Freshman year is an exciting time for many students. After all, it’s a brand new chapter in their lives with new friends, a new school, and possibly even a new state or country. To top it all off, students are living away from home for (most likely) the very first time in their lives, which means living in the dorms. But it also leads to one question: what must-haves do you need for your college dorm room?
Between living in the dorms for high school summer programs and moving to 3 different dorms in my freshman year (due to mold problems), I’ve truly experienced how different dorms can be. Because of these many difference, I’ve seen how the dorms can affect what you do and do not need to bring to college. However, I have also found that there are some items essential to a great living space, no matter what dorm room you live in.
That’s why I’ve rounded up a list of 15 items that you should purchase for your dorm room to make the most of your college dorm room!
(Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you would like more information about my disclosure policy, please click here.)
1 and 2) A Mattress Topper and a Mattress Pad
We have all heard the stories of how uncomfortable the dorm room mattresses are. They’re old, they’re cheap, and for all the talk that colleges make about how important it is for students to get a good night’s sleep, they sure don’t make it easy for us, which is why I highly recommend investing in both a mattress pad and mattress topper..
The mattress topper provides an insane amount of extra cushion to the thin dorm mattresses, whereas the mattress pad wraps around the entire mattress, adding on a smaller, plush cushion on top. Combined, it’s sure to help you get a great amount of sleep, which I can validate for. When I moved into interim housing for Spring break, I didn’t bring the mattress topper and pad along, preferring to move as few items as possible. The result? Tossing and turning the entire night with an aching back, making it easily one of my worst nights of sleep ever.
That’s why having these items are an absolute necessity. Even though they’re probably one of the most expensive items you’ll purchase for your dorm room, they are 100% worth the investment.
A mattress topper similar to the one I have can be found here, as well as a mattress pad here. If you’re also looking for a bed bug mattress protector (which doesn’t provide any extra cushion, but is great for avoiding any bed bug problem), you can find it here.
3) A Large Rug or Carpet
Perhaps my biggest dorm room regret my freshman dorm room was not having a large rug to fill the space.
Although this wasn’t a huge problem in my first two dorms (as the rooms was too small and awkwardly-shaped to have a carpet), my third dorm room had a large amount of cold, hard, tiled space. Because of this, my floor wasn’t the best in the winter–as it seemed to absorb all the cold–but even in the warmer months it felt hard, unwelcoming, and nothing like the “home-away-from-home” I wanted it to be.
This is why I highly recommend getting a large carpet or rug for your dorm room, something that will fill the majority of the space and cover up the hard (and sometimes ) floor tiles of dorm rooms.
You can check out one from Amazon by clicking here, which will fill up a ton of space in a dorm room!
4) A Clock
I grew up in a house with a wall clock in every room, so when I moved to college, I constantly found myself looking up at the walls for the time. (Spoiler alert: There wasn’t a clock, so I had to look at my phone instead.)
While you may not think a wall clock is a major must-have, I promise you, it can quickly become one. Just imagine: You’re working on a critical paper for your least favorite class when you look at your phone to get the time. You see the time, but you also see that you have notifications from Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube, so you decide to give yourself a quick break from working on the paper. Before you know it, five funny YouTube videos, a new Instagram post, and a series of SnapChats later, you glance at the time again, only to find an hour has passed and you’re now running way behind on that paper because it’s due tonight. Oops.
To save space, I recommend getting a wall clock, like this one. For me, a wall clock was one of the best dorm room items that I received in my freshman year, and is an absolute essential tool for time management in college.
5) Posters and Tapestries
One of the best parts about moving away for college is getting to decorate your room however you wish, which means that posters and tapestries are essential!
For my dorm room, I got a packet of “mini posters” that I arranged in a checkerboard pattern that worked really well, but some other options include creating a gallery wall or a photo collage. You can also re-use calendar pages instead of throwing them out.
Tapestries are another great option because they come in a variety of sizes, and you can also switch up where in the room you want to place them. You can pin them on the ceiling, hang them at the head of your bed, or just pin them up behind a couch or futon. Tapestries are also great because they come in a wide variety of sizes, and therefore how much of the wall you want them to cover.
If you want the best of both worlds (posters and tapestries), then you can even use your tapestry as a curtain!
6) String Lights
One of my favorite items that I got for my freshman dorm room was a set of string lights. Although this may sound like a very stereotypical dorm room purchase, they’re popular for a reason.
Not only do string lights provide a bit of extra light and personality to your dorm room, but there are so many ways to use them. You can clip photos on them, hang them on your ceiling, or drape them behind a curtain or tapestry; the possibilities are endless. When purchasing them, it’s important to take into account what you’re using them for in order to get the correct length. After all, I wouldn’t need as much to hang them behind a tapestry as I would need if I wanted to string them across my ceiling a few times.
7) Marker Boards and Cork Boards
My marker board provided a major organization tool in my freshman year of college. Hanging right next to my desk, I would divide it up into two sections: my short-term and long-term to-do lists. Paper due tomorrow? Short term list. Present for a friend’s birthday next month? Long term to-do list.
Every time that I accomplished something, getting to erase it off the marker board and watching it have less and less on it was the best feeling in the world. Not only did it give me an easy way to see everything that needed done, but it also helped me to stay on top of it all.
