What To Bring To College | The Top Dorm Room Essentials I Tell Every Freshman To Bring To School

Unsure what dorm room essentials to buy? As a recent college freshman, I am here to tell you EXACTLY what you are going to need to bring to your college dorm.

what to bring to college

Going into your first year of college? If so, you are probably going to be living in a dorm room which is a huge transition from living in your bedroom at home!

I remember being SUPER nervous before I went to college and was so worried about how to make friends, what clothes to pack for college, and what dorm essentials I would need to make my dorm not only cute but comfortable as well! While the switch from living at home with your parents to living on your own in a dorm can be a little scary, it is also SO exciting and I am here to make your transition as seamless as possible.

I  spent hours planning out everything I would need to to bring to college and now, after going through my freshman year of college and surviving the dorms, can tell you first hand exactly what to bring to college. From bedding and decor, to appliances, to school supplies, this list will ensure you have absolutely everything you need to live comfortably in your dorm and guarantee success in your college classes!

This post is all about what to bring to college.



There are obviously a lot of things you need to bring with you to your college dorm but there are a few SUPER important ones. These are all things I seriously could not have lived without my freshman year of college or that I really wished I could have gone back in time to tell myself to buy before moving in!

Luckily for you, I have already lived my freshman year and can tell you exactly what you are going to need-and these are at the top of the list.

Top College Must-Have:  North Face Backpack

"This bag lasted me all throughout college and had the perfect amount of space to store all my books and supplies!"

Top Dorm Bedding Essential:  Mattress Topper

"Seriously one of the best purchases I could have made for my dorm. It feels like I'm sleeping on a cloud!"

Top Dorm Bathroom Essential: Shower Caddy

"I couldn't have gone through my freshman year without this! Loved how it also had holes to allow water to run out and prevent mold."

Top Dorm Furniture Essential: Futon

"Super comfortable and the price can't be beat! Such a high quality piece furniture especially for the price."

Top Dorm Decor Essential: Over-The-Door Mirror

"I consider this one of my all time necessities. Fits perfectly over any door to keep floors clutter free!"

Top Dorm Storage Essential: Under-Bed Storage

"One of the best purchases I made for my dorm! These kept my clothes clean and organized all year."

Top Dorm Cleaning Essential: Mini Vacuum

"The perfect size for anyone living in a dorm or small apartment. Easy to store and cleans great!"

Top Dorm Technology Essential: MacBook Pro

"Couldn't have gotten through college without this laptop. It lasted me all throughout college and years after!"

Top Dorm Kitchen Essential: Brita Water Filter

"This makes tap water taste so much better and it fits perfectly in my fridge!"

Most Unexpected Dorm Essential: Clip-On Fan

"This was the perfect size for my daughter who can't stands being hot while she sleeps while she lived in her dorm."



If you're looking for a college packing list girl I got you! In this post, I am going to tell you exactly what dorm room essentials you need to comfortably live in your home away from home at college. But you are obviously going to need to plan on packing more than just dorm room essentials!

I wish so badly I could have had this exact dorm room packing list when I was headed off to college my freshman year. But, now that I have lived in a dorm room for a full year can confidently tell you every single thing you need to pack for your dorm.

To make your life easier, I created this dorm room packing list which includes all the dorm room essentials included in this post but ALSO what clothes to bring to college, shoes, and other essentials you will want to bring with you!



Dorm bedding is going to be one of the MOST important parts of your dorm shopping. As a girl who just got done with their freshman year, I can guarantee that you will spend 99% of the time in your dorm room on your bed. I mean seriously, homework, watching movies, and especially those mid-day naps in between classes. Even now that I live in an apartment I still say that the best naps I ever took were in my dorm room!

These are all of the dorm room essentials I bought for my bed that I can accredit many MANY amazing naps to (and looked just as great!)

Dorm mattresses are notoriously bad- like you can literally feel the springs in the mattress… If there is one thing you are going to want in your dorm room it’s going to be this.

This mattress pad seriously made my old worn-out dorm mattress feel like a 5-star hotel bed!

