How to Shop for College: 33 Bestselling Dorm Essentials for Freshman 2022

Ever wonder what’s on the checklist of the most popular college dorm essentials for freshmen? Here are some of the bestselling off-to-college items that Grown and Flown parents are buying for their teens.

An important first step is to search the college website under the “Residence Life” section to see what is prohibited, the dimensions and layout of the dorm room and closet space, and what furniture is provided.

Note: We are a reader-supported site and receive compensation from purchases made through some of the links in this post.

Technology and electronics

1. Laptop

One of the most important decisions your student will make is which laptop they need for college. They will want to consider price, the field they hope to study (STEM majors may need more computing power) and whether they prefer an Apple or Windows environment. Some popular choices include the lightweight (this laptop gets carried everywhere) Apple MacBook Air with Retina display, Windows Dell XPS 13 and the lower priced Lenovo Chromebook.

Many tech companies offer student discounts so check on those offers before making a final decision.

2. External Battery Power Bank 

Having a fully charged phone is the best safety device your teen can have in college. This one by Anker is well-priced, lightweight, small, and charges super fast.

Anker charger

3. Belkin Surge Protector Power Strip 12 Outlets and 2 USB Charging Ports

Extension cords are banned in many colleges, so pack one of these, instead. Your teen will need plenty of outlets for their electronics and this Belkin charger comes with a 6’ft cord, too.

surge protector

4. Printer

The choice of a printer is very much a personal one. Students turn in most of their assignments electronically, and many colleges have printers in dorms, computer labs, and libraries for public use. While it is very convenient to have a printer handy in your room, especially a compact and wireless one, some students tell us that they take up space and can sometimes be found under the bed gathering dust bunnies.

Epson wireless printer

5. LED Desk Lamp

This lamp has a charging USB port on the base and can be dimmed when your teen is up studying, and their roommate is asleep. This model is equipped with a wireless charging port.

desk lamp

Dorm Bedding

6. Twin XL Bedding

Typically, dorm rooms have Twin XL beds, and your teen must have sized sheets to match. At the very least, they will need a fitted sheet to cover the mattress supplied on the frame. Your sheets and bedding are the definitions of dorm room essentials, and they should be comfortable. 

Four of our favorite places to shop for sheets, duvet covers, blankets and comforters in this (or any) size are Pottery Barn Teen/Dorm, Target , Dormify, and the Bed, Bath & Beyond college website.

Pottery Barn has a real emphasis on sustainability with its product line, and if you have not taken a look there, you may be pleasantly surprised at the selection, style, and price points. They have The Key program with member rewards of 2—5% back at ALL their family of brands, including William Sonoma, West Elm, and Pottery Barn.

Bed Bath & Beyond has a College Savings Pass with 20% off on all your student’s purchases by 9/30/22.

College Savings Plan

7. Bed Pillow

This is another item that your teen can bring from home. However, two top-rated pillows received the highest ratings from Good Housekeeping 2022. Make sure to get a washable, hypoallergenic pillow protector to keep pillows clean and protect against bedbugs, dust mites, and allergens.

The COOP Home Goods pillow 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.

Coop pillow

This set of two pillows sold under the Amazon Basics brand is the second favorite on the Good Housekeeping list is a are very well priced option.

8. Mattress Topper

Dorm bed mattresses are rock-hard bricks encased in vinyl, so adding a mattress topper will be something your teen will thank you for. Three options include egg crate-style ones that are less expensive, a memory foam one, or a featherbed.

mattress topper

9. Dorm Bed Shelf

Nightstands are not supplied in most dorm rooms, so having a bunk shelf like this one can be a convenient space for students to have their phones, glasses, and other necessities close at hand when they go to bed. You can also keep a small notebook or folder to jot down your thoughts or important things to remember.

dorm bed shelf

Alternatively, students can use a bed pocket which is more compact but offers a place to store a phone, glasses, etc.

bed pocket

10. Backrest Pillow

So much studying takes place on a dorm bed, and a pillow like this will help make it much comfier, especially since there are typically no headboards on dorm beds. And, trust us, comfort is everything. This one, from Target, comes in five cute colors.

bed rest pillow

11. Bed Risers

Risers are a great way to create more under-bed storage, and many models are available. And we all know that dorm room storage space is at a premium.

We caution two things. First, make sure your student is not in a bunk bed. And second, many schools have beds designed to be lofted, and bed risers are unnecessary.

target bed risers

12. Rug

A small dorm room rug can be warm in the winter and create a cozier room. Look at the washable rugs at Pottery Barn Teen/Dorm that are an excellent feature for a dorm.

pottery Baarn rug

13. Project Repat T-Shirt Quilt

Gather your teen’s t-shirts from camp, school, sports, or family trips and send them to Project Repat. They will create a personal keepsake quilt that can be used on the bed or hung on a wall. A Project Repat quilt is one of the most popular dorm items in the Grown and Flown community, and they get rave reviews.

