If you will be rooming with someone, it is a good idea to hold off on buying any of the shared items such as electronics until after you talk to your roomie.
Bedding – Call your Residence Life office to find out if the mattresses are Twin or Twin XL. Bedding includes sheets and pillowcases, comforter or quilt or duvet, a mattress pad, and a mattress topper. I chose the memory foam type of topper, but there are others available.
Alarm Clock – So you can actually wake up on time for class. 🙂
Curtains – I’m waiting until I get to the dorms so that I can measure the window and also so that I can see if there is a curtain rod already or not.
Trash bin – unless you want to just let you trash sit on your floor… lol.
Lighting – Options include desk lamp, bedside lamp, floor lamp, etc. Many dorms don’t have an overhead light, so it’s important to bring lighting in order to see.
Laundry stuff – Not required if you are planning to go home every weekend to do your laundry for free. For most of us, though, laundry supplies are a necessity. Items can include laundry bag/basket, detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, and a drying rack (mine is collapsible).
Hygiene products – If you don’t want your roommate requesting a room change based on your BO, these are definitely a necessity. You should know what is needed for you to be clean (if not, let me know… we need to talk), but make sure to get a shower caddy (aka bath basket) to carry it all to the shower and then back to your dorm.
School supplies – This should be a “duh” category. I’d wait on buying notebooks til you know what the professors suggest (i.e. lots of handouts means a folder or binder would be best). Also, bring what you need based on your major. For instance, I’m an Art Studio major and I will be taking drawing and graphic design classes in the Fall, so I’m bringing sketchbooks and drawing mediums as well as design reference books. Don’t bring extra books you won’t need though. For instance, I’m not bringing my web design books or painting supplies.
USB drives/Portable Hard drives – You’ll need somewhere to store your files.
Clothing – Unless you want to be naked, this is a top priority. I’d base it off of your typical day on campus. If you think you’ll be going to the gym a lot, make sure to bring lots of work out clothes. Will you have a job on campus? Then make sure to have appropriate clothing. Will you be doing messy lab experiments or will you be covered in paint? Best to bring scrub clothes. Also, labeling is good when you plan on using the public washing machines. My school’s Residence Life handbook has a suggested Clothing Guideline, so check with yours, too. Also, make sure to pack weather-appropriate stuff such as rain gear and snow gear.
Fridge & microwave – Most schools won’t let you bring any other appliances into the dorms (no toasters, blenders, coffee makers), or they’ll restrict them to common areas. A lot of the schools I’ve interacted with do offer rental fridge/microwave combinations. In fact, for a few of the schools I visited this is either the only way you can have a microwave, or the restrictions are so tight that it’s hard to be able to purchase one that meets all the requirement. This is especially common in more “green” schools, like my State University.
ALSO: if you will be getting a job on campus, be sure to bring the typical documentation you would need as a new hire (i.e. birth certificate, license/picture id, social security card)
Practical, but not necessary
Storage – It’s up to you as to what you think you’ll need. I’m bringing collapsible cubic compartments so that they are adaptable to however I can fit them in my dorm whether it’s under the bed or on top of my wardrobe. And I also got some cloth drawers to fit in the cubic shelves to keep everything from looking too cluttered. If you plan on putting shelves under your bed, bed risers might be useful.
Food needs – This includes plates, bowls, cups, silverware, and Tupperware. Now, if you’ll be in a suite, these get moved into the necessary area. In a regular dorm room, I suggest having these since many students keep snack foods and drinks stocked in their fridges, and you kind of need stuff to eat on/with. And with plates and stuff comes the need for dish soap and sponges and maybe a drying rack… so keep that in mind.
Medicines – I like to keep a collection of pain relievers, allergy medicine, and cold medicine on hand. You won’t be able to depend on your mom to remind you to take your medicine, and many professors will deduct from your grade if you miss too many classes, so it’s best not to get sick. Pre-emptive measures must be taken!
First Aid Kit – If you’re not a klutz, I guess it’s not necessary. However, it is a good idea to at least bring the typical collection of band-aids, neosporin, hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, etc. Just make sure all the stuff in your first aid kit is not on the “Banned Items” list.
Headphones with microphone – for when you want to Skype with your family members. It makes the transition to being away from home that much easier.
Decor – posters, photos, sentimental stuffed animals, throw pillows, etc. An area rug will be very helpful since all the dorms that I’ve toured have had a cold, cold tile or cement floor. Also, things that remind you of home could be good, especially if you think you’ll be homesick.
Mounting tape and adhesive hooks – Many dorms don’t allow over-the-door hooks or push pins/regular tape on the walls. Mounting tape is your best bet for posters, and if you need a hook for stuff like jackets and towels, check with your residence Life office first to make sure they are allowed.
Electronics – Tv, DVD/Blu-Ray player, movies, gaming equipment, etc. After all, we all need a break from school work now and then.
Camera – Trust me, you will want to document this experience. 🙂
Exercise stuff – I’m talking about yoga mats and hula hoops and jogging gear, not weights. Your athletic center will have the heavy-duty stuff. If they have a pool, make sure you pack a bathing suit.
Books – if you actually have time to do something other than schoolwork and feel like getting away from the computer for a while, why not read a book? If you plan on reading leisure books, though, don’t bring your whole library. Just bring a few select titles. You could always go home for more.