A mattress protector was one thing I didn't originally think to buy when I was thinking about what to bring to college but after living a year in the dorms it has become one of my top dorm room essentials.

Think about how many people have slept on that same mattress throughout the years… GROSS. A mattress protector will not only make your dorm bed feel much cleaner but will also protect your mattress pad from any spills or accidents ( I can tell you first hand there will be many).

Sleeping pillows may seem like a no-brainer when thinking of what to bring to college. But, it is important to think about if you will be bringing your pillows from home or buying new ones!

I originally brought my pillows from home for my dorm but ended up regretting it when I had to take them back and forth when I went home for break. So personally I recommend buying1or 2 good sleeping pillows to keep solely in your dorm!

Again, sheets are probably a dorm room essential most people think of when buying their dorm bedding. But, what a lot of people don't know is that most dorm beds fit “twin XL” sheets which are different than the standard "twin".

Twin XL sheets are just a bit longer than twin sheets but make the world of a difference. So, make sure you buy the right size so your sheets aren’t constantly slipping off your bed!

Shop more twin XL bedding: The Best Twin XL Bedding You Need In Your Dorm Room

Which comforter you decide to buy is completely up to you but this is dorm bedding essential is what will really make your bed feel like home. You can have fun with colors and patterns or coordinate with your roommate to make your dorm feel more cohesive!

Shop more dorm bedding: The Absolute Best Target Dorm Bedding You’ll Obsess Over

If you are low on space in your dorm I definitely recommend utilizing the space under your dorm bed since they are so tall.

Bed skirts not only make your bed look 10x more put together, but they also allow you to store a ton of stuff underneath your bed while hiding the clutter!  

Throw blankets are always a good thing to add to your dorm shopping list. I mean who doesn’t love a good cozy blanket?

Adding a fuzzy throw will instantly make your dorm bed feel much more comfortable and are great to have on hand when friends come to stay!



Community bathrooms may be the thing you are dreading the absolute most when it comes to living in a dorm. I'll be honest, they aren't the best but you will get through it I promise... and we can laugh about how gross they are a year from now. 😅 

But for now, here are my absolute must-have dorm bathroom essentials that I swore by my freshman year to help you tackle living with community bathrooms in your dorm! 

If you are going to be using a community dorm bathroom then you are 100% going to need a shower caddy to keep all your stuff in. I personally recommend a shower caddy like this one with holes in it to make sure water doesn't get trapped and cause your things to mildew.

Shower caddies this cute didn’t exist when I was dorm shopping but this one from Amazon is definitely the one I would have gotten if it had been available last year! 😜

I will warn you right now that the lighting in dorm rooms is absolutely terrible. If you’re anything like me and can’t stand to do hair or makeup without good lighting then a makeup mirror is going to be a must.

This one is the perfect size to keep in your dorm room and is portable so you can easily bring it home for breaks or to your friend's dorm to get ready!

When doing your dorm room shipping you don’t want to forget a good set of bath towels! Really any will do but I recommend buying at least a set of 4 so you aren’t constantly making trips to the laundry room.

I also found that darker towels are best so you don’t have to worry about staining them with self-tanner or makeup!

If I had to put one thing at the top of my college dorm checklist for freshman girl it would be this. The worst thing ever is trying to carry your things back and forth from your dorm to the bathroom while trying to keep your towel up at the same time. A towel wrap will make this walk so much easier.

Plus, they are amazing to have when getting ready so you don’t have to worry about dirtying up your clothes or messing up your hair/makeup when changing!

Walking around the dorm bathrooms barefoot? No thanks… Be sure to have a pair of shower shoes!

I originally bought a pair of cheap flip flops but with how much I used them they broke all the time so I personally recommend a sturdier pair like these slides.  

I originally hadn’t even really thought about buying a first aid kid probably because I was so used to my parent's house constantly having what I needed.

But in your dorm room, you're basically starting fresh so make sure to stock up on bandaids, medicine, and other first-aid supplies just in case!

