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Dorm Essentials: What to Pack and What to Leave at Home

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As the summer winds down over 10 million young Americans will prepare to head back to campus or move there for the first time. Your college dorm room will probably be the first place you’ve ever lived on your own – alone except for that pesky roommate, of course – and the initial excitement of moving out of your parents’ house is enough to make anyone go a little wild at Bed Bath and Beyond … but do you really need a color-coordinating set of everything?

Dorm Room Basics

When you set foot into your college dorm room for the first time, you’ll most likely find four bare walls, a few pieces of basic (i.e. ugly and often uncomfortable) furniture, and a window or two. Your naked dorm room will probably feel more like a prison cell than the cool pad you’ve been dreaming about all summer, but with a little imagination it can feel like home in no time!

It’s certainly easy to blow several hundred dollars on a bed in a bag, corresponding throw pillows, and a matching area rug, but in all honesty you’d be better off spending that money elsewhere. You can purchase a comforter, sheets, and pillow cases separately at a substantial savings. A mattress pad is also a good idea. Just be sure to check with your school as to the size of the beds so you wind up with the correct linens— some dorm rooms come equipped with regular twin beds while others have extra-long twin beds.

You should also look into blocks or bed risers to elevate your bed a few inches off the floor, providing much needed storage space. A few stacking baskets or plastic milk crates are also a good thing to bring to college because they can act as storage bins for any of your belongings that don’t have anywhere else to go.

Check with Your Roommate

Nearly every college student I’ve ever talked to has said that they couldn’t live without their microwave and mini refrigerator. You won’t want to eat every single meal in the cafeteria, so you’re going to need a place to store basics and heat things up. Just be sure to check with your roommate as to who should bring what—you don’t want to have two of each in your dorm room; in fact some schools only allow one fridge and one microwave per room. A small television and a coffeemaker are two other small appliances that you might want to have at school.

A Closetful of Clothes

Your dorm room won’t have a walk-in closet, so you won’t have room for tons of clothes. Be sure to bring two or three weeks worth of underwear and socks, but you can’t afford to pack every single outfit you own. Wardrobe staples such as t-shirts, jeans, pajamas, and sweats are what you’ll really need the most of, along with one or two dressy outfits for special occasions.

Dorm Room Essentials Packing List

More often than not, students wind up forgetting a few things when they move on campus. It’s a good idea to have a packing list to ensure that you have most of the things you’ll need, and this Off-to-College Checklist can be printed out when you’re ready to pack! Good luck!


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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