10 college dorm essentials

It feels like just yesterday… the frantic scurry around town to find everything I needed for my move to Austin, Texas for my freshman year at the University of Texas. I remember racing from store to store with my mom, hoping I had everything I needed for this huge life transition! (Like, how many personal trashcans is sensible?! Do I need one 5-subject notebook or five 1-subject notebooks?!)

I made it to my freshman year dorm in one piece, but over that year learned what was really made dorm life easier, and what really didn’t. So when Walmart reached out to see if I’d be interested in sharing my back-to-college essentials, I couldn’t wait to put my tips to paper! (Or keyboard, that is.)

I spent some time brainstorming the items that made my freshman year better and am so excited to share them with you today! Especially because I get lots of emails from you college-aged ladies, and know this applies to quite a few of you!

One tip to know straight away… Walmart offers free two day shipping on most orders of $35 or more. Take it from me, not having to run around like a crazed person trying to track everything down is key. Take a look for yourself on the college landing page… so much back-to-school inspiration!

Now, let’s get started!

1. Full-Size Duvet Cover

This tip actually came straight from my mama! When you’re selecting your freshman-year bedding, odds are you’re looking for something for a twin-sized bed. Instead of choosing the twin size, however, opt up for the full size! This makes your bed look extra cozy and plush, and adds an instant “homey” feeling to your dorm room.

This aqua duvet cover actually looks just like the one I had (and loved!) freshman year! (See photo below.)

Another tip… stay away from all-white bedding. While I love the clean, crisp look, it doesn’t hold up to college wear and tear! A nice, soothing color like this is much easier to keep clean.

2. Keurig Coffee Maker

My caffeine addiction hasn’t always been a thing. No, it started… you guessed it… my freshman year of college. Take it from me, sometimes a little caffeine is just what you need for those 8ams, and having a small Keurig like this one tucked away in your room saves you the trip to the cafeteria and saves you money from countless Starbucks runs!

3. Shower Cap

As silly as this may seem, I think my shower cap was my most-prized possession during my freshman year of college. Who has time to wash their hair every day when you’re juggling a new school, schedule and social life all at once! Put the days of dancing around the shower in a messy bun behind you and buy a shower cap. It’s trés fashionable, $3, and you can thank me later.

4. Surge Protector

Let me make a blanket statement right off the bat. No matter where you live your freshman year, you will not have enough plugs. Between your computer charger, your phone charger, your hair dryer, your straightener, your speakers, your lamps, your TV and the countless other items you manage to squeeze into your dorm room, you’ll always be in need of another outlet.

Save yourself the trouble and be sure to pack up a surge protector like this one! I loved being able to turn all of my appliances on and off with the one little switch at the top of it, as well.

5. Mini Fridge

I know a mini fridge is a bigger expense when it comes to back-to-school buys (although this one is under $100) but take it from me… it is life changing to have one. Everyone jokes about the “Freshman Fifteen,” but there’s definitely an element of truth to it. It’s more difficult to stay healthy when you don’t have access to a kitchen!

My freshman year roomie Olivia and I hid one underneath our bed freshman year (see the importance of bed risers below) and loved having it for greek yogurts, fresh fruits and veggies, almond milk and all sorts of other things you wouldn’t find in a cafeteria. Worth it, trust me!

6. Shower Caddie

Even if you have the luxury of sharing a shower with only a couple of other rooms (which I know is often not the case) make sure you bring along a shower caddie. It keeps things organized, in the same place and convenient… plus, you won’t have to worry about using the wrong shampoo or (heaven forbid) razor. Plus, they’re super inexpensive! (This one is just $6!)

7. Brita Filter

The Brita my freshman year roommate and I shared was like a third roommate to us. We named her, joked about her and used her all the time. This style in particular fits inside a mini fridge, and really is so helpful in staying hydrated. There’s just something comforting about drinking from the Brita as opposed to the dorm faucet… know what I mean?

8. Sleep Mask


Even if you never used one in high school, I highly recommend bringing along a sleep mask. It’s rare that you’re ever on the same schedule as your roommate, and trust me… not having to worry about being woken up in the middle of what precious little sleep you’re lucky enough to get is a game changer.

This would also be a cute welcome present for your roomie, and that way you won’t have to worry when you need to turn the lights on at 7 am for your early-morning class!

9. Bed Risers

Like I mentioned above, bed risers are the best trick to making your room feel extra-cozy and creating (oh-so-valuable) extra storage space underneath. If you see the picture I shared above, both of our beds were on risers!

I’d recommend getting the highest ones you can find. (This set goes up to 8 inches.)Plus, you’ll get extra exercise by having to run and jump onto your bed every day! (That was legitimately me, haha!)

10. Shoe Rack

Instead of using your precious, limited closet space to hang a vertical shoe organizer, use a slender rack you can place at the bottom of your closet like this one! It’s easy to assemble and just $9. After a series of trial and error, I ended up using a shoe rack just like this freshman year and kept it for the remaining three years of college. Such a great space-saving solution!

There you have it, friends, my top 10 items to take to college with you! Whether you’re in college now or already graduating, I’d love to hear the items you used and loved to make your dorm room feel more like home! Don’t forget, you can check out more back-to-college inspiration here.

Love from Texas,


Thank you, Walmart, for sponsoring this post.

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  1. Michelle Finan said:

    Notebook tip! If you’re taking classes that build upon one another (i.e. french 101, french 102, french 201.. etc…) grab a 5 subject notebook and use it for that one class series. By the last class you take, you’ll basically have written a textbook worth of notes! Plus its always nice to have your previous years notes with you just in case all that wonderful knowledge disappeared over the summer break.

    Published 8.14.18 · Reply
  2. Published 8.14.18 · Reply
  3. Omg love this post!! Takes me back to my freshman year! I bought waaay too much stuff haha!

    Lauren | https://dailydoseofcharm.com

    Published 8.14.18 · Reply
  4. Courtney said:

    This makes me want to move right back in to SRD! Too bad that was 10 years ago for me now ahhh

    Published 8.15.18 · Reply
  5. Patty said:

    This is such a helpful list! Praying that I get into UT right now!!

    Published 12.19.18 · Reply
  6. Barbara Moriggan said:

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    Published 4.30.23 · Reply
  7. Liam Johnston said:

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    Published 4.29.24 · Reply