So…here I am again writing college content when about a year ago, I sold my college advice blog: Ariel’s University Guide. The only reason I’m doing this is for my younger self who showed up with more clothes than any dorm room must haves and for an internet friend. I also know somebody out there needs a college dorm room packing list, so why not?
So back in 2017, I was a college freshman who was too excited to leave my small hometown and move to a small city/college town. Y’all back in the day, there were NO college dorm packing lists on Google. I remember hunting on Pinterest for a list, but ended up using my university’s boring, bland, unhelpful dorm packing list.
This blog post is about EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR A DORM. This is the post for anyone who wants the nitty gritty of dorm room essentials for 2023.
If you’re like, “TikTok burned my brain and attention span” or “I don’t have time to do all this scrolling,” then I recommend my Dorm Must Haves blog post. That blog post is straight to the point, a little humorous, and gives the top college dorm room essentials you need for any dorm or basically the necessities for your dorm.
Anyway, this blog post is a complete college dorm room packing list for 2023 freshmen (or even sophomores).
Before We Begin:
Let me give another disclaimer:
I recommend you research your dorm room. Not every dorm is built the same. A dorm room built in the 1980s is going to be different from one completely last year. (You obviously won’t have a USB wall outlet.) Most dorms have Twin XL mattresses but yours may be a Full-size mattress. Newer dorms tend to be a bit bigger compared to older ones. Are you living in a suite bathroom or a communal bathroom? Does your dorm have a water fountain? A community kitchen?
Learn these things. It will guide your dorm room shopping and may even help you save some money. Anyway, do research and even take a tour of dorms on your campus before you start intensely dorm room shopping.
You most likely will not need everything on this list. Use this as a guide, but know what you need and what you don’t. I also do not recommend buying every single thing on this list. This is a simple super-long college dorm room packing list that will give you most of the things you’ll need. Feel free to edit out what you don’t need.
I recommend reading my 15 Tips On How To Successfully Do Dorm Shopping on a Budget blog post to understand how to do dorm shopping. I have more dorm-related blog posts: in this lovely category.
Also, here is a free dorm room packing list. All you have to do is sign up for my newsletter I honestly am too lazy to do and may randomly one day send an email about traveling or random advice from a 20-something-year-old.
Now, onto the main event:
The Ultimate College Dorm Room Packing List for Incoming Freshman
Section 1: Bedding
College dorm room bedding is the most important part of your dorm. Most lists start off with it because think about it…you don’t want to sleep on those gross, old, dusty mattresses. Dorm room mattresses are bricks. They’re hard, so you got to make things work.
1. Mattress Cushion
As I mentioned before, college mattresses are hard and are bricks. They’re gross and have probably been there since you were born. That’s why you need a mattress cushion. A mattress cushion is a dorm must have. No ifs or ands about it. Your back will thank you later.
2. Mattress Pad
The next dorm room essential you need on your packing list is a mattress pad. Dorm mattresses are not it. They are just the bottom of the barrel of mattresses. A mattress pad goes over the mattress cushion and needs your body away from the gross mattress.
Here is the EXACT mattress pad I had in my dorm room:
3. Twin XL Sheets
So, you’re going to need Twin XL sheets for your dorm bed. Most dorms are Twin XL size, but again check with your dorm for exact measurements. You can opt in for a fancy pack of sheets or be like me and buy some from Amazon. All that matters is that you have sheets for your bed. (Because the ones they sell in the campus bookstore look horrible and hard.)
4. Twin XL Comforter
Next up, is a Twin XL comforter. Get one that will fit your personality and your style. There are tons of stores to get one from, but the top ones I recommend are Target, Walmart, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Urban Outfitters, and Amazon.
5. A Set of Pillows
You don’t want your head to lay on that hard mattress. Do yourself and your neck a favor and buy a set of pillows.
Some comforters come with pillowcases, but just in case if yours doesn’t. Then, get enough pillowcases for pillows. Make sure to wash them often too. I learned the hard way with white pillowcases and laying in bed after a long walk on campus.
7. Back Rest Pillow
One of my personal top recommendations for college students is to invest in a bed rest pillow. Why? Because you most likely will work from your bed some days and need something comfortable to lay your back on. Buy a bed rest pillow for your bed for your dorm!
I have always bought mine from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Unfortunately, the cat bed rest pillow I had in my dorm is no longer available on their website. And BBB is going out of business. :/
8. Throw Blanket
The final item you need for dorm bedding is a throw blanket. Dorm rooms get cold or sometimes you want to lay down with a blanket. It can match your bedding or not, but I recommend getting one for your dorm room.
