When I packed for college my freshman year, my mom and I were clueless. We researched dorm-room necessities because we were balling on a budget, but as a first-generation student, I mostly had to rely on Google for help. During the summer, I reached out to my roommate to figure out what appliances we would each bring to avoid buying the same items and cut down on costs. Unsurprisingly, I packed way too much (mostly clothes) and brought home a lot of items during winter break – but you don’t know what you don’t know, and I wised up sophomore year.

Below is a pared-down list of dorm room essentials for incoming freshmen!


  • Futon – Helpful for watching TV, hanging out, or hosting out-of-town friends.
  • Storage bins – If you do not have enough storage space, it is a great idea to purchase some for storing snacks, small appliances, and plastic ware.
  • Desk chair – Optional, but you may prefer a more comfortable chair than the one the college supplies.

Small Appliances and Electronics – coordinate with your roommate

  • Microwave – You can’t cook ramen without it!
  • Small refrigerator – Again, a must! Get one that stands about 3 feet high: any smaller size is almost useless.
  • TV – Yep, you’ll want this, too! Some colleges even provide free cable!
  • Portable fan – This helps move air around during the warm months.
  • Coffee maker – Optional, since most campuses offer coffee in the café; unless you’re a hard-core coffee drinker (or it is finals week), then it’s required!
  • Desk lamp – You’ll want this for late-night study sessions.

Décor and Bedding

  • Area rug – If your dorm room is not carpeted, an area rug will keep your feet warm, especially during the winter months!
  • Mattress pad and protector – Some beds feel like you’re sleeping on bricks, but a mattress pad can make almost any bed more comfortable. Mattress protectors keep the pest from coming home with you at the end of the school year.
  • Throw pillows and blankets – Extra pillows and blankets can be useful, especially if you have a drafty doom room.
  • Curtains – Optional, but they soften the look of the room or block sunlight for your afternoon nap.
  • Wall art and posters – Optional, but I highly recommend decorating. It is nice to have something on the walls because usually the walls are white (i.e., boring!)
  • Indoor string lights – Optional, but a good idea if you want to make your room more vibrant; also, they’re affordable.

Heading to college this fall? Learn from Wynter’s mistakes and take only what you really need for dorm-room living.

  • Bathrobe – A must-have for making trips to and from the shower or bathroom.
  • Flip-flops – Shower shoes are very important for anyone who shares a public bathroom.
  • Shower tote – It is much easier to carry your toiletries to the bathroom in a tote than in your arms.

I recommend packing light in the beginning, as you may find that you don’t need certain appliances, furniture, etc.: your roommate may already have them, or you may find you don’t really need them and they are taking up space. Also, I recommend researching the dimensions of your dorm room, building entrances, and hallways. There’s nothing worse than purchasing a piece of furniture, lugging it to campus, then finding that it doesn’t fit and having to ask your parents to take it back home. Finally, if you forget something, you can always purchase items at a later time. I often made Walmart runs with my teammates once I was settled into my dorm because there wasn’t enough room for everything I wanted to bring.

While EducationQuest can’t go dorm-room shopping with you, we can help you prepare for other aspects of college! Call your nearest EducationQuest office to get help with college planning.