Stock up on the rest of these essentials: The Ultimate Survival Kit For College Freshman | 25+ Items That Will Save You In Your Freshman Dorm 

*If you're living in a dorm with community bathrooms you can skip out on buying these next few things. But, I know a lot of college dorms have their own bathrooms now (I am so insanely jealous of you)... So if you know the dorm you are living in has its own bathroom then make sure you have these dorm room bathroom essentials as well!*

Like I said, if you are living in a dorm with community showers you can obviously skip out on buying a curtain liner.

But, if you have a shower of your own you will want to make sure you have a plastic liner to keep water from soaking your bathroom floors. These are super cheap on Amazon!

Going along with a curtain liner, you will also need a shower curtain!

Target, Amazon, and Home Goods have a ton of super cute options to choose from!

Shop more dorm shower curtains: 15 Best Shower Curtains That’ll Take Your Bathroom to the Next Level

Nothing crazy here but if your shower curtain doesn’t come with pre-made holes or tabs to hang it then make sure to grab some curtain hooks!

Bath mats are partially for decoration but also something I totally could not have lived without in my bathroom. No one likes stepping onto a cold tile floor right out of the shower!

Pick up a few bath mats for your bathroom to make your bathroom more comfortable and keep water off the floor.

Even if you have a shower of your own in your suite-style dorm you are likely going to be sharing it with 2 to 3 other people which means lots of hair products are going to be in there. 

Coordinate with your roommates to see who will buy your shared bathroom essentials but no matter what make sure someone gets a shower organizer!

 Shop more dorm shower organizers 19 Top-Tier Shower Organizers You’ll Wish You Had Sooner

There’s not too much to say about this one- you just have to have it if you are living in a dorm room with a private bathroom!



Although some may not technically consider furniture a "dorm room essential" a lot of freshmen added these pieces into their room including myself and I will admit, it made my dorm feel a lot homier.

But in the end, the furniture you do choose to buy is really more to add comfort and style to your dorm room so don't feel like you absolutely have to have these if you are on a tight budget. Almost every dorm room comes with a bed, mattress, desk, and desk chair which is completely livable! I'm just a little extra when it comes to decorating. 😜 If you are too, these are some super cute dorm room furniture options!

While a headboard may seem more like decor than an essential, they really are super nice to have since most dorm beds are flat up against a concrete or cinderblock wall.

I personally spent so much time in bed watching movies and doing homework that I couldn't have imagined having to lean against a cold hard wall so this was definitely essential for me. 

Shop more dorm headboards: 14 Insanely Cute Dorm Headboard Ideas That Will Make Your Dorm Look WAY Better

21. Futon

If you have the room, I 100% recommend purchasing a futon for your dorm room. You may not always want to sit on your bed especially with friends over so having a futon is a great way to make a “living area” in your dorm.

Shop more dorm futons: 13 Best Dorm Futon Options That Are Surprisingly Stylish

Don’t have space for a futon? Totally get it. Instead, go with a smaller folding chair like this one from Target to create more seating in your dorm room. 

Shop more dorm chairs: 21 Best Dorm Chairs To Buy For Your College Dorm Room



Now for the fun part of living in a dorm... decorating! Obviously how much you choose to spend on decorating your dorm room is totally up to you and your budget!

But, I had a ton of fun decorating my dorm and I know so many other freshmen look forward to this the most when moving into college so I wanted to include some of my favorite dorm decor to make your dorm feel homier!  

Shop more dorm decor: The Absolute Best Dorm Room Decor Of This Year

Get even more dorm inspiration with some of my favorite rooms of this year: 39 Trendy Dorm Rooms That Are Truly Viral-Worthy

Throw pillows are a go-to way to make your dorm room feel cozier and obviously, look cuter! Have fun mixing and matching different sizes, colors, and patterns to fit your style!

Shop more throw pillows: The 7 Absolute Best Places To Get Cute Throw Pillows (and a pillow size guide)

One of the hardest parts about moving away to college is leaving your friends and family.

Picture frames not only make for great decor in your dorm room but also make your friends and family feel just a little closer.  

One of the main reasons dorm rooms feel so empty is because of all the blank wall space! Fill your walls with pictures, tapestries, and other wall decor and I promise it will feel 10x homier.

