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The best college supplies and dorm room essentials in 2021

Going off to college means stocking up on supplies for your dorm room. We've put together a master list of everything you'll need for college. ...

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  • If you're moving into a dorm (or moving your kid into one), there are plenty of supplies you'll need to stock up on.
  • We've rounded up everything freshmen might need for their dorm rooms from bedding to backpacks.

college dorm

If you're heading off to college for the first time this fall, chances are it's your first time living on your own – ever. The college dorm is a good training ground for new adults, assuming you've got all the essentials. We've rounded up everything you need to have in your dorm room, including items for your bed, bathroom, kitchen, and more.

If you're a parent stocking your child up for their first semester, the thought of sending your kid off to fend for themselves against dirty laundry, piles of dishes, and the other inconveniences of adulthood probably sounds daunting to you, but we've got you covered. These items will set your college kid off on the right foot.

Before we get into our picks, here are some tips on what to buy:

  • Know your dorm: How many roommates will you have? How much space is there? Do you even have a kitchen? Adjust accordingly.
  • Talk to your roommates: If you talk to your roommate(s) before you shop, you can coordinate and figure out who's bringing what. My first roommates brought a mini fridge, a microwave, and a TV. All I brought was a suitcase and a duffle bag. It was a pretty good deal.
  • Don't go overboard: Trust me, you don't need all those random things you think you'll need. The more stuff you buy, the more you have to carry back and forth for the next four years.

Living in a dorm is a crazy experience, but so long as you have the essentials, you'll be just fine. Read on to find our top picks for every dorm essential you can imagine.

The best twin XL sheets

best sheets 2021 Threshold budget sheets

Target’s Threshold sheets are smooth, soft, and silky, made from materials that usually match the specs of sheets four times the price.

While you’ll be plenty busy with classes and social events, chances are you’ll be spending at least eight hours a night in your dorm bed. Most colleges use Twin XL mattresses in their dorm rooms, which means any existing Twin-sized sheets you own will be too short. Fortunately, our favorite Twin XL sheets are fairly inexpensive at just $28 a set. We heartily recommend Target’s Threshold Performance Sheets. In addition to being soft and cozy, we love that the top and bottom of the fitted sheet is labeled for easier bed-making.

Check out our full guide to the best twin XL sheets.

Performance Sheet Set (Twin XL) (small) The best comforter

folded brooklinen all season down comforter the best comforter overall in 2021

The Brooklinen All-Season Down Comforter is cozy and luxurious.

Our all-time favorite comforter is the Brooklinen All-Season Down Comforter; it’s warm, cozy, and breathable. But if you’re in the market for something a bit more affordable, we also love Target’s Room Essentials Down Alternative Comforter. It’s thinner than the Brooklinen comforter, but it’s just $25 for a Twin XL.  

Check out our favorite duvet covers here and our guide to the best comforters here.

All-Season Down Comforter (Queen) (small)Down Alternative Comforter (Queen) (small) The best pillow

Coop Home Goods pillow

The Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is great for any sleeping position.

The Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is not cheap, but it is the very best pillow you can buy — period. It’s our top pick for the best pillow overall because it’s adjustable, suits all kinds of sleeping styles, and it’s relatively affordable. The shredded memory foam is very comfortable, and you can remove some to make it less firm if you want. This pillow will last you way beyond college.

Check out our full guide to the best pillows.

Premium Adjustable Pillow (small) The best mattress pad

image of a hand pressing into the Lucid Bamboo Charcoal Memory Foam Mattress Topper, the best budget mattress topper in 2021

The Lucid 3-Inch Bamboo Mattress Topper will turn that awful college bed into a plush mattress.

College beds are notoriously horrible, but a good mattress pad can make it much easier to get a good night’s sleep. Word to the wise: that egg foam stuff is junk and feels like sleeping on a lumpy old mattress. The Lucid 3-Inch Bamboo Mattress Topper is our top pick for an affordable mattress topper because it adds softness and comfort to any mattress without breaking the bank. 

Check out our full guide to the best mattress toppers.

3-inch Bamboo Charcoal Memory Foam Mattress Topper (Queen) (small) The best eye mask

Alaska Bear Sleep Mask

The Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask is made of high-quality mulberry silk and will block plenty of light to keep you asleep.

While a sleep mask may not seem like a college essential, consider the fact that your sleep schedule might become a bit irregular. With late-night study sessions and early morning classes, you’ll want to be able to sleep whenever you can. This silk sleep mask from Alaska Bear is our pick for the best sleep mask on a budget.

