College students moving to campus to live in the dorms have a lot to shop for before classes start up. It’s not just about stocking up on notebooks, pencils and pens this time around (though that’s still important!). Instead, back-to-school also means shopping for dorm room essentials.
So what will students need to create a functional space for study, sleep and social time? A good place to start is by creating an organized college dorm checklist. These tips from the pros will get you well on your way!
Are you a commuter? Check out our back-to-school shopping list for students who commute to campus.
Do your research
There are a few things students and their parents can do to save money before they ever create their dorm room checklist, and that’s by doing some research.
Jeanine Bessette, the former director of housing and residential life at Wayne State University in Detroit, recommends starting with the university’s move-in guide, if it has one, which will outline items students should bring for their dorms — and can leave behind. WSU gets input from students when compiling their guide, she says. Equally as helpful is the list of items your university will not allow students to bring, such as hot plates, candles, space heaters and other items that pose a fire hazard, for example.
The next step: touch base with roommates. Before buying or bringing multiples of an item, like TVs or chairs, see what the future roomies plans to bring.
“Write down everything (you) can think of bringing, then talk to roommates. Talk about what to share,” Bessette suggests. Some people might even choose to wait until they can see the room and shop with their roommates.
Bedding, bathroom and kitchen
Students want their dorm to be a comfortable spot to unwind after classes and get quality rest for their school days ahead. For this reason, Jessica Joyce, public relations manager at Bed Bath & Beyond, which sells tons of dorm room necessities, says, “You definitely want to make sure that you have great bedding products.”
Ditch the discomfort of a standard issue mattress by adding a mattress pad for extra comfort. Grab a mattress protector, too. The obvious items like comforters and pillows are a must – but don’t forget twin-size extra long sheets if the dorm bed requires those, Bessette adds.
For the bathroom, purchase a shower caddy for toting your toiletries and soaps to and from the bathroom and keeping things organized, Joyce says. Whether the bathroom is in the dorm room or students share the community bathroom, a bathrobe for walking to and from the shower will come in handy.
With the kitchen, again, double and triple check what kitchen appliances you cannot bring. At WSU, for example, students have dining plans, so think minimal, like a coffee maker and a small refrigerator, Bessette says. Set up an area with snack foods so you can refuel in between classes.
Staying organized is a must. “The dorm room is typically smaller than your room at home and you’re also sharing that space,” Joyce emphasizes. “You really want to maximize that space.”
Create storage space by utilizing the back of the dorm door, she says. Hang a hanging rod, or an over-the-door mirror, hamper or organizer. Bed Bath & Beyond sells hundreds of organizational items especially for college residents.
Since it’s a multi-use room, arrange the dorm so there’s a designated area for study. Consider bringing a lamp for good lighting, a grounded surge protector for electronics, and plenty of charging space for laptops and iPads.
Keep it clean
“One of the things students forget because they don’t think about it is cleaning supplies,” Bessette notes, including bathroom cleaning products (if the dorm has its own bathroom).
“You might want to bring a small kind of vacuum or DustBuster so you can vacuum up small messes in your dorm as well,” Joyce suggests.
Make it home
It’s also important to personalize the space so it feels like home. Do this by getting fun rugs to add some color and coziness, hanging posters and removable decals on the walls, getting a throw blanket, extra pillows and folding chairs for hanging around the dorm, and picking out bedding with patterns and colors, Joyce says. There are many ways to customize dorms.
“A lot of students like to have family and friend pictures, picture frames that they hang on the wall or they sit on their desk to kind of keep that connection to whatever they had at home,” Bessette notes.
Ready to shop? Browse the college-specific sections of stores’ websites, and you’re sure to find some cool (and useful) items for dorm living. A few shop suggestions: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ikea and Wal-Mart. Here are a few items we saw and loved!
If the dorm bed isn’t already lifted, put it on risers and create extra space underneath for storage space. Plus, with this lift set from Bed Bath & Beyond, outlets will never be blocked by the bed. Risers feature two grounded outlets and UBS ports, too. The set is about $35.
Walmart has this functional fridge, not only for keeping snacks and drinks cold, but allowing you to write notes and reminders for you and your roommate. Get it for $109.
This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.