The Essential College Dorm Guide: Everything Your Student Needs to Feel at Home Away from Home 

posted in: Gift Guides
College classroom with a whiteboard and desk with school supplies

Do you have a kid heading off to college? There are so many things to buy!  From bedding to kitchenette storage solutions, I’ve rounded up must-have dorm essentials with the help of a few pro parents.  


Carey Reilly, Family Fun Living Expert and mom of a college student, said that dorm mattresses are notoriously uncomfortable, so a mattress topper will ensure your student sleeps like a baby. My other sources strongly agreed!  

Bed mattress
Sleep Number

Sleep Number TrueTemp Mattress Layer, Town XL ($149)

This hypoallergenic Sleep Number TrueTemp Mattress Layer is not only comfortable and conforms to the body, but it uses natural volcanic mineral technology, which continuously adapts to keep heat and humidity away from the sleeper. Their Essential Fit Cotton sheet set ($129.99) are made with an ExactFit sheet design, which means that the sheets move with the sleeper, ensuring the fitted sheets stay in place and keeping a smooth appearance (ideal for a messy college student!).  Your student can even test the sheets for 100 nights and can return or exchange them if need be.  When ordering sheets or mattress toppers, standard college beds are Twin XL, but it’s always good to double-check. 

Shop now: Sleep Number TrueTemp Mattress Layer 

ZINUS 2 Inch Green Tea Cooling Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Zinus Green Tea Cooling Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper ($76.58 and up)

For beds that are really uncomfortable – like if they are hard as a rock or lumpy – I would recommend this topper, which is available in the required Twin XL size and in 2” or 3” thickness. Not only is it cushy and comfy, but it’s infused with a gel that helps to stabilize body temperature and contains active charcoal and green tea to help eliminate odor.

Shop now: Zinus Green Tea Cooling Gel Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Roller Rabbit No Nails Faux Headboard
PB Teen

PB Teen No Nail Headboards ($159 and up) 

My friend Lise’s daughter, CJ, who is currently away at school, strongly recommends one of these. Not only do they look pretty, but CJ finds hers comfortable to lean on when she’s reading in bed. A big improvement over leaning against a cinderblock wall!  PB Teen has several styles and colors to reflect your student’s tastes. 

Shop now: PB Teen No Nail Headboards

Air Purifier

Clorox Tabletop Air Purifier ($59, save 30% for Amazon Prime Day)

Many of the parents and students I spoke with emphasized the need for an air purifier to capture odors and prevent illness. This tabletop model from Clorox has a pre-filter and True HEPA filtration to capture 99.7 percent of viruses and bacteria in rooms up to 200 square feet. It has 3 speeds and an optional timer that allows your student to choose from 8, 4, or 2 hours of operation. For nighttime use, there is a low speed for super quiet air purification and an adjustable night light. 

Shop now: Clorox Tabletop Air Purifier

 3-Speed Box Fan

Lasko Cool Colors 20” Weather Resistant Box Fan ($25.97)

Alissa Krasner Maizes, mom of a college student as well as a registered investment advisor and founder of the Amplify My Wealth platform, stressed the need for a fan. “A fan can ensure year-round comfort for your child and may even become a dorm living necessity if it is air conditioning-free or in the winter when your child has no control over their dorm’s heat or air circulation.” 

This durable metal-frame fan can sit in a window or it can be moved to any location in the room with the handle. The fan has top-mounted controls, 3 quiet fan speeds, and a weather-resistant motor for window placement. Available in four colors.  

Shop now: Lasko Cool Colors 20” Weather Resistant Box Fan

Large Saucer UFO Chair with Collapsible Metal Frame

mDesign Urban Papasan Folding Moon Chair ($47.99) 

Reilly pointed out that every dorm room needs a folding chair so visiting friends have a place to sit (that is not their bed). This retro-style moon-shaped chair is made from premium plush velour that is comfortable enough for long visits and easy to spot clean. The sturdy steel metal frame folds flat when not in use. Available in 3 colors. 

Another handy item for guests is a blowup mattress with a built-in inflator. Maizes said, that this one ($37.90) is “small enough to store yet perfect for your child’s friend or sibling to comfortably stay over without overwhelming the dorm room.”

