As the #1 college moving provider in the U.S., we here at Collegeboxes know a thing or two about what you will need (and won’t need!) during your first year on campus, especially during your move-in period. To make dorm life as simple as possible, we’ve compiled a list of the best ‘bang for your buck’ items on the market, all in one place. So, without further ado, here’s our list of the top 40 dorm room essentials that you’ll need to thrive at college.
Top 10 Items
A good night’s sleep makes all the difference in the world. Yearning for sleep will be a consistent part of your college life, and a quality mattress topper is your ticket to feeling well-rested when you wake up.
Brita Water Filtration Pitcher + Reusable Water Bottle
Here’s an easy rule to live by – stay hydrated! A Brita filtration pitcher will turn old dorm tap water into drinkable water, and a quality bottle will keep water cold (or hot?) to replenish your thirst at any time.
Empty walls are a thing of the past thanks to the ease of command strips. Use these to hang up photos of family and friends, a calendar and other school resources, or posters of your favorite musical artists.
A good backpack is a staple – you’ll need something to carry your notes, books, and tech around campus.
Shower Caddy + Shower Shoes + Towels
If you’ll be using a shared bathroom in the dorms, then these three items are more than essential – especially the shower shoes!
This backpack hamper is sleek, spacious, and easy to use. You won’t have to fret about lugging all your dirty clothes and laundry supplies to-and-from the laundry room – just toss this bag over your shoulder.
Stick-On Wallet Case for Phone
This stick-on case means your phone and wallet are one-and-the-same – in other words, if you lose your wallet, you can just call it!
Personal safety is a huge priority, and this keychain pepper gel is a reliable means of deterring any unwanted attention. It’s compact, simple to use, and painfully effective.
Clorox Wipes + Febreze Spray
Odds are you won’t be regularly deep cleaning your dorm room, but Clorox wipes and Febreze spray will be enough to keep your room presentable for company.
Pain, pain, go away – Advil’s here to save the day! Between pesky headaches, sore muscles, and fighting off the inevitable cold that will run through the dorms, a quick ibuprofen can be a huge relief in a pinch.
You’ll have your hands full carrying all your belongings into your dorm room – the last thing you need to worry about is fighting off a closing door (or worse, a locked door). A simple yet effective door stopper removes that challenge altogether, and this four-pack only costs $9.95. That way if you lose one amid the chaos of dorm life, you have three backups ready to go. If the color doesn’t matter, you can opt for a set of admittedly less charming brown stoppers from the same brand for only $6.99.
Command Strips (and Hooks)
3M’s Command strips have become synonymous with easy picture hanging. No nails, no hammers, and no holes in your wall. The Velcro makes removing Command strips from your wall so much easier too. You can buy adhesive hooks as well to hang light items like hats or lanyards. Command even makes a heavyweight hook that holds up to 15lbs, perfect for hanging a school bag. It’s worth noting that some customers have complained about the adhesive quality when ordering these online, so it might be safer to pick up your Command strips from your local Walmart or Target.
Dorm rooms can be gross. In a furnished dorm room, a quick clean using disinfectant wipes can provide some peace of mind before calling that room “home”. Plus, these wipes work really well as a daily multi-purpose cleaner for all the spills that are bound to happen. This 75-pack of Clorox wipes only costs $5.52, and nothing screams clean like that crisp lemon scent.
Not only can dorm rooms be gross, but they can also smell a little funky. This air freshener spray from Febreze works like a charm to alleviate those smells without being too overpowering itself. It’s an easy way to make your dorm room more presentable for visitors. This two-pack only costs $5.44, and each canister will last for a surprisingly long time.
Brita Water Filtration Pitcher
If there’s one thing you shouldn’t forget to do at college, it’s drink water. At either a 5-Cup or 6-Cup capacity, this specific pitcher is smaller than an average 10-Cup Brita pitcher, meaning it can fit comfortably inside most mini-fridges. The 5-Cup pitcher is the better deal, only costing $17.99 compared to the 6-Cup which costs $23.99. The filter is easy to replace too, and replacement filters can be purchased online – this three-pack is the best bang for your buck at less than $6 per filter.
Reusable Water Bottle
You’ll need something to pour that filtered water into. A quality reusable water bottle will become your best friend for staying hydrated on-the-go, and this 24 oz Contigo bottle is a great choice at only $27.04. The stainless-steel body can take a beating while keeping your water cold for up to a full day, and the spill-proof lid means you don’t have to worry about soaking any of your other belongings. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, a Hydro Flask is always a great option too, and even comes in a 32 oz model.