The pure mulberry silk makes it exceedingly comfy, and it won’t break the bank. It may just turn out to be your smartest college prep purchase.

Check out our full guide to the best sleep masks.

Natural Silk Sleep Mask (small) The best mini desk fan

desk fan

The Genesis Convertible Table-Top Clip fan is small, portable, and easy to attach to your bed.

Most clip-on products carry a stigma of geekdom with them. Clip-on necktie? Geeky. Sunglasses that clip over your prescription glasses? Really geeky. Clip-on electric fan? It may look geeky, but the Genesis Convertible Table-Top and Clip Fan works so well that you’ll put up with any sarcastic comments sent your way. Plus, you have the option of reconfiguring your fan to make it a small tabletop fan with a base, no clip required. It’s our top pick for a personal electric fan.

Check out our full guide to the best electric fans.

Convertible Table-Top and Clip Fan (small) The best alarm clock

Hatch Restore sunrise alarm clock review bright

The Hatch Restore’s sunrise settings can help you wake up naturally, without the need for a blaring alarm (and your roommate will thank you for it). 

Waking up might be a little bit more pleasant when you can choose your own personal sunrise and soothing tones. While we tested and recommend plenty of traditional alarm clocks, sunrise alarm clocks like the Hatch Restore offer particular benefits for college students. First, the Hatch has a whole suite of guided meditations for stressful exam days, and a built-in reading light for when you want to stay up without waking your roommate. Finally, the sunset and noise machine functions can help lull you to sleep, even in a loud dorm. 

Check out our guide to the best sunrise alarm clocks.

Check out our full guide to the best traditional alarm clocks.

Restore (small) The best towel

pink lightweight pottery barn bath towel draped around shoulders the best quick drying bath towel 2021

Pottery Barn Hydrocotton Organic Quick-Dry Bath Towels dry super fast, even in stuffy dorm rooms, and they come in a ton of colors so you’ll never mix yours up with your roommate’s.

Dorm rooms are notoriously stuffy, and the last thing you want is a towel that’s still damp when you go to take a shower the next day. Pottery Barn makes great towels in a wide array of shades, and they’re really affordable. They’re soft and absorbent, and very quick to dry.

Check out our full guide to the best towels.

Hydrocotton Organic Quick-Dry Bath Towel (small) The best shower caddy

idesign

The iDesign Orbz Shower Tote Holder and Organizer holds all your toiletries as you troop to the communal showers or shared bathroom.

The iDesign Orbz Shower Tote Holder and Organizer keeps all your shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and so on in place so you can carry it along with you into the communal showers or shared bathroom. It’s important to have one of these and to remove it from the shared bathroom (if you have one) when you’re done each time so that you’re never without your toothbrush in case your roommate stays in the shower for ten years.

Check out our full guide to the best shower caddies.

Orbz Shower Tote Holder and Organizer (small) The best flip-flops

oofos

The OOFOS OOriginal Unisex Thong Sandals are comfortable shower and house shoes.

The OOFOS OOriginal Unisex Thong Sandals are one of my favorite things. These Korean sandals are so soft and comfortable it feels like you’re walking on a cloud. They’re great as house shoes to give your feet support and they’re even better shower shoes to protect your feet from whatever’s going on in those communal showers. Sure, they’re expensive, but they’ll last for the whole four years and then some.

Check out our full guide to the best flip-flops.

OOriginal Unisex Thong Sandals (small) The best makeup organizer

Jerrybox

The Jerrybox Multi-Function Cosmetic Storage Box holds all your makeup.

Jerrybox makes our favorite makeup organizer. It’s got tons of adjustable compartments for every cosmetic you own, it rotates so you can see it all, and it’ll keep you in order. It’s a great thing to have when space is at a premium. The Jerrybox isn’t too expensive, either, and you can get it in black, white, or clear.

Check out our full guide to the best makeup organizers.

360 Degree Rotation Adjustable Multi-Function Cosmetic Storage Box (small) The best makeup mirror

Conair makeup mirror

The Conair Oval Shaped Double-Sided Lighted Makeup Mirror will help you do your makeup in peace outside of the bathroom.

The Conair Oval Shaped Double-Sided Lighted Makeup Mirror makes it easy to find a quiet place to do your makeup. Plus, it lights up your face to ensure you nail your look, even in subpar lighting. It’ll also keep you out of the bathroom so your roommate doesn’t complain about your hour-long makeup routine. It’s a bit pricey, but it’ll easily transition to your first apartment.

Check out our full guide to the best makeup mirrors.