Shop more dorm wall decor: 15 Genius Dorm Wall Decor Ideas That Are Insanely Cute

An over-the-door mirror is something I recommend to anyone that asks what to bring to college apartment or dorm rooms.

These take up almost no space in your room and make picking out an outfit so much easier. Not to mention, they make for some great mirror pics. 😜

Ask me what not to bring to college and I will instantly tell you sheer curtains. What I will tell you to buy are blackout curtains. These seriously make the world of a difference and will guarantee a much better sleep!

My AC unit was right under my window so I got shorter blackout curtains but if your room is set up differently here is a longer set! Oh, and don’t forget a tension rod to hang them!

The before and after pictures of my dorm room were night and day and the biggest reason was because of the area rug. Most dorm rooms have tile floors which makes your room feel super cold and empty. An area rug will fill the space and make your dorm feel so much cozier!

Shop more dorm room rugs: 23 Trendiest Dorm Room Rugs That Will Transform Your Dorm

29. Lamps

The overhead lighting in my dorm room was so bright and ugly that I literally refused to turn it on. Instead, I would use smaller lamps with warmer light bulbs.

I recommend buying a few and keeping one on your nightstand, desk, and vanity if you have one.

You don’t want to go so overboard with table decor that it looks cluttered, but I do recommend a few good pieces to make your dorm look more stylized. Table books, trays, and plants are always my go-to!

Shop more table decor: The Coffee Table Books We Can’t Stop Thinking About



The absolute hardest part about dorm room living is how little space you have. It can seem impossible to fit everything in such a small space. Trust me I get it. I remember looking at all the stuff I had packed and thought that there was absolutely no way everything would fit. But, with the right storage and organization products, I promise it’s possible! Here are all of the best organization products that I used in my dorm and recommend every college freshman use to maximize their space.

See more dorm room storage ideas: 34 Best Dorm Room Organization Ideas All Freshman Should Know

31. Baskets

Baskets are one of the easiest dorm room storage solutions. I literally used baskets everywhere in my dorm to store clothing, school supplies, and bathroom essentials.

These are an inexpensive but cute way to make your dorm room look much more organized!

I literally used clear acrylic organizers in every nook and cranny in my dorm room.

This set from Amazon comes in all different sizes which will allow you to store a variety of products and mix and match in order to maximize your drawer storage space!

33. Hangers

Velvet hangers should be on every single college checklist for guys and girls. Obviously, you are going to need closet storage products in your dorm but if you are going out and buying new hangers I highly recommend velvet ones in particular. You will also need clip hangers for pants and if you're really low on space, these space-saving hangers are great!

Shop more dorm closet organizers: 19 Genius Dorm Closet Organization Ideas That Will Change Your Life

Over-the-door shoe organizers are pretty much the best way to store your shoes and keep your closet clutter-free. In fact, over-the-door organizers are a great dorm organization for really anything! I kept some of my kitchen supplies in an organizer like this and it worked out great!

One of the biggest pieces of advice I could give to college freshmen living in a dorm is to utilize the space under their bed. With the right under-bed dorm storage and a few plastic drawers, you can easily turn otherwise useless space into a super convenient way to store clothing, shoes, and snacks.

Shop more under bed dorm storage: 19 Genius Ways To Create Under Bed Dorm Storage

To prevent your jewelry from getting lost or tangled be sure to buy a jewelry organizer! You can either buy a standing one like this one or one that hangs on the wall!

Your desk is where you will probably spend most of your time so you want to be sure you have all the dorm organization products to keep it clean! Think about what you'll be doing here (studying, getting ready, etc.) and plan your storage accordingly!

Shop more desk organizers: 10 Dorm Desk Organization Ideas And Products You Need To Stay Organized



If you have a kitchen of your own (I know some “suite-style” dorms do) then you will likely need more than just these few dorm kitchen essentials. But, if you are living in a traditional style dorm you will most likely not be cooking a whole lot in your dorm which means you only really need a few essentials! Most dorms come with a mini-fridge and microwave so you should be set on that. But if not, definitely make sure to purchase those two appliances before moving in! Aside from that, here is what I brought to college that worked perfectly to create a “dorm kitchen”.