VENO Heavy-Duty Moving & Storage Bag
This is a sturdier version of the iconic Ikea bag, and you don’t need to drive an hour to your closest Ikea to get your hands on it. This VENO bag comes in a set of four for $24.99, and these bags are perfect for both moving into the dorms and under-the-bed dorm room storage. If the blue vinyl doesn’t match your aesthetic, VENO also offers a gray fabric bag that’s just as sturdy and water-resistant for only $1 more.
A good night’s rest is everything. Unfortunately, between your roommate watching a (terrible) movie and your neighbors’ speakers buzzing through your walls, sleep isn’t always that easy to come by. Investing in a set of disposable earplugs can be a game-changer. This 50-pair set from Mack’s is only $8.99, and if you happen to lose a pair then it’s no big deal! The beige color is subtle too. These are also a great way to protect your hearing in the long term if you find yourself at a party or live music show.
A stylish and effective bag has always been a school essential, and that doesn’t change at all in college. This classic Herschel backpack’s simple design features a spacious front pocket, a secure laptop sleeve, and two bottle pockets on either side – plus, it comes in a variety of colors/designs to fit your taste. Sitting at $60, there are certainly cheaper options out there, but very few can compare to the quality of this bag for its price. A good backpack can last your entire college career, and this is a good backpack.
Stick-On Wallet Case for Phone
Most phones have a built-in tracking function, so why not use that to keep track of your wallet too? After all, it’s one less thing to carry and worry about. This stick-on card holder features two separate pockets, a fabric flap to secure cards in place, and enough flexibility to hold multiple cards or even larger items like headphones or gum. It also uses a strong 3M adhesive so it’s not going anywhere. Plus, this card holder comes in a two-pack for only $6.99, so you’ll always have a replacement at the ready.
The ability to mend your favorite clothes when they get torn or snagged is invaluable, and this handy little sewing kit allows for just that. It’s compact enough to fit seamlessly into your school bag, meaning you may be able to avoid the embarrassment of a ripped pair of jeans entirely. Best of all, it costs only $5.99, which is a fraction of the price you’d pay for new clothing. If you don’t know how to sew yet, that’s an easy fix too – here’s a helpful introduction video to get you started.
Regardless of what you’re studying in college, note cards are an extremely valuable tool. They’re an unrivaled method for memorizing concepts, learning vocabulary, practicing translations, or keeping your thoughts organized when delivering presentations. Oxford notecards are thick enough so that you won’t see any answers through the card, and they come in a pack of 300 for only $6.99.
Safety will always be a priority, especially when living by yourself for the first time. Pepper gel is an effective, inexpensive, easy-to-use self-defense tool that is allowed on most campuses, and it’s compact enough to fit on a keychain or in a pocket without issue. This specific device from Sabre has a flip-top button and hand grip for easy aiming, and it comes with training resources to ensure you know how to use it well. Plus, it only costs $10.20. Note that pepper gel is more consistent than pepper spray because a spray can be impacted by wind. Hopefully, you never have to use this, but it’s smart to be prepared.
Dirty laundry is an inevitable part of daily life but lugging your clothes to-and-from the laundry facilities in your dorm can be a hassle. This laundry backpack not only eases that trip, but it’s subtle enough to be used as your dorm room hamper. It’s a spacious bag that holds up to 44 lbs, and the pouch on the front separates your detergents from your laundry too so you don’t have to stress about spills ruining your favorite clothes. At only $16.99, this backpack is worth the money.
Dorm room beds are notoriously uncomfortable. Quality bedding can make some difference, but you’ll feel the biggest impact when using a good mattress topper. This mattress pad from SLEEP ZONE is incredibly soft and features an elastic skirt that locks onto your mattress for a perfect fit. It even claims to balance your body temperature. $29.99 for a consistent good night’s sleep? That’s worth the cost.
Your dorm room will never be big enough, especially if you’re sharing the space with someone else. Quality storage helps you stay organized while making the most of your space, and these under-the-bed fabric storage containers fit discreetly, well, under the bed! They’re surprisingly large with a 60L capacity and feature durable handles on every side for easy maneuvering. They can also be stacked without compromising the contents inside so long as nothing is fragile. StorageLAB also offers a “low profile” model that’s less tall, but both offerings cost the same at $29.99 for a set of two containers.
Most dorm rooms aren’t furnished with a nightstand, and even your own nightstand might be challenging to use with how tall a dorm bed frame typically is. Fortunately, this sturdy bedside shelf is a great replacement – it’s easy to install, comes equipped with a cup holder and cable hole, and can hold items up to 50lbs. Best of all, it’s only $24.99, which is nothing compared to the cost of regular furniture. You can also pay more for a tray with a sunken cup holder if you’re extra cautious about spilling drinks.
