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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

These top five college dorm essentials will maximize your college experience

sakana on Unsplash
Dorm rooms can feel compact, messy, and hard to manage, but with these dorm essentials, that can be minimized.

Over the summer, I had the privilege of attending a two-week class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). During this time, I got a taste of dorm life and gathered an idea of what is essential for living as a college freshman.

Since graduation is rapidly approaching and, subsequently, the beginning of the on-campus residency, I’m delighted to share my curated guide to what I found helpful for living in the dorms.

Mattress Topper

First and foremost, getting a mattress topper is sure to change any student’s sleep routine for the better. When I went to SAIC, my mom and I purchased the Mainstays Waterproof Mattress Pad, which retails online at $14.96. It is soft and durable, and the Twin XL size fit my dorm bed perfectly.

The comfort of my bed with this topper was incredible—I felt like I was sleeping on a pillow. My friends even commented on the plush feeling of my bed compared to theirs. Plus, the waterproof protection would’ve helped in case of any spills, which were possible when I chose to eat or drink in bed.

Desk Lamp


Secondly, I used a lamp every single day at SAIC. It helped me focus light on my homework, and my roommate was grateful that I had alternate lighting at night when she wanted to sleep but I was still completing assignments. Also, the overhead lighting often made me dizzy—the lamp’s light was substantially less disorienting.

Unfortunately, the lamp I own is no longer produced—I use the Verilux Natural Spectrum Desk Lamp with a USB port. Still, the company, Verilux, produces other lamps that could be just as great, or there are alternative products on the market. I recommend buying one with a USB port since dorm outlets are limited; the extra port allowed me to charge my phone near my bed at night. 

Before purchasing a lamp, it’s important to double-check lamp lighting regulations in the dorm housing contract. In my contract, certain bulbs are prohibited, so it’s important to make sure that the lamp meets the dorm requirements.

Desk Organizers

One thing about living in the dorms that was a huge change from my current day-to-day life was the organizational space. In my dorm, I had a closet, a desk, and a bed. If it weren’t for the desk organizers that I had, I am sure that my belongings would have been scattered everywhere. 

One thing about living in the dorms that was a huge change from my current day-to-day life was the organizational space.

My desk organizers were technically drawer organizers—I bought them from Target. They had varying-sized containers where I stored pencils, gum packs, ibuprofen, tea packets, and other miscellaneous, smaller items. I believe that anyone could benefit from these organizers, especially those at an art school. I recommend the Brightroom 8pc Plastic Drawer Organizer Set, retailed at Target for $10.

I would like to note that I bought an extra desk organizer that doubled as a mirror. I loved having it because I could store my earrings in the compartments and do my makeup using the mirror. The Longwin Desk Storage Mirror is very similar to what I had, and it retails for $13.99 on Amazon.

Laundry Hamper


If you’re heading off to on-campus housing, doing laundry is something to consider. At SAIC, the laundry room was a few floors upstairs from where my room was. To avoid carrying my laundry in heaps in my arms, I purchased the 90L BlissTotes Collapsible Laundry Hamper.

My laundry hamper retails for $9.98 on Amazon and comes in various colors. It has two handles which makes carrying clothes easier. My favorite aspect, though, is the opacity of the hamper. I don’t want people to see my dirty clothes, so buying a carrier that wasn’t see-through is perfect for me.

If you don’t mind the opacity of the hamper, my roommate had a collapsible mesh hamper, which also had handles. These mesh hampers dry out quicker, so there’s less chance of bacteria building up over time.

Shower Caddy


At SAIC, the dorms feature one private bathroom per dorm (with two people in one dorm). For other colleges, this isn’t always the case—colleges like Michigan State University, for example, have communal bathrooms. Either way, a shower caddy is essential for any on-campus student. 

My Mesh Shower Caddy from Target’s Room Essentials collection retails at $6. It features a main compartment, which holds my shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products, and smaller pockets, which hold my soap, toothpaste, lotion, and other smaller toiletries. 

This shower caddy is helpful because it keeps all my bathroom products in one place. It has a handle, which makes it easy to carry to and from the shower. Also, as I stated earlier with the laundry hamper, the mesh decreases the risk of bacteria build-up from moisture.

Final Notes

While these top five dorm essentials are my main recommendations, there are many other products that I think a student could benefit from. I had a set of plastic dishes for 4 (I pieced together plates, bowls, cups, and silverware from the Mainstays Eco-Friendly Plastic Dinnerware collection) that I used a handful of times in my two weeks. While you could make do without them, I think they’re nice to have, especially if you have access to a kitchen.

There are many other ways to find recommendations for dorm essentials for those who still don’t feel prepared—I’ve seen numerous TikTok videos, Instagram posts, and online blogs that give great advice. Also, if there’s an opportunity to talk to a current student at your future school, take it! I was able to get a list specifically made for the dorms I will be moving into from a current student.

In the end, it’s important to recognize that not everyone’s experiences are the same. Though these products were essential for my experience, they may not be for all of them.

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About the Contributor
Emalea Rooke
Emalea Rooke, Staff Writer
Emalea Rooke is a senior entering her first year on The Central Trend. Since she was little, Emalea has always had a passion for bringing her imagination to life with creative writing, and she is excited to expand her writing skills this year. Other than writing, Emalea enjoys reading, drawing, and spending time with friends. She is the head of costumes for FHC Theatre this year and hopes to use the knowledge she gains in college for Fashion Design. Favorite Song: "Banana Pancakes" by Jack Johnson Favorite Video Game: Red Dead Redemption Favorite Flower: Carnations Favorite Accessory: Her sun-shaped nazar necklace

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