This article was updated and republished on January 2, 2022.
Heading off to college and living away from home for the first time is a major life moment. It's undoubtedly an exciting stage, and yet with so many changes on the horizon, it's normal to feel nervous too. One way to help quiet those nerves is to get a head start on dorm shopping so your home-away-from-home is not only comfortable but fully equipped for a successful first term.
If you're planning to live on campus, your college packing list likely includes bedding, towels, a hamper and maybe some hangers. But what else should you bring? With small living quarters and busy schedules in mind, this guide will walk you through various college necessities for your freshman year.
Below, find a detailed breakdown of all the dorm room essentials you need to thrive at school, plus college bedroom ideas and recommendations for high-quality items that'll make a big difference in the overall quality of your campus lifestyle. And find a downloadable college dorm essential checklist at the end of this post.
Best Dorm Bed Sheets for College
Late-night study sessions are all too common among college students. While pulling an all-nighter is sometimes necessary when cramming for a final, quality sleep is critical for powering through the days. For those living away from their parents' homes, comfortable bedding is key to getting a healthy night's sleep. Also, dorm beds double as a place to sit, study and hang out with friends, so creating a cozy space is crucial.
You never know what the heating and air conditioning situation will be in a dorm, and if you're moving to an unfamiliar climate, it's best to come prepared. From sheets and a comforter to pillows and throws, you'll want to look for breathable, durable fabrics that'll keep you cozy in the winter and cool throughout the warmer months. Keep scrolling for specific product recommendations.
The Best College Bed Sheet Size: Twin XL Sheets
When it comes to dorm room bedding, extra-long twin (or twin XL) sheets are often at the top of the list. To save space while accommodating taller students, the beds are as wide as a regular twin but roughly 5 inches longer.
Finding high-quality sheets for your dorm with these somewhat uncommon dimensions can be a challenge, but Parachute has an impressive selection for the college-bound. You can get naturally sourced percale, sateen, brushed cotton or linen extra-long twin sheet sets, all of which offer year-round warmth and breathability and get softer with time.
Check out Parachute's Guide to Bed Sheets for more insight into different types and fabrics, and learn more about the best dorm bed sheet fabrics here:
Best Dorm Size Pillow: Standard Pillow
When your head hits the pillow after an evening seminar or football tailgate, you should be comfortable enough to start dozing almost instantly. Any standard pillow will fit the pillowcase that comes in your twin XL sheet set, though you should give the different types some thought.
Firmer, more supportive options with gusseted sides tend to be best for those who slumber on their back or side, whereas softer, squishier pillows are ideal for stomach-sleepers. Parachute carries bed pillows for every type of sleeper, each filled with down or down alternative fibers and encased in a breathable cotton shell.
For more information about choosing the best pillow and pillowcases for your dorm room, read on:
Twin-XL Mattress Topper and Protector
Since dorm room mattresses aren't typically the most comfortable, you're wise to come prepared with a mattress topper. The options from Parachute provide an additional layer of cloud-like plushness for the ultimate shut-eye experience, even thousands of miles from home.
If you suffer from allergies, you may want to get a mattress protector as well. The cambric cotton designs from Parachute go on like a fitted sheet and feature a tight weave to keep dust and other allergens at bay without compromising breathability.
For a deeper dive into toppers and protectors, take a look at Parachute's Guide to Mattress Toppers and Pads.
Dorm Room Duvets
Many college students opt for traditional duvets (or comforters) for their dorm room mattress. They're filled with insulating down or hypoallergenic down alternative and offer a fluffy, lofty, sleeping-in-a-cloud vibe. Available in extra-long twin, the duvet inserts from Parachute are designed to go in a washable duvet cover, making it easy to keep your bed clean, even with heavy use.
Check out Parachute's Guide to Duvets and Duvet Covers for more details on inserts and covers.
Another option is to get a quilt. Featuring a stitched batting fill, this type of bed cover is notably warm but lays a little flatter than a comforter, making it easier to tuck into a bed to create a pseudo sofa. Available in extra-long twin, the slightly overstuffed, sculptural quilts from Parachute are the best of both worlds, providing cozy insulation and loftiness without all the bulk.
Still not sure which option to choose? Read Parachute's Guide to Quilts, Blankets and Coverlets for more tips and insight.
Consider a Twin-XL Bed Sheet Bundle
Who knew there were so many components of a bed? To keep it simple, you might want to get a bedding bundle from Parachute for all of your dorm room bedding needs. Not only will you cross off multiple items from your college dorm checklist, but you'll also get a discount for buying them in a set.
Extra-long twin starter bundles include a fitted sheet, a duvet insert, a duvet cover and a standard pillow. You'll have the option of adding a top sheet, plus you can choose the density of your comforter and the firmness of your pillow. Parachute also offers insert sets, which come with a duvet insert and two standard pillows.
Decorative Pillows and Throws
When you live in a dorm, your bed is your home base, acting as an on-campus haven for hanging out, streaming your favorite show, reading and recharging. That's why you'll want to make it as comfortable as possible, not just for lying down but also for sitting, reclining and cuddling up.
Enter: decorative pillows and throws. A couple of square Euro pillows will make a big difference in the plushness of your bed. Two standard bed pillows can work as back cushions, though you might want to get a lumbar pillow or a body pillow. Tossing on a throw blanket will provide a versatile layer of warmth while adding a stylish finishing touch.