You shouldn’t limit yourself to only using your laptop at your desk – after all, it is a laptop. However, it can be a challenge to comfortably position a laptop on your lap (especially in bed), and these devices are prone to overheating in these situations. This laptop tray from HUANUO fixes that – it features a slanted mesh padding underneath to accommodate any typing position while sparing your legs from the heat. It’s lightweight, easily fits a 14-inch laptop, is equipped with a slot for holding a cell phone or tablet, and can double as a mini-desk thanks to an elastic band that keeps papers in place. You can even flip it over to use the cushion for a quick nap in a pinch! This costs $25.99, or you can opt for a bulkier model with space for a larger device and/or mousepad for $49.99.
From movie nights in bed to late-night study/procrastination sessions at your desk, nothing will keep you cozy like a quality blanket. This ultra-soft fleece blanket from Utopia comes in a bunch of different colors and ranges in size from twin to California king. Its plush material is absurdly comfortable and it’s durable enough to last for your whole college career with no issues going through the washer and dryer. A throw size is perfect for a dorm room, and the dark grey color matches any aesthetic for only $13.99. It’s worth noting that a queen size adds a ton of length and width for only $2.50 more at $16.49.
Between backpacks, clothes, lanyards, towels, purses, keys, or umbrellas, there will always be something you’ll want to hang for easy access later. These over-the-door hooks take up minimal space in a room and grant you five pegs for your assorted belongings. This product from ACMETOP is suitable for any door with a gap in the frame larger than a coin’s thickness (.07”) and comes with adjustable foam coverings to adapt further to your specific door. Each hook comfortably holds up to 9lbs (or 45lbs total). This runs for $16.99, an especially fair price compared to other less sturdy products in the same range.
Microwave, Mini-Fridge, and Full-Size Mirror
Depending on the available space in your room and the rules outlined for your specific dormitory, these three items could also prove to be dorm-life essentials. That said, they do tend to be expensive purchases (especially if you want quality products), so it’s smart to keep an eye on resale websites like Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp to get the best deals. Some colleges also have their own discussion boards where previous residents will advertise their old dorm items for cheap (or maybe even free!).
Microwave-Safe Plastic Dishware
There’s no doubt that you’ll occasionally eat meals in your dorm room. If you can get your hands on a microwave and/or mini-fridge, you’ll open yourself up to leftovers too, and that’s where a set of quality microwave-safe plastic dishware will really shine. These unbreakable dishes from Grow Forward are made from a lightweight biodegradable wheat straw polymer, are uniquely designed to limit spills, and are super easy to clean! They come in a few different colors and run at $23.99 for an 8-piece set.
Surge Protector Power Strip
Dorm rooms are notorious for having minimal outlets – this multi-sided power strip fixes that problem by upgrading your standard wall outlet to a 5-foot cord with eight outlets and four USB charging ports. This surge protector only costs $19.99, but you can also upgrade to a 10-foot cord for only $10 more. With the amount of technology that you’ll be using every day, this power strip is a game changer.
A portable speaker is the easiest way to play music wherever you are – in your dorm, sitting by the pool, out on the campus lawn, you name it – and the JBL Flip 4 speaker is one of the best devices out there. This sleek Bluetooth speaker has a 12-hour charge life, a waterproof charging port, strong bass audio, a compact frame, and exceptional durability, all for just $78.86. Compared to other portable speakers at this price point, the JBL Flip 4 is in a league above.
Plenty of college gear is battery-powered so it’s good to have some spare batteries on hand. When it comes to the best brand, Duracell’s consistency is second to none. That said, this 16-pack costs $15.88 which isn’t exactly cheap. There are significantly less expensive options available such as Amazon-brand batteries, but these are proven to have shorter life spans and some customers even complain about battery acid leaks. AA batteries are usually the standard, but some devices like graphing calculators run on AAAs – it doesn’t hurt to have a few of those too.
The harsh reality is a lot of dorm rooms don’t have air conditioning – yikes! In that case, a personal fan is a must-have, especially if your school gets a lot of sun. For only $19.99, this USB desk fan from SLENPET is surprisingly powerful with four different speed settings, and it’s impressively quiet when compared to competing brands. While the allure of a clip-on fan for your bed is tempting, most of those products seem to stop working after a few months (or sooner if you’re using them around the clock).
