By Cammie Jones


My oldest is going to college this month. As I write this, we are finishing up with her high school graduation festivities and easing into summer. Before we know it, we will be packing up  and heading to Athens to begin which is sure to be some of the best years of her life.  We have a long list of things to do. One of the most crucial is getting everything needed for dorm life. Here’s a list of the many things needed to start off on the right foot.

1. Bedding – Even though a lot has changed since the early 90s, many things remain the same. You still want the most comfortable bed to sleep in. A couple sets of extra long twin sheets and a really good mattress topper are essential. A plush comforter and dust ruffle will make your room feel like home. The bed can also serve as another seating area so oversized, fluffy throw pillows will help.

Sophia Lee, blogger at, says that every freshman should have a mattress pad that is at least three inches thick. “These vary in price from $100 to $400.” I got one for about $100 and I love it…even more than my bed at home!” she adds.

Purchasing a loft kit in advance and having someone assemble it at the dorm before your arrival is another smart idea. Many colleges have guidelines for lofting that are easily found on the school’s website or YouTube. Lofting adds much needed space for a futon or other seating and storage.

2. BathRoom Essentials – A shower caddy that will be easy to transport and clean is necessary. A towel wrap is also needed, especially if you are in a dorm with a shared hall or suite bathroom. You will need your favorite toiletries, a loofah and plenty of washcloths. Buying toiletries in bulk and using smaller plastic containers work best for your necessities. Then store the large bottles under your bed in a plastic container and pull out as needed.

A tip from a mom of two college students adds that putting a bath mat in front of your dressers will also help when dressing in your dorm.

3. Electronics – Gone are the days of the traditional alarm clock.  We now rely on electronics and phone cords, computers, tablets and more.  Lee recommends a 10-foot charger for your phone and other devices. Depending on your bed setup, a longer cord may be needed. A small television is also a good idea for your room, most smaller TVs can be purchased for roughly $100.

4. Clothing – Your closet is not like yours at home! You cannot fit all your spring, summer, fall and winter clothes in it. Drawer space is also limited. You must pack smart for all seasons. You will be walking every day around campus, so you will need a good pair of tennis shoes to go with your t-shirts and shorts. Should you choose to go out at night – you will need clothes to wear out and a pair of fun shoes that are both comfortable and stylish. You may need a nice dress or two for church (please go!) and for more formal events. Don’t forget to make friends who like to share clothes – this is a fun way to vary your wardrobe.  A small steamer and an iron will be needed to make your outfit look picture perfect.

5. Snacks & Such – A water bottle is one of the top five products Lee recommends for college kids.  “Almost all colleges have really nice water bottle fill-up stations,” she says. This is a way to be environmentally-friendly and will save money because you are not buying a case of water every week.

Healthy snacks that you can grab on the go are a good idea. The Freshman 15 is real people, and making good choices will benefit you in the long run. Keep fresh fruit such as Cuties or apples around, along with small bags of nuts or popcorn or crackers.

A mini fridge and a small microwave area perfect for heating up a quick meal or keeping food or drink items chilled. Check with your roommate before purchasing. He or she may already have one that you can use and if not, you can split the cost to save money.

6. Cleaning Supplies – A mini vacuum, small broom and a container of Clorox wipes will help you keep your room free of germs and smelling good. Also, a rug cleaner is a good idea. Back in the day, my roommate and I would clean our dorm room on Thursday night before going out for the evening or studying for a test. We would put on some music or watch an episode of Friends (I know, I am dating myself) and clean away.  The room was weekend-ready by Friday morning!

7. Dorm Decor – This is the fun stuff, but can also be the extra expensive items that adds up quickly. Talk with your roommate about dorm decor. Do you plan to match bedding and pillows or are you doing your own thing?  One idea is to hang lights around your room. Hanging a large tapestry or college flag will take up space and warm up the stark walls. Print out various sized photos and put them on the wall with double-sided tape (check your dorm’s rules about this first) to fill some space.

You will most likely need a rug but don’t spend a lot of money on it. You can get a fairly inexpensive one by picking a remnant at a local carpet store and having it bound. Within the first month, there will be spills and stains so don’t go for the most plush or expensive rug.  A shelf that you can clamp to your bed is a great place to put your drink or book without taking up much space.

Have I mentioned drawer space and storage is minimal? Find an ottoman storage bench that can be put at the end of the bed where you can store the extras. A small chest of drawers is another good idea if you have room.

There is a plethora of information and lists on the Internet that will help as your start your dorm shopping. Begin with a budget in mind, list the most crucial needs first and go from there. This is a fun experience so have a blast as your prepare your child for the next chapter in their life!

Great websites for dorm decorating and essentials:

This article appears in the August 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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