A college student reveals everything she wishes she'd had her first year in a college dorm, inspired by friends, TikTok and more.
Believe it or not, back-to-school shopping season is upon us!
For incoming college freshmen, knowing what to pack for your first year in a dorm room is daunting. With limited experience being away from home and the constraints of a small living space, it's challenging to gauge what dorm essentials need to come along for the university journey and what can be left behind.
Of course, there are necessities: from bedding and storage to kitchen and beauty. But aside from the obvious items like comforters, laundry baskets and shower caddies, many incoming students often find themselves wondering what other important things need to make the packing list.
Hi! My name is Erin Glassmacher, and I'm a writing intern at ET and a senior in college. Three years ago, I was in your shoes as an incoming freshman, and trust me: I know your anxiety.
The months leading up to college move-in day were entirely overwhelming and full of uncertainty about what college life would be like. The prospect of buying new dorm products only added to the worry. Over the past three years, I have not only envied the things my friends had in their dorms that I did not, but I have also discovered the quintessential must-haves for the dorm experience. Now I'm going to pass those tips on to you!
Thanks to TikTok and my best friends' inspiration, I've rounded up my top recommendations to help make your college dorm preparation a breeze. Below, shop the best college dorm room essentials that I wish I'd had my freshman year.
Dorm Room Bedding Essentials
LUCID 4 Inch Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Dorm beds can feel stiff, so add more comfort to your Twin/Twin XL bed with this gel foam mattress topper.
Utopia Bedding Quilted Fitted Mattress Pad (Twin)
A mattress pad goes over your mattress and mattress topper for protection and an extra layer of softness.
Peavler Comforter Set
Check out this floral comforter set for your dorm room. It's available in Twin and Twin XL sizes, and it's made from super soft 100% polyester microfiber.
Bedsure Beige Twin Comforter Set
If you're looking for a neutral color to stay on theme, this beige comforter set is both comfortable and stylish.
Bare Home Twin XL Sheet Set
Microfiber sheets are the best choice for a dorm bed, as they provide quality comfort and are easy to wash.
Kitsch Satin Pillowcase Set of 2
Satin pillowcases protect skin and hair from damage that comes along with traditional pillowcases.
Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows
With over 228,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, these plush bounce-back pillows are designed to keep you cool at night and are an affordable dorm room essential.
Aijha Square Tufted Upholstered Headboard
A dorm bed with a headboard is the ultimate upgrade (if your residence life allows it, of course). Pro tip: Use zip ties to secure the headboard at the perfect height.
Luna Cooling Bamboo Weighted Blanket
For the hot or stressed sleepers, add this cooling blanket to your college packing list to keep you comfortable all night while also feeling like your being hugged.
Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Barefoot In The Wild Throw
Not just any throw blanket, this Barefoot Dreams cozy blanket is loved by celebs. One reviewer even said "I have never loved a blanket more in my life."
Dorm Room Storage Essentials
TICONN 6 Pack Extra Large Moving Bags
These are a holy grail for transporting your belongings on move-in day, especially if you have five flights of stairs to climb and no elevator (like I did).
NestNeatly SmartCube Under Bed Storage Bag - Set of 3
Fit these foldable fabric organizers under your dorm bed or in your closet.
HEYHOUSE Closet Organizers
Maximize closet space with these clothes hangers that can hold up to 10 clothing items.
Command Hooks Variety Pack
An absolute essential: Every college dorm uses at least a handful of Command Strips and Command Hooks to hang jackets, towels and more.
Have your go-to items right in reach of your bed with this multi-pocketed caddy.
Whitmor Rolling White Wire Underbed Cart
Store shoes, clothes, blankets, towels and more under your bed with easy accessibility.
Hanging Shoe Organizer
Keep your dorm closet in tip-top shape with this flexible hanging shoe closet organizer that's not just for shoes.
Utility Cart with Wheel
This compact rolling cart is an ideal dorm room essential. Move it effortlessly to any corner that suits your needs and make the most of its petite size. Use it to store a diverse range of miscellaneous items such as food, haircare products and skincare essentials.
Parker Upholstered Storage Ottoman
One of my favorite dorm room ideas: A storage ottoman that effortlessly stores shoes and other items while also providing extra seating space. Plus, you can place it near your bed to use as a stool.
Under-Bed Storage Shelf and Cubes
Storage Hack: Combine this shelving unit with cube storage bins for a cute way to maximize your under-bed storage space.
Dorm Room Kitchen Essentials
1.3 Gallon Metal Lidded Trash Can
A mini trash can can be stored easily. If you choose a cute color, they will blend right in with dorm decor.
Hydro Flask 32-Ounce Wide Mouth Straw Lid Water Bottle
Stay hydrated during your busy days with this cult-favorite water bottle.
Over the Fridge Caddy
In a dorm, you only need basic kitchen supplies. Keep them all in one place with this over-the-fridge caddy from Amazon.
Brita Water Filter Pitcher
Feel at ease with clean water available at all times. This Brita filter can sit in your dorm fridge and be filled up in the bathroom sink.
Dorm Room Beauty Essentials
Air Weight Organic Cotton Wrap
As a college freshman, invest in a wrap towel for trips back and forth from the communal bathroom.
Plastic Shower Caddy Basket
I prefer a plastic shower caddy over a mesh shower caddy because they're easy to keep clean and have less chance of growing mold.
Shower shoes are a girl's (and guy's) best friend in college dorms.
The Drew Robe
Everyone needs a cute and cozy robe for after the shower and lounging at in the dorm in style.
Lighted Makeup Mirror
Dorm overhead lighting will not do you justice when putting on makeup, so invest in a larger makeup mirror with lights.
Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer & Volumizer Hot Air Brush
This trending beauty product from Revlon is an affordable alternative for a college student, compared to the Dyson Air Wrap drying brush.
Batiste Dry Shampoo
For days when you don't have time to wash your hair, dry shampoo is a life saver.
Other Dorm Room Essentials
mDesign Large Polyester Rolling Laundry Hamper
When choosing how you're going to store your laundry, upright hampers are the right move, and this one has wheels for extra accessibility.
Dorm rooms get a little too stuffy and hot sometimes, so place this near your bed or desk to cool you down during the school year.
HUANUO Lap Laptop Desk
Lie in bed while doing work or watching movies with this lap desk.
Black + Decker Cordless Handheld Vacuum
Handheld vacuums are the way to go as a college freshman, and this model from Black + Decker is great at picking up dirt, dust and other debris.
RaepperHan Smile Face Slippers
A good pair of slippers is a necessity while walking around the dorm. Here's a cute pair my roommate loved.
Power Strip - 10 FT Long Flat Plug Extension Cord
There are definitely not enough outlets in dorms, so be sure to add one or two of these power strips to your college packing list.
AROEVE Air Purifier
Keep the air in your dorm room clean with an air purifier.
Hilife Steamer for Clothes
A steamer is a great alternative to your traditional clothing iron. This will come in handy when you have an interview or need to smooth out a formal dress.