Top 5 College Dorm Essentials You Need Right Now

Top 5 College Dorm Essentials You Need Right Now

Headed to college this fall? Maybe it's your first year away at a university. Or maybe it's your first time as a remote student taking online courses. Either way, it's a big change to go from the comforts of home to the stark reality of a dorm room. With a little planning and some smart back-to-school shopping, you can bring some of those home comforts to college life. From a laptop desk for your bed to an electric kettle for midnight brews, these are the college dorm essentials you need to pack this fall.

What do I really need for my dorm room?

Everything you bring should be multi-purpose, small in scale, and ready to see you through to graduation. Here's what to bring with you as you head back to school.

Mattress Topper

Dorm room beds aren't known for their comfort. Sleep is at a premium, too, especially in your first year away. Whatever you can do to boost your sleep-time comfort is worth it. But don't spend your money on a new mattress. Instead, invest in a mattress topper. This will give you deeper, more comfortable rest when you manage to find time to sleep. Toppers are much less expensive and will give you all the cushioned comfort of a luxury-brand mattress. Look for toppers made from dense memory foam. The thicker they are, the softer they will be. A good mattress topper should see you through all four years of your undergrad, too.  

Tray Table

While many dorm rooms have a desk, you don't want to sit in a hard chair all the time. You'll probably end up doing a fair amount of studying in bed. Save your neck and back with a bed tray or laptop desk for your bed. This will lift the laptop up to a more ergonomic height, relieving tension in your neck and shoulders and preventing headaches. The Table-Mate Pro II foldable desk is especially good for dorm rooms. It's really sturdy, making it ideal to use in bed, plus it has a spot to hold your tablet or phone. The folding bed tray tilts, too, so you can use it to hold your laptop up for movie night or as a prop for your heavy textbooks. It also folds flat, so you can slide it under your bed or behind your desk when you aren't using it.

Electric Kettle

Sure, there are drinks in the dining hall. But do you want to make the trip all the way there in the middle of a study session just for a cup of coffee or some tea? This is where your electric kettle comes in handy. Most dorms won't allow anything with a heating element, but they'll make an exception for electric kettles. These kettles heat water up to near-boiling temperatures in a matter of a few minutes. That allows you to make a quick cup of coffee, brew your favorite tea, or even make a cup of noodles as a midnight snack. Look for kettles with adjustable temperature settings for the ultimate convenience. 


Of course, a student can't survive on a cup of noodles alone. You'll need a fridge for your other dorm food essentials. A good mini-fridge can help you stock up on healthy study snacks, store leftover food from the dining hall, and keep treats from your care packages. Dorm fridges have come a long way from your parent's day, too. Today's fridges have a larger capacity (more food!) and many have additional features like produce drawers, freezers, and even built-in ice cube trays. Make sure you coordinate with your roommate about who is bringing the mini-fridge, though. There isn't usually room for two in one dorm room, but they are handy for doubling up as a side table. 

Noise-Canceling Headphones

There is no denying that dorm life can be noisy. People stop by to chat, your roommate needs music on to concentrate, or the dorm next door decided to have an all-night party. Noise-canceling headphones to the rescue. You have lots of options here, including in-ear buds or over-the-ear headphones. Pick what is most comfortable, but you'll probably get better noise-canceling performance from the over-the-ear type. You'll find yourself wearing these headphones all over campus, whether studying in your dorm room or walking to your next class. They are great for drowning out unwanted noise so you can concentrate, catch a nap, or just unwind. 

What Should You Not Bring to a College Dorm?

Avoid sending your parents home with a lot of unwanted and unnecessary stuff by avoiding: 

  • A lot of furniture. Hold off on purchasing furniture until you have seen your dorm room in person. The spaces are often smaller than you anticipated, and they may have more (or less) furniture than you thought. This will also save you from trying to pack multiple bedside tables in your car. 
  • Too much decorative clutter. Making your dorm room comfortable and homey is good, but don't go overboard. Focus on a few key pieces to show off your personality and style, then leave the rest at home. The more clutter you have, the more you'll need to clean it. You may also start to invade your roommates' space, which is a recipe for roommate trouble.
  • Anything that's irreplaceable or has a lot of sentimental value. It's nice to have reminders of home, friends, and family. But don't bring anything to college that you can't easily replace. It's really easy for treasured belongings to be misplaced, broken, or even stolen when living in a dorm with hundreds of other students. Pictures are a great idea. Your treasured stuffed animal that you've had since you were born might not be. 


Moving into your dorm and starting your college life is an exciting time, but a scary one, too. Making sure your dorm room is well-equipped and comfortable can help set you up for success in your new academic pursuits. To make the most of your new college living space, focus on sleeping, eating, and fueling your study time. That way you'll have the college dorm essentials covered and can focus your extra time on embracing everything else that college life has to offer. 


Contributing Writer: Erica Moss

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