(I like Ohio State University's checklist, which you can see here or below)
But an espresso maker, grill, and a 65" plasma screen TV? Uh, no. Hold up.
Before you go on a shopping spree, reconsider what you define as an essential item. Chances are you can save time and money by narrowing down that dorm room checklist to a more reasonable list.
Dorms almost always supply students with desks and chairs, and please ask yourself how many times you will actually find yourself studying in bed in the dark. That's annoying for your roommate, and you should separate your sleeping and studying places anyway.
Here's what you DO need:
- Desktop or laptop enabled for wireless
- Small waste basket
- Notebooks, pens, and pencils
- Subject-specific materials (i.e. a calculator, compass, or art supplies)
- Power strip with built-in surge protector
- Extension cord
- Backpack or large tote
It's nice - but not necessary - to have:
- Desk lamp
- Comforter, duvet, or quilt
- 2-3 sets of sheets and pillowcases
Nice to Have:
- Mattress pad
- Extra bedding if someone ever ends up sleeping on your couch
You can skip the 23 decorative pillows. Don't skimp on sheets - when you're doing laundry overnight, you want a back-up set to sleep on.
And while we're talking about it, make sure to wash your linens at least once a week.
- Miscellaneous personal hygiene products
- 2-3 towels and washcloths
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Soap or Body wash
- Razors and Shaving Cream
- Flip-flops if using communal showers
Nice to Have:
- Shower Caddy
Depending on if you have your own shower or not, you may not need a robe, shower caddy, and flip-flops. Regardless, do yourself a favor and have 2-3 towels in your room. And don't steal or "borrow" other people's shampoo and shaving cream. You're going to use it, so just go and buy your own.
- Seasonally-appropriate Clothing
- Important Personal Documents (driver's license, social security card, etc)
- Medication and First Aid Kit
- Alarm clock (or use your phone)
- Stamps and Envelopes
- Batteries for electronics
- Laundry basket or bag
- Detergent and dryer sheets
- Clothes hangers
- A few cups, bowls, forks, and spoons
Nice to Have:
- Kitchen appliances - mini-fridges, hot-pots, microwaves
- Pots and Pans if you have a space to cook in the dorm
- Hanging or desk mirror
- Iron and ironing board
- Storage bins or closet organizers
- Couch / armchair / futon
Dorm rooms are usually small. Decide if it's more important for you to have STUFF or some SPACE to move around in.
I'm telling you right now - you do not need to invest in window treatments, decorative bed skirts, full-length mirrors, patio furniture, stereo systems, and a 16-piece flatware set.
If you can, speak with your roommate(s) ahead of time and divvy up the communal items on the list. There is no reason for three people to each bring a futon.
Make sure you know which items are not permitted in your school's dorm rooms. Sometimes microwaves, hot-plates, and space heaters are banned for safety reasons.
Finally - rely on the housing checklists issued by the schools themselves, rather than by major retailers. The school wants to make sure you are prepared. Stores want to make sure you buy stuff from them.