Dorm Room Must-Haves

Parents of current college students tell us what their kids couldn’t live without freshman year
Fea Must Firstaidkit Creditnewafrica Shutterstock 1219873909
Photo courtesy of NewAfrica/

Your recent high school graduate has checked college orientation off her to-do list. Now comes the process of packing. Dorm room must-haves range for different students, but two adjectives come to mind as many families begin this daunting task: necessary and compact.

The average dorm room is about 130 square feet. Some are smaller, some are larger, but regardless, there isn’t a lot of extra space. Your student needs to pack efficiently.

We interviewed local and regional parents of current college students to find out what items their student had to have to make life a little more tolerable in 130 square feet. Here are 30 insightful answers — plus five must-haves for getting around campus at the end.

1. Memory foam mattress topper (Tempur-Pedic is a popular choice)

2. “A window exhaust fan. A fan that hooks to the bed rail. A turbo oscillating desktop fan. Those rooms are hot! Oh, and a cooling pillow!” — Angie Snyder of Vesuvius, Virginia



3. Shower shoes (Crocs are popular)

4. Fleece blanket or throw

5. 10-foot mobile phone charging cable (particularly useful for lofted beds)

6. Power strips

7. Husband or backrest pillow

8. Command hooks

9. “Noise-cancelling headphones [or ear buds]. Even the best of roommates can get on each other’s nerves spending so much time in such a small space. They are essential for studying, and the other roommate doesn’t feel like they have to be absolutely quiet.” — Hugh Elwood
of Glen Allen, Virginia

10. Portable battery charger

11. Portable, waterproof Bluetoothspeaker for showers and outdoor use

12. Plug-in air fresheners

13. Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini



14. Faucet extender (dorm room sinks are small; this makes it easier for water to extend over the countertop)

15. “Bamboo shelf that screwed onto his metal military-style bunk. It held his phone and water when in bed.” — Lynn Lacolla Barnsback of Fairfax, Virginia

16. Reusable water bottle

17. Sonic Boom alarm clock (for sound sleepers)

Photo courtesy of Sonic ALERT

18. “A Mom-prepared medical box. When they are sick they call home and I direct them to the right medication within the box. I include cold remedies, allergy remedies, emergency supplies, large and small bandages, wraps and Betadine for sports injuries, thermometer, eye wash, cortisone cream, Neosporin, pain meds. I even include some tea bags, honey packets and cans of soup. Every one of my college kids appreciates the instant help and relief when it’s needed. (I appreciate it because the call always comes on Friday at midnight when nothing is open.)
— Michele Moss (location not disclosed)

19. Pictures of pets 

20. Sewing kit

21. Pocket organizer that attaches to the side of a lofted bed

22. Over-the-door shoe holder for snacks and extra storage

23. Printer

24. Planner (paper or digital)

25. “A small toolbox with the basic tools, Command Strips for the wall, duct tape, super glue, etc. I also packed her a tub of all different types of batteries. And definitely a few power cords.” — Cathie Rubley Hart (location not disclosed)

26. Desk hutch for storage, to keep the desk surface free for laptops, etc.

27. Keurig Single Serve Coffee Maker

28. “A [music] keyboard! Great stress reliever and was a great way to meet other kids who like to jam.” — Stephanie Schaeffer Silverman of Shaker Heights, Ohio

29. Air purifier

30. “I cannot stress enough the importance of surrounding a freshman with the things from home that mean the most to them and help them cope with their new life — even when those things aren’t exactly convenient.” — Tammie Orefice (location not disclosed) 

5 Must-Haves for Getting Around Campus

1. Duck boots for rainy days

2. Waterproof backpack

3. Hooded and lined windbreaker

4. Down coat for winter days

5. Swimsuit for swimming in the school’s recreational pool or nearby bodies of water 

Duck boots photo courtesy of EJJohnson Photography/; waterproof backpack photos courtesy of The North Face; hooded rain jacket courtesy of MIKHAILTUROV/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM​.


Beth Shugg is the editor of Carolina Parent and mother of a North Carolina State University graduate, junior at Virginia Tech and senior at Apex High School in Apex, North Carolina.



Categories: College Planning