College Bound: Dorm Essentials

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Dorm shopping is a bit like preparing for your first big test in college: you take notes, study and make plenty of lists. Yet even if you think you know everything you’ll need to bring, odds are you’ll need a little expert advice. With our handy guide, you can be a smart shopper and choose items with better functionality and price that will undoubtedly make dorm life as comfortable and convenient as possible.


If you’re used to a big, comfy bed back home, adjusting to the twin extra-long (XL) mattress can be a bit of a challenge, but you won’t need to sacrifice comfort if you learn the layers of a comfy college bed.

Tip #1: Size Matters

Among your first purchases will be linens for that skeletal, school-provided bed frame and XL mattress. Whether it’s your comforter or a bed topper, make sure everything you purchase conforms to twin XL dimensions. Unlike twin beds, XL beds are 80 inches long as opposed to the standard 75 inches from standard twin beds.



HELPFUL HINT: Don’t get caught short-sheeted, as some retailers claim an item is twin XL when it’s actually a standard twin-size.

Tip #2: Always Use Protection

The standard dorm room mattress is typically old, thin and even, well, foul. Buy a twin XL mattress encasement that zips on and off, and enclose that old mattress; you’ll stave off dust, musty scents and even bedbugs. Next, use a bed topper to soften up your sleeping situation. Whether it’s memory foam or a down featherbed topper, you’ll need this layer in order to make that bed comfy. Place a mattress pad above that to keep your topper protected, and then place your sheets and comforter on top.

HELPFUL HINT: When shopping for your comforter and sheets, you might prefer the natural touch of cotton, but microfiber, which is a high-quality polyester, can provide a soft-touch at a lower cost.


While dorm shopping, space (or lack thereof) must always be kept in mind. As a general rule, if it folds flat, folds up or can compress in size, it’s a good buy.

Tip #3: Space Savers

Dorm rooms are notorious for their lack of seating. To provide more room for guests to visit, look for seating that can fold up, such as moon chairs with folding frames and other foldout seats. Similarly, even the supplies that you use for storage can be more compact, such as under-bed storage crates or a hanging shoe organizer for your closet.



HELPFUL HINT: Look for supplies that will collapse down when not in use; it will make moving day much easier.


To really make your dorm room feel like home, you’ll need accessories and decorations. While there are always posters, look for a means of combining function and decor to help liven up your living space.

Tip #4: Add a Splash of Color

If you’re packing a trunk and then planning to use it for storage, pick one with a great color so that it will bring some character to your room. And, for your comforter, look for a fresh, fun design in addition to comfort. Perhaps consider a nice, plush throw rug for the floor to make the room feel more like home and add a fun touch of color as well.



Even for the most organized shopper, many essential dorm supplies are often overlooked. In preparation for that, leave part of the shopping budget unspent for post-move-in day purchases. In the end, dorm shopping requires planning and preparedness, but like college itself, it should also be fun!


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