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Dorm Room Essentials for the College-Bound High School Grad

A laundry basket sits by a washer, a single-brew coffee maker brews coffee into a mug, a bed is made with coordinating bedding.
Dokehom/Keurig/Amazon Basics

Graduation season is here, and while it’s always nice to receive any gift, giving someone something they can actually use is always appreciated. This is especially true for high school graduates who’ll be heading to college in the fall. Here are some dorm room essentials no college freshman should be without.

While college graduates might need a lot of traditional housewarming items, those headed to college later this year have a different set of needs. After all, they might be sharing a bathroom with an entire floor of students or not even have access to a full kitchen.

If you’re searching for the perfect gift for a recent high school grad/soon-to-be college student, this list of dorm room essentials is an excellent place to start.

A Mattress Topper

A mattress topper is placed on a bed.
Pure Brands

Dorm rooms almost always come furnished with two twin-sized beds and mattresses. Those mattresses, however, are usually coated in vinyl for sanitary purposes and not very comfortable. That’s why a mattress topper is a must!

There are tons to choose from, but we like this thickly padded option from Pure Brands. It adds some extra cushioning and another layer of separation between the sheets and mattress.

It’s also made with a down alternative, which allows for good airflow to prevent the sleeper from getting overheated. The tufted design keeps the filling in place, and it’s even machine washable, making it even more ideal for college students.

Pure Brands Twin Mattress Topper & Mattress Pad Protector

Adds some extra comfort to that dorm room mattress.

A Bed-in-a-Bag

A bed is made with matching comforter and throw pillows and a solid-colored sheet set.
Amazon Basics

When it comes to bedding, ease is key, and that’s where the bed-in-a-bag comes in. These handy bundles include everything you need for your bed: shams, pillowcases, flat and fitted sheets, a comforter, and throw pillows. They’re also usually budget-friendly, like this eight-piece set from Amazon Basics.

It’s available in twin size to fit a dorm room bed, and also comes in a variety of patterns and colors to match anyone’s taste. The pieces also all match, so there’s no need to hunt down the perfect throw pillows.

Everything is machine washable, as well, so if your graduate spills coffee during a late-night study session, cleanup is simple. Made of microfiber and filled with polyester, it’s also comfy and warm.

Amazon Basics 8-Piece Bed-in-a-Bag

Everything they need in one package.

A Towel Set

Towels are placed on a bathroom sink.
Amazon Basics

Everyone needs towels, including a dorm-room newbie. While the first year living in a dorm usually means sharing one bathroom with an entire hallway or floor of students, your recent grad will still need their own towels.

This six-piece option is a great starter set. It includes two full-size bath towels, two hand towels, and two washcloths. The 100% cotton material is soft, absorbent, and fully machine washable and dryable.

Pinzon Six Piece Blended Egyptian Cotton Bath Towel Set

Absorbent and fully machine washable.

A Shower Caddy

A person holds a shower caddy inside a shower, and a shower caddy sits next to a bath tub.
Anyoifax

As we already mentioned, a college freshman likely won’t have their own bathroom, so they’ll have to transport all their toiletries to the showers. A shower caddy, like this one from Anyoifax, is a must.

It’s made of durable, waterproof plastic that won’t crack and can easily be cleaned. Plus, the handles make it easy to carry and/or hang on a door. It’s large enough to hold all shower necessities, from shampoo and body wash to a washcloth or loofah.

Anyoifax Portable Shower Caddy

Easy toiletry storage and transport.

A Laundry Basket

A tall, rectangularly shaped laundry basket sits next to a dryer, and a person closes the top of a laundry basket.
Dokehom

One of the biggest adjustments for some college freshmen is doing their own laundry. They also need an easy way to transport dirty and clean loads back and forth from the laundry room.

Dokehom’s basket is perfect for this. It has four locking wheels, making it super easy to roll down corridors and on sidewalks and leather handles for carrying up and down stairs

It’s also small and slim enough to fit in even the smallest of dorm rooms. The Oxford fabric is also easy to spot clean and waterproof, and there’s even an interior mesh bag to protect items.

