College Corner: The Criterion’s Guide to Secondary Education – Dorm Shopping List Edition


A Dorm Room at UW Wisconsin, Madison

Molly Schroeder, Artist and Reporter

Once the band starts playing pomp and circumstance, many who have just traveled across a stage will travel across the state, the country, or even the world. The night of graduation is a celebratory one of looking back on one’s achievements through high school. However, the following weeks are ones that require looking forwards.

In the last few issues of the College Corner, different college choices were suggested as well as steps to begin your path to college. This issue will focus on a different view of going to college.

As important as choosing a college and major is, it is also important to choose a campus to your comfort and make that campus home. For those living in dorms, it might be overwhelming to choose what to bring, what to buy, and if one forgot anything at home.

First, choose your roommate wisely. It is best to choose someone one can relate to in some aspects so one can grow closer across your freshman year of college. 

It is important to discuss with one’s roommate the plans for the shared room so that one’s ideas don’t clash with the other’s ideas. For example, if one roommate has a bright neon yellow comforter, the roommate with the purple comforter might not be as happy.

Without further wait, here is a list of different items that will help you through your college experience.


A dorm package. These neat bundles that usually come with a comforter, a few pairs of sheets, a pillow, and even towels can give one a fresh new start in college, and be fairly easy to purchase rather than running around looking for each individual item that may or may not match with the others. Some colleges even offer these to be bought from their school websites.


Noise-canceling headphones. When one’s roommate’s friends are noisy out in the hallway during the night before that final exam, it is vital to be able to focus on what one is studying without music or footsteps to draw away their attention.


Handheld vacuum. No one said a college student was rich, so most of the time, they eat snacks in their room. If one drops their Cheetos that crumble all over the floor, a handheld vacuum would be a lifesaver. It saves the extra space of an upright vacuum cleaner while still getting the job done. That brings me to my next point.


Snacks. College food can be either good, bad, fattening, or expensive. It is best to take the easy way out and purchase some of one’s favorite snacks for when studying in their dorm so that one does not have to walk down to the college store or go hungry when the store is closed.


Memory foam mattress topper. College can be a stressful place, especially when you can’t sleep on your own bed at home. However, a mattress topper that gives one the right comfort at night can turn a lumpy, old loft bed into a cloud.


Shower caddies. These small containers make taking a shower on schedule no hassle and keep one’s toiletries from being mixed with one’s roommate’s belongings. A second one would come in use for cleaning supplies, especially when it is one’s week to tidy up the bathroom. This means one should also pack some clorox wipes, sponges, a toilet brush, plenty of febreeze, and rags.


Small Humidifier. Having a migraine-causing, dry room during the winter is the worst setup one could have during the week of finals. A small humidifier could be a lifesaver and might be something your roommate would have never thought of bringing but is so thankful for. 


Bedside Shelf organizer. Especially when you have a loft bed, it may be difficult to reach one’s phone, laptop, or notebooks at night, or even a place to set your alarm clock. A shelf to connect to the side of one’s bed or small pouches to put one’s stuff in can be useful for checking one’s notifications after crawling into bed. 


Towel Wrap. When going between one’s room and one’s small group’s bathroom, no one wants their towel to slip down in front of their peers. A towel wrap would be a great solution to this by never falling down yet being able to dry one off just like a normal towel. 


A Desk lamp with a desk organizer. When one’s roommate is trying to sleep while one is studying, a desk lamp is bright enough to see what is on one’s desk while not focusing light towards a sleeping roommate. Some even come with a place to organize paperclips, erasers, post-its, or writing utensils. Some even come with built in USB ports to charge all of one’s devices. 


Multilayer pants hangers. At college, one is limited to a few drawers and a closet. If one were to pack a lot of clothes, these hangers could hold many pairs of pants without taking up little space in a closet as well as saving a significant amount of space in drawers. 


Drawer dividers. With so few drawers, it is important to find what one needs when they need them. Drawer dividers will keep the underwear separate from t-shirts and separate from toiletries for an easy-navigable college dorm. 


Command strips and hooks. Colleges fine money for scratches and holes placed in walls, but command strips are known for leaving nothing behind when hung up on a wall. These small items are great for hanging up photos for home, bulletin boards for all one’s reminders, or even coats and bags. 


