12 Must Have Items for Dorm Rooms

I asked my oldest daughter, soon to be a college senior, what her younger sister REALLY needs for her dorm room.

I have one kid who is almost done with college, and another who is about to start, so it’s time for the fun activity of dorm room shopping.

It’s sort of like decorating the nursery, except the person who will be living in the dorm room actually has opinions on things. And also the parents won’t be living there.

Photo of a dorm room with a desk, mattree, lamp
Generic dorm room stock photo

I asked my oldest daughter, soon to be a college senior, what her younger sister really needs for her dorm room. Her answer:

  • Surge protected power strip (this was the first thing she said)
  • Trash can
  • Shower caddy (to take shampoo, soap, etc. from room to bathroom)
  • Shower shoes (like flip flops or knock-off crocs because “everyone uses those showers and everyone else’s feet are gross”)
  • Mini fridge, this can often be rented from the college

Photo of small blue refrigerator with a yellow stuffed smiley face next to it
I don’t really think they mean THIS small of a fridge, but I liked this picture

  • Chargers, although my daughters insist that no teenager would forget these
  • A fan, because in spring and summer they don’t always turn the AC on, and not all dormitories are air conditioned
  • Towels
  • Sheets and blankets, extra-long sheets with pockets are very handy
  • Something to remind you of home, like a stuffed animal
  • Art for the wall
  • Photos of friends and pets
Small black and tan dog sitting with mouth open
This dog sure is going to miss the college kids when they’re gone

Our family also has a spare microwave, purchased for the dorm. My daughter didn’t need it last year, and I have loaned it to people three times. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve loaned someone a microwave, I’d have three nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that I’ve loaned out my microwave three times.

Happy dorm shopping!

Sharon Falduto is a Central Iowa native who came to University of Iowa in 1991 and essentially never left the area. She is involved in local community theater, notably as one of the co-founders of Iowa City's Dreamwell Theatre. She has also directed children's plays with the Young Footliters group. Sharon works in with English Language Learners in a support position at Kirkwood Community College.. She lives in Coralville with her husband, Matt, and three daughters Rachel, Samantha, and Piper.


  1. Thank you! Does your daughter recommend a certain length for the cord on the surge protector. They range from 3ft to nearly 16! My daughter’s dorm room is apparently a single and not very big, but I have no idea how many outlets it has. Thank you! 😊


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