Section 2: Bathroom
This section is all about college dorm bathrooms. You’ll either have a suite/private bathroom or a communal bathroom. I personally have used all three. My dorm room had a private bathroom for my room and I only shared it with my roommate. I stayed over at my friends’ dorms and have used suites bathrooms and a communal one. Suite bathrooms are shared between two dorm rooms. Communal dorm bathrooms are shared amongst a whole floor of dorms or a half-floor. Your dorm bathroom packing list will depend on what type of bathroom you’ll be using.
9. Toilet Paper
Listen to me when I tell you that dorm rooms do not supply good toilet paper. Listen to me. Unless you love 1-ply paper then you can opt out. However, you’ll need toilet paper no matter what. Some dorms provide paper; some don’t at all. Just bring some, okay?
You’ll need to also bring towels to your dorm room. College dorms do not provide free towels. It’s best that you get a couple of both small and large towels.
Having a robe is another dorm room essential that you will need. Aside from your dorm room being cold sometimes, you’ll need it for the bathroom/shower, especially if you plan to stay in a dorm with a communal bathroom.
This will come in handy when you’re in the shower. It will also alleviate the number of towels you’ll use.
13. Shower Shoes
Okay, seriously. I was confused when people were like “buy shower shoes or flip flops for your dorm room!” But college dorm showers are gross. You have no idea how many germs are growing on the title and having a great time in a college bathroom. Protect your feet with a nice pair of shower shoes and avoid getting any weird foot disease.
14. Shower Caddy
The next thing you need to bring to a dorm is a shower caddy. Even if you’re lucky and get a single bathroom and do not share it with anyone (like I did), you’ll still need a shower caddy to hold all of your hygiene products. It’s also crucial to NOT get a metal or hard shower caddy! Get a soft, cloth one like this one to prevent water from leaking all over the floor.
15. Antibacterial Soap
It’s best to have a bottle of soap on your sink’s counter to wash your hands.
16. Shower Rug
If your dorm is a suite or a single, it’s best to have a shower rug for when you step out and to prevent water from getting everywhere. I recommend getting a good shower rug to prevent yourself from slipping like I almost did one time.
Section 3: Closet
Okay, the next part of this college dorm room packing list is the closet. You most likely will have a small dresser and a closet in your dorm. As far as my dorm room, we had moveable closets and a dresser for all of our clothes. It’s important to also not bring every single thing you own from your closet at home. You do not have much space.
I have a blog post to help out: The Ultimate College Clothes Packing List | What Clothes To Bring To College
You have to hang your clothes in your closet. It’s great to get hangers from Target because they are cheaper and last a long time. If you have hangers at home, bring them. This is an item that you can save money on by reusing ones from home. These are the exact hangers I used in college and still do from Target!
Again, you do not need to bring all of those clothes from your house. Trust me, I BROUGHT EVERYTHING. It was a pain to bring all my clothes. The majority of my moving boxes were full of clothes that I didn’t want or even have a chance to wear. Bring the essentials and clothes that match your college’s campus.
Again, do not bring everything. You’ll need walking shoes FOR SURE. You also might need heels and flats. Bring shoes that you will wear often and will match your college’s climate. For example, my college was located in an area where flash floods and had just bad thunderstorms randomly, so I bought rain boots. Research and figure out what shoes match your campus’s climate.
20. Shoe Rack
Dorm rooms do not have much space. So if you can and have the space, try getting a closet shoe rack that hangs on the door or one that fits underneath your bed. There was nothing more annoying than me tripping over my shoes in the morning, rushing to class. A shoe rack will come in handy.
21. Makeup Organizer Cart
I wish I would have gotten a makeup organization cart my freshman year. I got one in my sophomore year of college and still use it to this day. It’s one of my top dorm room must haves because of how it makes staying organized easier. You don’t have to put makeup in these carts, but also books, clothes, and snacks. They do not take up much space either. Here is one that’s the closet I could find to my current one:
Section 4: Desk
The next section in this dorm room packing list is dedicated to dorm room desks. Most dorm rooms have the same-looking desk. I’ve seen pictures on Pinterest of dorms from across the country with the exact desk I had in my dorm room. What’s important is to make sure this desk is a place where you feel comfortable studying for hours.
22. Desk Chair
This may be totally optional since some dorm rooms might include a desk chair. However, like those mattresses, those desk chairs are probably old and not the best. For example, my dorm room chair was part rocking chair…IDK, but I eventually bought a real chair in my second year of college because the chairs they provide are not functional. I recommend finding one that you like that also fits the desk or bringing yours from home. This one from Amazon is the closest I found to mine that’s in my room!
23. Desk Lamp
Again, dorm rooms try to provide things that are not the best or functional. I recommend finding a small, practical desk lamp unless your dorm’s desk lamp is great. I used this exact lamp that I bought from Amazon and loved it. It came with USB ports to charge my phone and had settings to adjust the brightness.
24. Sticky Notes
Sticky notes will become an item that you’ll use more often in college. They’re great to use as a to-do list or for studying!
25. Trash Can
Your dorm may or may not provide a desk trash can. Mine didn’t and I bought a simple small one to throw away papers, snack wrappers, or any trash I had near my desk.
26. Chair Cushion
This is a REALISTIC AND HONEST college dorm room packing list. Unless you have strong glutes, inner thigh, and back muscles, then you need to get a chair cushion. You’re likely going to be sitting for a long time, especially if you have an online class or studying in your room. The cushion I use every day is unfortunately no longer available on Amazon, but this one is similar to it:
Section 5: Electronics
College nowadays means you’ll need some tech items. No matter what you’re going to need some electronics to survive classes.
It’s crucial to have your own laptop in college. Before the pandemic, teachers expected you to show up to class with a laptop or have one, if they were against using them for notes. Most exams and quizzes are online. Some university colleges require you to have a specific computer, so I recommend looking more into what your major requires.
My first college laptop was the Apple MacBook Air. I talked to the Apple team, and they said these laptops were made with students in mind. It’s made to run writing programs while also having the power to run streaming services. However, I’m a heavy laptop user, so I upgraded to the MacBook Pro and love it because I was using one since I was in middle school.
But find a laptop that works for you!
This might be controversial, but I think a phone might be more important for college these days than a laptop. When you get on campus, you’ll be told to download certain apps made just for your campus. Also, various helpful apps are great to have on your phone for things such as groceries, student discounts, campus events, safety, school assignments, studying, group chats, and much more.
So be ready to use your phone a lot on campus!
Get a pair of AirPods or headphones. Do it. Cafes, classrooms, and even the libraries are going to be noisy. These are a must-have for college. I recommend AirPods because I’ve been using them for over 3 years. They are convenient because they can slip into any bag or pocket and simply connect through Bluetooth.
Something you can bring to your dorm is a TV. You probably won’t watch TV that much during college, but it was nice having one to watch shows on the weekend. I recommend that you check with your dorm room building on what are the specifics or additional things, like ethernet cables, you’ll need to bring. I LOVED MY SAMSUNG TV.
You absolutely can not forget chargers! Bring every charger and even buy backups of the ones for the devices you have.
Section 6: Laundry
Living in a dorm means doing your own laundry which means dragging your clothes down to the washing room. Dorms tend to have laundry rooms either downstairs or nearby the dorm building. You also will have to pay to use the laundry rooms (yes, I was surprised too) and bring your own laundry supplies. Basically, it’s like a laundromat only for your dorm building.
32. Laundry Hamper
Every single freshman needs a laundry hamper. You’ll either drag your dirty laundry with a collapsible one or a rolling one. I recommend the following for any freshman:
33. Tide Pods/Detergent
Whatever your preference, get laundry detergent. I used Tide Pods freshman year and throughout college because of the convivence of not having to pour detergent when I’m running late to class or something.
34. Dryer Sheets
If you live in a dry environment, I definitely recommend getting dryer sheets to prevent static electric shocks. But I also recommend getting dryer sheets from the Dollar Store and buying them in bulk because you’ll use them a lot to wash clothes.
35. Tide Pens
This a new addition to this dorm packing list, but I regret not bringing Tide Pens with me around campus. Spills and stains happen all the time. Prevent deep stains and tossing out white shirts by using and carrying around a Tide Pen.
36. Lint Roller
Lint rollers are another useful, and an unexpected thing to bring to college.
If you can not stand wrinkles, then bring an iron or steamer. You might not have time to really use it, but it might come in handy before a formal event or job interview!
Section 7: Kitchen
Okay, dorm rooms don’t have kitchens. Dorm room buildings do. Your community kitchen will most likely be on the first floor of your dorm or on a specific floor. This kitchen will not be glamorous. It’ll be the bare minimum: a stove, an oven, (maybe two), a lot of counter space, and a sink. You may be able to borrow pans from your dorm’s office, but it depends. You also will not have time to cook full meals most of the time—maybe only on the weekend.
So a mini-fridge is a top must-have for a college dorm room. This will be where your snacks and food that you’ll sometimes sneak out of the dorm. Listen to me, I don’t care what they tell you about YoU cAn’T tAkE FoOd OuT oF tHe DiNiNg HaLl. You are PAYING for that food. Get some small containers or napkins and sneak some out of the dorm. Get your money’s worth.
