Back-to-School Series
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The Ultimate College Dorm List

backtoschoolseries2015Last year, right around this time I was freaking out about what I needed for my dorm room. Obviously I had never lived on my own (well actually I did, but it was only for a month and it was an art summer camp, but that doesn’t count). My sister’s been through this process before, so I was really lucky. But since many of you out there don’t have an older sister, or brother who’s been through this process before, I am now your acting older sister.

Everything on this list is something that you should have. I’m putting explanations next to items that may seem questionable, so that you don’t think this list isn’t reliable. (adapted from the

Room Needs/Storage

  • Bedside/Desk lamp—actually comes in handy if you have to wake up earlier or stay up later than your roommate.
  • Alarm clock/clock radio—or just use your phone?
  • Mini trash can
  • Storage bins—get a lot of these…I fully used three and still needed some more.
  • Under-the-bed storage trays
  • Fan—not always necessary if you have an AC unit in your room or your dorm has AC.
  • Drying rack for laundry—Not always necessary…if you just hang it on your bedposts or hangers and stuff (like I did, because I’m poor and lazy) it works just fine.
  • Bulletin board and pushpins—don’t always need this.
  • Dry-erase wall calendar/board—^same
  • Mini toolkit (including screwdriver, hammer, wrench)—you will need this! I didn’t have one but I used my roommates about 4 times last year.
  • Picture hangers (double-sided tape for concrete walls)—go with double-sided tape before picture hangers…it’s cheaper. My sister says use painter’s tape so it doesn’t take off the paint or anything like that.
  • Bed risers—I had like 6” ones and it gave me a lot of space under my bed, like I could sit under there and do homework it was awesome.

Linens/Laundry Supplies—Everything under this is a BIG duh 

  • Sheets and pillowcases (2 sets. Check with college for size needed — some college twin beds are extra long.)
  • Towels (3 each of bath, hand and face)—I got towel wraps in addition to towels, they’re basically towels that have Velcro and it stays up, they’re great.
  • Pillows (2)
  • Mattress pad (check with college for size needed)—get something with cushioning because those beds are actually really hard.
  • Blankets (2)—really handy when your roommate likes the room colder and you don’t.
  • Comforter/bedspread
  • Clothes hangers—lots of these, you hang more clothes than you may thing…also I got ones that are like felt lined and they’re genius.
  • Laundry bag/basket—I got a basket and it worked a lot better than people with bags, it’s also easier to carry clothes to the laundry room.
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener and stain remover—Tide to-go’s are THE BEST things you will ever have, also get the little tide pods they’re a lot easier to carry.
  • Lint brush—I didn’t really use mine until I started my sewing class and had strings everywhere.
  • Mini sewing kit—you need this especially if you wear leggings a lot, I got little holes near the inseam and it helped out…also if you’re in sewing, you probably don’t need that.

Office/Desk Supplies

  • Electronic storage media such as memory cards and USB flash drives—you need this because computers break when you don’t back things up.
  • Stapler and staples—you can always borrow someone else’s
  • Printer paper (if you decide to bring a printer)—also good for crafts…if you don’t craft now you will because you will get bored.
  • Pens and pencils—DUH.
  • Pencil holder and sharpener—not necessary.
  • Notebooks—you still have class…but you can use your computer to take notes.
  • Folder with pockets—you actually do need these, I always just shove papers in my backpack and it doesn’t work well, but I still do it…oh well.
  • Labels of various sizes—NO NO just buy a Sharpie.
  • 3 × 5 index cards—its good for flashcards.
  • Sticky notes—I used to use my roommates, so…
  • Paper clips and binder clips—Nah.
  • Rubber bands—again a nah.
  • Tape—you really do need tape.
  • Scissors—same with scissors.
  • Highlighter pens (multiple colors)—I didn’t really use mine but my roommate did…A LOT
  • Stackable desk trays (at least 4)—I bought some later in the semester, but didn’t put them on my desk.
  • Stamps and envelopes—if you like old school then yes you need it, but sometimes the front desk of your dorm might have some of these.


