Where to Shop for Your College Dorm Room

Posted by Lindie Johnson on Jul 30, 2014 5:00:00 PM

Your time in college is a period of personal growth. It means life on your own, a time when you can invent yourself and express your personality. What better place to start than fixing up the college dorm room where you are likely to spend the next year.

Whatever college you are looking at, it probably has a list of what you can and cannot put in your dorm room. The college staff are not likely to check everything you bring unless it is way out of the norm - like a fish aquarium or a pet boa constrictor. But, a checklist is a good place to start when determining what you should pack for college. Once you have settled on what you need or want to bring to your dorm room, sit down with you family to create a budget for how much you can spend on the things you don't already have.


You know the image everyone has of college students going to class in their pajamas? Truth be told, you are going to spend most of your time in your dorm room in or on bed. It's natural to want to get cozy in your PJs when you settle in to study. Most rooms do not have room for lounge chairs, unless you are able to bunk your bed. Your bed will require sheets and pillowcases and a blanket. Many dorm rooms have beds in the extra-long twin size so be sure to check with your college before you make your purchase - regular twin sheets just won't fit! 


You will want to bring your own pillow if required and a mattress cover. A comforter may be a luxury, but a soft throw will help for lounging around.

If you have some cash to spend, check out PB Teen. The Sophie Floral Essential Bedding set is a great pick for the ladies. (Complete the looks with Clover Dot Sheets)!  

On a budget? IKEA has some great picks such as the BJORNLOKA Duvet Cover and Sham for $39.99 or check out your local HomeGoods or Target for some fashionable bedding for less.


Most dorm rooms come equipped with beds and simple desks. Most have a closet or wardrobe and not much more. Your local big brand stores have what the college does not provide. You might want a more comfortable desk chair than the school provides. You also may have room for easy-to-assemble storage bins and shelving units. Consider taking advantage of storage cases for under the bed and hanging storage bags with compartments to expand your closet space. Bed risers or good ol' cinder blocks can increase the amount of storage under your bed but check with you school if this is allowed. 


Students are expected to bring their own electronics to their college dorm room. That includes a TV, DVD player, computer, speakers, or anything else you don't think you can't live without. Depending on the room, you will need a desk lamp and/or bedside lamp, the kind of simple and low cost items you can find at IKEA or Target easily. You would be smart to bring noise cancelling headphones, chargers, and extension cords. And determine ahead of time the cabling you will need to access the campus internet, if any. For bigger items, like a TV, talk with your roommate and decide if you can share and save. 


Avoid feeling homesick by bringing a little personal style to your college dorm room. If decor is important to you, pick out unique and affordable area rugs (we love this affordable 3'x5' Morroccan Trellis rug from Overstock), bulletin boards, picture frames, curtains, and wall hangings. You can also find a wider selection of comforter sets, lamps, and chairs. You should consider how much you can transport easily and what your roommate's taste in decor. IKEA is a great place for find low cost versions of these items. 


Depending on whether or not your college dorm room has its own bathroom or your shower and bath facilities are shared, you will need some personal supplies.. You need your own towels (these textured towels from Target a a great pick!) and washcloths (minimum of two sets). A bathrobe, shower caddy, and flip flops (get them for less than 5 bucks at Old Navy) will take you to a shared shower facility. If you have your own bath, plan on a bath mat and shower curtain, cleaning products and a toilet brush. And, stock up on your personal toiletries: deodorant, shampoo, razors, and so on.


Most college dorm rooms do not have kitchens. But, an increasing number share some minimum cooking resources in a common area or suite arrangement. If allowed, you may want to split your needs with your roommate(s). You could share a compact refrigerator, microwave, and small coffee maker. If so, you may also need some plates, cups, and eating utensils. And, you should invest in cooking utensils and cleaning supplies. Work out the costs before hand, and budget your share. Check out Target or Walmart for some great deals. 


Dormitories usually have laundromats, but access is not always easy. You will need detergents and softeners. But, you also need a hamper, drying rack, and hangers. Between you and a roommate, you can budget an ironing board and electric iron. Wherever your store your ironing board, you may also have a first-aid kit, flashlight, tool kit, and a portable safe for valuables.

Start at home

There is much you need for your college experience that you already have at home. You have prescription medicines, favorite pillows, stuffed animals (we won't tell anyone if you bring them!), family pictures, hair dryers, and more. You may already have the sheets and towels, alarm clock and music player, lamps and cabling you need.

You and your parents can build a budget by shopping at IKEA, PB Teen, Bed Bath & Beyond, HomeGoods,, and other stores online. But, you can build your understanding of what you really need and what your college is ready to offer with the help of the College Planning Center of Rhode Island.  

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Topics: College Dorm Rooms