Shop now: mDesign Urban Papasan Folding Moon Chair

Food, Food Prep & Food Storage

Full Flavor Bowl Bundle
Hydro Flask

Hydroflask Full Flavor Bowl Bundle ($49.46, value $54.95) 

If your student has access to a kitchenette, these sturdy, stackable bowls with lids will get a ton of use for food prep and storage. The set includes 2 1-quart, one 3-quart, and one 5-quart serving bowls and the 1-quart size can even be used for eating soups and cereals. 

Shop now: Hydroflask Full Flavor Bowl Bundle 

Flexible Food Storage Container

Humangear GoPouch ($13.95)

These quick-seal pouches are a must for storing leftovers. They have a unique, easy-to-use seal that is leak-tight, and the pouches stand upright so they don’t take up the space that storage containers do. They are also handy for snacks on the go or other necessities, like grooming products. The brand offers a lifetime warranty.

Shop now: Humangear GoPouch

Mueller Ultra Kettle

Mueller Living 1.8L Glass Kettle ($35.99)

We have this kettle and use it daily. It heats water very quickly and the generous 1.8L size means that there is plenty of hot water for everyone’s tea, coffee, and instant soups. Perfect for dorm living with safety features like auto shut off and overheat protection. 

Shop now: Mueller Living 1.8L Glass Kettle

Must-Have Supplies

Carbona Laundry Detergent Sheets

Carbona Laundry Detergent Sheets ($14.99) 

Make the trip to the laundry room easier with these lightweight and easy-to-store laundry sheets. The sheets work well in front and top-load machines, and with all cycle preferences. They are safe for colors and whites, and leave no residue behind. The brand also has a natural enzyme-based Stain Scrubber ($7.49), which has a built-in brush. It can treat over 100 stains, including grass and oils.  

Shop now: Carbona Laundry Detergent Sheets

Keep Going First-Aid

Keep>Going First Aid Adult GoKit ($39.99)

Make sure your student is prepared for those little mishaps, like a skinned knee, a superficial burn, a cut, a sting, etc. with this handy 130-piece kit. It’s great for dorm rooms, but compact enough that it can be tossed into a backpack for travel or outdoor activities.  

Maiser also recommends sending your student to school with a supply of OTC pain reliever/fever-reducer and Pepto-Bismol. 

Shop now: Keep>Going First Aid Adult GoKit 

For On-the-Go

Pink water life

Hydros 20 oz Water Filter Bottle ($20)

If your student is filling up their water bottle at any old sink, send them to school with one of these. The Hydros Bottle can filter 20 ounces of water in under 20 seconds, reducing 90 percent of chlorine and 99 percent of sediment, according to the brand.  The coconut carbon shell filter will serve up cleaner water for over 600 glasses.  Available in four colors.

If the dorm fridge will accommodate, the brand also has pitchers.  

Shop now: Hydros 20 oz. Water Filter Bottle

VIVA Recharge Grey Insulated Tea & Coffee Mug & Travel French Press Coffee Maker

VIVA Recharge Travel Mug Pro ($49.95)

Some teens need their caffeine and this multifunctional travel mug makes brewing from the dorm a breeze.  It’s a French press, coffee maker, tea infuser, iced tea maker, and water bottle all in one! A nice companion to the eclectic kettle mentioned earlier.

Shop now: VIVA Recharge Travel Mug Pro 


Reusable Sticky Notes

Rocketbook Reusable Sticky Note Starter Kit ($23.99)

Your student won’t have you to remind them of things, so these sticky notes will help keep them on track. The reusable notes can be written on with a Pilot FriXion pen, wiped clean with a microfiber cloth, and stuck and unstuck thousands of times, according to the brand. For easy sharing and access, the notes can be scanned and saved to the cloud using Rocketbook’s app. 

The starter kit includes 15 reusable sticky notes, a storage case, a Pilot FriXion Pen, and a microfiber towel. 

