10 unexpected dorm items you’ll need in college (or in a new apartment!)

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11 unexpected dorm items you'll need in college
Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) Wireless Headphones, Noise Cancelling – Silver

If you’re heading off to college (or even just living on your own for the first time), you’ll need more than a cat, a rat, or a toad when you get there. Apologies to non-Potterphiles for that reference. You already know you’ll need those long bed sheets and shower shoes and maybe a mini fridge, but here are 10 unexpected dorm items you may not have thought of that will surely come in handy…

Noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs

Whether it’s a snoring roommate, noisy distractions while studying, or just a general need to be artificially alone once in a while, noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs can are the best. The headphones especially are great because it’s also a visual cue to anyone around that you’re check out for a bit. These Bose headphones are stellar, or these for a more budget-friendly option.

11 unexpected dorm items you'll need in college
Honey-Can-Do Heavy Duty Gullwing Drying Rack, White Metal

A foldable drying rack

I don’t dry much of anything other than socks and undies these days, and there may not be any facilities to lay your clothes out to dry. They make really light and foldable ones that you can hide under your bed or slide next to your desk.

11 surprising dorm items you'll need in college

A streaming device

You’ll probably do a lot of your Netflixing on your laptop, but sometimes you’ll want to be social and watch something with friends. That’s when you’ll need either a streaming device (like Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick, or Chromecast) or an HDMI cable. Some TVs come with casting built-in, but if not, you’ll all set to marathon old Golden Girls episodes with some friends and cheese sticks.

11 unexpected dorm items you'll need in college
Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II

A portable speaker

Similarly, sometimes you’ll want to lure in new dorm friends with some tunes, a comedy podcast, or your own musical stylings from Soundcloud. We’ll let you make the judgment call on that last one. Either way, you’ll want something to cast to, like a Bluetooth portable speaker. They’re also easy to transport to parties or other rooms. This one is great.

11 surprising dorm items you'll need in college
Night Caddy Deluxe Bedside Organizer

A bedside organizer

One thing there is NO guarantee of seeing in a dorm room is a nightstand. They’re just not a standard offering, especially in those tiny efficiency-style rooms that are so common. You’ll want a place to store your phone, glasses, a book, and maybe a bottle of water when you’re sleeping or laying in bed (which you’ll do a lot when seating is limited).

I like this one since it has a bottle holder AND a USB charger and slides right under your mattress!

11 surprising dorm items you'll need in college
Microfiber reusable cleaning cloths

Cleaning supplies

Living with someone else in close quarters (especially if you’re both rolling out of bed at the last minute to head to class) means that it’ll get RIPE fast. Grab some all-purpose cleaner in a nice scent, some paper towels (or better yet, reusable ones!), and maybe some Febreze to keep things smelling nice.

11 surprising dorm items you'll need in college
The classic

Tabletop games

Tabletop and card games have gotten wildly popular and college is not immune to its charms. Bring along your compact favorites like Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens, Secret Hitler, Werewolf, or Never Have I Ever.

11 surprising dorm items you'll need in college
Multi-Purpose Indoor & Outdoor Waterproof Tray

A boot tray

If you’ll be living in a cold or rainy area, a boot tray is almost a necessity. Otherwise get ready to be cleaning up dirty snow prints all winter long. There’s no mud room in a dorm room.

11 surprising dorm items you'll need in college
Where’s Waldo costume

A Halloween costume

It’s college, there will BE a Halloween party to attend if that’s your thing. If you don’t already have one stored away, there are tons of easy to pack and store ones to find. Be prepared so you don’t have to Google a costume store at the last minute or have to repurpose a kid’s costume from a big box store. Or maybe that sounds hilarious actually?

11 surprising dorm items you'll need in college
Seagate Backup Plus Slim

An external hard drive or computer backup system

Don’t be like me and lose a bunch of your senior project to a file corruption issue. Keep an external hard drive up-to-date or invest in a file backup system like one of these. Costumes and Netflixing are awesome, but homework is necessary.

Add to this list! What unexpected dorm items did you pack?

