If you are sending a student off to college, this list of essential items for dorm room living is definitely worth checking out. Compiled from recommendations by seasoned college parents, this list will help you make sure your student has everything he or she needs for a comfortable and happy college experience.

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Essential Items for Dorm Room Living

Sending your child off to college can be a daunting experience for any parent, especially if it is your first time. You may feel like you’re in an emotional whirlwind, feeling pride and excitement one moment, then feeling worried and anxious the next.

The farther your child is traveling for school, the stronger your anxiety may be. Although “technically” your child might be an adult, over the age of 18 – they are still your baby. They are going to be away from you and on their own for the first time ever. Even if they are living in a dorm room – or perhaps even because they are living in a dorm room, you worry about how they will cope. You want to make sure that they have everything they will need.

We’ve talked to some seasoned college parents and had them share their recommended lists of essential items for dorm room living. As you and your student put together your college shopping list, we hope you will find the following advice (and free checklist!) to be a valuable and helpful shopping guide!

Things for Bed and Sleep

It might seem strange that our college shopping list starts off with items for bed, but a comfortable place to sleep is crucial to doing well in college. Bedding, therefore, is one of the most essential items for dorm room living on your list. You’ll want to make sure your student has a couple of twin sheet sets, a mattress pad, and some nice bedding in the form of blankets, comforters, and so on. Get at least one nice comfy pillow, too, and maybe a larger pillow for lounging.

A bed organizer is pretty handy, too. It’s a great place to keep important items (like keys or cell phones) close at hand while they charge overnight.

Practical and Useful Things

Next are those items that we all need, but might take for granted when compiling a shopping list for college. Your student will need a trash can, laundry basket, alarm clock, fan, umbrella, backpack, a lamp, and, of course, a computer. Don’t forget fun items, too, so your student has a way of playing and relaxing without spending money. A TV set and video game system can provide hours of inexpensive entertainment for your student and their friends.

Personal Hygiene Items

Be sure to include at least a couple of bath towels, and a pool towel as well, if your child is a swimmer. Washcloths (at least two) or a bath scrubbie is important, and all the essential toiletries your student might need. Think about soap, body wash, shampoo, deodorant, lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. A shower tote to carry bath items in is great, and if they share the shower, make sure to include some shower shoes or flip-flops they can use in the shower (and only in the shower).

Other personal hygiene items to remember are make-up, hair dryer, curling iron, or anything else your student might need when they are wanting to look their best for work, school, or even a date!

Things Needed For Class and Work

It might be worth it to add a small personal file folder to your list, so your student has a place to carry important papers. Items like a birth certificate and SS Card are needed for work, and having a place to keep those items secure is a good idea. You’ll also want to make sure your student has all the basic school supplies they might need – paper, binders, pens, folders, and so on, depending on the courses he or she is taking each semester.

Other Self-Care Items

A small shoebox sized bin is a great place to store other personal and self-care items. Make sure they have items like aspirin or Advil, cough medicine, Tums, Tea Tree Oil or Triple Antibiotic Ointment, bandages, etc. Make sure they have any prescription medications they might need. If they wear glasses, an eyeglass repair kit is great. And everyone needs things like nail clippers, tweezers, tissues, and a mirror they can use.

Cleaning Items

When putting together a list of essential items for dorm room living, be sure to include cleaning items. Clorox kitchen wipes are a handy way to keep things clean without needing rags and bucket. A broom and dustpan are always good to have on hand. Air freshener – both sprays and solids, help keep things smelling nice. And make sure you include things your student will need when doing laundry – detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, etc.

Things to Wear

It might be odd to think that someone could go off to college and forget about clothing. But taking clothing that will actually be used is definitely important. You’ll also want to make sure your student has plenty of hangers, some slippers to wear around the dorm, and at least 2 dressy and/or professional outfits for times when they want or need to look their best.

Cooking and Eating

Last, but certainly not least, you want to make sure your student has a way of feeding him or herself when money is tight or they don’t want to leave their dorm room. Snacks are great to have. But true self-sufficiency comes in when your student has a microwave and mini-fridge so they can have supplies in their room. They should also have a Pyrex measuring cup for heating water and soup, microwave-safe bowl and plate, and some silverware for eating. If water is bad, a Brita or Pur filter can be handy. Ice cube trays to fit the freezer and baggies for storage are great. And don’t forget a cup to drink out of – and a water bottle too. With all that, your student should find it easy to enjoy a variety of food choices right there in the dorm.

Your Student May Vary

Although this list of essential items for dorm room living is great for most students, your child may need other things not discussed in this list. But if you sit down together with this list as your guide, you’ll be able to come up with the other essential items.

Letting your child head off into the exciting world of college can be as exciting and scary for the parent as it is for the student. But with this great list of essential items for dorm room living, you can make sure your child has everything they need to live comfortably while they are away from home!


Be sure and grab your free printable checklist before you go shopping!

Have you sent a child off to college? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!

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