Double-Sided Lighted Makeup Mirror (small) The best cheap microwave

Commercial Chef Microwave

The Commercial Chef 0.6-Cubic-Foot Microwave will nuke all the microwave dinners you can eat and keep you from relying on expensive takeout.

Most dorm rooms don’t exactly have kitchens, but that doesn’t mean you have to survive on dining hall food and takeout exclusively. Most colleges let you have a microwave, and this one from Commercial Chef is our top pick for the best affordable microwave. It’s small enough to store away and analog so you don’t have to worry about cheap electronics. 

Check out our full guide to the best microwaves.

Countertop Microwave (small) The best coffee maker

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The Cuisinart Coffee Plus 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker has a built-in hot water system so you can make ramen, tea, coffee, and more.

Coffee is perhaps the most important thing to a college student. The Cuisinart Coffee Plus 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker (CHW-12) will be a lifesaver. You can pre-set a brewing time with the programmable clock so that you don’t have to make coffee bleary-eyed in the morning before your 8 a.m. class (pro tip: don’t sign up for those). It’s easy to clean, easy to use, and has a hot water system built right in for tea, ramen, and more.

Check out our full guide to the best coffee makers of all kinds.

Coffee Plus 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker (small) The best mini fridge

Midea Mini Fridge

The Midea 3.1 Cu. Ft. Compact Refrigerator is the perfect size for two or three roommates, and it has a larger freezer than most mini fridges.

These days, some colleges provide mini fridges in their dorm rooms, but if you school doesn’t, it’s pretty much a necessity. You’ll want it for milk for coffee, leftovers, beverages, and the occasional pint of ice cream that you don’t finish in one sitting. The Midea 3.1 Cu. Ft. Compact Refrigerator is a mid-size mini fridge, making it a good size for two or three roommates to share. 

Check out our full guide to the best mini fridges.

3.1 Cu. Ft. Compact Refrigerator (small) The best water bottle

Hydro Flask Wide Mouth

The Hydro Flask Wide Mouth keeps water ice cold for hours.

Staying hydrated is really important, especially after a late night out, so you need a great water bottle. The Hydro Flask Wide Mouth is our top water bottle pick overall, because it keeps drinks icy cold for hours, is easy to clean, and comes in tons of colors. You don’t have to worry about breaking it, either.

Check out our full guide to the best water bottles.

Wide Mouth Water Bottle (small) The best travel mug

Zojirushi SM SE Travel Mug Cap

The Zojirushi SM-SE Travel Mug will keep your coffee or tea hot through an entire day’s class schedule.

After that all-nighter, you’re going to need a vat of coffee, and thanks to your coffee machine, you can make your own in your room. Take it with you in the Zojirushi SM-SE Travel Mug as you stumble to class. It’s our favorite travel mug overall because it keeps drinks hot for hours and never spills. 

Check out our full guide to the best travel mugs.

Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Mug (small) The best cookware set

T-fal all-in-one Hard Anodized cookware set showcase

The T-fal All-in-One Hard-Anodized Cookware Set has everything you need to cook at home.

Upperclassmen may have the advantage of a small kitchen in their dorms. If you’re one of those lucky ones, you’ll need some basic cookware. T-fal’s cookware set comes with everything you need to prepare a meal. You get two pans, four pots, the corresponding lids, and some cooking utensils. The pots and pans are non-stick and should last you at least the four years in college. Once you graduate, you can contemplate a fancier, high-quality set.

Check out our full guide to the best cookware.

All-in-One Hard-Anodized Cookware Set (small)

 

The best clothes hangers

Five ORG Slimline Velvet Suit Hangers on a clothing rack holding up five pieces of clothing

ORG Slimline Velvet Suit Hangers are slim and grippy so y0u can fit more of your clothes into your tiny closet.

Yes, you really do have to bring everything with you to college, including clothes hangers. But it’s likely that your closet space is pretty tight, so you’ll want ones that are pretty compact. The ORG Slimline Velvet Suit Hangers are super thin, letting you fit more of your clothes into a small space. The strong plastic is coated in velvet, so clothes won’t slip off. They come in packs of ten.

Check out our full guide to the best hangers.

Slimline Velvet Suit Hangers (Set of 50) (small) The best laundry hamper

laundry hamper

The Household Essentials Pop-Up Mesh Hamper is heavy-duty but lightweight, and its large handles make it easy to carry to the laundry room.

