Dorm Room Checklist: Must-Haves and Essentials

Welcome to your college: your home away from home! For most of you, this is your first time moving out and living on your own, which is why I’ve created a short dorm room checklist of items you’ll want to have.


*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. All the products listed are those that I would personally recommend based on my own experiences as a former college student who lived on-campus.*

Please keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive. After my own experience of living on a college campus, I’ve found what tends to work and what doesn’t. Your list will probably have more things on it and that is completely fine!

[RELATED] Make Your College Dorm Room a Retreat with These Ideas

Before You Purchase, Add This Step to Your Dorm Room Checklist

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Cube Organizer

To keep everything organized, you’ll want to add cube organizers to your dorm room checklist, or shelves of some sort, to store all of your miscellaneous items. They aren’t very expensive and are great for serving multiple purposes (TV stand, storage, displaying picture frames, etc.). I bought some fabric cube bins (see below) to place my DVDs, electronics, and other loose items in. Assembly isn’t too bad – I am terrible at putting things together but was able to do this on my own.

And Don’t Forget the Fabric Cube Bins

These bins serve as great storage for all of the other items you plan on bringing to college. I remember using them for paperwork, power strips, miscellaneous supplies, and random knick-knacks.


College dorm rooms typically have twin or XL twin beds available for students. There are some that offer full size beds (as well as XL full) if you live in on-campus apartments, so I recommend checking with your student housing department to find out what size your bed will be.

Once you have the size, you can start searching for sheets, comforters, blankets, quilts, mattress pads, and whatever other bedding you want! Amazon is a great place to get XL twin bedding if you are looking for cool designs that won’t break the bank.

Personal Recommendation: Mattress pads are a lifesaver. My dorm bed was uncomfortable so I immediately went out and bought a foam mattress pad so that I could sleep better. It may not have been the most high quality mattress pad, but it did a good enough job for me. It’s definitely something that you may want to consider placing on your college student checklist (especially if you have a bad back).

Shower Caddy

A shower caddy is a great item to have when you are sharing bathrooms with other dorm residents. They often come in mesh or plastic so that they dry easily. It’s a great way to keep all of your bathroom products organized and in one place.

I remember lugging my shower stuff to and from the bathroom once and that was enough for me. I made sure to purchase a shower caddy right away and it made my life so much easier.

Trust me – This item is a must for your dorm room checklist if you are living on-campus!

Reading Light

A reading light is a must if you plan on staying up late! Your roommate’s sleep time might vary from yours, so having a reading light can come in handy for those late night study sessions. I have seen different styles, such as lamps that sit on your desk or those that clip to your bed. I would also be wary of the kind of light bulb you place in one because harsh light can start to give you a headache after awhile. You also don’t want a light that is too dim or subtle.


Not only are towels dorm room essentials, they are life essentials! I suggest getting at least a couple towels so that when one gets dirty, you have another one to use. I would also have a couple washrags on hand, especially if you have a sink in your room. Whenever you get your towels wet, make sure you hang them up to dry and wash them regularly so that they don’t start smelling bad.

Plastic Drawers

Plastic drawers are a great product for maximizing space. Dorms typically give you a small dresser or drawers of some sort, but I didn’t think they were enough. I bought a set of these to put my socks, scarves, and athletic apparel in.

Desk Supplies

You can never have enough school supplies! Here are just a few to add to your list:

  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Scissors
  • Sticky notes (I like these)
  • Paper clips/Binder clips
  • Stapler/Staples
  • Rubber bands
  • Glue
  • Craft supplies (because you never know when a professor will want you to bust out your creative skills)

[RELATED] Must-Have School Supplies for College Students

Planner and Messenger Bag

Trust me when I say that having a planner is an absolute essential when you are in college. You are going to have so many assignments and important dates to keep track of! Find something that works for you and then stick with it. The Action Day Academic Weekly Planner is the one I personalized used during grad school, and I currently use the Day Designer as an adult – both are excellent and get the job done!

As for a messenger bag, look for one that allows you to carry your laptop or tablet, a notebook, and a few pens/pencils. Just make sure you don’t overdo it on the books or your shoulders will be screaming by the end of the day 😉

These are just a few basic items to get you started! As you begin to settle into your space, you’ll find that you may need some extra things to your dorm room checklist fulfill all your needs. By the end of your first year, you’ll be a pro at knowing what to bring and what to leave at home.

Other Miscellaneous Items to Add to Your List

For more college student essentials, check out my Resources page!

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