  • Laptop (printer is optional; there are usually computer labs where you can print)
  • Portable speakers (if you want to play music from laptop/MP3 player)
  • HDMI cord, Ethernet cord for computer (check if your room has wireless)—OK THIS ONE IS IMPORTANT!!! So this helps you connect your laptop to the T.V. and its awesome because then you don’t need speakers, also you can play any YouTube video or movie from your computer onto your T.V.
  • Surge protector—really helpful because you only have like two outlets in a room…it gives you so much more power!!!
  • Extension cords—I only used one and that was for my T.V.
  • 3-2 prong adapters—if you have the surge protectors you probably won’t need any of these.
  • Headphones—especially good if you have a noisy roommate.
  • Camera—you never know what types of projects you could have.
  • Cell phone

Shared Items — Check with roommate(s)—Definitely check with your roommate about these

  • Audio equipment
  • TV and DVD player
  • Coffeemaker/hot pot/microwave/toaster, if allowed
  • Small refrigerator (if one isn’t provided)
  • Area rug—my roommate brought a rug and we used it for a few months, but then it got dirty and gross, so yeah.
  • Posters/art


  • Antacid
  • Aspirin or other pain relievers
  • Vitamins—so people can think you’re healthy.
  • Antidiarrheal medicine/laxatives—tbh I need laxatives more than antidiarrheal medicines.
  • Adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment—you get cuts and stuff more than you think.
  • Cough drops—when you live in close quarters when one person gets sick everyone else does too.
  • Shower caddy—get one with a mesh bottom because the other ones mold on the bottom.
  • Shower shoes (flip-flops)—I got ones with holes punched in the bottom and they work like a miracle!
  • Shampoo and conditioner—don’t get a giant Costco sized shampoo or conditioner because you have to carry that back and forth.
  • Hairstyling products
  • Bath and face soap
  • Travel soap container(s)
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Dental floss
  • Comb/brush
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Hair dryer/straightener/curling iron—didn’t use any of these because my hair is super low maintenance and I also couldn’t care less about my hair.
  • Razor and shaving cream—I initially brought like four razors and went through them in two months because I dropped them on the floor like it was my job (they broke so I couldn’t use them), so bring a lot.
  • Lotion and/or facial moisturizer
  • Cotton swabs—and cotton balls.
  • First-aid kit—things do happen where you may need some gauze.

Clothing—disregard the numbers next to them, I basically brought all of my clothes to school so yeah

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Pants/jeans
  • Shirts/blouses
  • Sweats
  • Pajamas
  • Slippers and/or flip-flops
  • Sweaters
  • Light and heavy jackets
  • Gloves/scarf/hat (and other foul-weather gear as needed)
  • 1 pair of boots
  • 2 pairs of sneakers or comfortable/walking shoes
  • 1 set of business-casual clothes
  • 1 pair of dress shoes
  • 1 swimsuit—I went swimming a lot, that a lot included the hot tub too.

Household and Kitchen Items

  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags—or re-use the grocery bags
  • All-purpose cleaner—get Lysol wipes.
  • Plastic storage bags
  • Food-storage containers
  • Dish soap and a sponge
  • Wet wipes
  • Tissues
  • Bowl, plate and cup—go to goodwill and get something that you don’t mind if it gets broken, its super cheap and you won’t cry if there’s a chip on it.
  • Coffee mug
  • Water bottle—I got a Britta water bottle and it’s the best thing ever. Ohio water tastes different from Illinois water, but with that thing I didn’t even notice.
  • Silverware—I went to school with a metal fork and left with plastic ones.
  • Can/bottle opener—comes in handy if you want canned fruit or a soup.


  • Umbrella—it really does rain, but you can also get a rain jacket.
  • Backpack—you do have school and things you need to carry to class.
  • Sports equipment—if you’re into that type of thing.
  • Vacuum/Broom/Swiffer—floors do get dirty and it’s nice when they’re clean.
  • Table mirror and a full length mirror—the small one is nice for doing make up and the full length one is good for taking mirror selfies, jk but it’s nice to see what your outfit looks like.
  • Command hooks and strips—you can’t nail into the walls, also get more of the strips than the hooks because you move the hooks more than you think.
  • Storage ottoman—its good as a seat or to hold stuff.
  • Foldable chair—it’s really nice when you don’t want to sit on the floor.
  • Also snacks—no explanation necessary

I know as move in nears the excitement builds and you want to buy all of these things, but think before you buy. A lot of the stuff on this list you can buy when you get to campus, it saves on space and reduces the risk of getting damaged. Just make sure that you know what you need still need as you move in. If anything BUY THE MIRRORS AT SCHOOL! Before you pack up all of your clothes make sure you leave enough for the time between packing and leaving. You can save on space if you put your clothes in garbage bags, it sounds like super ratchet, but it works and it’s a lot easier. Also don’t buy garment bags for your hanging clothes, just poke a hole in the top of a garbage bag.


  1. Pingback: Tips For Incoming College Freshmen |

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