College Dorm Room Essentials for Freshman Year, According to Upperclassmen Who Know Best

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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.

Shop Dorm Room Essentials


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

LUCID 4 Inch Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper
Amazon

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)

Utopia Bedding Quilted Fitted Mattress Pad (Twin)
Amazon

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.

$23 $19

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Peavler Comforter Set

Peavler Comforter Set
Wayfair

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.

$67 $49

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Bedsure Beige Twin Comforter Set

Bedsure Beige Twin Comforter Set
Amazon

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

Bare Home Twin XL Sheet Set
Amazon

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.

$33 $28

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Kitsch Satin Pillowcase Set of 2

Kitsch Satin Pillowcase Set of 2
Amazon

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

Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows
Amazon

Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows

With over 160,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, these plush bounce-back pillows are designed to keep you cool at night.

$60 $36

With Coupon

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Aijha Square Tufted Upholstered Headboard

Aijha Square Tufted Upholstered Headboard
Wayfair

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.

$98 $94

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Luna Cooling Bamboo Weighted Blanket

Luna Cooling Bamboo Weighted Blanket
Luna

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.

$110 $82

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Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Barefoot In The Wild Throw

Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Barefoot In The Wild Throw
Amazon

Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Barefoot In The Wild Throw

It doesn't get much softer than the Barefoot Dreams blankets. One reviewer even said, "I have never loved a blanket more in my life."

$180 $118

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Dorm Room Storage Essentials

TICONN 6 Pack Extra Large Moving Bags

TICONN 6 Pack Extra Large Moving Bags
Amazon

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).

$50 $33

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NestNeatly SmartCube Under Bed Storage Bag - Set of 3

NestNeatly SmartCube Under Bed Storage Bag - Set of 3
Amazon

NestNeatly SmartCube Under Bed Storage Bag - Set of 3

Fit these foldable fabric organizers under your dorm bed or in your closet.

$25 $24

with coupon

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HEYHOUSE Closet Organizers

HEYHOUSE Closet Organizers
Amazon

HEYHOUSE Closet Organizers

Maximize closet space with these clothes hangers that can hold up to 10 clothing items.

$20 $10

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Command Hooks Variety Pack

Command Hooks Variety Pack
Amazon

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.

$21 $18

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Bedside Caddy

Bedside Caddy
Amazon

Bedside Caddy

Have your go-to items right in reach of your bed with this multi-pocketed caddy.

$31 $17

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Whitmor Rolling White Wire Underbed Cart

Whitmor Rolling White Wire Underbed Cart
Amazon

Whitmor Rolling White Wire Underbed Cart

Store shoes, clothes, blankets, towels and more under your bed with easy accessibility.

$28 $20

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Hanging Shoe Organizer

Hanging Shoe Organizer
Wayfair

Hanging Shoe Organizer

Keep your dorm closet in tip-top shape with this flexible hanging shoe closet organizer that's not just for shoes.

$26 $21

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Utility Cart with Wheel

Utility Cart with Wheel
Wayfair

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.

$35 $30

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Parker Upholstered Storage Ottoman

Parker Upholstered Storage Ottoman
Wayfair

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.

$217 $200

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Under-Bed Storage Shelf and Cubes

Under-Bed Storage Shelf and Cubes
Amazon

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

1.3 Gallon Metal Lidded Trash Can
Amazon

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.

$35 $30

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Hydro Flask 32-Ounce Wide Mouth Straw Lid Water Bottle

Hydro Flask 32-Ounce Wide Mouth Straw Lid Water Bottle
Amazon

Hydro Flask 32-Ounce Wide Mouth Straw Lid Water Bottle

Stay hydrated during your busy days with this cult-favorite water bottle.

$50 $40

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Over the Fridge Caddy

Over the Fridge Caddy
Amazon

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 Metro Water Filter Pitcher

Brita Metro Water Filter Pitcher
Amazon

Brita Metro Water Filter Pitcher

Feel at ease with clean water available at all times. This Brita pitcher with a water filter can fit in even smaller sized fridges.

$26 $20

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Dorm Room Beauty Essentials

Air Weight Organic Cotton Wrap

Air Weight Organic Cotton Wrap
Nordstrom

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

Plastic Shower Caddy Basket
Amazon

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 Slides

Shower Slides
Amazon

Shower Slides

Shower shoes are a girl's (and guy's) best friend in college dorms.

$40 $20

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The Drew Robe

The Drew Robe
Hill House Home

The Drew Robe

Everyone needs a cute and cozy robe for after the shower and lounging at in the dorm in style.

$125 $56

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Lighted Makeup Mirror

Lighted Makeup Mirror
Amazon

Lighted Makeup Mirror

Dorm overhead lighting will not do you justice when putting on makeup, so invest in a larger makeup mirror with lights.

$60 $40

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Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer & Volumizer Hot Air Brush

Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer & Volumizer Hot Air Brush
Walmart

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.

$58 $49

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Batiste Dry Shampoo

Batiste Dry Shampoo
Amazon

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

mDesign Large Polyester Rolling Laundry Hamper
Amazon

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.

Personal Fan

Personal Fan
Wayfair

Personal Fan

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.

$22 $18

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HUANUO Lap Laptop Desk

HUANUO Lap Laptop Desk
Amazon

HUANUO Lap Laptop Desk

Lie in bed while doing work or watching movies with this lap desk.

$40 $29

with coupon

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Black + Decker Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Black + Decker Cordless Handheld Vacuum
Amazon

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.

$60 $50

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RaepperHan Smile Face Slippers

RaepperHan Smile Face Slippers
Amazon

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

Power Strip - 10 FT Long Flat Plug Extension Cord
Amazon

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.

$23 $20

with coupon

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AROEVE Air Purifier

AROEVE Air Purifier
Amazon

AROEVE Air Purifier

Keep the air in your room clean with an air purifier.

$50 $38

With Coupon

Shop Now

Hilife Steamer for Clothes

Hilife Steamer for Clothes
Amazon

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.

$40 $29

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