Dorm Living: The Ultimate Back-to-School List

Welcome back to the Dorm Living Series.

August is now in full swing, and students are eager to get back on campus in just a few weeks! Whether you’re just starting college, moving in to a dorm room for the first time, or are ready to come back to campus after summer, let this guide be your checklist.

Depending on where you’re living, you may have a few roommates, just one, or you may have a single. This list will go over what you may need for each style room.


Whether you have a one-room dorm or are in a suite, there are a few things you’ll need to bring. While some things may seem obvious (of course I need my own comforter and pillow), having a checklist is still super helpful!

Most colleges will have a description of what furniture is provided in each dorm building, as well as the layout of the room. Keep that in mind while doing your shopping and research.

For the Bed
  1. Comforter: Most dorm beds are a Twin XL size. Either way, make sure you get the right size! My Advice: go for a neutral color or something you know you won’t get sick of – reversible comforters are a plus!!
  2. Sheets: Two sets
  3. Blankets: LOTS of ’em!
  4. Pillows: At least one for your head, with a few pillow cases to allow for washing & drying.
  5. Decor Pillows: Pops of color + extra cushion.
  6. Backrest Cushion: Also called a Husband Pillow or Dorm Pillow, these are great for doing homework or just sitting up in bed.
Bedroom Storage

If you have room for under-the-bed storage, that can be very helpful! Whether it’s for clothes, extra sheets or pillows, snacks or supplies, make sure you utilize this space.

  1. Rolling Storage Bins: This clear bin from Bed, Bath & Beyond makes it easy to access your storage.
  2. Trunk: One with a lock is a plus! If you have any valuables to store away, a trunk is perfect for storing things away and out of sight.
  3. Rolling Cart: This open cart is great for storing away blankets, snacks, or more clothes.
  4. Taller Bin with Drawers: If you have a raised bed, you may be able to buy a bin with a few drawers to store away more items under your bed.
  5. Hangers
  1. Step Stool: For raised beds + storage space
  2. Laundry Bin
  3. Bedside Caddy: Pockets to put your phone, headphones or other small things in. These usually hang from the side of your bed.
  4. Bed Shelf: If you’re in a top bunk, odds are you’ll want a space for water, your phone, charger, and any other bedside needs. The Bed Shelfie was my go-to for 2 years.
  5. A Long Charger: Especially if you have a bunk bed! I usually get a 10 foot one.
  6. Organization Cubes: College dresser drawers are always so deep. I find it helpful to buy a little fold-up organizer to put my socks or underwear in.


  1. Desk Lamp
  2. Pens, Pencils, Sharpies, Highlighters
  3. Computer and Charger
  4. Power Strip with Surge Protector: A lot of schools have requirements for outlet usage so make sure to check that!
  5. Clock
  6. Wire Organizer: Amazon has a bunch of them for cheap – they are so helpful for hanging wires off the side of your desk, so that you don’t have a tangled mess of chargers for phones, laptops, speakers and everything else that needs to be plugged in.
  7. Mirror: For doing makeup

Cleaning Supplies

No matter the room style, here are the necessities for keeping your space clean.

  1. Vacuum: If you have a suite, you may want a big vacuum. For those in a one-room dorm or smaller spaces, a handheld vacuum may suffice.
  2. Broom and Dust Pan
  3. Clorox or Basic Cleaning Wipes
  4. All-Purpose Cleaner
  5. Paper Towels: You’ll need them, trust me – wiping up spills, dusting, and using as napkins.

Living Room

If you’re lucky enough to be in a suite or have a living room space in your college dorm, there will be a few extra things you’ll need to bring this year.

  1. Couch: Sometimes provided
  2. Couch Cover: If it’s a college-provided couch, you may want to cover up that couch with your own cover.
  3. Blankets: For common use
  4. Pillows: For couches and chairs
  5. Welcome Mat: A place for shoes, especially winter boots!
  6. TV
  7. Shoe Rack: Whether it’s in your bedroom or living area, a shoe rack can be helpful for storing away shoes.
  8. Coat Hanger
  9. Extra seating: Bean bags, chairs, whatever!
  10. Decor: Lights, posters, mirrors & more!


Hooray for having your own toilet! I’ve been lucky enough to always have my own full bathroom with a toilet and shower. Here are the things I’ll be bringing this year.

  1. Hand Towels: 2-3
  2. Hand Soap or Soap Dispenser
  3. Shower/Bath Rug
  4. Shower Curtain: Depending on your college and room, some may be provided. Bigger showers in large suites usually do not come with a shower curtain.
  5. Storage: For feminine products, cleaning products, and that extra toilet paper.
  6. Toilet Cleaning Solution and Brush
  7. Bathroom/Room Spray: For keeping the bathroom smelling nice.
  8. Toilet Paper
  9. Toothbrush Holder
  10. Personal Items: Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Shaver, Feminine Products, and anything else you won’t be sharing with roommates
  11. Face Towels
  12. Makeup Removing Wipes


A lot of things go into a kitchen. If you’re looking to get into cooking, you may need a few more things than others! The rest of us will be happy with our microwavable mac ‘n cheese… maybe 🙂

  1. Hand Soap
  2. Dish Soap
  3. Paper Towels and Napkins
  4. Plates, Bowls, Cups
  5. Silverware
  6. Paper Products: It will be handy to have paper plates and plastic silverware when needed.
  7. Kitchen Utensils: Spatula, ladle, mixing spoon, masher, tongs, whisk
  8. Kitchen Knives: Set/Block
  9. Dish Drying Rack: Not necessary but super helpful depending on your set-up!
  10. Pots and Pans
  11. Potholder
  12. General Cooking Spices: Salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, oregano, basil, and anything else you’d like!
  13. Water Filter: We always have a large-sized Brita to filter tap water.
  14. Blender: If you want smoothies or fancy drinks!
  15. Cutting Board
  16. Coffee-Maker
  17. Toaster
  18. Microwave
  19. Shot Glasses: If you’re of age and drink, it’s nice to have the little Red Solo Cup brand shot cups.
  20. Mugs
  21. Plastic Bags & Ziplocks
  22. Storage Containers: Leftovers and on-the-go
  23. Large Trash Bin
  24. Place Mats: For the table, if you want them

Other Things

Here are a few things I suggest getting that don’t necessarily fit into any other category. Not all of these are needed, just helpful ideas!

  1. Movie Projector: My simple, hand-held projector is decent in quality, super easy to use, and connects to my laptop for Netflix viewing.
  2. First Aid Kit
  3. Popcorn Maker: Air poppers are great!
  4. Full-Body Mirror
  5. Flags/Posters
  6. Over-the-Door Hanger: Utilize your storage space – also great for shoes!
  7. Umbrella
  8. Rain Jacket
  9. Reusable Water bottles
  10. Oil diffuser: To make the room smell nice:)
  11. Rugs

Move-In Day

Here’s the secret: You DON’T have to bring ALL of this to school when you’re moving in! Many things you can get later on, the day of, or when you realize you need it. Even if you don’t have a car, a lot of schools have a shuttle bus or offer other transportation to stores and malls.

If you have roommates, make sure to ask them what they’re bringing! That way you won’t double up, you won’t have to spend as much money, and you can bounce ideas off of each other. A lot of things can be shared, especially when it comes to common living areas.

Good luck, and don’t stress! If you forget anything, there’s always a store available, a friend to help, or another opportunity to get what you need.

Yours Truly,

Cat Taylor

Check out the rest of the Dorm Living Series here!

Having roommate troubles?

Moving in with someone new or worried about making friends in college?

Check out my post, Dorm Living: The Roommate “Scaries” for tips.

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