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"Mom, can you mail _______ to me?"

"Mom, can you mail _______ to me?"

16 dorm room essentials you won't want to forget while packing this summer

Yep, I've been there. I think I called my mom at least once per month asking her to mail me things that I hadn't thought of when packing for college.

If I hit rewind to three years ago, I was working at a small pizza shop in Northern Vermont and wrapping up my senior year of high school. I would spend most of my summer going on small trips to Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond to buy things for my dorm room. Three months from then, I would be crammed in a rental car with my parents for eight hours on my way to Rochester to move into my freshman dorm room.

If I fast forward to today, I’m living in an apartment just a few miles from campus, attempting to live an adult life while still working and going to school. In just a few short years, you could say I’ve learned a lot about how to live independently. While living in a small space or having a roommate can be an adjustment, trust me when I say that it's all part of the experience!

In fact, living in a dorm room with a roommate is just one of the pillars of your freshman year experience that most of you are probably thinking about. If you haven’t already, you’ll likely be reaching out to your new roommate(s) fairly soon to establish who is bringing the mini fridge, or who will be providing the Keurig that will get you out of bed every morning for class (no matter how quiet they say those things are, they will wake you up, but so will the sweet smell of coffee).

While I’m sure you’ve combed through endless websites and blog posts detailing what you “NEED” to pack for college, as well as the RIT Orientation website (See Also: What to Bring and Campus Living), I came up with a few items that really were a MUST for me when I lived in a dorm room. However, I hadn’t realized how often I used these things until I actually lived on campus.

Disinfectant Wipes

Let me restate: DISINFECTANT WIPES! I went through these things like a pack of gum (bring that too so you won’t have coffee breath). But, for real, I used these ALL THE TIME! I’m a clean freak by nature and I loved how easy and convenient it was to just yank some of these out of their container and clean everything! I used them especially on my desk (keyboard, mouse, etc.) and the area where I prepared most of my food. I especially prefer Clorox or Lysol because I’ve noticed that these are especially good at getting through sticky dried on messes from spilled food or drinks.

Lock Box

While RIT does an amazing job with making sure your dorm rooms are secure, you or your roommate may forget to lock your door on his or her way out and it’s always nice knowing your important items are kept safe. I bought this small cash box from Walmart and it was just what I needed! It comes with a set of 2 keys and it was great for storing cash, important documents, and any valuable items I preferred to keep with me.

Extra Hangers

During my freshman year, I wasn’t able to travel back and forth from Rochester to Vermont all the time because it was expensive and time-consuming. As a result, I had to keep multiple seasons of clothing in my dorm room. While it is really good to have lots of storage bins and drawers for this purpose, I found that I was hanging a lot of clothes to avoid wrinkling (or simply just to save floor space). However, I always seemed to have a shortage of hangers for the amount of clothes I had. My advice would be to have one or two extra packs of hangers in your room because you will probably buy new clothes, or have your parents mail you some.


If you’ll be living in Gleason, NRH, Ellingson, Peterson, or Residence Hall D, you likely won’t be requiring a fan as those residence halls are air-conditioned. However, when I lived in dorms, I lived in Gibson and it was HOT! Luckily, I brought a box fan from home that helped a lot. Here is the trick: Turn your fan on in the evening when the temps cool down and keep your fan in the window. This will blow in the cooler air. In the morning, close your window and your shades so that the sun won’t heat your room back up. While I suppose you could keep your fan running during the day, I chose to keep mine off when I wasn’t in my room, but turned it on when I returned. This kept my room fairly cool, but the heat only lasts for a few weeks until the chill of fall sets in.


I have a confession: I STILL don’t have one of these and I really need to get one because you will need it for everything. However, my laptop only has a micro HDMI port, so make sure you get a cable that is compatible with your laptop. You’ll be able to stream movies and watch them on your TV with your friends, and it will also make it easy for you when you need to give a presentation in class because you’ll have the correct cable.

Small Vacuum

Most floors actually have a vacuum that is shared by everyone on the floor. My RA typically kept it outside her door. Whether it went missing for a few weeks, or other residents were using it when I actually had time to vacuum, I think I only used it once or twice. Check with your RA about this one. However, I would recommend just spending the $20 or $30 on a small bagless vacuum because chances are, you’re going to be snacking in bed or maybe you’ll even vacuum more because you have your own vacuum (hopefully).

NyQuil & DayQuil Combo

College has lots of germs. That is all.

