What Do You Need for a College Dorm Room?


If you’re sending your first child off to college, you might be thinking; What do you need for a college dorm room? In spite of what your kids might tell you, you don’t need as much as they think!

Annie in her freshman college dorm room
This is pretty much her entire space. The only thing you don’t see is a wardrobe behind her for her clothes

While all of our kids are finally done with college, our youngest just graduated in May so it’s pretty fresh in my memory of the things we needed to set up a college dorm and a college apartment.

Having brought three kids to college, we have a little bit of knowledge of the process.  We always found it so amusing on move-in day to see loaded trucks pulling a U-Haul.  Clearly, they spent too much time on Pinterest and have no idea that dorm rooms are just slightly larger than prison cells.  We have seen very exasperated Dad’s hauling a futon back out to their car. We’ve seen trucks with full-sized couches in the back in front of the dorms. Really!!  Here are my tips for dorm shopping and packing.

College Dorm Desk Under the bunk bed
This is basically her whole room. Bed lofted with desk underneath. There is a small dresser at the end of the bed. This is her entire space.

College Dorm

  1. Only pack clothes for the next few months, given that your child will probably be coming home in October or November and can swap out shorts and t-shirts for more sweaters and sweatshirts. If that isn’t the case then you may have to pack more. Packing clothing in plastic bags is much easier to fit around things in your vehicle than plastic bins.
  2. Also, keep the decorating to a minimum.  There isn’t room for much.  We limited our’s to a fabric pinboard, fun string lights, decorative pillows and throw. We framed some favorite pictures and were done.
  3. Have your students coordinate with their roommate(s) so that they each have one or two large items (mini-fridge, microwave, printer, Kuerig) that they can share.
  4. Unless you’re sending your child to college in “The Bush” of Alaska, I promise you there will be a Target and/or Wal-Mart in town and they are very well prepared for incoming students.  Don’t haul food, bottled water, paper goods all the way from home.
  5. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow”> Amazon Prime membership.
  6. For all of your bedding and bath supplies,
    Emma outside of her sorority house on bid day
    Both my girls also lived for one year in a sorority house which is very much like living in a dorm room

If you would like my FREE college dorm check-list sign-up to be a Friend of Living Large in A Small House!

College Apartments

  1. Many college apartments come furnished which is a huge plus. Then all you have to bring is your clothing and a few items to make it homey and your own. That however didn’t happen with our kids. Our kids all were in apartments that needed furnishing.
  2. Facebook Marketplace is your best friend. College furniture in the common living space is going to be junk at the end of the year.
  3. I found a great $5 chair at Goodwill and deconstructed it and made it into a fun chair for our last daughter’s college apartment. It was actually one of the few things that came back home with us.
  4. “Handy” made pallet furniture for the TV Console and the coffee table. They also miraculously held up very well.
  5. We did buy her a new mattress for her bed just because I can’t stand the thought of sleeping on a used mattress and it is something that she can use in her apartment when she moves out on her own.
  6. I love IKEA! Again, you just can’t beat the prices.  We purchased a lot of the kitchen essentials from IKEA. None of them made it home so the minimal cost was a perk. They also have bedding, towels, storage items, and some decorative items all at a reasonable price. Their furniture is also reasonable but assembly isn’t always fun. One of “Handy’s” least favorite things is assembling IKEA furniture.
  7. New Adventures

    Whether it’s their first dorm room or their first apartment, it’s always such a fun new life adventure.  If you’re a Mom like me, remember to step back a bit and let them create their own spaces. It never gets easier to let your kids spread their wings but take comfort in the thought that they typically end up back home for a bit after college.

    Have a great week my friends!  Speaking of new adventures when this publishes, we will be down to 11 days before our middle child Annie gets married in our backyard. Stay tuned!


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  1. Leslie Watkins says:

    Great tips! Amazon to the rescue brings a whole new way of thinking in setting up today’s dorm room!

    1. Things certainly aren’t like when we went to school 😉

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