An SCV College Student’s Guide to Dorm Essentials


Preparing for dorm living can be an extensive process that starts far before your first day of college. Besides learning basic rules, it’s also necessary to mentally prepare yourself for dorm life realities, like losing your privacy and showering in a communal bathroom. Unfortunately, the summer before you begin university will likely be unavoidably chaotic as you delve deep into must-haves and deadlines. Between financial aid forms, creating the perfect class schedule, and finding a well-mannered roommate, you’ll need to make time to pack the long-list of dorm essentials.

Whether you’re planning to attend CSU Northridge or the California Institute of the Arts, here are a few must-have items to check off your list of essentials.

A mattress topper

Universities purchase mass-manufactured mattresses built to withstand student after student, making them durable but uncomfortable for sleeping. Luckily, it’s possible to get a good night’s sleep while you’re at school without having to lug your twin XL mattress with you. A high-quality memory foam mattress topper can simulate the feeling of sleeping on an actual bed without the price point of full bedding. Unlike the thin mattress pad that protects your mattress from bacteria and moisture, a topper provides support and comfort, ensuring you’ll wake up every morning well-rested and free of aches and pains.


It’s not uncommon to walk into your dorm for the first time and be confronted by an unsightly space. Whether you’re stuck with laundry room-esque linoleum or scratchy office carpet, trying to turn your new home into a stress-free sanctuary with distasteful flooring can be a challenge. However, buying a few rugs can easily spice up your space while covering any stains left by previous residents or unattractive patterning. As a bonus, you’ll have a silky-soft material to sink your toes into when you get out of bed for early-morning classes.

A laundry hamper

In addition to stocking up on quarters to work the washing machines at school, a hamper for all your dirty laundry is a must-have for college students. From mesh to canvas to plastic, laundry hampers come in various materials and styles depending on your needs. Investing in a sturdy option that will last beyond freshman year is a wise choice, and if you value saving space, there are plenty of fold-up hampers for added storage. Regardless of the hamper you purchase, ensure it durable handles for easy transportation to and from the laundry room.

Shower sandals

Chances are, whether you share a communal bathroom or an en suite, you won’t have a bathroom to yourself in a dorm. Consequently, shower shoes will be an essential purchase to protect your feet from grimy, bacteria-infested shower tiles. It’s best to dedicate a pair of waterproof sandals or flip-flops that repel water to avoid messy clean-up. A cheap set is best, as you’ll want to toss them at the end of the year to avoid spreading needless bacteria back home.

Small kitchen appliances

Unless you’re lucky enough to land an apartment-style dorm with a full kitchen, your primary food source will come from the dining halls. By investing in a few small kitchen appliances, you can keep small food staples in your room to snack on and keep you fueled. If your university doesn’t provide one for you, a mini-fridge can keep perishables fresh and at-the-ready. A microwave is also an excellent investment if you need to heat late-night leftovers or quick frozen meals.

Habitual caffeine consumers might find it wise to add an electric kettle to their shopping lists. Whether you need a fresh cup for your early mornings or fuel for your late-night study sessions, an easy-to-use kettle gives you access to coffee or tea on demand. To ensure you stay within dorm regulations, make sure you’re buying appliances that remain within the boundaries of your housing guidelines.

Wrapping up

Before you begin spending money without a plan, make a comprehensive checklist for your college dorm room that anticipates your day-to-day. Having a list will ensure you’re not wasting money while equipping you with the essentials you’ll need to navigate a significant life transition. Regardless of what school you plan to attend, you’ll be grateful you stocked up on the necessities.

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