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10+ Useful Items to Bring and Avoid for Your College Dorm Room

Updated on August 3, 2019
Morgan Kirby profile image

Morgan Kirby moved into the dorms with too many useless things and wants to share the purchases the would've made freshman year better.


College is a very exciting opportunity to meet people and learn, but it can be nerve-racking to try and figure out what you’ll need to make your experience enjoyable. Most of what you'll need is obvious; sheets, clothes, and school supplies. However, there might be things that you haven't thought of that will help improve your college experience. Space is precious in a dorm room so you'll want to bring things that are useful and maximize space. These items are based on what I wish I had brought to college and what made my life easier.


These items will help you to stay organized and make your life more comfortable in the dorms.

Multi-functional Clothing

Expect to have very limited closet space your dorm room. You might get your own closet, but be prepared to share space with your roommate and don't bring too many clothes that need to be hung. Bring a suit or formal outfit so that you’re ready for any interviews or special events you’re invited to attend. Outside of formal wear, bring clothes that you can wear for a variety of occasions and that can be stored in a drawer. For example, bring athletic clothes that you can use for working out, lounging or sleeping.



A laptop is almost essential for a college student. If you’re buying a laptop that you think you might use in class then don’t buy one with a hard disk drive (HDD), get one with a solid-state drive (SSD) because they are much quieter and won't annoy the people around you. People definitely kept staring at me the first time I tried to use my HDD laptop in class and I never brought it again. Chromebooks are great and have an SSD.

USB Flash Drive

Use a flash drive to download and save everything! Save essays so that you don’t lose your work if your computer crashes and save lecture slides so that you can refresh your knowledge if you take a similar upper division class. Consider moving files from your finished classes onto an external hard drive so that you don't have too many flash drives or too much clutter on your computer.

Clock with Wall Projector

Having a clock and phone alarm will ensure that you wake up on time even if one fails. A wall projector will allow you to know the time at night with a quick glance at the ceiling. This is the clock that I used in college and I still love it! While the projector can't rotate like some other brands, I really like that the projected time isn't too big or bright.

Computer Monitor

While a dual monitor setup with your laptop is unnecessary, it will make organizing your work a lot easier. I found it incredibly useful to put my assignment on one screen and my source material on the other. Consider getting a TV instead if you want a larger screen so that you can watch movies with your roommates. If you find that your laptop screen is too close to you with this setup, then attach a keyboard (wireless preferred) to your laptop and move your laptop to an appropriate distance.


Sleep Aides

Desk Blanket

Think about getting a blanket specifically for your desk. Most rooms don't have climate control and a blanket will keep you warm while you work. Whenever I finished my last class the day, I changed into loungewear, put on a blanket and got to work. You may want to blanket with arm holes or a heated foot blanket.

Sleep Mask

­Not everyone goes to sleep at the same time and a sleep mask will help you sleep while allowing your roommates to keep working with the light on. Also, there’s a real possibility that your curtains don't block out sunlight well. My room was fully lit by seven every morning, which was great for helping me get out of bed, but absolutely terrible for helping me sleep in on the weekends.


Water Bottle

Get a gallon or half gallon water bottle so that you don't have to refill your water bottle too often. I was lucky because the fountain was right across from my room, but yours might be up the stairs and down the hall.

White Board

I loved leaving my white board on the front door and writing messages for my hallmates. This will help you find out who else might be interested in a club or event that you're thinking about attending. If you don't feel comfortable leaving messages on your door, then use your white board for study purposes. You can use it to write your answers to practice questions or to solve math problems without wasting paper.

Multi-subject Notebook

10-15 weeks is not a lot of class time and you likely won’t fill up a whole notebook in one quarter or semester. A multi-subject notebook makes more efficient use of the space while keeping the notes to all of your classes in one place. With a multi-subject notebook, you’ll never accidentally take the wrong notebook to section.


Your dorm probably won't provide hangers for you, so be sure to bring your own.

Don't Bring:

The last thing you want to do is bring items that you don't use. While the items on this list are useful, they might not be necessary. Coordinate with your roommates for any big purchases to see if you're able to split costs and to keep everyone from buying the same thing.


A refrigerator is a fantastic asset for storing food and cold drinks. However, contact your roommates to see if they’re interested in pitching in for a shared refrigerator before buying it on your own. Some dorms also allow you to rent a refrigerator for the year. This is a great option because you won’t have to worry about getting rid of it at the end of the year (it took me a long time to find someone who'd buy mine). Unfortunately, your dorm might not allow you to bring your own refrigerator. Look into your dorm’s options and policies early because you might have to sign up for a rental well before move-in day.


While owning your own printer means that you can print papers whenever you want, a printer takes up space and you might not even need it. Most colleges have computer labs that allow you to print a certain number of pages each quarter/semester which might cover all of the papers you’ll ever need to print. Even if you ultimately use your own printer, take advantage of what the college offers so that you can save money on paper. My roommates and I didn't buy a printer until we moved off campus.

Bed Shelf

Whether or not you need a bed shelf will depend on your room layout. If you’re sleeping on the top bunk then it’s a great purchase. It can hold your phone so that you won’t lose it in the sheets at night and you can leave study materials there so that you can study right before bed and when you get up. If you're on the bottom bunk then you may not need a shelf because you can use the ground or your adjacent desk. If you don’t know the room layout or who will be sleeping on the top bunk, then hold off on buying one until after you move into your dorm.

Desk Supplies

Desk Lamp

You'll definitely need a light source if your desk doesn't come with a light. However, you should opt for a lamp with a clamp instead of a traditional desk lamp because you can move it to your bed for late night reading.

File Organizer

An organizer can be useful for separating your papers if you're taking classes with lots of essays and worksheets or you're involved in several organizations. However, many classes have only online assignments. Hold off on buying an organizer until you find yourself needing one so that you can make better use of the desk space and drawers. I bought a file organizer before the year started and I never used it because none of my classes had paper assignments.

Laptop Cover

I used a cover at the beginning of the year because I had never had a laptop before and I didn't want to break it. However, I found that covering it up after every use was a big hassle. I stopped using a cover after a few months and my laptop still lasted through all of college. But if you're still concerned about protecting your laptop then feel free to bring one


Between you and your roommates you'll need at most one stapler so coordinate accordingly. Even if none of you has one you can probably find one in every computer lab on campus.


A dorm room is not always secure and your roommate might accidentally leave the door unlocked. Make sure that you’re willing to lose anything that you bring to college.


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