Shop more dorm microwaves: 14 Best Mini Microwaves Made For Your Dorm Room

Shop more dorm fridges:16 Dorm Fridge Options With Five Star Reviews On Amazon

All the coffee lovers out there need to listen up! A mini coffee maker will most likely be your favorite dorm purchase. This mini Keurig is the perfect size to keep in your dorm room and will end up saving you all the money you would have spent at Starbucks.

Be sure to keep a variety of plastic bags in your dorm!

This will not only be your most efficient way of storing snacks but also come in handy when packing for trips!

If you are living in a suite-style dorm then you may want to consider buying reusable dishes. But anyone living in a traditional dorm room is going to make their life a lot easier by buying paper plates and utensils. 

Let’s be honest, there is no way tap water in dorm halls is sanitary. Keep a water filter in your dorm fridge to ensure you have clean drinking water at all times!

This will also save you so much money since you won’t constantly have to buy plastic water bottles.



Sadly your mom and dad will no longer be there to do your laundry for you in college so it is time to stock up on all the dorm laundry essentials you’ll need to do it on your own! Unless your school has one of those laundry services that your parents paid extra for, and in that case, just know I’m extremely jealous…

The complete guide to doing your own laundry: How To Do Laundry + Make Your Clothes Smell Insanely Good

When buying a laundry hamper for your dorm make sure you buy one that has a removable bag!

This will make carrying your clothes to the dorm laundry room 10x easier!

Laundry detergent is pretty much a no-brainer when it comes to buying laundry supplies before moving into your dorm.

But, I always recommend liquid detergent for freshmen living in dorms in order to avoid clothes getting ruined in the wash from half-melted pods.

Some sort of stain remover spray is a must-have dorm room essential.

If you spill something on your clothes, quickly spray this on the spot and let it sit for a minute or two before throwing it in the wash.

Before moving into your dorm be sure to buy a pack or two of dryer sheets!

These not only keep your clothes from getting static-y in the dryer but also make them smell so good!

I'm telling you right now, you do NOT need to buy an iron or steamer. You will end up using it once and never again.

What you WILL use is this wrinkle releaser spray. This stuff seriously works magic. A few sprays and your clothes will look flat ironed in a matter of seconds. This was a lifesaver for me throughout my freshman year and even now!



Living in a small space like a college dorm can be hard enough but what’s even worse is a small space that's dirty. I tried to make it a point to clean my dorm once a week and I’m so grateful I did. Make dorm cleaning a weekly routine and I guarantee you will feel much more productive throughout the week! You also don’t need to go out and clear the entire cleaning aisle for a dorm! Like I said, dorms are pretty small so you won’t have a ton to clean so stick with these few dorm cleaning essentials to ensure a squeaky clean place.

Shop all the dorm cleaning essentials: 18 Dorm Cleaning Supplies Every Single College Freshman Should Have

You don’t have a ton of space you need to worry about vacuuming in your dorm so you don’t need to go out and buy a huge expensive vacuum cleaner.

This mini vacuum worked great for me in my dorm and was super easy to store away even in my small closet.

If there is one cleaning essential to be sure you bring with you when picking what to bring to college then make it this!

Clorox wipes are a quick and easy way to clean your dorm bedroom, counters, bathrooms, and other small spills.

Be sure you bring some sort of glass cleaner to college too! You will need this to clean any windows or mirrors in your dorm room.



Most colleges provide some sort of public access to computers and other technology so don’t stress too much if you can’t afford a brand new laptop for college. But if you are able to purchase these things, or already have them, I highly encourage you to bring them!

Your laptop is going to be your lifeline in college. It's not like high school where everything is done on paper. You will do 99.9% of your college work on your computer so make sure you get one that will last (and that has lots of storage)!

The MacBook Pro is the laptop most freshmen get in college but I know a lot of engineering and architecture programs only run on Windows so just take that into consideration when making this purchase!

Walk onto a college campus and you are guaranteed to see at least 5 people with earbuds in. 

They may seem expensive at first but the AirPod Pros really are a great investment for how much you will be using them in college.