Comments on 10 unexpected dorm items you’ll need in college (or in a new apartment!)

  1. I work in university IT. Ask your school BEFORE YOU BUY OR BRING A TV OR STREAMING DEVICE (or gaming console) how they hook up on the network. Most wireless streaming devices are not compatible with enterprise networks and that is typically what a school will use. Wired devices may be capable of working on the network or can possibly be registered if they won’t work automatically. Same goes for printers (first of all your school probably provides printing services for you): don’t expect to put it on the network, use a dang USB cable. Do you really want your entire dorm to be able to use your media devices?

    • Yeah, I was going to add that you might want to wait and see what your dorm room’s internet is like. When I was in college (admittedly over a decade ago) there was no wi-fi in the dorms (and even the cellphone reception was notoriously unreliable) and the internet itself was slower than frozen molasses, even with the cables you were required to use.

      My school did charge for printing services in all buildings though, so a printer might be a good investment?

  2. A tin turkey or lasagna tray from the grocery store works really well as a boot tray in a pinch. I went to school in a small town, and that’s what we used until someone could borrow a car to go to the larger town with more than just grocery store shopping.

  3. I’ve stayed at typical dorms twice in the UK (one very nice, one…much less nice) and both did come with nightstands. But, I’m a graduate student and was given a single ensuite room (only the kitchen and tiny social area were shared).

  4. Depending on how your school has things set up, consider a printer. I didn’t need one last year, because I was in a dorm that provided them in the building; this year I’m not, and it’s a fifteen-minute walk to print anything and the building isn’t even open between midnight and 6 AM, and I paid the $50 and got a printer. (Brother makes good ones – reasonably priced, reasonably functional, fine for printing homework on.)

    Find out how many power outlets are in the room. Make accommodations as necessary. Last year, for the two of us, my roommate and I had four, and we could really have used a power strip. This year I’m in an apartment-type room with my own bedroom, and I have ten just for me.

    The drying rack may not be workable depending on how much space you have. I could manage it this year, but last year, I had about a 5ftx2ft space that was mine, and it was usually taken up with things like library books. In these situations, you may have to bite the bullet and use the dryer for anything it’s safe on. Stuff that seriously needed to be air-dried got hung over my bed, because that was the only place I could do it.

    If you have some sort of breathing problems (I have asthma), consider the Poor Man’s Humidifier: put some water in a bowl and put it in front of the heater. Takes up fairly little space and works remarkably well, although I had problems with it making the wood in the door swell so it was hard to close.

    I will definitely talk to the roommates about getting a shoe holder thing for when it gets snowy, though. There’s some bins at Target right now that aren’t purpose-built for it, but they’re probably fine for the job and are on massive sale.

    In both of my rooms so far, I’ve had a bedside table of some sort. Details varied (last year, I had one table-drawer-thing that also held all my clothes; this year, I have a weird box-with-one-side-missing table and a separate set of drawers under the bed) but it was there in both cases.

  5. The thing I always recommend for new college students is a first aid kit and medicines for things like colds and upset stomachs. You get sick a lot in college between stress and parties (at least I did), and you do NOT want to have to take the bus to the drug store when you feel at death’s door. Have that stuff on hand ahead of time.

  6. II agree with the comments about printers. Get your own if you can manage it! I’m a professor, and my students who don’t have their own printers are always so stressed about having to print on campus. At my institution, it costs a small amount of money per page, but more importantly students without printers are at the mercy of whether or not the campus printers are working, etc.

    Oh man, my first year of college was nearly 20 years ago (ahhhh!). If it fits in your room, a cozy chair (like a papasan-style chair; smaller versions exist too) is great to have; there’s a reason Target always has those kinds of things this time of year. I was gifted one at the start of college, and it did fit in my room, and it was sometimes so nice to have somewhere to sit that was comfy and all my own. (other gift: a really nice CD player and speakers, haaaa)

    And probably not useful if you have a roommate, but I’ve recently learned that white-noise machines are awesome. Could be good if having to adjust to sleeping in a new environment.

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