DOKEHOM Slim Laundry Basket with Handle on Wheels

Makes transporting laundry so much easier.

A Vacuum

A person uses a small vacuum on a hardwood floor, and a person uses a handheld vacuum on a couch.
Bissell

Cleaning might not be high on a college student’s priority list, but they’ll still have to do it . . . at some point. And a slim, compact vacuum is a must for tiny dorm rooms. Enter, the Featherweight Stick Vacuum from Bissell, which is small enough to slide under a bed or slip in a closet.

It works on both hard-surface flooring and low-pile carpet. The top is also removable and converts into a handheld vac for cleaning furniture or getting into cracks and crevices. The easy-to-empty, bagless technology is also perfect for a dorm room.

Bissell Featherweight Stick Lightweight Bagless Vacuum

They'll have to tidy up at some point.

Under-Bed Storage

A person pull out a cloth storage container, and a person unzips a cloth storage container.
Amazon Basics

One of the keys to successful dorm living is making the most of every inch of space. Most dorm rooms come equipped with a small dresser for each student, but many will probably need a bit more clothes storage.

This slim fabric unit slips right under a bed and has a clear vinyl top so everything inside is visible. The side handles make it easy to slide out, and it has a zip closure to protect what’s inside. It’s ideal for storing clothing, extra sheets, towels, and other essentials that won’t fit in a closet or dresser.

An Over-the-Door Shoe Rack

A shoe organizer hangs over a door, and shoes are placed in cloth, over-the-door compartments.
Homyfort

Speaking of saving space, let’s talk about closets. Whether your grad has their own closet or has to share one with a roommate, maximizing that space will always be helpful. An excellent way to do that is with an over-the-door shoe rack, like this 24-compartment option by Homyfort.

Bulky boots and shoes eat up a lot of closet space, but this handy rack can hold 12 pairs—or even more if any are slim enough to fit both in one compartment. All your grad will have to do is slip the reinforced metal hangers over the door—no drilling or installation required!

They don’t have to use it for shoes, either—socks, undergarments, toiletries, or anything else they don’t have space for can be stored in these handy pockets.

Homyfort Over the Door Shoe Organizer

Keeps bulky space-eating shoes off the floor.

A Mini Fridge

A fridge is made from stainless steel, and a mini fridge sits in the corner of a living room by a couch.
RCA

Some universities offer fridge rentals, but if your grad’s doesn’t, a mini-fridge makes an excellent gift.

RCA’s single-door compact model has a small, built-in freezer (you have to have someplace for the Ben & Jerry’s, right?), compartments for drinks, and adjustable shelving. The temperatures are adjustable, and the appliance is also high efficiency.

The flat back will help save space in a small room. Plus, it comes in multiple colors and you can even adjust the door to open from the left or right. Pretty cool!

3.2 Cu Ft Single Door Compact Mini Fridge

Will keep those energy drinks cold.

A Coffee Machine

A single cup coffee maker sits on a counter, and a single cup coffee maker brews into a yellow mug.
Keurig

Perhaps the most important item your college student will need is a coffee machine. Again, while there might be a common area, many dorms don’t have large kitchens.

That means, unfortunately, there’s no guarantee of a coffee machine. And who wants to share one with an entire building full of people, anyway?

This single-cup maker by Keurig is perfect for a dorm room. Your grad will be able to make their own coffee whenever they want and save a lot of cash by skipping the coffee shop. Because this model uses mini pods, there’ll also be no loose grounds, which means less mess.

Keurig K-Mini Plus Single-Serve Coffee Maker

Because all college students need easy access to caffeine.


College-bound grads need a lot of stuff, so why not make their lives a bit easier by gifting them a dorm room essential or two? Not only is this more thoughtful than an impersonal envelope of cash, but it’ll also take one more thing off their very long to-do list, for which they’re sure to be grateful.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »
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