A plastic dishware set. Living off of paper plates can be wasteful and cost money while glass plates from home could break and be hard to handle. Plastic, microwave-safe plates, cups, and bowls aren’t burning to the touch when taken out of the microwave and won’t break easily.


LED lights. With one student spending most of their time in class or in one’s dorm studying, one should have a stylish and somewhat decorative room that is pleasing to the eye. LED lights are just one option along with different pillows or posters.


Foldable storage compartments. When moving laundry, belongings, and more, a substantial amount of boxes and compartments are needed to transfer everything quickly and together. However, once at college when everything is in its proper place, boxes are not needed as often. Foldable storage compartments come into use whenever you need storage and whenever you do not.


Desk drawer organizers. Like organizing one’s clothes and belongings within the drawers provided, if one’s dorm’s desks have drawers as well, small organizers will save a lot of time when looking for one’s favorite pen or the stapler.


A trash bin. College dorms usually do not come with these. Considering that one might not want to constantly empty the trash, it is probably best to bring along a bigger-sized trash can. Another tip is to store bags in the bottom of the bin to replace old trash-filled bags.


First aid kit. When accidents happen, one must always be prepared. With simple items like swabs, bandaids, ice packs, or pain relievers, something so small could just help relieve the greatest pains. 


A comfortable chair. Sure, a dorm may or may not come with a chair already, but for something one will sit in everyday, try getting a chair that does not cause a back ache. A suggestion is a rolling chair for easy mobile access.


A planner. With busy schedules, important deadlines, homework assignments, new applications, and more to keep track of, it is always handy to keep a calendar planner handy to never forget something again. 


Wireless earbuds. College is a very big step in life, so why not award oneself by buying a more special pair of earbuds to enjoy one’s music? This saves the hassle of untangling wired earbuds and makes transport from one part of the campus to the next easier than before. 


Cardholder for the back of one’s phone. When getting ready to head out, one should never forget their phone or wallet. With new pouches that connect to the back of a phone, your wallet can be your phone so no one will ever forget their wallet again. This saves much needed pocket space. 


Connectable dish rack. When at college, there are no parents to do one’s dishes for them, let alone a dishwasher. This means one should bring along dish soap and sponges as well. What a connectable dish rack, one’s dishes have a simple place to dry in the sink before being put away. 


Padded lap desk. When working late at night, it is best to work somewhere comfortable such as one’s bed. However, one needs a hard surface to work on. The lap desk is the best option for working in comfort.


A sleeping mask. After late nights of studying or going out, one may just want to spend the weekend sleeping in. This can be hard if the sun aims right into the dorm window. A simple sleeping mask can assure sleep throughout the morning without interruptions of light. 


A big spiral notebook with dividers. As nice as taking notes is in individual notebooks for your classes, one notebook could always go missing or be forgotten. Perhaps, a notebook could be mistaken for another or simply never be used. By getting a giant notebook with dividers, all one’s notes could be found in one place while saving space.


An expandable file. Just like the idea of one notebook, all documents from each class can stay separate yet be kept in one neat and organized place so that none of one’s papers will get crumpled. 


A foldable hamper. When time is lost and one’s hamper fills up, a roommate may just complain. A foldable hamper makes doing laundry way simpler by being retractable and fitting in small places while it can also carry all of one’s laundry. Trips down to the washing machines and back don’t have to be as awkward anymore.


Tide Pods. No, not for the meme. On the subject of doing laundry, it is best to be quick rather than time consuming. With tide pods, one simply has to toss in one packet in with laundry to have it be washed. It saves the messes caused by spilling detergent or leaky containers as well. 


Erasable everything. Big and little erasers come in handy to remove any mistake, but when it comes to using pens and highlighters for projects, one will also want to be able to erase. Pens and highlighters made by Frixion have been manufactured to come with ends that erase its ink that serves a strong use in school.


Tupperware. When bringing home leftovers for half-eaten snacks, one always must look to finish any food they have for nothing should go to waste for broke college students. Tupperware can keep one’s food from going bad. Especially Tupperware that has been labeled can keep a curious roommate from stealing a bite at one’s meal.


An extra long phone charging cord. Especially when sleeping in a loft bed setup, one must be able to reach their phones at all times. Save the frustration for schoolwork rather than cords that are not long enough to meet one’s needs.


Velvet hangers. Believe it or not, these have more of a grip on one’s shirts while creating a lot more space in the closet. They aren’t as difficult as plastic hangers nor will they break as easily. Start organizing now!


