College Dorm Room Essentials: A First-Year Packing Guide

St. John's College Student Packing for the Dorms
By Madison Coombs

Your first year of college is an exciting time to make new friends, create unforgettable memories, and experience newfound independence. If you are going to live in a dorm, knowing what to bring is essential before you can fully enjoy all the fun! As a rising senior who has experienced living on campus over the past few years, I would like to share some of my college dorm room essentials to help you better prepare.

Plan Ahead: Considerations Before Packing

St. John's University Dorm Room

Know the Size of Your Dorm Room. 

First, consider the size of your dorm room before you begin packing. Your initial impulse will be to bring as much as possible. However, you need to resist that urge as you will realize upon arrival that “less is more.” 

If you are sharing a dorm room with other people, it’s important to remember that you need to be considerate of their space. This will help you determine what is necessary versus what you probably should leave behind.

Tip: Check to see if your university uploads any dorm tours or images to help you plan how to optimize your living space. See an example of a virtual tour of a first-year St. John’s University dorm. 

Coordinate with Future Roommates.

Next, talk to your roommates about coordinating what they plan to bring to the room. This will help avoid duplicates of items such as microwaves, mini-fridges, or coffeemakers. Discussing who will bring communal items like a television or a rug is also beneficial. Knowing what everyone intends to bring can save space, making it a more comfortable and functional living environment.

Know the Dorm Rules and Regulations.

When it comes to dorm living, all universities have rules and regulations that students need to follow. These rules are set for safety; however, it’s worth noting that each university may have different rules. For instance, items such as candles, space heaters, and sometimes toasters are prohibited in many dorm buildings. Students must be aware of these regulations to avoid any inconvenience or safety hazards.

Related: St. John’s Residence Hall Procedures

Packing Ideas for the First Year in a Dorm Room

Bedding and Linens

When heading to the dorms, it’s essential to pack sheets, pillows, and comforters. While most colleges and universities provide a mattress, it is typically uncomfortable, so consider investing in a good mattress topper. Additionally, adding fun, decorative pillows is a small way to personalize your room and make it feel more like home.

My Recommendations:

Storage and Staying Organized 

Keep your room clean and organized to maximize your small space. Purchasing bins and drawer organizers is a simple way to ensure everything has a place and can be easily found. Additionally, closet organizers like hanging shelves for pants or shoes and purse and bag organizers will also assist in reducing clutter while staying organized. Finally, wall hooks are convenient when hanging towels, hats, bags, etc.

My Recommendations:

Study and Organization Tools 

Set yourself up for academic success as you organize and decorate your dorm room. Make sure you have your study and organizational tools easily accessible. For example, you need a planner or calendar to keep track of your classes and assignments. It’s easy to miss essential dates without writing them down, so this simple item will help you stay on top of things. 

In addition, make sure to have notebooks or a way to take notes that you can refer to for future tests or assignments. Note cards can also be helpful for studying. Don’t forget the essentials such as highlighters, pencils, and pens; you’ll need these throughout the school year.

Personal Care and Hygiene Items

Personal care and hygiene items are other essential things to pack. Obvious items like soaps, toothpaste and toothbrush, hair washing products, and so on are all important. To keep these items organized, I suggest buying a shower caddy. Colleges will most likely have communal bathrooms or bathrooms you must share with others. A caddy makes it easier to bring items with you to the shower and serves as a place to keep them organized. Don’t forget to purchase shower shoes when showering or walking through bathrooms! 

My Recommendations:

Personalization Items

Finally, the fun stuff! When you live in a dorm room, you can decorate your space how you want to make it feel more personal. Bring posters, fun pillows, throw blankets, rugs, wall art, and other knickknacks to add flair to your room. Additionally, a few small, special items from home can help the space feel more familiar. 

My Recommendations:

Tech Items

It’s essential to bring tech items with you when you head to college. Nowadays, almost all assignments are done electronically, including tests. So, it’s in your best interest to bring a laptop or tablet. These devices are also great for taking notes and can make the note-taking process easier. Additionally, bringing earbuds or headphones is vital to avoid disturbing your roommates or blocking out unnecessary noise. Packing portable chargers is a good idea to ensure your devices always have power.

My Recommendations: 

My Dorm Life Experience

Living in a dorm has been a mix of emotions for me. It’s often enjoyable and a fantastic way to form close relationships with other students on campus. However, at times I’ve felt homesick  and frustrated by sharing cramped spaces. Overall, living in a dorm is an experience I’ll never forget. So, make the most of it, decorate your room, and give it a try! 

Read my blog post on “What is Living in a College Dorm Like?” for more insights and advice!  

St. John's University Student

Madison Coombs

Digital Content Writer

Madison Coombs is a third-year student studying Public Relations at St. John’s University. She is a Digital Content Writer through the work-study program. Originally from Gaithersburg, Maryland, she always had a dream of attending a university in New York. Madison is also the Public Relations Chair of RedHouse, the fashion club at St. John’s. Her ultimate goal is to secure a job in New York in the field of social media or public relations.