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Dorm Room Essentials: What to Pack (And What to Leave at Home)

Dorm Room Essentials: What to Pack (And What to Leave at Home)

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dorm room essentials

Your first year in college is an adventure, especially if you’re going to be far away from home. College life is a whole new world filled with big responsibilities. It’s important to be organized to make your transition from home to university as smooth as possible.

If you’re living on campus you’ll want to be prepared. If your college doesn’t provide you with a packing checklist, you will need one of your own.

To help get you started, we’re providing a checklist of dorm room essentials and tips to help you survive your on-campus living experience.

What’s it like to live in a college dorm?

Depending on your college rules, freshmen may be required to live on campus. Dorm life can be fun but like anything in life, it comes with pros and cons.

Dorms can be noisy with lots of foot traffic. Roommates are often mandatory. If you’re used to having a room all to yourself, you’ll need to mentally prepare for dorm living.

Your dorm may be set up with a traditional floorplan or more like an apartment with a small group of roommates sharing a living room, kitchen, and bathroom.

Dorm rooms are generally small and designed for function, not aesthetics. Furniture such as a bed and desk are provided. Storage space is limited, so you’ll want to stick to the essentials.

Dorm Packing Checklist

dorm room essentials

The following dorm room essentials checklist provides a comprehensive group of items needed for your freshman year at college.


  • Computer
  • Cell phone charger
  • Headphones
  • Wireless printer
  • Desk lamp
  • Power strips
  • USB cords
  • Fan

Desk and Room:


  • Towels
  • Washcloths
  • Shower caddy
  • Bathmat and shower curtain (if you have a private bathroom)
  • Body wash
  • Comb and brush
  • Makeup
  • Shaving supplies
  • Deodorant
  • Toilet paper
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Hair accessories
  • Hair dryer
  • Face cleanser
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Flip flops/shower shoes

Health care:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • First-aid kit
  • Vitamins
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Pain reliever
  • Prescription medication

Kitchen and Laundry:

  • Travel mug
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Small blender (such as a NutriBullet)
  • Paper plates, cups, bowls
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Can opener
  • Food storage containers
  • Aluminum foil
  • Sandwich bags
  • Hand-held clothing steamer
  • Laundry bag

Linens and Decor:


  • Mop
  • Broom
  • Bleach
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Sponges
  • Dishcloths
  • Trash bags
  • Air freshener


  • Seasonal clothing
  • Shoes
  • Accessories
  • Sneakers
  • Pajamas
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Book bag
  • Umbrella
  • Rain boots
  • Coat/jacket
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Hats

Shared items:

Personal Essentials:

  • Debit and credit cards
  • Medical insurance cards
  • ID/Driver’s license

Leave at Home:

  • Pets
  • Expensive jewelry
  • Candles
  • Space heaters
  • Too much clothing
  • Large suitcases
  • Anything considered contraband by your university

Dorm Survival Tips

dorm room essentials
  1. Keep expensive items secure and out of sight.
  2. Contact your roommate as soon as your school provides their contact information. Introduce yourself and discuss which items you can share to avoid duplicates and save space.
  3. Establish a set of ground rules with your roommate within the first two days. Please reference our list of roommate questions for conversation starters.
  4. Keep your door locked at all times for safety, even when you’re inside.
  5. Be respectful and kind to your roommate and other dorm residents. If you run into issues that cannot be resolved internally, take them to your RA (resident assistant).

Wrapping Up

Your first year at college will lead to friendships that will last a lifetime. Plan accordingly, study hard, but don’t forget to have fun! We hope this checklist of dorm room essentials helps you prepare for your college journey.

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dorm room essentials
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