Software engineering student sitting on bed with books, laptop and textbooks around and writing in notebook

23 Best College Dorm Room Essentials of 2020

The days of cramming undergraduates into shared dorm rooms with a communal bathroom down the hall may be coming to an end. As colleges and universities across the country scramble to figure out how they will reopen in just a few weeks, new protocols are not only changing how students learn but also how they live.

Software engineering student sitting on bed with books, laptop and textbooks around and writing in notebook

One thing we can pretty much count on is that dorm rooms will still be stark—offering just the bare necessities of a bed, desk, and chair. Should you or someone you love be turning into a dorm dweller, consider this list of essentials that will go a long way to make dorm life easier, functional and looking good, too


A desktop computer sitting on top of a deskProjection Alarm Clock

This is really innovative—an alarm clock that projects the time and temperature on the ceiling! It’s a weather station, and a USB charger, too.

Perfect for a dorm room, this Projection Alarm Clock can predict the weather for the next 12 hours as well as the barometric pressure trend and temperature trend; 12/24 hour, date, and week which are all displayed on the 3’’ backlit LCD screen.

The projection clock, a wireless sensor, and AC adapter are all packaged in a deluxe box.

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A bag hanging on the wall

Closet Space Saver

Dorm rooms are small and their closets are even tinier, making a box of 10 Wonder Hangers just the ticket to effectively triple the size of the space because you use all of the space, not only the space on the rod.

Keep clothes neat, wrinkle-free, and organized. Ingenious!



A bag of luggage

Shower Bag

Fill it up with your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, razor and loofah, and head for the shower, knowing you’ve got everything you need.

Then hang the Mesh Shower Bag for Dorm & Gym right in the shower with you. Plenty of big pockets to hold everything. Made of plastic mesh so it’s waterproof and dries quickly.

Perfect for the college dorm, swimmers, travelers, gym members, sports team. Fill it for an even better gift! 





white monogrammed bath towels hanging on towel rackMonogrammed towels

We have insider information here at EC Central that newly-minted college students really like towels that are monogrammed with their name or initials. Monogrammed towels are easy to track down and the graduation gift most likely to survive the college years.

These towels, which look slightly cheesy here, are actually extremely high quality, and the monogram of your choice very well constructed.


Sleep Mask

College dorms are not always the most conducive when it comes to sleep. Students have to catch those precious winks when and if they can.

A good, comfortable sleep mask removes the “if” from the equation. Add earplugs (in a bit) and sleep comes easily.

This Deep Rest Eye Mask is contoured and adjustable. Just right.



Laundry Bag A close up of a bag

Dorm life requires a solid, sturdy laundry bag if for no other reason than to get one’s clothes home to mom on the weekends. Just kidding.

You won’t find a better laundry bag for any situation than this heavy-duty canvas Thicken Laundry Bag with easy-to-carry metal handles.

It is self-standing when full, but also collapses for easy storage. And it looks good, too.

Hint: If you want to expand your gift, fill this laundry bag with towels and toiletry items.




A person sitting on a desk

Desk Lamp


This high-quality LED lamp will be perfect in any dorm room. Students can choose between four lighting modes (study, read, relax and bedtime) and five dimming levels.

This LED Desk Lamp has an adjustable lamp-arm with a turnable base that ensures the perfect angle.

Handy built-in USB port charges smartphones, tablets, and e-readers at speeds of up to 2 amps.




Tabletop or Clip-on fan A close up of a fan


Dorm rooms can get “close,” if you know what I mean. And stuffy. This small (6-inch diameter) corded clip-on Avalon Fan is perfect for sleeping, studying or just hanging out. Fits in most any bag, too.

Stands alone or converts to clip-on. which makes it super versatile. Two extremely quiet speeds.

To switch from tabletop to clip on and back, simply loosen the butterfly screw on the fan head and attach the base of your preference.




Clip-on Reading LightLamp and Light


Reading in bed or at night becomes a viable option—even when roommates need it to be lights out.

This Raniaco Led Clip On Reading Light goes anywhere because it works anywhere and under any conditions. Rechargeable battery, comes with three levels of brightness.

This reading light comes with a clamp holder and flexible tube, that means it can be affixed to any edge. Adjustable to accommodate any angle desired.



Travel Mug A close up of a bottle


Coffee, anyone? If your student runs on dark, hot liquids, this Zojirushi stainless steel travel coffee mug is the ticket.

It’s sleek, it’s beautiful and keeps hot coffee hot for a very long time. It has a non-stick coated interior and flip-open lid.

The entire thing disassembles for thorough cleaning. Accommodates full-size ice cubes for cold drinks, too. Several sizes to choose from; this 16-oz capacity comes in choice of colors.





Handheld Cordless Vac Cordless and Handheld


Dorm life can be messy. A great cordless vac can fix that problem, mostly.

I love this cordless handheld vacuum more than I’ve loved any other hand vac and give it many stars—far more than the traditional five!

This model has a Lithium Ion battery which gives it a terrific runtime with no memory effect.

One Dozen Pens A close up of a piece of paper


A whole box of pens is a good start. Even in these days of electronic devices, students need great pens that write smoothly, are comfortable to use, and can be found quickly.

