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After a very fortunate first year of college being able to live on campus last year, I have definitely learned what works and what doesn’t while living in a dorm room. It’s easy to overbuy if you are living away from family for the first time, but there’s only so much that you need on an everyday basis. Don’t get me wrong, though: I did buy a few things that were not as much of a necessity as I thought. However, I did end the year with a set of my true lifestyle necessities for living in a dorm.

Now that we’re a little over a month into the school year and I’m living in a traditional dorm again, I’m back to using these necessities, and they’re working better than ever. So, I’m here to share five items that are essentials for any college student living in a dorm.


Drinking water is especially important for anyone who is feeling stressed and overworked. It’s good for your body and a necessity to live. Having a water filter in your dorm room will make it all the more convenient to try and get in those cups of water for the day.

With the convenience of a water pitcher, all you have to do is walk to a sink and fill it up for the day. While there may also be water bottle fountains in your dorm building (like there were in mine), they were only on the bottom floor, so it was much easier to have the pitcher in my room. Then you don’t have to constantly go downstairs to fill up your individual bottles every time you run out. I use a Brita filter, which I’ve honestly heard mixed reviews about for their reliability, but it was the brand my parents used and I grew up on. So, I purchased a five-cup filter at the beginning of the school year and have used it since.


Growing up, I never wore shoes inside the house, and I still don’t when I’m at home. Shoes were to be taken off at the front door or left in the garage because tracking dirt from outside around the house was an absolute no-go. However, that had to change when I started living in a dorm. I treated the room like I treat a hotel room, where your stay is temporary and each surface has been touched by hundreds of other people in previous years. After my initial clean during move-in, my own paranoia led me to only wear slippers when I have my shoes off. When I go about my day, I usually keep my shoes on when I enter my dorm, and that same mentality of tracking dirt around applies to the carpet in the dorm room. To solve this, I just got a pair of house slippers and I wear those to not dirty my socks or feet before going onto the bed or sitting cross-legged at my desk chair. I got a pair of cat slippers at the H-Mart in Cambridge, but they have them everywhere.


One of the things I forgot to buy until later into the semester last year was reusable utensils. With restrictions on the dining hall where meals came with utensils and takeout came with utensils, once I started to make other food in my dorm, I needed some extra utensils. A quick Target purchase solved this problem, and they were great for the late-night microwave snacks, ramen, ice cream and dorm chai lattes. Having reusable utensils makes the whole process easier and sustainable. I also want to add that a hand-held milk frother was a great purchase that is essential to anyone who likes to heat up morning drinks in their room. I use the frother on a cup of milk and pour it into a heated mug of chai latte concentrate, and I have the latte that I didn’t pay over $4 at Starbucks for in the morning.

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To bounce off of the last one, a trusty mug is one of my favorite dorm room essentials. I picked up a few from my local Goodwill, cleaned them very thoroughly and have used them since. When picking a mug, go for something that can even double as décor when it’s not filled with your favorite drink. I have one for my pens and pencils, too. A good mug or two is also great for making microwave mug cakes to eat with ice cream on late nights.


When you have leftovers, snacks without resealable bags, or food that just needs to be in a different bowl, reusable containers in your room are essential. Maybe this is also a result of the way I was raised, but I’ve saved almost all of the hummus containers, reusable takeout containers and kombucha bottles that I’ve bought to be able to put other food and things inside of them. One of them is a metal tin that had mooncake in it from Mid-Autumn Festival that I use for some toiletries in my closet. I used the kombucha bottles as bookends for my textbooks sitting up on my desk. There are lots of options, and if it means saving a few dollars from buying separate containers, you can clean out whatever container you buy with food for something more.

Next time you head to the store, take a look around for these essentials to add to your daily dorm life, and I hope that they fit as well into yours as they have mine!

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Madison is studying journalism and international relations at BU. She's from Washington state, loves drinking tea, and watching Marvel movies. Check out her portfolio and blog at https://dontmakelies.com
Writers of the Boston University chapter of Her Campus.
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