Dorm Room Essentials for First-Year Students

Dorm Room Essentials for First-Year Students

Moving into a dorm room is a mixture of underwhelming and overwhelming. It’s not a “real apartment,” so there’s plenty of stuff you don’t need. But you’ll need the right collection of stuff to make the first year easy. In this post, we’re covering the bare necessities.


Living Essentials


If you’re going to college football games or staying out late, you’re going to develop some odd game day rituals in your first year. Every dorm room has different policies on the kind of living essentials that you can bring, so check the rules of the college and the dorm before investing.

  • Mini-fridge. You’ll need someplace to store all the leftover pizza that you collect at random student events all over campus.
  • Microwave. You’ll need a method for heating up all that leftover pizza. Let’s be honest, you might eat it cold anyway. But microwaves are also great for a cup of noodles, tea, and other snacks.
  • Instant pot. Instant pots can cook everything from ground beef to soup to oatmeal. Just be aware that there might be rules for the dorm on whether or not you can have one because it’s technically a pressure cooker.
  • Electric kettle. Perfect for making pour-over coffee, tea, instant oatmeal, and literally anything else that requires you dump hot water into it.
  • Coffee maker. Early mornings need to start out right.

It’s also good to invest in some quality snacks and food. Even if you have a dining plan, the odd hours of college will mean that you get hungry at odd times.



Nothing really strange here, but you’ll need to load up on all the things that used to be in your parents’ house that you started to take for granted. That means any self-care and cleaning products, but it also means stuff to clean your space.

College is a great time to start figuring out who you are and what makes you happy, so consider your adventures in new practices and self-care routines as something essential. You can find great wellness products to inspire new activities, or just change the way that you think about exercise with blue zone workouts. Wellness doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be creative. If you start thinking intentionally about the stuff you do that is really relaxing, revitalizing, and self-awareness promoting—you can start collecting the small things that make it all easier. 



  • Mattress padding. If you’re in a dorm room where the mattress is provided, you’ll probably want some extra padding. A memory foam pad will make your bed a bit cozier for those glorious weekend sleep-ins.
  • Bedding, pillows. 
  • Blanket. If it’s your first year, just go with something relatively cheap. Your blanket will probably take a beating from the elements, crumbs, and the antics of your friends. So it’s best to buy something simple. Get the nice blanket Junior year.



While the right supplies won’t make you a pro student, they sure are a good start. Make sure that you can put some study tips to good use by having the right equipment to make the grades.

  • Laptop, phone, tablet. You may need only one of these or a combination of all three. It really depends on your major, lifestyle, and situation. But investing in quality hardware makes sure that you have the electronic power you need when life gets busy.
  • Quality headphones. The ability to tune out the world and tune into your favorite music, podcast, or audiobook is essential. Don’t go cheap here. The difference between cheap headphones and something quality can be the difference in a good and bad relationship with a roommate.
  • Software. You might be good with Google suite or Mac’s pages, but you might also need Microsoft Word. If you’re an art major or computer science major, there might be additional programs that you need to find and use.
  • Notebook. If you like paper notes, you can grab a notebook and pens.



  • Backpack. You’ll need something simple to carry your stuff around. Check out different kinds of college bags to get some inspiration for how you want to travel.
  • Skateboard, bike, scooter. If you want to move around your campus easily, you might invest in a piece of gear or even a car.


Space Essentials

Decorations are also, in a way, essential to a quality standard of living. Because dorm rooms are small, coordinating a minimalist design effort with your roommate can be great.

  • Some colleges have really bad mascots, but that doesn’t mean that your dorm room has to have a bad mascot. Try getting a perfect stuffed animal to guard a shelf. Around Christmas time, having an Elf on the Shelf is always a good goof.
  • Entertainment. Televisions, game systems, projectors, sound systems. Whatever makes you excited about your free time.
  • Fans. Especially if it gets hot where you go to school.
  • Artwork. This may have to be coordinated with a roommate. Don’t make your room look like a hurricane of bad design and high school posters hit it. A few tasteful pieces will do.



    If you don’t think that clothing is a part of the dorm room, you’ve never seen a first-year college student’s dorm room midway through the first semester.


    Sports Gear

    It’s important to stay active during the first year. And having athletic gear that you enjoy and feel confident in will help you hit the student gym early and often. Additionally, you’ll need a different kind of sports gear—the perfect attire for tailgating.

    If you’re planning on being “that guy,” you can also show up with your favorite costume. Good first-year costumes are basically costumes that you had in high school, which now seem even sillier and more ridiculous on college campuses. They’re perfect for Halloween parties and football games alike.


    Campus Dad Hat

    College students sometimes go a day or two without washing their hair. Okay, to be honest, college students sometimes go longer than that. Sometimes you’ve been up late—studying, obviously—and you roll out of bed and have approximately 7 minutes to get ready and make the 8-minute walk to your 8 am class. In those cases, you’re going to need a school hat to cover up the hair. Nothing says “I woke up like this” and “I’m having a lot of fun in college” like rolling into class late with a colorful hat covering a mess of bedhead. It’s a college tradition. It’s a dorm room essential for first-year students.


    Plenty of College T-Shirts and Sweatshirts

    While we’re it, you’re going to be spending a lot of time tossing on clothes in a hurry to make that Friday morning class that you made the mistake of signing up for. In order to save time, you’ll probably be tossing on t-shirts and sweatshirts more often than you think. Sure, you had things together in high school. But that was high school. Priorities have shifted. You’re no longer rolling in right before the bell with a Starbucks in one hand and a binder in the other.


    Odds and Ends

    • Fan gear for first-year sports games.
    • A printer for churning out last-minute papers and March Madness brackets.
    • Games (Board, video, and drinking are all acceptable options)
    • Something to handle, well, any smells. Candles are great but are often prohibited in dorms for safety. Check out humidifiers, febreeze, or something that can get the air moving.
    • Anything that is particular to the region that you’re going to college in. For example, umbrellas if rain is common, boots if snow is a must, and sunscreen with aloe vera if the sun is out often.
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