Twelve should be plenty for at least a few months. BIC Velocity Ballpoint Bold Point Pens are way smooth. Once you use one, you’ll never go back. Neither will your note-taking student.





Bedside ShelfTable and Room


This is ingenious—a shelf that attaches to the side of most any bed (no tools required!) without getting in the way of sleep. Bunk Buddy is an easily attachable tray and requires no tools! It uses only the twist of a thumb to attach to a bed frame.

Bunk Buddy is a great space-saving shelf used dorm students everywhere, allowing access to a variety of items, such as laptop, phone, books, and contact lenses.



Computer PrinterA close up of a printer


There are lots to choose from but none more efficient and reliable than the Brother Black and White printer.

Perfect choice for the dorm room, this sweet printer handles automatic two-sided printing; it’s pretty speedy too, at 32 pages per minute, with a cost-per-page of about 3 cents.




A close up of a bottle
Water Bottle


An eco-friendly, recyclable, durable, designed to last, reusable, refillable water bottle is a must-have with the college set.

This Klean Kanteen is ideal as it is high-quality, food-grade stainless steel through and through; no plastic or aluminum in this durable, if not enviable, water bottle. Choose from a wide array of colors.





A close up of a towel

Cushy Mattress Pad


A good night’s sleep depends on a lot of things with a thick, soft, comfortable surface to sleep on right at the top of the list.

No matter the mattress that comes with that dorm room, the Bare Home Pillow-top Mattress Pad XL Twin will make an enormous difference. Comes in a variety of sizes including Twin Extra Long.




A close up of a bottle

Laundry Bundle


Remember that laundry bag (above)? Fill it with this bundle of laundry products. Your “giftee” may not fully appreciate this right now when the actual cost of doing laundry remains a mystery to him or her; that will change very soon. And you’ll be the hero.

This Tide Laundry Bundle assures 70 loads of clean, fresh-smelling laundry—more than sufficient get through the entire year!



A close up of a phone

Power Bank


The Anker PowerCore 20100 Power Bank is more than an extra battery. This is a full-on powerhouse for iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy and more.

And it’s fast, delivering a full charge at record speed with amazing capacity. Example: One charge will fully charge an iPhone seven times before it needs to be recharged.





A pair of shoes

Shower Sandals


Rubber, slide-on sandals with non-slip construction—that look cool, too—are a requirement in a dorm, but also certain to be a big hit.

These sandals offer amazing arch support besides being quite awesome. (They dry fast, too.) Available in men’s sizes and women’s sizes and come in a variety of colors.



A close up of food, with Sleep



Dorm life being what it is—and for some young people, a shocking contrast to home. A supply of easy-to-use and comfortable earplugs should be on every dorm-dwelling collegian’s list of must-haves.

This supply of 50 pairs Ear Buddy Premium Soft Foam Ear Plugs should take care of that need for a good while. These are the best.




About food…

If your student’s college dorm doesn’t offer gourmet food, and if the dorm rules permit it, consider making sure he or she can feed themselves healthy and nutritious meals made in the room or the common kitchen.

Before you go this route, however, make sure students are allowed to have things like a microwave, rice cooker, indoor grill, or electric skillet in the room. Cooking in the dorm is the second leading cause of dorm fires; if students start a fire using illegal equipment, they’ll be in lots of legal trouble, as will their parents, especially if someone gets hurt.

If everything checks out, here are three items that will let students to make just about anything.


Egg and Cooker

Egg Cooker

Just because it’s cute, don’t assume this egg cooker is only for looks.

Dash Go Egg Cooker makes six hard, medium, and soft boiled eggs, individual omelets, two poached eggs, and scrambled eggs—just not all at the same time.

Eggs are cheap and high in protein, which makes them a great option for on-the-go, always starving students.



Instant Pot and Kitchen

Instant Pot

It does everything and in just a small amount of time, college students have to eat and get back to class.

If allowed, an Instant Pot will save the day (and the night) and make dorm living a delight. Instant Pot IP-DUO50 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 3Qt is the perfect option for dorm living.

A tray of hot dogs on a grill








Panini Press

Can’t help but wish I’d had a Panini Press back in my school days. I’d have been one popular gal, that’s for sure.

Instead, I settled for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches more than a few times when the cafeteria fare appeared inedible.

This Hamilton Beach Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker maker grills a sandwich of any thickness in just a few minutes. Yum!



First published: 5-10-18; Updated & Republished: 8-10-20

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5 replies
  1. Joy says:

    Packing right now to get our oldest off for college. One must for him was a hot water kettle. He enjoys a cup of tea in the mornings. It’s also good for instant oatmeal, romin, or any other instant meal that needs how water.

  2. Linda says:

    I have wanted to try an Instapot, but with just myself hesitated to get the 6 quart one. I always see recipes that I might want to try, but they are usually for the 6 quart one. Can anyone tell me how to convert a 6 quart recipe to be made in the 3 quart Instapot? Do you just cut ingredients? Cook for less time? Thanks…

    • Joy says:

      I have a single friend who has the six quart size. She looked into getting a smaller one as a grad gift for my kid and heard many people regret getting one that small. She ended up getting him a 6 quart for the dorm.


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