Watch CBS News

Back-To-School: A Guide To Dorm Shopping

by Karis Hustad

Most people wouldn't get excited about moving into a tiny room with a stranger alongside hundreds of 18-year-olds. For any soon-to-be college freshman, however, receiving a roommate and dorm assignment is the thrilling moment when college becomes real.

Suddenly, college may also become too real. Students are faced with completely outfitting a living space, not likely to be occupied longer than nine months, with someone they have never met. Talk about intimidating -- and expensive.

So where to start? Students: do not worry. Below is a guide on what to bring, what not to bring and how to bring it.

The Basics:

This list from is a great comprehensive (but not exorbitant) list of what a first-year student will most likely need when living on campus. It may seem long, but remember students: you are packing for a year away from home, not summer camp.

What You May Forget:

Extra blankets/pillows: Great for when the heating breaks down or you get the bed by the window. Plus, extra pillows can be used as seating for an impromptu movie night.

Reading light: Your roommates are going to need some sleep, even when you have a huge test you have to study for the next day. In order to prevent an argument, bring a reading light so you can study in bed without disturbing anyone else.

Sentimental objects from home: Though you don't want to overload your room with mementos, a few pictures or a favorite jewelry box are comforting and make your room seem more personal than only being decorated courtesy of the "dorm" section at Target.

Dish soap/sponge: You buy dishes, but not a sponge? There won't be a mom waiting to wash your dishes at school.

3M Command hooks and strips: These are fantastic adhesives that pull off the wall without leaving a mark. There are also several varieties, from the most basic adhesive strips to hooks that can hold up to 10 pounds.

Posters/Wall art: There is nothing worse than a boring, blank dorm room. Putting up posters, pictures or tapestries make your room more comfortable, not to mention more interesting.

Travel-sized toiletries: You never know when a road trip to a nearby city or college could happen, so plan ahead. Travel-sized toiletries can be packed away and taken out easily, plus you won't have to worry about losing the toothbrush you use every day.

What Not To Bring:

French Press: Unless you're a coffee connoisseur, you are not going to wake up 15 minutes early just to brew a better batch of coffee. Stick with an automatic coffeemaker, which is just as cheap with less maintenance.

Dangerous things: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is extremely important to respect. If you bring something that the school deems dangerous, you could risk being kicked out of the residence halls, or even the college. If you are unsure about anything, double-check with your school ahead of time.

A pet: Even if your residence hall allows fish or reptiles, you don't want a poor amphibian's blood on your hands when you forget to feed it after a week of tough exams. In this case, play it safe and leave the Betta fish at home.

Your entire wardrobe: You will have a tiny closet and likely go shopping at some point anyway. Bring what you wear most and bring more back when you go home for a weekend (if you really need it).

What To Split With Your Roommate(s):

These items are more expensive and often something both you and your roommate will frequently use. Some roommates prefer to split the list (one person brings a TV, another person brings the microwave) and others prefer to split the overall cost to be sure it is fair. One word of caution if you decide to split the cost: it may be difficult to decide who goes home with what at the end of the year.
• TV
• Microwave/refrigerator
• Rug
• Couch/Chairs
• Coffeemaker/Hot water heater

1. Every school equips their rooms and residence halls with different supplies, so be sure to check what your room will already be outfitted with so you won't be stuck doing returns after move-in day.

2. In order to keep the load as light as possible, make a list of things you can buy after you move in. This way you save valuable trunk space for what you won't be able to buy at a local Target or Walmart.

Karis Hustad is an intern at and a Twin Cities native, studying journalism at Loyola University Chicago. Reach her at

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.