So, you have a graduate and the panic is starting to set in: What makes up the dorm room essentials list so my kid doesn’t drown on his or her own?
The hard thing about the college dorm checklist for freshman is that you (and your college-bound grad) will want to pack EVERYTHING to make sure your grad is prepared for anything.
But, dude, you can’t.
(Dorm rooms are small and compact, yo.)
If you’re stressed about things to buy for college freshmen and college essentials, we’re going to help you.
(Here, breathe into this paper bag.)
SO . . .
How to pack for college move in day: a practical college packing list. . .
What do college students need the most for school?
College must haves are going to be way different than things your graduate wants to bring to college.
There are two categories for college:
1. Things you need for college classes, and
2. Dorm room essentials list.
There are things that a college freshman really needs to bring (sheets and pillowcases) and there are other things that they definitely need to leave at home (three boxes of video games).
The first thing you’ll want to do is see what is allowed and what isn’t allowed in the dorm (every college has different rules).
The next thing you want to do is realize that you aren’t trying to recreate your house for them at college.
You’ll see many college dorm room essentials lists that tell you a ton of different things that your kid needs. In reality, you are trying to make a space for them where they are comfortable and they can accomplish what they need to at college.
So, really, what should a freshman bring to college dorm?
Here is the ultimate college dorm room essentials list— the best college packing list for girls and the best college packing list for guys!
And, you’ll even find some unexpected things to bring to college that you never even thought about!
[DON’T MISS OUR LIST OF BEST GIFTS FOR YOUR GRAD’S DORM ROOM AFTER THIS SECTION! KEEP READING!]
Ultimate Dorm Checklist
Basic things every college student needs for the dorm:
This is a great list for college students, but especially a college freshman dorm room essentials list!
- New, reliable laptop (they’re going to be using it A LOT, so you’ll need something that will hold up!)
DISCLOSURE: Affiliate links are used on this site and may be used in this post.
Please refer to our DISCLOSURE STATEMENT.
- Laptop lock
- Bluetooth speaker / smart speaker
- Dorm room security box
- Collapsable clothes hangers (to save room in small spaces)
- Over door drying/hanging rack (sometimes it’s really hard to find an open dryer!)
- Bed risers and under bed storage
- Laundry bag (it’s easier to carry than a hamper) or 3 compartment laundry hamper
- Dorm underbed storage ideas
- Comforter and throw blanket (especially twin xl comforter sets for college or a twin xl bed in a bag for dorm)
- 2 sets sheets and pillow cases
- Bed bugs mattress cover (be sure to get the ones that zip completely over the mattress)
- Twin XL Memory foam mattress topper (dorm mattresses are **not** comfortable!)
- Comfortable pillow
- 2 sets of towels/washcloths
- Power strip
- Dorm dish set (a camping set like this is actually a really good option!)
- Small, battery operated alarm clock (yes, we know they have their phone, but they definitely need a backup!)
- Handheld can opener
- Hanging mirror
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Collapsable shower caddy (for easy storage when not in use)
- Bathrobe and slippers
- Shower flip flops
What NOT to bring to college:
- Valuables. This isn’t the time to bring Granny Rachel’s diamond wedding earrings or Uncle Robert’s family heirloom watch. Leave jewelry, extra cash, and other super expensive valuables at home.
- Out of season clothes. (Best to leave those at mom and dad’s house if you can and then switch them out as the seasons go.)
- More than one coat.
- A ton of shoes. (Remember: storage space is in short supply.)
- Television. (Use the laptop to save space!)
- All the knick knacks and stuffed animals from the at-home bedroom. (Pack one or two framed photos and one special item and leave the rest at home.)
- Big suitcases. (There will be nowhere to put them!)
- A ton of books for pleasure reading. (There really isn’t that much time the first semester.)
9 BEST Grad Gifts for Dorms: Things To Buy for College Freshmen
If you need some ideas on what gifts for dorm rooms or the new graduate, get them something that will help them during their new college journey.
What are things to buy for college freshmen and freshman dorm gifts that they will really use?
You can’t go wrong with any of these dorm room gifts for a new grad heading to college!
Plus, it gives students some fun things to bring to college!
Things To Buy For College Freshmen
Best College Dorm Gifts and College Freshman Gifts:
🔥Dorm Room Security Camera
Yep, you read that right—a security camera.
Unfortunately, dormitories are a revolving door of people coming in and out. It only takes one time for your kid (or their roommate) to forget to lock the door and poof! the expensive things are gone.
So, a dorm room security camera is one way you can combat theft.
They’re fairly inexpensive and many are easy to setup.
And, they can be checked from the student’s phone when they are away from the room.
The one listed here is also motion activated and has night vision, so you can even see when the lights are out.
College dorms always smell . . . stale (to put it nicely).
To get rid of all that stinkiness that comes with a bunch of smelly young adults living together, your kid can use a diffuser.
Many diffusers help with dry air (that also occurs in dorms) and also come with oils that will help your student with stress during studying and exam week!
You just want to stay away from the big, bulky oil diffusers and instead go for the compact ones.
(Remember: Smaller is always better for dorm rooms!)
Your kid will need a vacuum for their dorm room.
(It’s something that many people forget about!)
However, it can’t be a big ole Dyson. (Where will they put it?)
So, you’ll want to get them a handheld vacuum that they can tuck under the bed or hang on a wall.
Make sure you find a cordless, rechargeable vac like this one. [click here to see the info]
(It will make your college student’s life easier!)
Granted, it’s not a fun gift to open for your graduation, but—trust me—they’ll thank you once they’re settled into their dorm room and have a full understanding of how helpful it will be!
🔥Bedside Shelf / Dorm Bedside Caddy
Your college student is going to spend a lot of time in their dorm room studying on the bed.
Anything that you can give them that will help organize their stuff and keep things handy, will be a big help!
We recommend this bed shelf/tray that clamps to the bed and can hold laptops, books, drinks and more while your student is studying in bed!
Include a small, clamp-on light and they’ll have everything they need for late-night study sessions (that won’t disturb their roommates!).
If your student doesn’t have room for a full desk, check out the night caddy. It’s just enough shelf room for a drink, phone, and magazine.
(And, it even has a USB charger!)
This is also a cool bunk bed caddy if your student needs a lot of different pockets and compartments.
They may also enjoy having a reading pillow for support while studying and reading in the bed.
Dorm rooms can get hot, even if they have air conditioning (and many don’t have air conditioning—yikes!).
A great gift for your college freshman is a compact fan that they can use in the dorm room.
Again, you don’t want to go too big or get something bulky that takes up too much room.
We love this compact fan with a remote so your student can sit in bed and change the fan speeds without getting up.
Again, it doesn’t sound like a fun gift for your grad, but it’s something that they will appreciate and use consistently in their dorm room!
Cool Desk Lamp
Every college dorm student will have a desk. This means they will need a super cool desk lamp—especially if they have a roommate and can’t have the overhead lights on during late night study sessions!
We love this desk lamp not only for its sleek, compact design, but also because it has a timer, nightlight, and six different brightness levels!
It’s also on an angle that can be adjusted for maximum light wherever the student needs it.
And, it has an integrated USB port that can charge phones while the lamp is plugged in!
College students need something for those random early morning classes and the late-night study sessions.
Enter: the electric kettle.
An electric kettle boils water for coffee or tea without a stove (or flame), so it’s perfect for a dorm room—meaning your student can have fresh coffee, tea, or hot water (for soups, noodles, etc.) whenever they want!
(We see—and remember—you Ramen noodles . . .)
To round out this gift, give a cool travel coffee mug and a tea or coffee gift pack so all your new freshman will need to do is just add water!
In some schools, college students are allowed to have microwaves in their rooms.
If this is the case at your child’s school, YAY FOR THEM!
Microwaves can be lifesavers for busy students who are dashing from class-to-class, studying late, or even for when they are running low on cash and can’t afford to grab food at a restaurant or cafeteria.
Just be sure that you get a small, compact microwave and not a full size one like you would use at your house!
If you need a microwave, you’re probably going to need a refrigerator.
Again, space it very limited in dorm rooms, so you’ll want to look for the most compact (but still usable) dorm room refrigerator available.
FYI: There are some that have a small freezer compartment area, too.
If you get one with a freezer area, make sure it has a separate door for the freezer compartment.
The ones that share a door with the refrigerator do not freeze as well.
REMEMBER: You don’t need a super roomy refrigerator for a dorm room. You’re just looking for something the student can put some drinks in, store some yogurt, and maybe a few leftovers.
Your student may not need or want a refrigerator in their dorm room, so be sure to check their interest for one before you buy.
Also, if they have a roommate, check to make sure that they haven’t already purchased a refrigerator or a microwave.
NEXT: What school supplies do I need for college?
The basic college school supplies will look a lot like high school school supplies:
- Good backpack
Plus, anything else required by the student’s specific classes.
College Tech Essentials (for class and dorm use):
- Laptop + laptop lock
- Portable hard drive (for backing up–there’s nothing worse than losing all your work!)
- Quality, noise-canceling headphones for drowning out noise while sleeping and studying
- Bluetooth speaker
- Flash drives (that may be required for many classes)
- Extra chargers and cords
- Portable charger (bonus for solar powered that you can use in while lounging outside!)
- QUALITY power strip (our favorite is this MOTHER OF ALL power strips with built in USB charger!)
- Handheld video game (we have this one and love how it turns from console to portable, handheld game!)
LASTLY: How much does the average college student spend on personal expenses?
While you’re here, you might also be wondering how much you need to help your kid each month and what do college students buy the most?
You know, how much do college students spend on personal expenses so that you know how much you will (or won’t need) to help them out.
What is a reasonable allowance for college student?
So . . .
What is the average spending money for a college student?
Let’s assume that the student’s tuition, rent, and books are covered (by you, a grant, scholarship, loan, whatever).
How much money more money does a college student need each month?
Of course, what your child spends at college will depend on their activities outside of classes and their personal needs and wants.
Some statistics put personal college expenses—you know, “spending money” beyond rent, tuition, books—starting at around $8,000 per year (and up), or about an extra $667 per month.
This includes things like:
- Travel (to/from home, etc.)
- Campus activities/other activities
So, you’ll need to help your freshman determine how they can save money, what to budget for, what they can count on from you, and if they need to also work.