Of course, to-do lists aren’t the only things that marker boards can be used for. Many students hang them up on the outside of their door and write jokes, quotes, and messages for other students who live in their hall.
I also had two cork boards in my room, which gave me a place to hang up birthday cards, pictures, business cards, and trading pins, but it’s also helpful because you can change these out and re-organize them easily throughout the year. A cork board also gives you a great place to hang up a calendar, rather than on the wall, where you might be charged for damages.
8) Washi Tape
In case you’re not familiar with washi tape, it is a decorative tape that is easy to stick on and peel off without any damages, and is often used to for agendas, bullet journals, etc. However, it can also be used to decorate room walls or furniture, such as decorating a light switch or a door, the edges of a marker board, etc.
In fact, I was able to use washi tape directly on my dorm walls (without any damages, I might add,) to create a picture frame, which you can see below:
What makes washi tape even better is how cheap it is. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I had several different rolls of it, each in a different color and pattern.
To check out some Washi Tape (via Amazon), just click here.
In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that a mirror is something that you should wait to purchase until you move in (in case the room already comes with one), but it is definitely something that you shouldn’t go without.
Not only can a mirror help you do your hair, put together your outfit, and let you take your #ootd selfies, but it can also add more light and space to the room.
No, I’m not kidding when I say that. If you strategically place your mirror in a spot where it will reflect light, it can help make a room seem brighter and bigger. I utilized this trick myself in the dorm that I lived in. Since I had a little “study corner” in my room, I placed my mirror on the side of my study corner so that it would reflect the light from the window, making the small area feel lighter and bigger.
While it may take a bit of trial and error to find the perfect spot to utilize this trick, a mirror is an absolute must-have for your dorm room.
Let’s take a little trip down memory lane…
I began my freshman year, like most students, with move-in day. It was exciting and packed with activities for everyone to do. After a long day of unpacking and eventful evening of freshman activities, I finally got to bed very late in the evening…only to be woken up early the next morning by the sun streaming through my broken blinds.
To say the least, I was not a very happy camper, especially since this happened several days in a row until I finally had the time to go to the store and buy some curtains.
If you value your sleep and sanity in college, then curtains are a must. Whether you use regular curtains or a tapestry, having something to block the sunlight is a necessity to get the sleep you need in college. It was only after I purchased a pair of curtains that I finally could get a good night’s sleep.
To check out some curtains (via Amazon), just click here.
11) Additional Lighting
I believe that there are several items you should wait to purchase until after dorm move-in, and a lamp is one of them.
Until you arrive in your dorm the first time, you don’t know how much additional lighting you need, and where you’ll need it. There’s a big difference between needing a little lamp for your desk and a big lamp to illuminate an entire wall.
If you decide that you need a desk lamp, I absolutely love this one one (which is the same one I have) because it has a spots for me to put knickknacks, pens, pencils, and an electrical outlet to charge my phone.
12) Wall Putty
Without a doubt, wall putty is a must-have item for any room, but especially a dorm room. With a similar feel and texture to Silly Putty, wall putty is a reusable adhesive that you can use to hang up photos, posters, and other items, making it perfect for college dorms.
The great part about wall putty is that it is reusable and easy to take on and off, so if you decide to re-arrange your decorations, you don’t have to worry about getting a new piece or causing damages to the walls.
To check out some wall putty (via Amazon), just click here.
13) Velcro Command Strips and Wall Hooks
Although wall putty is great for hanging up posters and pictures, command strips are necessary for the heavier items, such as mirrors and marker boards.
When it comes to command strips, I highly recommend getting the velcro ones for several reasons. The first (and foremost) one is because it is easier to re-arrange decorations just by peeling the decoration off one velcro wall strip and sticking it on another. Velcros strips are also great because you can have several attempts to hang something up straight (and not crooked) with velcro; if you get the regular kind, you’re just stuck with whatever angle it’s at unless you take it off and apply a new command strip.
Another reason that I love the velcro command strips is because I found that they were easier to remove from my wall at the end of the year than the regular kind. In addition to the velcro command strips, I also recommend their wall hooks to hang up your towels, jackets, jewelry, and other items.
14) Desk Calendars
Although I have loved wall calendars in the past, I just never wrote anything on them because I am terrible at writing on vertical surfaces. (Do school teachers take a class in this? Because I don’t understand how they right on a vertical chalk board or marker board all the time and still have their handwriting look so neat.)
However, when I was going dorm room shopping, I made the decision to purchase I desk calendar instead, and I could not be more happy with my decision. It not only helps me keep track of dates and deadlines, but I never need to search for a notepad whenever I need to jot something down, because there is always a huge one on my desk!
15) Water Bottle Brush
One of the most common “must-have college items” that you will see on any list is a reusable water bottle, which not only eliminates the need for plastic water bottles, you helps save both the environment and money!
While I totally agree with having a reusable water bottle (after all, I have one too), many students forget to also purchase a water bottle brush for it. A dedicated brush made cleaning out my water bottle so much easier throughout the year, and helped make sure it got a thorough clean.
Dorm room shopping can be extremely overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you focus on the essentials and work your way up from there! These items not only make your dorm room a great place to live, but also a great home-away-from-home. In fact, if you want a tour of my dorm room (and suite!) to get more inspiration, you can do so by clicking here.