The Household Essentials Pop-Up Mesh Hamper is perfect for a college dorm room. This simple round hamper is made of heavy polyester mesh and pops up for use or collapses flat for storage. The hamper has two large handles, making it easy to carry out to the car or down to the laundry room when it’s time to come clean. The solid polyester bottom gives the bag a bit of stability, as does the spring wire frame. 

Check out our full guide to the best hampers.

Pop-Up Mesh Hamper (small) The best laundry detergent

tide unscented detergent

Tide Free & Gentle won’t irritate your skin, gets clothes clean, and it’s pretty affordable.

Doing your laundry is an annoying chore, especially in a shared college laundry room. But Tide Free & Gentle is a great detergent that’s free of scents and dyes so it won’t irritate your skin. It’s a high-efficiency detergent, so you don’t need a lot to do a full load. That means one bottle could last you the whole semester or longer.

Check out our full guide to the best laundry detergents.

Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent (small) The best hand vacuum

purple bissell pet hair eraser on a couch the best cheap handheld vacuum cleaner 2021

The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum cleans up any mess quickly and doesn’t take up a ton of space.

Dorm life is messy and it’s easy to forget to clean up after yourself. If you have the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum, you’re more likely to clean up your messes because it works so well. The hand vac has long battery life so you don’t have to charge it all the time. It’s powerful enough to clean up big messes, and easy to empty the clear bin when it’s full, too.

Check out our guide to the best affordable vacuums.

Pet Hair Eraser (small) The best desk lamp

TaoTronics Desk Lamp on a desktop with an open book on the desk.

The TaoTronics LED desk lamp will light up your work area for much less than the competition with its energy-efficient LEDs.

You’ll likely be studying at all hours of the night, so a good desk lamp will keep you from straining your eyes. The TaoTronics LED desk lamp has a sleek design and a great low price. The lamp has a brightness of 410 Lumen, which is adjustable, and a variable color temperature that ranges from 2,700K to 6,000K. The LEDs should last for 50,000 hours, so you won’t have to replace this lamp anytime soon.

Check out our full guide to the best desk lamps.

LED Desk Lamp (small) The best cheap Bluetooth speaker

Anker bluetooth speaker

The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini is a decent speaker in its own right, but the best thing about it is its low price.

The Flare Mini offers 360-degree sound, so you’ll get pretty good sound no matter where you place it in a room and it gets decently loud. It’s got a 12-hour battery life, so you’re set for a long night of partying or a full day on the quad. The Bluetooth range is also pretty impressive at around 30 feet with obstructions or 100 feet with a clear line of sight. Five color modes also sync to the beat of your music for an added bonus.

The sound quality of this speaker is just alright, though, so if you’re a real audiophile, you might want to invest in a better one.

Check out our guide to the best Bluetooth speakers.

Soundcore Flare Mini (small) The best printer for $50

canon pixma

The Canon PIXMA TR4520 has a built-in scanner, easy-to-use interface, and it’s wireless, so you won’t have to run to the library every time you need to print something.

The Canon PIXMA TR4520 has all the features you need for an incredible price. It has a built-in scanner, so you won’t need to buy one separately, and it’s wireless, so you can print from anywhere nearby, as long as you’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the printer. It’s an inkjet printer, but the ink isn’t too expensive if you only print in black.

Check out our full guide to the best printers under $100.

Pixma TR4520 (small) The best backpacks

Bellroy Classic

The Bellroy Classic Backpack has plenty of room for books and a 15-inch laptop, and it’s got a specialized document pocket so you won’t be turning in wrinkled papers.

College means leaving the days of the good old Jansport behind. You’ll want something a bit sleeker and more fashionable, but something durable enough that you can beat it up. The Bellroy Classic Backpack isn’t oversized, but it’s got plenty of capacity for carrying your books, laptop, pens, and notebook. It’s also got a unique pocket sized specifically for documents, so your papers won’t get ripped or wrinkled on your way to turn them in.

Check out our full guide to the best backpacks.

Classic Backpack (small) The best lunch box

LL BEAN

The L.L.Bean Insulated Lunch Box looks unoffensive, and it has a super sturdy, practical design.

Ditch the dining hall and pack your lunch every now and then — that way you can eat foods you know you enjoy on the go. The L.L.Bean Insulated Lunch Box is well-designed with an outer mesh pocket for utensils or small snacks, an inner mesh pocket on the box’s lid for sandwiches, chips, or other goodies that might otherwise be easily smashed, and a roomy lower section that’s big enough for drinks, plastic food containers, fruit, sandwiches, or whatever else you enjoy at lunchtime.

For more choices, check out our guide to the best lunch boxes.

Insulated Lunch Box (small)

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