White Noise Machine
If you have a roommate (and even if you don't), it can be hard to drift off while living in such close quarters with your fellow students. The solution? The calming, ambient sounds of a white noise machine can help cancel out any commotion or chatter around you.
Showering Essentials for Dorm Living
Research tells us keeping up with self-care is closely related to doing well in school — and it starts with personal hygiene. So whether you're lucky enough to share a private bathroom with your roommate or are anticipating communal showers, you'll want to come prepared with the right dorm room essentials.
You know you need towels, but which ones are best for campus living? With storage limitations in mind, you'll want something that doesn't take up a lot of space, like the Waffle Towels from Parachute. Woven from premium long-staple Turkish cotton at 240 grams per meter with a textured honeycomb weave, they're notably lightweight and quick-drying.
Learn more about the right towel for your college dorm room in the Best Towel Materials & Size guide.
Portable Shower Caddy
At home, you can store your shampoo, conditioner, body wash and razor right there in the shower, but in college, there's a good chance you'll have to tote it all with you each time you bathe. With that said, a portable shower caddy is definitely one of the things you need for college if you're sharing a bathroom with multiple people.
Laundry Essentials for Dorm Living
Other College Dorm Must-Haves
What other dorm items should you add to your list? Though it varies from person to person, there are a few things most students need on a daily basis. And then there are a handful of items that'll make your space more comfortable and enjoyable while enhancing the overall vibe. After all, your doom will be your home for the better part of a year.
With shared washing machines and limited folding space, laundry isn't always the easiest task to complete when living on campus. Bringing a heavy bag of clothes to wash at your parents' house over holiday break is almost a right of passage — but that doesn't mean you should never do laundry in the dorms. Here's what to add to your college checklist.
Woven from pre-shrunk cotton with a top flap and rubber buttons, the machine-washable Canvas Hamper from Parachute doubles as a laundry bag. What's more, the sturdy metal frame collapses for easy storage and transport.
Like many students, moving into the dorms might be the first time in your life you've purchased your own laundry detergent. If you're looking for affordable (as so many college students are,) your typical grocery store detergent should do. However, if you take health and wellness seriously, it's recommended to use non-toxic laundry detergent as a more natural option.
Wool Dryer Balls
Unlike living at home, doing laundry in the dorms usually means you can't leave until it's finished. To speed things up, reach for a few wool dryer balls. These naturally sourced laundry companions can cut drying time in half and make your loads softer, fluffier and less wrinkled while they're at it (and yes, dryer balls really work.)
An area rug is one of those dorm room essentials that really enhances the overall look and feel of your space, making it more welcoming while adding warmth, insulation and character. Though you might have to consult with your roommate about the design, Parachute carries several versatile rugs in neutral hues that most people can agree on.
Learn more about styling with rugs in our guide, 17+ Rug Styling Ideas for Your Bedroom.
A mirror is high up on the dorm room essentials list. From a full-length on the back of your door to something small over your desk to create a vanity for doing your hair or makeup. Plus, mirrors can make a small space look bigger and brighter.
Be sure to explore our How to Decorate Your Living Space With Mirrors guide for inspiration.
If you're lucky enough to have a somewhat spacious dorm, you might want to add a chair to your college shopping list, like a sling chair, beanbag or butterfly chair. This will make your space more inviting while providing additional seating for your friends. (Most dorms are equipped with desks and desk chairs, so you shouldn't need to get those.)
Your dorm room will most likely only have overhead lighting, so bringing a lamp or two with you is a good idea. Pick up a desk lamp and potentially something to place next to your bed, like a floor lamp or a clamp light.
With all the time spent in your dorm room, you can expect crumbs and dirt to accumulate quickly. Make cleanup easy by getting a compact vacuum, like a handheld model or stick.
Many college dorm buildings are 50 to 100 years old (sometimes older), and while most have been renovated, you can't always count on enough outlets. Bring a power strip (or maybe two) with you so you have a place to plug your laptop, chargers, lamps, vacuum, mini-fridge and anything else that needs a charge.
Clever storage solutions are at the top of many college essentials checklists. This might include under-the-bed compartments, over-the-door racks, wall hooks, shoe organizers, stackable tubs, collapsible bins or woven baskets for extra pillows and blankets.
Most dorms have closets, but you'll want to bring plenty of hangers when packing for college. You might consider getting tiered or multi-hole hangers to make the most of a small closet (which you might be sharing with a roommate).
Your dorm room (or at least your side of the room) is the one place on campus that's all yours, so make the most of it with wall decor. When you arrive on college move-in day, you can get to work hanging posters, photos, tapestries, a bulletin board, a collage, string lights and anything else you want to adorn your walls with.
Explore the 37 Ideas for Decorating a Blank Wall guide for some simple but eye-catching dorm room wall inspo.
Where to Buy the Best College Dorm Room Bedding and Bath Essentials
Ready to start checking things off your college supply list? You've come to the right place. Parachute has all the bedding and towels you'll need for your freshman year. The premium fabrics are not only super soft and durable but also Oeko-Tex certified, earning you extra cool points for choosing textiles that are good for the environment.
Additionally, Parachute carries laundry essentials, rugs, decorative pillows, baskets and other decorative accents to make your space cool, comfy and functional.
Lastly, here’s our downloadable and printable college dorm essentials checklist to make things easy as you and yours make the transition.
As you decide on which materials and items to bring to college, read on for more tips: