College Dorm Must Haves 2019

If you’re sending your child off to college this summer, then you’ll definitely want to know about dorm must haves 2019. These should be included on every list of things to bring to college, especially when living in a dorm. These could be included on a college dorm list for guys or college dorm must haves for girls. In fact, there is quite a bit of overlap for dorm must haves 2019 whether you’re sending a daughter or son back to college.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit wistful in writing this article on what you need in a college dorm room. This will be the first summer in six years that I don’t have go shopping for a dorm room. It also means that for the time in six years I don’t have to move someone to college. As I wrote in the college graduation blog post from a few months ago, I’m done with the undergraduate school years with my daughters.

Still I remember how helpless I felt the first time I had to go shopping for a dorm room. I wasn’t sure how to make head or tails of the college dorm room essentials checklist. I mean, what dorm must haves really are a must have, and what are just a waste of money.

I learned a lot in those six years of moving my daughters to college. That’s why I wanted to write this blog post about dorm must haves 2019.

This was what our car looked like moving our daughter to her college dorm her freshman year.
Best places for college dorm shopping
Before I get into the nitty gritty of a college dorm shopping list, you may be asking: what are the best place for college dorm shopping? In our six years of back to college shopping, we did most of our buying for a college dorm in two places:
Amazon Target
Why is Amazon on of the best places to college dorm shopping? One word–convenience.

Target, on the other hand, might just be the best place to buy college bedding.
Best place to buy college bedding
In case you didn’t know, college dorm beds require extra long, twin sheets. Target carries a knit jersey version of extra long twin sheets that my daughters loved. In fact, my daughter kept using these jersey knit twin XL sheets after they moved out of the dorm and no longer needed the extra long.

This tells you two things about why Target is one of the best places to shop for college bedding:
Your college student will love the bedding so much that they’ll actually use it. The Target bedding holds up so well that when you buy a few sets for freshman year, you might not need to replace them until long after your student graduates. Important note about dorm room shopping sites
An important note about places you might go for college dorm shopping. Do not, I repeat, do not shop off the store’s list. Yes, these store lists tend to include what a freshman needs to bring to college, to be sure.

But these lists also tend to include “nice to haves” which might actually be banned in your child’s college dorm. For example, a slow cooker. Unless a slow cooker has a timer. chances are it is on the banned list. Slow cookers and other appliances overall might be banned.

Don’t take any chances. Instead, have your child contact their college’s housing department and get the official college dorm shopping list from them.

OK, now that I’ve got those caveats aside, let me explain how I put together this post on dorm must haves 2019. What I’ve included is based on my own experience sending two daughters to college as well as my years as a shopping expert.

I also picked the brains of friends with sons in college. Because I wanted to ensure that any dorm must haves 2019 list I put together wasn’t daughter specific but also included what to bring to college for guys.
College dorm must haves 2019
All together here are 35 college dorm needs for guys and girls. These are listed in no particular order so please be sure to read all the way through to the end. At some point I also break out dorm room bathroom supplies as well as other must haves on what to bring to college
1. Foam mattress topper
Mattresses in a college dorm are likely the most uncomfortable things your child will ever sleep on. For starters they have a waterproof cover and they’re made from fire-resistant materials. To get a good night’s sleep, I would recommend investing in a foam mattress topper. Of all the stores we visited for college dorm shopping, we actually found the best twin XL mattress topper at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I’ll admit it was pricey but it really was a game changer for making a dorm bed feel like a bed from home.

Also, order this bed topper online. Every time we visited a BB&B store in person, they were always out of stock. BB&B lets you buy something online and pick up in store. So you can arrange to visit one of their stores near where your child goes to college. This will help free up space in your car, to be sure. If you can’t order the bed topper and pick up in store, you can always get it from Amazon and have it shipped to your student at college.

A foam mattress topper is a definite must have. They come in Twin XL to fit college dorm beds.
2. Twin extra long sheets
As I mentioned earlier, dorm beds require twin extra long sheets. I’ve never been clear on why dorm beds are extra long, but here’s what it means. You cannot bring the sheets from your child’s bedroom to college. You must by new. I’ll put in another plug for Target’s jersey knit twin XL sheets.
3. Mattress and pillow covers
Even though those college dorm mattresses come with a waterproof cover, you might feel better putting a bed bug resistant mattress cover or allergy resistant mattress cover on as well.

This mattress encasement product from Sure Guard works to block both bed bugs and allergens. While you’re at it, getting the same kind of pillow covers from Sure Guard is added protection.

My younger daughter is a germ- and bug-a-phobe. So having a mattress cover plus pillow covers that blocked bed bugs and allergens helped put her mind at ease and her to sleep at night.
4. Portable air purifier
Chances are your son or daughter will be moving into a dorm without air conditioning. Buildings without air conditioning tend to be filled with allergens.

We discovered this first-hand when my daughter Annie was a college freshman. As soon as we got her this Germ Guardian air purifier on Amazon, her allergy symptoms went away. We also stocked up on extra filters so she could continue to keep her air clear throughout the year. She continues to use this air purifier years later. You can get this air purifier in black or white.

5. Box fan
Given the aforementioned lack of air conditioning in many college dormitories, an old fashioned boxed fan can go a long way towards cooling your kids down on hot nights.
6. Bed risers
Storage space is tight in most dorm rooms. So to get extra areas for storage, we invested in bed risers for our girls’ dorm room beds. These lifted the beds off the floor just enough that we could slip stuff underneath. In one dorm room we were even able to get a small refrigerator under the bed. Some bed risers come with integrated USB ports and plugs.

Notice how much room the bed risers gave my daughter underneath her freshman dorm room bed?
7. Underbed storage bins
Sterilite makes great underbed storage bins. They slide right under a dorm bed and are great for storing off season clothes, extra schools supplies or whatever else your college freshman can’t fit into a closet, desk or dresser.
8. Twinkle lights
I would put twinkle lights under the category of college dorm room decor as well as college girl dorm room ideas. Because, let’s face it–most dorm rooms are plain and ugly. Many have bright overhead fluorescent lights.

If your daughters are like mine, they’re going to want to “soften” the look and the lighting with twinkle lights. These are the white or other colored string lights that you might put on a Christmas tree.
9. 3M Command strips and hooks
Here’s another given with college dorm rooms. It’s nearly impossible to hang things on the wall. Either the walls are made of cinderblock, or you will be fined if you put nails into a wall. Your best bet for decorating a college dorm room is investing in 3M Command strips and hooks.
10. Lock box for personal items
Things can go missing at college. Since college dorm rooms are not like hotel rooms, with built-in safes, it’s smart to get your student a lock box for personal items. A fireproof box with a key should do the trick. Since these boxes tend to be heavy and awkward, you minimize the chances that someone walks off with it. Our daughters used their SentrySafe boxes to keep personal items, including prescription medicine, locked away and safe.
11. Skinny hangers
We’ve already established that space is at a premium in a college dorm room. In a dorm closet you don’t need bulky hangers taking up a bunch of space. I would recommend investing in the skinny “huggable” hangers that take up less room. I found an enormous multipack of Joy Mangano huggable handers in either purple (my daughter’s favorite color) or white on Amazon.
12. Clothes drying rack
This is probably one of those dorm essentials for girls as I’ve never ever seen a guy use a clothes drying rack. Nonetheless, the dryers in college laundry rooms can be brutal on clothing. So any delicates are best dried on a clothes drying rack.

You may think of a clothes drying rack as a dorm essentials for girls only, but guys could benefit from having one at college, too.
13. Laundry detergent pods
There are no excuses for your college student not to do their laundry when you send them off with laundry detergent pods. Enough said.
14. Collapsible laundry basket or hamper
Not only is a collapsible laundry basket or hamper lighter to carry but it takes up less space in a college dorm room. If it isn’t clear yet, any must haves you get for your son or daughter’s dorm should be those that are efficient with their use of space.
15. Keurig and K cup pods
If your child loves coffee, investing in a small Keurig and a supply of K cup pods will be super helpful with caffeinating for early-morning classes and late-night studying.

16. Noise-canceling headphones
Libraries on campus might be the most quiet place to study. But sometimes your student may want to stay in their college room to study. To block out noise, get them a pair of noise-canceling headphones. I know that my husband swears by the Sony Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones that he’s used on international flights.
17. Sitting bed pillow
Speaking of studying in your room, a sitting bed pillow can help make studying more comfortable. Again I’ll go back to my own daughters: both got sitting bed pillows when they went away to college. Even now, after graduation, they continue to use their sitting bed pillow for hanging out in their rooms.
18. Reading lamp
A bedside or reading lamp is a good idea. Why? When they are having a late-night study sessions when maybe their roommate is sleeping, and therefore the overhead light is off. A clip-on type of reading lamp gives your student options for where to put the lamp–I like that.
19. Toolkit
There are two gifts we gave our daughters when they went off to college.
Money to see a ROTH IRA A toolkit to take to their dorm room
A toolkit isn’t something you might automatically think of as a college dorm must have, but you should. There were plenty of times when our daughters (or their roommates or their hall mates) needed a tape measure, screwdriver or cordless drill. We like toolkits that pack flat (again, limited storage space) and come in their own carrying case like this one from Black and Decker.
20. Extra phone charging cords
Smartphone users go through phone charging cords like water. Send your student off to college with six to 10 charging cords–assuming they’ll lose or destroy one a month. You can restock over winter break. Charging cords make great stocking stuffers or one night’s gift for Chanukah.
21. Refrigerator
Unless your college student is living in a suite with a kitchen, a small refrigerator is a great investment. As I mentioned earlier by using bed risers, we were able to put a small refrigerator under my younger daughter’s dorm bed. She was able to stock the refrigerator with Greek yogurt and other healthy snacks. This helped when she was running late to class or up studying and didn’t have time or the ability to make it to the dining hall.

22. Cleaning wipes
Just as laundry pods provide no excuses for not doing laundry, having tubs of Clorox, Lysol or another brand of cleaning wipes on hand makes it easier for your student to keep their dorm room clean. This assumes they’ll actually use the cleaning wipes. You know what they say about taking a horse to water…
23. Swiffer floor cleaning kit
A college dorm room with smooth floors is bound to get dust bunnies and dirty. Send your kid off with a Swiffer bundle starter kit so they can use both the dry and wet Swiffer pads to keep the floor clean
24. Area rug
Sticking with the theme of smooth floors, a plush area rug can make a dorm room feel more like home and be more comfortable for bare feet.
25. Portable vacuum cleaner
When I was in college, each floor of our dorm had a communal vacuum cleaner. The resident assistant kept it in their room. You can only imagine how gross that vacuum cleaner was by the end of the semester. These days you can buy compact yet powerful vacuum cleaners that can stow away easily in a closet. We got this Shark vacuum cleaner for my younger daughter. It was a lifesaver.
26. TV
My friends with sons told me that taking a TV to college in 2019 was definitely a dorm must have. Even though they are going to college to study and get a degree, many of their sons unwound by playing videogames. Therefore, they needed a TV. I would recommend not buying a new TV to send to college but rather using an extra one from around the house.
27. Chromecast or Fire stick
27. If you decide to send your child to college with a TV, you might want to invest in a Chromecast or any cast device, or Fire stick or Roku so they can watch more than just videogames on their TV.
28. Power strip with flat plug
A power strip with a flat plug–so it was flush to the wall–was actually a requirement at my older daughter’s college. In other words if an inspection turned up a traditional surge protector, your student would be asked to remove and replace it. Perhaps that’s a little too Big Brother, but nonetheless, to avoid any issues, we invested in a power strip with that flat plug. It did end up being a real space saver for her in a small dorm room. If you can find a surge protector with a flat plug and USB ports in it, that’s even better.
Dorm room bathroom supplies
I was lucky enough to have a bathroom right in my college dorm room. Neither my husband nor my daughters were so lucky. That meant that in addition to buying college bedding and the like, they needed dorm room bathroom supplies that they could take to the bath down the hall. Here are some items you may want to add to your student’s college dorm bathroom checklist
29. Bathroom caddy for college dorm
No one wants to carry an armload of shampoo, soap and shavers with them every time they visit a college dorm bathroom. At the same time you can’t just leave your stuff on the bathroom counter and expect it will be there the next day. That’s why smart college students invest in a bathroom caddy.

