sure you find a great balance between budget and gifts that are meaningful. Have a question? Matt is happy to help.

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