If you are the type of person who likes listening to music while they study then a Bluetooth speaker is going to be a must!

This one is a great price for the quality and is even waterproof so you can take it to the pool with you or in the bathroom while you shower!

We all know how often phone chargers break, are taken, or just mysteriously disappear. I recommend buying a pack of 6ft chargers to keep around just in case.

It's also a good idea to have at least one portable charger to take with you on the go! No one likes having a dead phone at the bar...

If you're anything like me then you hate sleeping in a hot room. But a lot of times, a big floor fan gets in the way, especially in a small dorm. 

This little bedside fan is the perfect size to clip on your headboard and keep you cool all night long.

A lot of the time dorm rooms have plugs in really inconvenient places or just not enough in general!

Buy an extension cord before moving into your dorm to ensure you have enough plugs and can charge your phone in bed comfortably.

If you are a heavy sleeper then you may be able to get through living in a college dorm without this. But for me, a sound machine was an essential I knew I was going to need to add to my list when thinking of what to bring to college.

If you are a light sleeper to then this is going to save your life in the dorms!



Was anyone else obsessed with school supplies shopping when they were younger (or even still are?) Like seriously, I would watch school supplies HAULS on YouTube...

Well, I hate to break it to you but school supplies shopping in college isn't nearly as fun. You honestly don't need to buy much at all because pretty much all your work is online! It's honestly best to wait on buying most of your school supplies because most professors will tell you exactly what you need to buy or even have pre-made "kits" for the classes. I made the mistake of going overboard with school supplies my first semester and didn't end up using half of it. 

That being said, there are a few essentials you are absolutely guaranteed to need in college so make sure to buy these next few things ahead of time!

A backpack is probably the first thing you thought of bringing when thinking about what to bring to college. But in case you didn't- here's your reminder! This North Face backpack is the one I used all throughout high school and it's worked just as well in college!

Shop more college backpacks: 30+ Trendiest College Backpacks of 2021 (According to College Students)

I know I said you didn't have to go overboard with buying college school supplies but hey, who says you can't at least buy a cute pencil case?!

This will keep all your writing supplies organized and in one place so you aren't that kid who is constantly having to ask strangers to borrow a pencil

This one's pretty self-explanatory. You can't get through college without pencils! I bought a big pack like this at the beginning of my freshman year and I haven't had to buy anymore since.

You may also need pens and highlighters to make notes in lectures or while reading!

60. Planner

I’m not even joking when I say I would be completely lost in college if I didn't have my planner. My BSL planner is literally my holy grail school essential and the reason I am able to stay organized in college. I write down all my assignments at the beginning of the semester so I can easily see what I have due.

Seriously, if there is one thing you need to buy for college it’s a planner!

If you were to ask me what to bring to college class lectures I would say 3 things: your laptop, pencils, and a notebook. Other than that you're set!

You really do take most of your notes on your computer but it's always good to have a notebook with lined paper on you. This 5-subject notebook will last you all year if not into the next.



These are some of the unexpected things I brought to college that I actually ended up needing all the time or things I realized I needed after moving in and wished I had brought before!

Shop all the essentials you may not have thought of: Unexpected Things To Bring To College | 15+ Items You Probably Didn’t Think To Bring To College

If you have any sort of appliances in your dorm room you are guaranteed to need batteries at some point. Even if not, you never know what you are going to need them for (I ended up needing them for the fairy lights I had hung in my room) so they’re always good to have around!

Most dorm room’s either don’t allow you to drill holes in the wall or are cinderblock so it’s impossible to anyways. If you plan on hanging up any kind of wall decor then you are going to need Command Strips.

These are also great to have around for organizing!  

Definitely add a tool kit to your dorm room essentials list and make sure it comes with a pair of scissors! This will come in handy especially while moving in and out but also for minor fixes in your dorm throughout the year.

It's also a good idea to buy tape + glue to keep around!

You’re obviously going to be packing a lot of bags to move into your dorm but make sure to have your parents leave you one when they leave as well!

Every college student is bound to be visiting home during breaks or traveling to see their friends at school so a weekender bag is going to be essential!

This post was all about what to bring to college.

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