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The College Dorm Decor 10 Students Can’t Live Without

Many students and recent grads have a piece of decor or furniture that has traveled with them throughout all four years of college, whether something personal, a mundane item that grew sentimental over time or simply something practical that was useful to keep around. To learn more, I asked current students and recent grads about the college dorm decor that lasted throughout their four years, and why they kept it around. Here’s what they had to say.

“A small potted cactus! I still have it 7 years later. I got it right before going back to college sophomore year and named it ‘Cuddles,’ because it’s prickly and not very cuddly. It went from the dorms to off-campus housing to two different NYC apartments!” — Victoria Rudnicki, Tufts ‘18.

“I got my mirror the summer going into boarding school. You can’t do too much with a dorm room, but getting a nice white mirror from Pottery Barn was a start. The mirror ended up being very versatile, it’s white and square, and there was never a reason to replace it because it did the job. It’s hanging in my room in NYC now!” — Lizzie Hyman, Georgetown ‘21.

“A queen comforter (even on a twin bed). It was my mom’s idea actually, since I was probably going to need a queen comforter when I graduated college anyway. It’s great for sleepovers and extra coziness in a small bed. And it will last for years!” — Josie Ahlberg, Northeastern ‘22.

“When I lived in the dorms, the lights were super harsh and made a buzzing sound and didn’t feel ‘homey,’ so I started to use string lights as the main way for more comfortable lighting and a chiller vibe. Now I live off-campus and don’t have great lighting in my room, so not only are they a vibe, but they’re also functional.” — Jennifer Best, Tufts ‘22.

“It’s not particularly sentimental, but I got my jewelry box at a yard sale when I was younger, and it’s just very handy to organize my jewelry and hair stuff, so I have been using it through college and still use it now.” — Anna Joseph, Tufts ‘21.

“I bought my tiny to-do list blackboard in my second year of uni in London from Flying Tiger. I wanted to put some decor in my room, and I love how ‘old school’ blackboards are — as a kid, I loved it when the teacher in elementary school would let you write on the board with fresh chalk. I then started putting affirmations on it, because I needed something to literally tell me it was going to be okay when I was far away from my family in London.” — Tanya Kaushal, City University of London ‘21.

“A chest with Anthropologie knobs. It was eggnog yellow when I was a child, but later we repainted it purple with blue knobs. Then, senior year of college, I had to get rid of it — so I took the knobs off and kept those, and sold the chest. It was sad because I’d had it since I was a baby. I actually miss it sometimes now.” — Rachel Roberts, University of Arkansas ‘20.

“Going away to college for the first time is hard, and with my family gone and my roommate hardly ever there, I’d sit alone beside my desk, listening to music, writing. I know a lamp may seem like it has no sentimental value, but it did. Its dim yellow light gave me a sense of security and safety when I needed it most. A little light on dark nights goes a long way.” — Jessica Vadillo, Rutgers ‘21.

“A Lana Del Rey poster that I bought in the Campus Center during orientation week. It was just really nice to have a decoration in the room (and on Zoom) and made it feel like my place.” — Chris Panella, Tufts ‘21.

As for myself, the decor I’ve kept throughout college is a pink and orange lava lamp. Despite costing only $20, it’s been a pivotal part of my college experience. I’ve spent hours watching the globs morphing into each other slowly, illuminating my various rooms with shifting pink light. If I were ever sad or lonely, the comfort of the lava lamp would be the ready companion to a good cry; or, if I needed to chill and watch TV on my laptop, the lava lamp would be on in a hot minute. I used it in good times, too, like when I had friends over or hosted pregames in my sophomore triple. Though I can never remember the name I once gave it, my lava lamp served many purposes over the last four years. And yes, it’s still on my desk!

Interestingly, a lamp was the most common answer for the college students I surveyed — which isn’t totally surprising, given how fluorescent lights in college dorms can be so harsh. But if you’re not in the game for a lamp, or already have one, let this list of decor inspire you the next time you’re shopping for your college dorm. After all, you never know what might stick with you for the next four years!

Elizabeth Sander is a National Writer for Her Campus and a recent graduate from Tufts University, where she earned a BA in English and French. Elizabeth served as a Her Campus Editorial Intern for the Fall of 2020 and loved every minute. When not writing articles about all things culture and style (or the occasional personal essay), Elizabeth spends time creative writing, reading and working on flying crow pose. Next up on Elizabeth's agenda is Columbia J-School! Find her on insta @elizsander or for meals inspo @confinemnt_kitchn
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