Dorm Shopping Guide + Checklist

Whether it’s your first time going away to college or your last semester, odds are you’ll need to do some college shopping! It can be overwhelming to determine where to begin dorm shopping, especially if this is your first time away from home! When I moved into my first dorm, I remember freaking out about bringing the right stuff. I was frantically trying to determine what I would actually need! Would I need to bring my own light? What in the world was a “shower caddy?” How many towels were too many? Take a deep breath. Here, I’ve laid out all my tips I’ve learned from 4+ years spent in a dorm to create the ultimate dorm shopping guide. (Tip: Check the end of this post for a free downloadable checklist  you can take with you while dorm shopping!)

This post is in partnership with Bed Bath & Beyond, a brand I have long loved. All opinions are mine alone.


dorm shopping guide

Figure out what you need

The first step is to determine what you actually need for your particular dorm. Each school is different, and each dorm at that school is also different. For my college, some dorms have communal bathrooms, while others have private bathrooms. Some have just two students per room, others have five! These are important details in determining your particular dorm shopping list. Check out your school residential website to see which dorms have what. You’ll want to answer the following questions:

  • What furniture does your dorm come with? (Usually, you have a desk, bed, dresser, and maybe a closet.)
  • Can you bring or rent a refrigerator and microwave?
  • Does your room have a built-in light, or do you need to bring your own?
  • Does your room have a private/shared bathroom or a communal bathroom?
  • What can’t I bring (usually there’s a list of no-no items like hot plates and candles.)

Now that you know what you need, you can create your own personalized list, or use mine (see the end of this post).

The importance of price

I don’t know about you, but when I was heading to school for the first time, I was worried it was going to cost an arm and a leg to go dorm shopping. You simply need SO MUCH, it seems impossible to get a good deal. Luckily, there are ways to be savvy about your dorm shopping. I think it’s easiest to go an all-in-one store where you can knock out all of your dorm shopping at once! These stores know students don’t have a lot to spend on their dorms, but they still want quality, cute stuff! Bed Bath & Beyond has always been my favorite place for bulk shopping because not only do they have crazy affordable stuff, but they also always have great promotions. I highly recommend signing up for their college email list! First-time subscribers automatically get a 20% off coupon for an in store item!

Keep in mind that you likely will not be keeping your college dorm stuff your entire life. With that said, you don’t need to purchase the most expensive bedding or decor. Bed Bath & Beyond carries items for all price ranges and styles, and it’s easy to stick to a budget! You’ve got so many other expenses as a college student, (textbooks, lab fees, parking decals…) you shouldn’t have to worry about breaking the bank while dorm shopping!

When should I go dorm shopping?

It’s tricky to figure out the best time to go dorm shopping. If you’re like me, you don’t want to procrastinate and wait until the last minute, but you also don’t want to lug a ton of stuff all the way to campus! When I first went away to boarding school, I shipped a massive box of dorm stuff to campus so I wouldn’t have to drive with it all the way from Florida to New York! Check with your school to see if you’re allowed to ship items, it’s honestly such a relief!

My college, unfortunately, does not have the space to allow students to mail their dorm stuff, but luckily there are services to help. Bed Bath & Beyond offers a FREE pack and hold service, meaning you can shop for your dorm stuff at a store near home and pick it up from a location near your campus when you move in! Learn more about the free pack and hold service here.

So, what should I buy?

Now that you know what you need and how to get it to campus, let’s get started on the actual dorm shopping list.


  • Pillows (2)
  • Pillowcases (2-4)
  • Sheets (1-2 sets)
  • Comforter/Duvet/Quilt
  • Blanket/throw
  • Optional: mattress pad


  • Towels (2-3)
  • Shower Caddy
  • Shower shoes/flip flops
  • Shower curtain + rings
  • Bath rug


  • Hair brush
  • Hair dryer
  • Tweezers
  • Cosmetic organizer/case


  • Plates + Bowls (1-2 sets)
  • Utensils (1-2 sets)
  • Cups + Mugs (1-2 sets)
  • Water bottle
  • Food containers
  • Microwave/Minifridge


  • Hangers
  • Removable hooks
  • Accessory organizer
  • Duffel bag
  • Over the door storage

Just in case

  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Umbrella
  • Batteries


  • Laundry hamper
  • Detergent
  • Trash can + bags
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Odor eliminator


  • Rug
  • Throw pillow
  • Lamp
  • Picture frames


  • Extension cord
  • Earbuds/Headphones
  • Speaker

For ideas about what clothes to bring, check out my college clothing packing list here!

Less is more!

You might think my checklist is a little scarcer than others that you can find on the internet, but I’m a member of the less is more club! Honestly, it’s so tempting to go crazy with dorm shopping, but you won’t really know what you need until you get there. Buy the necessities, and get the rest as you go! Also, chat with your roommate to see what she’s bringing so you can coordinate. If your roommate is already bringing a shower curtain, you might offer to bring a floor lamp. This is a great way to cut costs and avoid buying duplicate things.

Go shopping!

Now, you’re all set to go dorm shopping! I no longer live in a dorm on campus, but I still go back to school shopping for my apartment! Last week, I stopped at Bed Bath & Beyond and picked up some must-have apartment items that I needed for the upcoming year. I grabbed the most amazing thin hangers, a bath mat, a cute shower curtain, an odor eliminator, some towels, and some more pillowcase! Check out Bed Bath & Beyond’s huge collection of must-have items for dorms and apartments in their student life section here! 

Download the checklist.

It’s time to go dorm shopping! Feel free to edit this checklist to include your own must-have dorm shopping items. Bring this guide with you dorm shopping to make sure you get everything you need! Click here to download the checklist!