Just kidding, I won’t leave you hanging like that. Going to class is really important, even when you’re sick. Side Note: If you need to take a personal day to take care of yourself if you’re sick or overwhelmed, please go for it because your health is so important! Just don’t take a personal day every week and make sure to reach out to all of your professors to make sure you’re able to keep up with your courses!

Anyway, the NyQuil & DayQuil combo pack is a must because it will make you feel a little more like a human when you just want to stay in bed all day.

Rain Coat

I made the mistake of not bringing a good rain coat during my freshman year because it can sometimes rain a lot in Rochester during the fall and spring months. While you can get a pretty inexpensive one on Amazon, I bought this one from L.L. Bean because it is both water resistant and it is fleece-lined. In short, it keeps me dry, protects me from the wind, and is toasty. For you guys, a friend of mine recommends this one from Columbia because it is versatile for both winter and rain.

LONG Phone Charging Cord

This is something I hadn’t discovered until recently, and although I didn’t have this in my dorm room, I really wish I did! This is basically just a really long charging cable that I can stretch from the only open outlet to wherever I am in the room, and it is so convenient. While I have taken the wireless charging route (Android user over here), nothing charges my phone faster than the good old-fashioned cable.


Finding time to squeeze in a good breakfast can be tough, especially during your first week while you’re establishing a routine that works for you. While Brick City is my favorite place to get a good breakfast (get the Daily Special!) it was tough get to without waking up 45 minutes earlier. Stock your room with things like bagels, yogurt, fresh fruit, granola bars, instant oatmeal, etc. These are all fairly quick options that you can take with you. You can cook up your oatmeal in a microwave safe bowl with a lid, just bring a spoon, and you can eat your breakfast in class if you need to.

Headphones. Headphones. HEADPHONES.

Do I need to explain this one? Just bring several pairs (one for the backpack, one in your gym bag, and one in your desk. Done.


Most floors will have a communal lounge area with a microwave and a sink. But you probably don’t want to have to hike back and forth from your room to the sink every time you want to fill your water bottle. I used a Britta and kept it in my fridge (but you can leave it out too if you prefer your water to be room temperature). While mine was a little bigger, you can also get skinnier ones for small fridges if you prefer your water chilled. Have a water bottle too!

Convenient Luggage

Whenever I did have the opportunity to travel home, I used this suitcase all of the time! I got it as a gift when I graduated high school and I’m so thankful I did because I still use it whenever I travel. This is perfect for when you need to pack clothes and toiletries if you’re heading home over break, and even when you’re a senior who is traveling for your first adult job interview. Trust me on this, get some good luggage because you will use it!

Laundry Tote with WHEELS

Just like luggage, a laundry tote with wheels is perfect for when you want to bring all of your laundry home for your mom to wash (I know for a fact you will do this), or you can use it to bring home clothes to exchange them for others when the seasons change. Beyond those uses, you’ll quickly learn that it can be a long trek into the tunnels to the laundry rooms because carrying your laundry is the real struggle of living in a dorm. Whoever thought to put wheels on laundry bins was a genius and I’d like to shake their hand because they are the real MVP of life. Fun Side Note: There was a student who used a shopping cart in the tunnels to transport things like laundry and groceries to their dorm room, and while I have no idea how they obtained said shopping cart, there were countless times I wish that were me effortlessly pushing things through the tunnels.

Electric Kettle

You’d be surprised to know how frequently you’ll need boiling water when you live in a dorm. An electric kettle was my solution for having hot water in a matter of three to five minutes. I used it for making things like tea, oatmeal, and noodles, which saved me so many trips to the microwave! I bought this one and I still have it today!

Shoe Storage

Footwear is an essential part of every wardrobe, especially good footwear because you will likely be walking a LOT. I had so many pairs of shoes that I would just throw into the top cubby of my closet. However, whenever I wanted a pair of shoes, I literally had to stand on my bed with one foot on my dresser, tossing all of my shoes on the floor until I found the shoe I wanted…then I had to find its match. I decided to just go out and buy something to organize my shoes just a little better. This shoe organizer was perfect because I could store most of my shoes in it, while just keeping my boots in the top cubby and it was really a lifesaver!

While there is a myriad of other dorm room essentials out there that I probably haven’t thought of, these are some of the things I discovered I really needed throughout my years of college. You might even be surprised to know that I still use a lot of them living off campus as well. In other words, you’ll likely use all of these things religiously even after dorm room living, and maybe even throughout most of your adult life (but I’ve only been an adult for a short time so I’m still learning).

Happy shopping!

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Eliza Austin
Digital Content Manager
Assessment, Technology, and Communications