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Top 10 College Dorm Essentials

You'll be sure to pack your parents' minivan for success with this list of college dorm essentials.

Make sure your dorm room has everything you need by reviewing this list of dorm essentials.

(Photo: James Woodson / iStock / Thinkstock )

Every August a new crop of freshmen heads to college, towing minivans packed to the brim with their personal college dorm essentials. Blow-dryers, notebooks and brand-new hampers filled with brand-new clothes tumble out onto the asphalt parking lots of colleges around the nation.

I personally headed to my freshman year with a giant white armoire. It could barely fit in my room, the drawers stuck and it was an eyesore. I had no idea what I was doing. Throughout my four years of college I stayed in every type of student housing, and I discovered the essentials for college dorms.

10 college dorm essentials

1. A mattress topper

If you’re going to splurge on anything in your dorm, it should be this. Mattress toppers are no joke. Most college mattresses are about as comfortable as a slab of concrete. The mattress topper is the last line of defense between you and four years of insomnia.

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2. Bed risers

Freshman dorms are notoriously small, and you need all the space you can get. If you loft your bed, you have more room for goodies. Stash all the rest of your college dorm essentials under that bad boy, or make a house for some friendly monsters. Some dorms come with beds with legs that can be hitched up as-needed, but for those that don’t, bed risers are a handy substitute.

Make sure your desk has a printer. You’ll be glad it does.

(Photo:SeanZeroThree / iStock / Thinkstock)

3. A printer

Everybody on the tour told you that you didn’t need a printer. “There are printers down the hall,” they said, “There are printers in the library. It’s way easier to do that and use your CollegeKidPrinterBux.” They were wrong. You need to be able to print in your dorm room, and a printer at a good price can sometimes be more cost-effective than maintaining a printer balance. Printers are essentials for college dorms because they greatly reduce the stress that comes with printing an assignment. When the time comes to print your term paper, you don’t want to be waiting in line down the hall or racing to print it at the library before class. Printers save lives. Well, academic lives at least. Use your AAA discount to get up to 35% off and free shipping on select HP products.

4. Board games

Nothing brings a new group of friends together quite like a board game. Bring a pack of playing cards, Scattergories, Scrabble, Ticket to Ride, Bananagrams or Blokus. It’s best to keep the games short-form and lighthearted. Cutthroat games are fun, but they’re not the best relationship-builders. People will go wild for a matching game like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, and it’s a great way to get to know each other.

5. Hanging shelves

These accordion-like cloth shelves can be hung in your closet, instantly doubling the amount of clothes you can fit in there. The thinner shelves made for shoes are also incredibly useful for freeing up your floor space and minimizing clutter.

6. A husband pillow

Everyone needs a husband, especially those who read in bed. Otherwise known as a back rest pillow, the husband looks like the top half of a chair, with a cushioned back and stumpy arms. Seating is limited in dorms, and students wind up sitting on their beds from time to time. A husband pillow will cradle you and support you no matter what you do.

7. Granola bars

You need to eat to live, but sometimes you don’t have time to eat. I am using the term “granola bars” pretty generously. When you’re living somewhere without access to a regular kitchen, and when you have the lifestyle of a college student, you need bars. What kind of bars? Any kind of bars. My personal crutch was an energy bar, made for hiking. My college was on a hill, so it felt appropriate.

8. Pictures and posters

Posters might not seem like college dorm essentials, but nothing is more forbidding or depressing than a plain white room. The best way to brighten up your space is to personalize it with posters, art, DIY projects and pictures of friends and family.

9. A micro-fridge

A micro-fridge is essentially a microwave stuck on top of a mini-fridge. It looks awkward and unwieldy, and it’s a pain to transport, but it’s a godsend in a dorm setting. The micro-fridge is there for you when you’re at your lowest, making you ramen or briefly preserving your pint of ice cream before you just go ahead and finish the whole thing in one sitting. It’s not glamorous, but there is nothing more essential.

10. A dry erase board

The dry erase board is the staple of the freshman experience. Students might all have smart phones and computers, but they don’t want to use those to communicate in a freshman hall. No, they want to write on your dry erase board. They at least want to draw rude pictures on it. Stick that dry erase board right onto your door and become a part of the conversation. Or just write “Welcome to Room 203.”

What are some college dorm essentials that you wouldn’t leave home without? Share them in the comments!

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