Shop now: Rocketbook Reusable Sticky Note Starter Kit 


Aer Tech Sling 3 ($119)

A backpack is the usual go-to for students, but so many textbooks are digital these days that this weather-resistant sling bag is a good option for the student who prefers to travel light. It has a padded laptop pocket large enough to hold up to a 14” laptop, plus plenty of pockets for a tablet, mobile charger, notebooks, and even a textbook. The sling bag has a reversible, adjustable shoulder strap for left or right-side use. 

If you’re looking for a backpack, my pick is Dakine. My daughter has the Campus 25L Backpack ($65), which after a year of high school looks like new. 

Shop now: Aer Tech Sling 3

Portable Wall Charger

Limitless Ultimate 15,000mAh Portable Power Bank With Wall Plug and Digital Display ($109.99)

With this powerful charger, your student can keep their devices powered up as they navigate from class to class.  It has a powerful 15,000mAh, which means that there’s plenty of juice for all their devices.
And because it has three built-in cables, three charging ports, and the ability to plug it into a wall socket, they don’t have to carry extra cords. Available in several fun colors with a carrying case, a lanyard strap, and a built-in phone stand. 

Shop now: Limitless Ultimate 15,000mAh Portable Power Bank with Wall Plug


La Roche-Posay Lotion

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser ($17.99) & Lipikar AP Triple Repair Moisturizing Cream ($19.99) 

Your student can’t go to school and use any old skincare products! This pair from La Roche-Posay are a favorite in our house and I’ll be sending my daughter off to school with them. The unscented and high-quality products can be used on the face and body and the generously sized bottles last for ages.  

Shop now: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser & Lipikar AP Triple Repair Moisturizing Cream  

Bathroom Products
community goods

Community Goods Bathroom Bundle ($88)

Your environmentally-conscious student will feel great about this plastic-free collection of grooming products, which are certified cruelty-free and vegan through PETA and made with sustainable, recyclable materials like paper, cardboard, glass, and aluminum.  This set includes a shampoo bar with a sisal bar saving bag, a conditioner bar, a deodorant, a jar of Fresh Mint Toothpaste Tablets, and a bamboo toothbrush. The set is available in Citrus and Coconut Vanilla scents. Community Goods is a member of 1 Percent for the Planet. They use carbon-neutral shipping with EcoCart, and donate to The Surfrider Foundation and The Ocean Conservancy. 

Shop now: Community Goods Bathroom Bundle

A couple of additional bathroom essentials are: 

  • Maises said, “When sharing your bathroom, Poo-Pourri speaks for itself. While it doesn’t impact cleanliness, a quick spray can freshen things up quickly for themselves and their dormmates.”
  • Lise’s daughter CJ also recommended Clorox wipes for quickly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.  


Women's High Waisted Ultra Soft Modal Joggers Running Sweatpants

Colorfulkoala Modal Loungewear Collection ($25 and up)

Since your student is likely to be sharing a room, it’s time to give their loungewear an upgrade! These Lululemon dupes are buttery soft for lounging about and sleeping, but they look polished enough that your student could wear them to class and no one would be the wiser. The collection includes tops, shorts, and more. I tried the Long Sleeve Athletic Sweatshirt and the Joggers and love them both. Available in several stylish colors and sizes XS-XL.   

Shop now: Colorfulkoala Modal Loungewear Collection 

Bamboo Pullover and Jogger Set
Monday Chill

Monday Chill Ultra Soft Plain Bamboo Pullover and Jogger Set ($150)

For the guys, this premium, hypoallergenic bamboo pullover and loungewear set is a must. It’s made with 72 percent bamboo – my favorite fabric for sleeping – which is incredibly soft and breathable. The ethically and sustainably made pieces are flattering and incredibly comfortable. Available in 6 colors and sizes S-XL. 

Shop now: Monday Chill Ultra Soft Plain Bamboo Pullover and Jogger Set

Follow Trae Bodge:

Smart Shopping Expert

Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who has specialized in smart shopping, personal finance, and retail for more than a decade. She has appeared on TV over 1,000 times; including Today Show, GMA3, NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition, and network affiliates nationwide. She has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn, and her expert commentary has appeared in Forbes,, Kiplinger, Yahoo Finance, and numerous others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *