The Absolute Necessities for Moving into a College Dorm Room

College exterior, seen at left. Inside a girl's dorm room, at right.
Plan long in advance to ensure a smooth move into your college dorm room. (©DGL IMAGES LTD., Adobe Stock Photos)

The days when students arrived at college accompanied by a single suitcase or footlocker are long past. Now there’s a long laundry list of items, ranging from electronics to transportation, needed for college life when moving into a dorm room.

What to Bring When Moving Into a College Dorm Room

Male college student holds a laundry hamper filled with blue jeans and assorted garments
A hamper for dirty clothes is a must-have item for your college dorm. (©supaleka, Adobe Stock Photos)

Today’s necessities for higher learning include:

  • Computer and printer
  • Sound system with MP3 player or iPod
  • TV with video game system and DVD player
  • Microwave and mini-frig
  • Pillow and linens
  • Towels and toiletry supplies
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Cell phone and digital camera
  • Car, bike, or skateboard
  • Hiking and sports equipment
  • Musical instruments
  • Books and school supplies.

Given all that excess baggage, consider yourself lucky if you can cram it all in the family car without having to tow a trailer behind!

Once you arrive at school, the big question becomes where to put it all and how to organize it. Given that the average dorm room is only around 200 square feet—half of which will probably be occupied by a roommate—every inch of floor space counts. But don’t despair, there are a number of innovative ideas and products that can help keep everything tidy and shipshape. Here’s how to go about it.

Woman's hand touches a microwave in a college dorm in North Dakota
Before your purchase a microwave or refrigerator, ask your roommate if the two of you can share one. (©LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS, Adobe Stock Photos)

Do Your Homework

Before you arrive, check with the school’s housing office or website to see what you’re allowed to bring and what’s considered taboo. Items that may or may not be allowed include microwaves, hot plates, televisions, halogen lamps, candles, and additional furniture.

The school should also give you a list of rules concerning alterations you can and can’t make to the room—which usually includes no nailing, screwing, painting, or any other permanent changes—as well as the standard-issue items that will come with it, such as a bed, desk, and/or dresser.

Check in advance to see if the bed is a standard single (39” x 75”) or extra long (39” x 80”), so you’ll know what size sheets to buy. While some dorms come with loft beds that allow space underneath for a desk or dresser, students are usually not allowed to make that kind of modification themselves.

Once you’ve been assigned a roommate, check with them to see if they would like to share larger items, like a microwave or mini-frig, to reduce expenses and avoid unnecessary duplication.

Over-the-door shoe rack, seen in a North Dakota college dorm
College dorms aren’t known for having much room. Save space with storage hacks like an over-the-door shoe rack. (©annebel146, Adobe Stock Photos)

Get Everything Together

After you’ve compiled a list of everything you think you’ll need, go over it again and pare it down to the essentials you can’t live without. With list in hand, check newspaper flyers and shop around for back-to-school bargains. Look for items that:

  • Fold for easy storage when not in use, such as a collapsible laundry hamper like one from Caddie Concepts.
  • Use bed risers (if allowed), such as these from Bed Bath & Beyond, to raise your bed and increase the storage space underneath. You can also make your own risers from 2x4s and PVC pipe. Cut 4″ diameter PVC pipe to the length of the bed leg plus the desired riser height. Next, cut a 2×4 to the riser height and slip it inside the piece of pipe. Raising the bed more than 6″-8″ can make it unstable and pose a safety hazard.
  • An attachable bedside shelf, such as the BunkPal, is handy for keeping an alarm clock and other essential items close at hand.
  • Make use of wasted space, including shoe or hat racks that hang over the top of a closet door.
  • Fit under your bed or can be stored under it in pull-out drawers.

Once you have everything in hand, pack it in storage containers that can be used in the dorm room, rather than suitcases which will have to be stored or returned home when you arrive. If you’re traveling by air, mail what you can’t carry aboard the plane, or shop for bulky items after you arrive.

Moving In

When the big day arrives, make the most of your limited dorm space:

Female college student hangs Sharpie art with 3M Command Strips in her well decorated dorm room.
3M Command Strips making hanging pictures easy. Best of all, these adhesive hangers won’t damage your dorm walls or leave a messy residue. (©3M, Adobe Stock Photos)
  • Take advantage of limited floor space with tall, narrow bookcases and drawer units.
  • Use removable adhesive wall hangers, such as 3M Command Strips, to hang pictures and other items without damaging the wall. Other Command products include a docking station to charge cell phones and MP3 players as well as bathroom hooks and a soap dish.
  • Attach posters with removable mounting squares or safe release double-sided tape.
  • Double the hanging space in your closet by installing a second clothes rod below the existing one. Units are available that hook over the top rod for instant installation without having to screw into walls.
  • Use tension rods to hang curtains without damaging walls.


  1. ON the Sat Morning Early Show I saw PVC pipe being used as bed risers. I do not see any information of the website about the use of PVC Pipe I do see the commerically available Bed risers. Could you give me more information on how to use the PVC pipe

  2. I was watching the early show this morning and I too have a daughter going off to college and I loved the hamper that you showed that rolled and/or you could carry to the laundry mat. I didn’t get the name and where I can purchase – can you help?


    Patti Brock

  3. On the early show this morning you mentioned a table that hangs from the bed and is used as a bed side table — any idea where to purchase that item?

  4. On the Saturday Early Show, you all showed a bed clip on item that can be used for a small night stand when there is limited space. Where can one pick up this item?

    Also, in my son’s case, his dorm room wall was a painted “cement” hard type. I had the Command picture hangers for hanging a picture, but that didn’t seem to work (unless we did not wait long enough). Do you have another suggestion for hanging pictures on this type of wall?


  5. These are fantastic ideas! I remember the first day I moved into the dorm rooms at college, and I thought I was never going to get it all in there. I work with La-Z-Boy, and we have some really cool furniture and storage solutions that are great for dorm rooms. Storage ottomans don’t take up much space and are great for stashing books and magazines and can be used as a table or for extra seating. Our room planner is also a cool way to see how you can rearrange even a small space to make it work.

  6. Patti,

    I’m glad you liked the laundry hamper that was featured on the CBS News Early Show with Danny Lipford. Some of the great things about this particular portable laundry hamper from Caddy Concepts, is that it is a laundry hamper, laundry basket and laundry cart all in one. It’s also collapsible and is easy to roll right into the laundry room. You can purchase the hamper at

  7. I have the bed risers and they are fantastic for just a little extra storage, and also you don’t feel like you are rolling out of bed in the morning! And I’m loving that laundry hamper- I’ll have to get me one!


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