Vacuuming is an essential part of keeping your room clean. Some dorms will offer a vacuum rental, but these tend to be old, massive (and loud!) models. A personal handheld vacuum makes cleaning simpler, and this BLACK+DECKER cordless model is top-of-the-line. $62.39 is a steeper price than its competitors, but competing products have weaker batteries that tend to burn out quickly. This vacuum features a pivoting nozzle to tackle crevices, an easy-to-empty filter, strong suction, and folds up neatly into a compact charging base that won’t take up much space at all. If you want to keep your dorm floor tidy, this is definitely a worthwhile investment.
Everyone knows why headphones are useful, so instead let’s preface this description with how insanely inexpensive these ZIUTY wireless earbuds are for their quality – this is a $130 pair of earbuds that are marked down all the way to $26.99. That’s a steal! These earbuds come in a charging case that displays battery percentages, are easily paired to any device via Bluetooth, have individual microphones, and can control your entire listening experience through the Smart Touch controls on the sides of each earbud. Compared to AirPods which can cost upwards of $200, these ZIUTY earbuds are a no-brainer.
Portable Power Bank
With the amount of technology that you’ll be using in your daily college life, your chargers are going to be working overtime. Yet, problems arise when you’re caught with a low-battery device and no outlet nearby to fix it. That’s where a portable power bank becomes invaluable. This Anker PowerCore Slim battery pack is sleek, durable, and compact enough to fit discreetly into most backpacks or pants pockets. Its USB compatibility works with most standard chargers, and a fully charged power bank can revive an iPhone about two times over. For $21.99, this little device might just save the day in a pinch.
Whether you’re practicing for that big presentation by connecting your laptop to the big screen or a hardcore gamer in need of a longer cord for your PlayStation, a 10-foot HDMI cable will come in handy. This cable has so many possible uses, and there will undoubtedly be a time in your college career when a spare HDMI cable comes in clutch. You don’t need something fancy either – this HDMI cable from Amazon Basics only costs $6.73.
There isn’t much to be done about slow internet speed in the dorms, but some dorm rooms do have an ethernet port in the wall – if that’s the case for yours then an ethernet cable should usually do the trick. This 10-foot cable from Amazon Basics costs $6.98, which is honestly a small price to pay for potentially huge improvements to your internet connectivity. You’ll thank us later after you submit your final paper at 11:58pm with no issues.
A lot of dorms will have one shared bathroom for the whole floor, so you need something to transport your toiletries to-and-from your dorm room. This shower caddy has designated compartments to fit all your bathroom needs, and the porous design means that water can’t get trapped in the bottom to mold. Between the sturdy plastic and various color options, this product is well worth the $13.99 that it costs.
A shared bathroom means a shared shower, and unfortunately, the floors of those showers can be gross. A good pair of shower shoes will protect your feet from grime while also providing some traction to prevent slipping as well. Like the shower caddy above, these shoes feature holes in the bottom to drain water out and come in a few different color options. There are certainly cheaper options on the market, but you’ll run the risk of having to replace them frequently – at $16.98, this pair is sturdy enough to last.
You’ll need a quality towel at least once a day. This set comes with four white Turkish cotton towels, meaning you don’t have to reuse the same damp towel between laundry days. At only $33.99 for the whole set, these towels are surprisingly plush and durable, and come in six other colors as well.
If there’s a walk between the bathroom and your dorm room, then you’ll want something to ensure you stay covered for that whole trip. Sometimes a towel wrap just doesn’t cut it, especially in co-ed dorms. This plush robe is a high-quality choice that costs $31.34, and it comes in a range of sizes and colors. There are cheaper options on the market, but customers have expressed concerns about the quality and translucency of other less expensive robes and coverups.
The effects of using sunscreen every day are incredible. Not only are you protecting yourself from sunburns, but you’re actively slowing your skin’s aging process too – this fact holds true regardless of where you live. Applying sunscreen should be a daily ritual, and this product from Neutrogena makes it an easy habit for any college student. This sunscreen offers fast-absorbing SPF 70 protection without leaving your face feeling greasy, all for just $8.97. Trust us – your skin will thank you in thirty years.
There are several useful over-the-counter medicines that any college student should have on hand, but few will be as universally applicable as ibuprofen. Whether you you’re trying to knock out a headache, alleviate some pain from a workout, or speed up your recovery from the virus that’s hit your dorm floor, an Advil (or two) can save the day. This bottle of 100 costs $9.78, but you can opt for a 300-count bottle for $21.18 instead. It does feel like Advil works a bit better than the generic brands, but really any ibuprofen should do the trick.