The best bathroom caddy for a college dorm is the one that can fit a ton of stuff and has holes on the bottom or is made of mesh. Why holes or mesh? So that if you bring it into the shower with you, the water can drain out the bottom. Otherwise, soon enough you’ll have a soupy, moldy mess.

30. Velcro towel wrap
Of course you’ll need towels to bring with you to college. But chances are your son or daughter will be walking to and from their college dorm bathroom after a shower. Rather than struggle with changing clothes in the bathroom, a Velcro towel wrap that wraps around you and stays put is a must have. There are even Velcro towel wraps designed specifically for men.
31. Microfiber towel for hair
Another must have for the college dorm bathroom checklist for those with long hair–a microfiber towel for wrapping around wet hair. It helps to pull moisture from your hair after washing. Plus the microfiber material dries really quickly.
32. Flip flops
Flip flops can help your college student avoid picking up a foot fungus in a college dorm bathroom. That’s not to say that dorm bathrooms are dirty, but why risk it? I always stock up on flip flops when Old Navy is having a sale.
Other must haves on what to bring to college
While this article has focused primarily on college dorm must haves for 2019, there are many other must haves that guys and girls should bring to college. So I’ve created this additional section on other must haves on what to bring to college. Some of this is tangentially related to a college dorm room. The rest of it is just smart advice to share on college shopping.
33. Backpack with lifetime warranty
Our family has been devout customers of companies that provide lifetime warranties for their products. Here is my popular post that outlines companies that stand behind their products.

My daughters have both done quite well, in high school and college, with Jansport backpacks. Jansport is one of those companies that provide a product guarantee.

34. Amazon Prime student
One of the first services we invested in when my older daughter went to college is Amazon Prime student. Prime Student costs half of what a regular Prime account is and provides the same free, two-day shipping that a regular account does. My daughters both saved a ton of money on textbooks. Plus, you can try out Prime Student for free for 30 days.
35. Reusable water bottle and coffee cup
Your student will be able to send a ton of money with a reusable water bottle and coffee cup. Most college buildings have filtered water dispensers for free. Rather than spend $1 or more on plastic water bottles, your student can use a reusable water bottle and stay hydrated for free. With a reusable coffee cup they can save a small amount of money on each cup of coffee they might buy.
College gift registries
Two of the stores I’ve mentioned in this article offer college gift registries:
Bed Bath and Beyond Target
If it’s not too late, set up a college gift or college dorm registry for your student. This is a great way to keep your shopping list in one place online. It also makes it easier for aunts, uncles, grandparents or others who want to help send your child back to college. By giving them access to the college dorm must haves list, they’ll know what to buy.

This college registry will also be useful come the holidays or birthdays. I’ve added the links in the names above to make it easier for you to set up those registries, if you so choose.

Here’s an article I wrote in 2015 when Target first launched its college dorm gift registry.

To make much of your shopping easier, I’ve put together a college dorm essentials shopping list over on Amazon. This includes items that I have not linked to at Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond.

If you don’t have Amazon Prime yet, it’s yet another reason to gift your college freshman with an Amazon Student Prime account. You get 30 days free, and for the four years that they have an .edu email address, it’s half the price of regular Amazon Prime.

If I’ve forgotten to include anything on this list of things to bring to college, please write a comment and let me know. I’m sure I’ll be updating this blog post during the back to college season this year and in the years to come.

Here are some additional ways to save money as a college student.

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