The good news is your kid is GOING to college. The bad news is your kid is LEAVING for college. While there may be a long list of things they WANT to buy, here is a list of the things they NEED to buy, the real dorm essentials. We have cut to the basics and listed only the things that they will truly need to bring to college to have on day one. Even here there is much to consider, see below.
This isn’t 1990. Retailers offer deals and free shipping so read the fine print to take advantage of every offer for savings. These three are FREE to join:
- Target College Registry includes a 15% savings offer.
- Bed, Bath & Beyond College Savings Pass lets kids save 20% on all their purchases through 9/30, plus free shipping for orders over $39.
Note: We are a reader-supported site and receive a small amount of compensation from purchases made through some of these links.
10 Dorm Essentials to Put on Your List
First step is to read this post, Dorm Room Shopping: 50 Questions to Answer First, which will guide you through all the Q&As you want to discuss with your teen BEFORE you shop, with any insight you can gather from their college’s website tab on residence life.
Then start here, with the true basics.
There is no place other than a college dorm where your teen will need Twin XL sheets and you will find dozens of retailers that sell this unique size. Shop online or visit Bed, Bath & Beyond with your son or daughter where you can both feel the fabric before buying.
These blue bags have achieved cult status in the Grown and Flown community and they are available at Amazon, as well as IKEA. They are lightweight, durable, and fold flat for easy storing. The bags are invaluable for moving into and out of dorms and can be used as under-bed storage for your teen, too.
You can bring towels from home or buy a new set for your teen. We think getting them in a unique color or having them monogrammed will help your son or daughter keep up with their own towels in the communal laundry room.
This will protect expensive electronics from a power surge, provide more outlets than a typical dorm room, and are the preferred option to extension cords which are banned by many schools. This one has a six-foot cord and two USB ports for charging electronics.
Finished with the basics for dorm shopping but looking for a few more ideas for what your teen could use at college? Here is our Grown and Flown list of 25 of the most popular dorm essentials.
5. Bed Pillow
This is another item that your teen can bring from home. However, this #1-rated pillow from Nest Bedding will not get flat or lumpy and can be adjusted to their preference by removing some of the foam. Make sure to get a washable, hypoallergenic pillow protector to keep pillows clean and protect against bedbugs, dust mites, and allergens.
College mattresses are rock hard and your teen will be over-the-moon happy if you get them a mattress topper. From egg crates to memory foam to expensive featherbeds, they all do the job of helping your teen will get a better night’s sleep. This one gets very high reviews.
Your teen may not clean their dorm room but they will (eventually) wash their clothes and they will need a laundry bag or basket. First, think about how much they’ll need to carry and how far they have to travel to do laundry. Are the machines on the same floor of their room or in another building? This is one that is lightweight and has a pocket for detergent.
8. Storage solutions
Dorm rooms are tiny and space is at a premium. Shop for under bed storage containers to stash clothes and other items but, before buying, find out how much room there is to maximize this precious space. Look on the college website under the section that includes “Residence Life” to find out all you can about the specific dorm your teen will occupy. Some schools provide dimensions for the furniture and how high the bed may already lofted. Take a tape measure when you shop to maximize this precious space.
Buy Command Hooks for the wall to hang wet towels, necklaces, baseball caps, a lanyard with their keys, sweatshirt, almost anything.
Over the door hooks are also incredibly useful.
9. Shower caddy
For students with a bathroom right near their bedroom, this item can be left off the list. But anyone making a trek down the hall with shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, and a towel needs to bring a shower caddy to college. This one is available in three colors.
10. First aid kit
We suggest that parents find a container and put together a small medicine/first aid kit of what they know their kids will need. Freshmen get sick at 2am and it is nice to have a thermometer, cold or stomach remedies at hand. Make sure they know what the dosage is for any meds they bring to college. Target has these cute bags for FREE, with purchase of 3 or more first aid items.