Anyway, back to the fridge. Get a mini-fridge for your dorm room. You can either split the price with your roommate or one of you buy it while the other buys another big appliance you both can share.
Next, you’ll definitely need a microwave. Most snacks for college students are going to be made for microwaves or are simply leftovers. I remember using my microwave the most during weekends and campus holidays when the dining hall was closed, so it’s a top must-have.
Again, you can share this with your roommate and either split the price or buy something else for the dorm. Also, when you’re shopping for a microwave, try not to get one that’s huge. You’re not going to have that much space for it.
40. Plates & Bowls
All you need is a few plates and bowls for food. Target has some great ones that were $1-3 that lasted for me and my roommate throughout college. I got my first apartment post-college and bought too many of them.
Again, you’ll need some utensils. I went with boxes of plastic ones for my first semester, but it’s better to get a set of 3 from Target like this one and wash them.
42. Dishwashing Liquid
You’ll need to wash dishes or do some simple cleaning every now and then. A big bottle lasted a long time for me.
43. Mugs & Cups
Pack a few mugs and cups to drink out of, especially if you’re a coffee or tea lover.
44. Ziploc Bags
You’ll want to have some Ziploc bags to store snacks.
Section 8: Hygiene & Beauty
This section of the dorm packing list will be with the least amount of explanation. I’m just someone who is big on hygiene and this should be some of the obvious things to bring. BUT whatever you use at home for hygiene and beauty bring it. Please take showers and maintain your hygiene in college. I’m not saying do a whole 5 AM 4-hour morning routine (unless you want to do that, be yourself), but get up and take care of yourself even if it’s just the bare minimum.
45. Body Wash
Most likely going to use a shower, bring or buy some.
Wear makeup, bring it. Express yourself through your makeup. No one in college will judge you and no one cares.
47. Tampons, Pads, Period Supplies
Most college bathrooms have the period supplies you pay for, but some newer bathrooms provided free ones. But still bring period supplies, girls. Also, keep some in your backpack for when you’re not near your dorm.
48. Face Cleanser
You’ll definitely need to have a face cleanser for all the sweating and debris your skin will have. Be prepared for acne to spring up from stress and maybe even react to a new diet. Don’t worry it’s part of life. However, bring a face cleanser to college.
Same here. Use a moisturizer as part of your skin’s self care.
50. Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Please brush your teeth. Dental care is not cheap. Also, it should be already part of your daily routine.
The sun’s rays are not a joke. I brought two bottles with me when I moved into my dorm. You’re going to be walking around a lot—be prepared for the sun. Make sure your sunscreen is SPF 30, as well!
52. Shampoo, Conditioner, & Hair Supplies
Bring whatever you use for your hair.
This is NEVER optional. Bring deodorant.
Keep your skin moisturized and from getting ashy.
If you have perfume, also bring that.
Section 9: Cleaning Supplies
So, dorms are going to get messy no matter what you do. Some days, you’re going to be rushing to class in the morning, have 2 exams and a 10-page essay due by Friday at 11:59 PM that you procrastinated. Your dorm room is going to be messy and one Sunday or day when you want to procrastinate some more, you decide to clean up a bit.
These are the cleaning supplies you’ll need for a dorm room. I listed cleaning supplies that are what you need and try to keep them on the smaller, compact side. You can’t have a million cleaning items and won’t have the time. Bring cleaning supplies! Do not be like younger me and showed up on Move-In Day without a single cleaning supply.
56. Swiffer Mop
Buy a Swiffer Mop. I recommend a Swiffer Floor Mop for its convenience and how you easily can store it. Dorm rooms are small and you are sharing it with someone. This Swiffer Mop will be enough, if you have floors in your dorm room.
57. Disinfectant Wipes
Even before the panini, I had disinfectant wipes because germs are all over dorm rooms. I also used Lysol Wipes to clean up all surfaces in our dorms.
58. Hand Sanitizer
Again, germs are everywhere on campus, especially in a dorm room. You should carry a thing of hand sanitizer on your backpack. I had a bottle on one of my dressers and my roommate and I use it when we walked into the dorm.
59. Trash Bags
Trash bags are a must for a college dorm room. In my dorm building, we had a trash room on each room, so we had to carry our trash bags down the hall. No matter what your dorm has, make sure to get larger trash bags and smaller ones to place all your trash.
If you have a dorm with carpet, then you should get a mini-vacuum. A mini vacuum is also great for those without a carpet because you can use it to clean up spills.
