College dorm room

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Once you’ve paid the first college tuition bill, you might breathe a sigh of relief – until you realize you still have to furnish the dorm. And it’s not cheap: The average college student is expected to spend almost $950, according to the National Retail Federation.

When you start making that dorm shopping list, we can pretty much guess what’s already on it … a laptop, linens, toiletries, etc. But, there are a few things you might not know you needed.

We spoke with several college parents who have been there, done that, to find out the unexpected stuff they recommend you add to your shopping list – and good news – they’ve also got a few items you can ditch.

Must-Have Dorm Items You Probably Would Overlook

An Ethernet Cable

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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Sometimes Wi-Fi in the dorm can be spotty – as you can imagine, it’s getting a workout with every room hitting it with multiple devices – but an Ethernet cable can make it more reliable.

Full-Length Mirror

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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The small square mirror in the bathroom is unlikely to cut it for your teen who is used to reviewing their outfit with every pair of shoes they own. An over-the-door mirror is the perfect answer.

Mattress Topper

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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Yes, we all survived the skinny, uncomfortable dorm mattress. But, that was then and this is now. A fluffy mattress topper seems to be as crucial as actual sheets on today’s dorm beds.

Rubber Door Stopper

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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Want to meet all the other kids in your hall? We hear a rubber door stop is an essential accessory to prop the door open so that you can see and be seen. Of course, remind your teen about safety and only use this if they are in their room during the day.

Fan

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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The dorm room is liable to be hot and stuffy, and many dorms don’t have air conditioning … or at least not air conditioning that’s cold enough. Also, depending on where their room is, such as on a ground floor, you may not want them to have the window open at night. Make sure to pick up an oscillating fan to keep their dorm cool.

Space Bags

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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Space bags are helpful to use to pack up clothes and other items for moving, especially if you are flying to your campus. Then, once you arrive, they can be used to hold out-of-season clothing without taking up too much room in the tiny dorm room closet.

Filtered Water Pitcher

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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Fill a filtered water pitcher with water and stick it in the minifridge, and your student can have great-tasting, clean, cold water whenever they want without the waste and mess of plastic water bottles. Get them a great-looking refillable bottle to go with it, and of course, a pack of extra filters.

Small Medicine Kit

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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When they are in the throes of a cold, that is not the time they want to figure out which local drug store delivers. Pack a medicine kit with over-the-counter medicines they can dig into as needed. Label them with your own directions if you want to be very sure your student knows which medicine addresses which ailment so there is no confusion.

Trash Can

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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Believe it or not, most dorms don’t come equipped with a trash can. While you’re at it, stock up on trash can liners and show them where the trash goes when it’s full (hint: not in the hall).

Theme Party Clothes

10 Dorm Must-Haves You Probably Didn’t Know You Needed – and 5 You Totally Don’t - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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Wait, what? They can’t figure this out themselves? Well of course they can, but if you have some neon scrunchies and Wayfarer sunglasses lying around that they can repurpose for ‘80s night or a Hawaiian shirt and a wig, why not send them along?

If there’s a big party on campus, everyone will be scrambling for the same costume items at the same time and trust us, you never know when a last-minute invite might come along in college.

Dorm Items You Think You Need – But Don’t

While most college freshmen need to make a sizeable investment in getting their room ready, it’s also important not to waste any of that dough on stuff they don’t need. Here’s what our parents say you can ditch.

Ironing Board

Did your child iron at home? Unlikely they will iron in the dorm, then.

Luggage

If you can avoid leaving actual luggage, as in bulky suitcases, do it because there is really nowhere to store it. Instead, leave one duffle for them to use for weekend trips or to travel back and forth to you and your excellent laundry skills. If you must leave suitcases, find a way to repurpose them by holding out-of-season clothing or excess supplies.

Printer

This surprises lots of families, but almost everything is turned in electronically these days. If they really need a printer for a specific project, they can probably use one in the computer lab or library. At the least, coordinate with the roomies so you don’t have more than one of these sitting around.

Tool Set

Lots of parents recommend this, but we don’t see it coming in particularly handy. For one thing, most dorms aren’t going to allow nails in the wall so you’re not hanging things. And, for another, how handy is your kid? Right … we thought so. We can’t see what they will be doing with it. Now one item we do recommend is a measuring tape at move-in so you can figure out how wide the closet is before buying those organizers. Other than that, some duct tape will likely suffice.

Anything That Can’t Be Returned

When you’re wandering through a big box store, especially one that has its own list of suggested items, you might be suckered into buying far more than you need. Use the list as a suggestion, but beg your student to keep the tags and packaging on everything they buy. If it’s still intact during parent’s weekend, you can probably safely return it. Or, another way to look at it is with the saying, “If in doubt, don’t buy it.” After all, colleges are no longer remote oases where everything needs to be hand-delivered from home. Trust us, your student will have zero trouble finding what they need locally or ordering it online.

What are your dorm room must-haves? Share them with us in the comment section.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Few other items for dorm rooms: ikea bags for toting bedding, laundry etc when not in use they fold up to virtually nothing. Laundry pods are small and convenient also. Command hooks and poster tape that won’t damage walls – and that all important tapestry that will personalize any room and will warm up the walls (or ceiling!) and give that cozy homey feeling. If you have a homesick freshman: some photos of home- especially beloved pets- will help in stressful times.

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