We asked our Grown and Flown community for their best ideas of dorm supplies and furnishings that their teens used all the time. While you may have covered the shopping basics, here are dorm ideas you might not have ever thought of. They could be game-changers for your college student!
Note: We are a reader-supported site and receive compensation from purchases made through some of the links in this post.
Best dorm ideas
1. W00Z00 fan
These fans have become wildly popular and are now available in six colors. It has three speed settings and a compact design so it can fit on a desk or small surface space in a dorm.
Most dorm beds don’t have headboards and being able to prop up in bed to read or study can be uncomfortable. This oversized bolster pillow is available in seven colors and has a washable cover. We hear from many of our Grown and Flown members that their students loved having this pillow.
Dorm rooms are stuffy and dusty and this mini air-purifier by #1 brand Levoit does triple-duty by helping students live in a cleaner environment, sleep more easily with the white noise emitted at night and benefit from aromatherapy with a few drops of essential oils applied to the bulit-in aroma pad.
The college professor who designed this academic planner did so with the goal of helping students with time management. The Centered Student Planner, available in five beautiful colors, not only has space for your student to plan out each week’s assignments and activities, but is filled with positive messages and comes with a QR code giving them access to 52 digital lessons about college success.
Purchase the planner alone or as part of a bundle with coordinating pencils, pens, highlighters, stickers at a $15 savings. We love this planner!
A zippered mattress encasement, that encloses the dorm room brick-like mattress, plus the topper you might have purchased, will all stay cleaner and give your teen the chance for a healthier night’s sleep. AllerEase makes one that is waterproof and is a bedbug and allergen (eg. dust mite) barrier.
Who knew there was such a thing as a “mattress slide stopper and gripper?” Grown and Flown parents rave about how this thin, dual sided grip pad (in twin XL size) keeps the mattress topper from sliding off of the plastic dorm mattress. This inexpensive dorm idea is genius!
7. Lap desk
Students study in bed and this foldable and adjustable lap desk is a popular accessory to help them create a desk in bed.
Is your teen taking prescription medication, keepsake jewelry or a passport to college? This compact safe may be exactly what they need to keep these valuable things secure. This one has a cable to be used to tether the safe in their dorm room.
9. Rolling cart
We can see loads of uses for this cart both in the dorm and, later, in an apartment. Sold at Target, they are available in six colors.
This lightweight shoe organizer fits over a door and can hold so much more than shoes. Students use it as a place to store snacks, toiletries, Clorox wipes, school supplies and more.
Many freshmen dorms are old and short on outlets. Since our teens never let their phones leave their hands, the charger needs to stretch from wall to bed, even if that bed is a top bunk. This highly-rated one by Anker is durable, charges at a high-speed and is 10 feet long.
12. IKEA Frakta bags
There is no place to store luggage in a dorm room (except for under the bed where it will be disgusting in nine months time) so we suggest these great, inexpensive IKEA bags for moving in and out. They are airtight so perfect for storing off season clothes or extra bedding.
Students will want to have snacks in their room and these collapsible silicone dishes (set of 3) are a perfect solution storing and heating food. They are dishwasher, freezer and microwaveable safe. As a bonus, a foldable spoon and fork are included in this set.
14. Fridge cart
Getting a mini fridge is a no-brainer for college students but what is less obvious is how to store the gear your student would like to have for fixing a snack. Store plates, mugs, paper towels, non-perishable snacks in this cart and make use of the valuable space under the fridge by elevating it. .
15. Mini projector
There is no need to take a bulky TV to a small dorm room, especially when a portable projector is an option. Multiple ports for TV Stick/Box, Chrome-cast, Roku-Stick, Game Console, PCs, smartphone and laptops, DVD player, TF card and USB Sticks which makes streaming movies or playing video games a breeze.
Illumination in a dorm room is often limited to overhead lighting and communal bathrooms may not be conducive to putting on make up. This mirror has three light settings and can be powered by 4 AA batteries or a power cord.
17. Pool noodle
Use a pool noodle to close the gap between the dorm bed and the wall to prevent phones or other valuables from slipping through the space and falling to the floor. These are available in tow-packs so bring both and share with a roommate.
Another solution for securing a phone at bedtime are sheets with pockets. These are available in multiple colors.
19. Coat tree
Because square footage is so limited in a dorm room, and is typically shared by roommates, think about how the vertical space can be used. My daughter loved using a coat tree and kept it all for years.
20. Drying rack
Another thing she used every time she did laundry was a drying rack for her workout gear – which tended to be what she wore to class most of the time.
Laundry at school is not like laundry and home and teens need all the help they can get. They may not soak a stain, or be able to treat it right away, so give them a box of these Shout Wipes Towelettes.
Yes they have flashlights on their phones but, when the power goes out or they need to get up and not disturb a roommate, you can bet the phone will be dead.
23. Air mattress
If your teen is going to have high school friends or siblings visiting, an air mattresswill be an extra bed that can be blown up quickly, and then stored away.
Teens may share a common bathroom in which there is never enough storage room. This incredibly clever shower curtain, with built in pockets, is the answer.
25. Door stop
Make friends, meet new people, and don’t get locked out of your dorm room the first week of school. Never has such a small, inexpensive item accomplished so much.
This is the perfect solution to decorating drab walls in the dorm. Take pics of friends, family, the dog, or your teen’s happy place and create a mosaic of images that adhere to the wall with magnets, not nails.
27. Area rug
Dorm floors are cold, uninviting, and gross. An area rug in a neutral color can be used in the next dorm or apartment and might make it through all four years (with a good wash or dry cleaning over the summer!) We think this washable rug from Pottery Barn is great looking in either blue and grey.
28. First aid kit
It’s crucial to send your teen with a first aid kit of the basics – bandaids, pain relief, something for cold and cough, and a thermometer. But here is also the most comprehensive list of items to think about from a pharmacist/college mom that you should look at before you leave home.
29. Bedside caddy
Elevated beds make it difficult to have a nightstand to hold a book, phone, water bottle, etc. This bedside caddy has 8 pockets with spaces for all.
This bed shelf is another popular way to store a phone, glasses, AirPods, or a book before turning out the lights to go to sleep.
We all need paper towels close at hand and with this magnetic roll holder, your student can have it connecting to the fridge where spills are often likely to occur.
33. Electric kettle
If your teen’s dorm permits, an electric kettle could be a practical addition to their room. Make tea, coffee, hot chocolate, Ramen noodles, any beverage or snack that requires boiling water. This one has auto shut-off and is stainless steel (no risk of broken glass.)
34. Brita pitcher
Students need to have a water bottle with them during the day which they can fill at stations around campus. With a Brita pitcher, they can keep filtered water cold in a mini fridge. This is a smaller model that holds 6 cups of water.
You Might Also Love Reading:
College Move-In Day: 12 Things That Will Save Your Life – these are 12 of the most useful things that our Grown and Flown parents told us they could not live without on move-in day.
33 Bestselling Dorm Essentials – you can find longer lists, but some of those recommendations are for things your teen may never use. These 25 things are the most popular for most students living in dorms.