Spotify premium, Amazon prime, and more. Many popular streaming, music, and shopping programs offer discounted or free memberships to college students which one should take advantage of. For something that might cost 7 to 14 dollars per site per month, it is quite the deal. Anyways, students need something to listen to or watch in the background of all their homework.


A Nintendo switch. In any downtime one has (which is actually unlikely considering hard classes), gaming is a great way to unwind and connect with friends at college or from home. Along with that, it is the easiest-portable console out there that is cross-playable as well as having mario kart and super smash bros to play at any time.


A clip-on fan. A mobile fan is useful to cool down anywhere from one’s desk or one’s bed. With a clip, a fan can be adjusted to point just right as well as attaching to anywhere. 


A TV. Having a TV provides for bigger entertainment without one’s laptop dying or phone falling into one’s face. Your roommate will appreciate being able to watch the big game on a big screen, and one will appreciate having something to connect their switch to.


Mini sewing kit. For all the little rips and tears, it might be useful to pick up a hobby of sewing for when one lives on their own. Having a tiny kit on hand always ensures one’s favorite pair of pants can always be saved to be worn another day. 


A backpack. When traveling across campus, no one wants to drop their books, mislocate their supplies, or lug around heavy folders of notes. A backpack can be used for organization, a quick weekend trip, and simple storage. Make sure to get a heavy duty one such as North Face to hold up all through high school.


A water bottle. Nothing is worse than feeling sick in the middle of the school day because one is dehydrated. Especially in the pandemic when water fountains can’t be used, a water bottle can keep one hydrated and keep one’s drinks from spilling. Having specifically a thermos water bottle, one can keep warm drinks at the desirable temperature or store warm soups.


A coffee maker. Discuss with roommates to make sure no one else is bringing one first, however, college students live off of coffee. If one can make their own coffee, it can save a lot of money as well as trips to Starbucks every morning. With that coffee maker, one should also pack their favorite mug. 


Flip Flops. Walking from the shower to one’s dorm can be disturbing when debris left on the ground sticks to one’s feet. Flip flops are the best option for easy, slip on shoes to go from the shower to one’s dorm or head down to the commons.


Laptop. With the amount of schoolwork transferring to online as well as certain majors depending on digital programs, a strong, faster laptops will be best to get through college life and beyond. 


An adjustable power strip. With handling lamps, a television, cell phone, and laptop chargers, one needs all the plug in spaces they need while placing every necessary device in the best, accessible place. With an easy-to-adjust power strip, this can be a reality.


A backrest pillow. When working in bed, one will soon get sore from leaning over their work. With a backrest pillow, one can lay back while working on the next assignment in comfort while also doubling it as a body pillow at night. 


A clip-on lamp. Just like the fan and the desk lamp, this combines the two concepts together. When working late at night, one might want to work in the comfort of their bed while not directing a light towards one’s roommate. This can be achieved all while being easily attached to the side of one’s bed.


An umbrella. On the rainy days of walking to campus, no one wants to be drenched only to sit during a lecture for the next hour. Sure, they might be something extra to carry, but it is better to be dry than too careful!


Suitcases. To pack all of one’s special belongings or clothing, one should have their own personal set of suitcases that are labeled with their information, just in case. Having a suitcase on hand in college is especially useful when heading home across holiday breaks. 


Back-of-the-door shoe organizer. Sure, maybe one doesn’t have shoes, but the pockets on shoe organizers can hold a lot more than shoes. For example, if one doesn’t want a messy desk of new office supplies, one pocket can have a stapler, the other a roll of tape. The ideas are endless.


A lint roller. Perhaps when running late to a class or job interview in the area, one’s clothes are a little covered in crumbs or fur. Instead of changing, a quick use of a lint roller can save time and worries. 


A Bluetooth speaker. A college student needs their music loud. One can become the life of the party with this neat speaker. Any phone can connect to it and play any song. It comes in handy when hanging out with friends across the weekend. 


Things that remind you of home. Whether it be an old stuffed animal, pictures of your families, or a family heirloom. As repeated many times across this article, it is important to make one’s dorm their new home for the next however so many years. 


From us on the Criterion staff, we can’t wait to write about the wonders of past and future Craig alumni, so it is our pleasure to support our future graduates in anyway we can. If you have a suggestion for the next edition of the College Corner, please email one of the Criterion staff members.