In the coming weeks, a fresh crop of high school grads will move away from home and into new lives at college. They’ll have many decisions to make: which major to choose, whether to join student organizations, how many packs of microwave noodles they’ll need to survive.

First, they’ll need to worry about moving into the dorms. The good news is that most dorms come furnished. The bad news is, there are many blanks that need to be filled, and that requires a lot of careful planning.

I’ve outlined essential items you’ll need for your dorm room, and where you can find them for good prices.


Dormitory beds are infamously stiff, so come prepared with your own bedding. When shopping, know that dorms usually have extra-long twin mattresses, so look for “XL Twin” labels.

Decor is important, but your priority should be comfort. Mattress toppers are a must-have, and you can usually find decent ones for about $25. There’s a bundle deal at Kmart right now that includes a comforter, four-piece sheet set, two towels, a laundry hamper and an under-bed storage bin all for $40. You can find extra-long sheets at Target for as low as $13 a set. In-store selections go fast, so shop online for the more styles.


Towels are easy to find cheap, too, and you won’t need many of them. Kmart has cotton bath towels on sale for $4 each, and hand towel sets for $3. If your room has its own bathroom, you’ll need rugs. You usually can find quality sets for about $10 at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. If you’re using a communal bathroom, get a shower caddy to tote your bath supplies. All you need is a waterproof basket, which you can find at the Dollar Tree.


You’re almost guaranteed to have a shortage of drawer space. Come prepared with at least two plastic drawers, one for toiletries and school supplies, the other for things such as food and kitchen utensils. Wal-Mart advertised the lowest price on these, with three-drawer carts for $18 or less.

Cleaning supplies

As for dorm room maintenance, there are three essentials: a lightweight vacuum, a Swiffer mop and disinfecting towels. Find a 3-in-1 vacuum in a variety of colors at Wal-Mart for $15, and check your coupon booklets on Sunday for specials on Pledge wet wipes and Swiffer Wet-Jets.

These items are your college life starter kit to use for years to come.

Reach Abigail Darlington at charlestonsavvyshopper@postand