61. Broom & Dust Pan
IDK what was about my dorm room’s floor, but it always had something on the floor. We had to sweep every other day pretty much, which should be normal. But I recommend having a broom and dust pan that a handle on it like this one:
62. All-Purpose Spray
A bottle of all-purpose spray is great to have in your dorm room because it can be used to clean any surface! Save on all the different supplies and opt-in for an all-purpose spray.
63. Air Freshener
Straight up. It is hard to get a scent out of a dorm. The fact that I can remember how my dorm smells like from 4 years ago is not okay. I recommend investing in air fresheners because it will smell in your dorm.
64. Paper Towels
Bring paper towels to wipe up spills and messes. I don’t recommend buying a bunch, but have a roll or two.
65. Cleaning Rag
For cleaning days, use a separate cleaning towel from the other ones.
It’s nice to have a sponge around. No need to buy a million, but have one for cleaning dishes.
You’ll need tissues when you least expect it. Have a box around in your storage!
Section 10: Emergency
You should always be prepared for emergencies in college. It’s important to have a few things around in case you get sick, protect yourself, or prepare for crazy weather events.
68. First Aid Kit
You should have a simple first aid kit because things happen. I literally got hurt volunteering at a campus event and didn’t realize it until I went back to my dorm. Pack or buy a first aid kit!
69. Medicine & Vitamins
If you have specific medication, bring it. Also, bring some vitamins to build up your immune system to fight against dorm germs.
Have a pack of batteries around to use because you might have a calculator or tool that needs them.
Even though, the electricity never went out in my dorm. We still had natural disasters that happened. Pack a flashlight with batteries in it, so you can be prepared.
72. Pepper Spray
Please carry pepper spray around campus, especially for girls. It’s important to be safe, especially since some public universities can’t stop everyone from entering campus. There are so many different types of pepper sprays that you buy that can go on your backpack or keychain.
You’ll never know when you’ll need to take your temperature. Have a thermometer just in case you start feeling under the weather.
74. Medical Insurance Card
If you have a medical insurance card, it’s best to bring it with you. I remember some student medical center questionnaires or services would ask for it.
Section 11: School Supplies
Obviously, you’re going to school, so you’ll need some school supplies. I already have a college school supply list for 2023 on this blog. So read it. This section is a condensed version of it.
You’ll still need some school supplies for your dorm room.
No matter what you’ll need a notebook to write things down and take notes in class. I recommend getting a 5 subject notebook to last longer than a semester.
76. Pens & Pencils
Always have pens and pencils with you no matter what. This isn’t high school anymore where you can just ask for a pen (I mean you can). Also, always have a #2 pencil around for exam scantrons.
One of the top things you need on your college dorm packing list is a backpack. Backpacks are one of the top college school supplies you will need. You will need something to carry all your stuff for your classes.
Having a planner is super important for college students. You should have one to use every day to stay on top of your assignments and upcoming exams. Ban.do planners are my favorite and are on sale right now!
You should have a stapler packed because sometimes your professors will ask you to turn in papers that are stapled. It’s best to have your own.
80. Laptop Case
I learned the hard way of not having a laptop case to protect my laptop. Just get one.
81. Printer Paper
There will be free printers all over campus, but guess what! You’ll need to bring your own paper to them. So, I recommend buying a whole pack of printer paper and keeping it in your dorm room.
You will get tons and tons of papers during your first few days on campus from professors and various events. Have a folder to keep up with everything.
Math classes will require you to have a calculator. Find out which one you need and get it!
Section 12: Misc.
This section of this college packing list is for all the miscellaneous items that you shouldn’t forget to bring to your college dorm.
84. Driver’s License
Don’t forget your driver’s license!
85. Student ID
Carry your student ID around on campus. You never know when you’ll need or if you’ll need it for your dorm.
If you have a passport, you can bring it and keep it safe in a drawer.
87. Birth Certificate
Sometimes you’ll need to show your birth certificate for some administrative things. I’d recommend bringing a copy, if you think you’ll need it.
88. Money/Debit Card/Credit Card
Please don’t forget your money and cards. You will definitely need this to buy things.
89. Parking Pass
Colleges LOOOVVEEE towing cars away. Please bring your parking pass.
90. Anything else you think you’ll need
Finally, I want to add that you should bring things you know you need. If you love coffee, bring a coffee maker. If you like music, bring your instruments or a record player. If you are an athlete, bring your equipment.
This is a guide on what you should bring to your college dorm. Edit and add whatever you want.
That is a wrap for this college dorm room packing list. Again, if you made it all the way to the end, then.., thanks! If you know someone who is heading to college this year, make sure to share this list with them!
You should read some more of my specific college-related content: