What to Bring to College for Your Dorm Room

Tom Lange
Written by Tom Lange
Updated June 25, 2015
Father and son loading a car for a college move
Before moving into your college dorm, think hard about what you'll need and what can stay at home. (Photo by ©Thinkstock)

Don't try to move everything from your bedroom into your college dorm.

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If you’re an 18-year-old freshman-to-be in the middle of packing up your room for college, I have some bad news: There’s no way you can fit everything you planned to bring into your new dorm.

You and your roommate will spend nine months sharing a living space with about as much square feet as a large walk-in closet. And whatever belongings you do bring must fit around your desks, beds and the new friends who visit early and often.

It’s easy to find lengthy checklists with items that can come in handy at college. Many universities, including Indiana University and the University of Kentucky, also have websites that detail their move-in procedures, and have tips for what to bring and what to leave at home.

But it’s also important not to treat your college’s supply sheet as gospel. Otherwise, you’ll wind up filling space you don’t have with items you’ll likely never use.

Here are five must-have items for your first year in the dorms.

1. Bedding and sheets

You really only have space for three pieces of furniture in your dorm — your bed, desk and desk chair — and only one of those is comfortable enough to double as a couch. Be sure to confirm the size of your bed in advance so you know what kind of sheets to buy.

2. Shower shoes and toiletries

Your parents won’t be around to stock the supply closet with everything you need for a trip to the bathroom. If you have community showers in your dorm, shower shoes are a must — trust me!

3. Umbrella and rain gear

You’ll never miss these items more than during that first mile-long walk to class in the rain.

4. Surge protector

None of the electronics you brought with you were cheap. A surge protector improves their chance of surviving beyond your first year.

5. Trash can and cleaning supplies

Few college dorm rooms are known for their cleanliness. A few key cleaning supplies can help ensure your living space doesn’t become a cliché.

You won’t miss these items if you leave them at home:

1. Anything flammable

Policies vary by colleges, but most dorms prohibit candles, incense and other flammable materials.

2. Appliances

Coffee makers, toaster ovens and stoves take up space, and some dorms prohibit them. Mini fridges are an exception, but make sure to check with your roommate first to ensure he or she doesn’t bring one, too.

3. Anything breakable

You won’t have the space to store anything fragile. If it’s not durable, leave it with your parents.

4. Luggage

You can use laundry baskets and duffel bags to get your clothes and other belongings home or to other spots on the weekends. Best of all, you’ll use these regularly throughout the year. They won’t just take up space.

5. Ironing board

Again, you don’t have the space for it. The dryer, wrinkle-release spray and a hot shower are all viable options if you need a crisp shirt.

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