Project repat T-shirt quilt and teen girl

Want to learn what Grown and Flown parents think are THE most helpful tools and tips for Move-In Day? Here are the 12 things that saved their lives.

14. IKEA Frakta Bag

Nothing is better for move-in day than these inexpensive IKEA bags (available at Amazon, too.) They are the #1 most popular dorm item for Grown and Flown students. They can be used under the bed for storage or stored flat and used again when moving out of the dorm during the school year. Keep dorm items all in one place during the summer in these bags.

IKEA bag

Bathroom

15. Shower Shoes

All students living in dorms with communal bathrooms need shower shoes. Havaianas may be a little more expensive than others, but we love the variety of colors and designs, making them less likely to get confused with hallmates’ flip-flops.

Havianas flip flops

16. Quick Dry Hanging Toiletry and Bath Organizer

Most dorm bathrooms are communal, and your son or daughter will need a way to carry shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, and everything they need down the hall and back.

pottery barn bath caddy

17. Towels

You can give our freshmen some towels from around the house or buy them a few new ones. Either way, they will only need two sets, not the stack they seem to go through at home! Here are gorgeous and durable towels from Pottery Barn Teen/Dorm. These will last for all four years.

Target’s Room Essentials brand includes these towels that are a less expensive alternative and come in five shades.

18. Bath Bundles

We have fallen in love with these bath bundles, including coordinating towels, shower caddy, and robe or wrap. BTW, using a towel as a wrap for the trek to the communal bathroom is an option, but a robe or bath wrap is much easier to manage, especially when juggling a second bath towel and shower caddy.

Laundry

19. Set of 5 Mesh Laundry Bags

This help washes delicate garments.

lingerie bag

20. Laundry Bag

Depending on how far away the laundry room is from their dorm room, teens will want an easy-to-carry bag, hamper, or backpack-style bag when they finally run out of clean socks.

21. Clothes Steamer

Taking a bulky iron and ironing board to college isn’t practical if your teen lives in a dorm. Consider a handheld steamer, instead. This Conair steamer gets excellent reviews.

Eating and Drinking

22. Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Hydro Flask offers TONS of styles and sizes of water bottles perfect for your college student. For long days on campus, studying at the library, sports practice, bike rides, workouts, hiking, or walking to class, Hydro Flask water bottles are excellent for your teen — keeping drinks cold or hot for the entirety of the day.

23. Keurig Mini Coffee Maker

At 5″ wide, this Keurig is just the right size for a dorm room and comes in six great colors. Pair it with a couple of mugs that remind them of home.

Keurig mini

24. Microwavable Dishes

There will likely be a microwave that your student can use to heat something simple for a snack. Having non-breakable, microwavable dishes will make it much easier and cleaner, especially if this is in communal kitchen space and not their room.

Storage and Organization

25. Storage bins

Once your teen has found out as much as they can about the dimensions of the dorm room and what furniture is included, they will want to get one or two storage bins to keep off-season clothing or extra bedding in airtight containers.

26. Command Large Utility Hook

Inexpensive, incredibly strong, and valuable, these command strips are my favorite dorm essentials.

command hooks

27. Hand Tool Set with Tool Box Storage Case

A toolset will come in handy on move-in day, especially if anything needs to be assembled.

Apollo Tool Set

28. Over Door Organizer Hooks

Your student will need a place to hang a wet towel, jacket, or hat, and this set of hooks is perfect for that.

pottery barn over the door hooks

29. Desk Organizer

A desk organizer, where your student can corral pens and pencils, other desk supplies, notebooks, and more, could come in handy. This one is a classic style, but there are many to choose from.

30. Planner

To keep your student’s day organized, we recommend The Centered Student Planner, developed by a teaching professor to help students develop good time management skills.

Centered Student Planner

Other Essentials

31. Door Stopper

Use these door stoppers on move-in day and encourage your teen to keep their door open while inside to make meeting their new hallmates easier.

door stopper

32. First Aid Kit

This bag has all the basics and more! But you can also assemble your bag with a few first aid items — bandaids, antibiotic ointment, thermometer — and the pain reliever your teen is accustomed to taking. Add some cold and flu meds, and your freshman will have the basics.

first aid kit

33. Clorox Wipes

College students may not do an excellent job cleaning, but we can make it easier by sending them Clorox wipes and paper towels for small cleanups.

clorox wipes


A final note: Each college has different items it will not allow (e.g., some colleges have restrictions around microwave ovens), and some colleges provide things like desk chairs and trash baskets, while others do not. We also urge close communication with roommates to avoid buying items that can be shared and, if desired, to coordinate decor. 

More to Read:

There are the 12 Things All Freshmen Need to Bring to College


 

If you're looking for more things you need to stock up your college student's dorm room, then you'll want this list of popular dorm room essentials your teen must have. These dorm must haves are the perfect addition to your college prep shopping list. #college #collegedorm #dormroom #dormideas #dormlife #collegeprep #teens #teen #collegeessentials

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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