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Dorm Essentials for Incoming Freshman

Let’s be real: shopping for your new dorm is one of the most exciting parts of going away to college. You might be leaving home for the first time ever, and are anxious to design a room that is somehow practical, comfortable, and well-designed all at once.

While there are plenty of lists that will tell you exactly what size sheets to bring and where to find the perfect set of plastic drawers, the reality is that there are some completely unexpected necessities you’ll need for your new home away from home. From multiple light sources to backup phone chargers, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate dorm room essentials list.

Futon or Folding Chairs

Your dorm will probably be furnished with a bed, a desk, a dresser, and a desk chair — and that’s pretty much it. This furniture is likely to have a more indestructible vibe than any sort of cohesive style, so you might want to liven things up with some furniture of your own.

After all, with the furniture your dorm provides, it is likely that the only place you have to sit is either on your bed or on your desk chair. This means you don’t necessarily have a good place to engage in one of the primary dorm activities: hanging out with your floormates and friends.

To solve this, consider requesting a lofted bed and putting a futon underneath. A futon not only gives you a third seating option in the form of a couch, but folds out into a bed, which means you can play host to out of town friends or plan a floor-wide sleepover.

If you don’t have room for a futon, there are still ways to create extra seating—no matter how small your space is. One option is folding chairs. Before you roll your eyes, take a look at new folding chair options offered by most big box stores. These aren’t your grandma’s potluck chairs.

Folding chairs now come in a variety of cute and colorful designs that will fit in with anyone’s decor, whether you’re going for a modern minimalist or full Southern charm look. Plus, they are light and easy to store away under your bed or in the back of your closet.

Good Lighting

While your dorm room will certainly have a light of some kind, there is a pretty good chance it will be one of those long fluorescent bulbs that might even make a low-level buzzing noise every time you turn it on.

If you want to avoid the fluorescent overhead light, add several small sources of light to your dorm list. This might mean that you get a floor lamp for the corner, a reading lamp that clips onto your bunk, and a task lamp for the occasional light night study sesh.

Or consider hanging up white twinkle lights (check your dorm rules first!) and adding a tap light to the inside of your closet so you can actually see the clothes you’re picking out in the morning.

If you’re worried about fluorescent lights making you look a little off in social media photos, you can even get a phone ring light that will ensure all your selfies are absolutely glowing.

Cords, Cords, and More Cords

No 21st Century ultimate dorm checklist would be complete without a highlighted, bolded, and underlined reminder to pack all your chargers. Computer charger, phone charger, backup phone charger, tablet charger, external battery charger— the list goes on and on.

One task that should be on your list is testing your chargers to make sure they each have a base, they all work, and you actually know what each of them is for. There’s no reason you need to haul a charger for a digital camera you haven’t used since middle school to college.

Adding a few backup chargers to your shopping list might not be a bad idea either. After all, you don’t want to be cramming for an organic chemistry final only to realize your computer cord no longer works.

While you’re at it, consider picking up a few extension cords and power strips for your dorm, if your college allows them. Dorm rooms are notorious for having too few outlets, and you’re not going to want to unplug your lamp every time you want to plug in your tablet.

Microwave and Cooking Supplies

While you might have a meal plan that lets you nosh in the cafeteria as much as you want, there will be times (2 a.m. study sessions!) when you won’t want to drag yourself out of your room to find food.

Enter the magic of microwave cooking. While you may not have used a microwave for more than heating up soup or a frozen burrito before, with a recipe and a little creativity, you can actually whip up some legitimately delicious meals. How does macaroni and cheese, mug brownies, and even spaghetti squash, sound?

But you’ll need more than just a microwave. Consider picking up some microwave-safe dishes, bigger bowls, and some basic cooking tools if you want to make the most of the microwave. Remember the cutlery too — you don’t want to get stuck trying to eat your microwave brownie with a plastic knife you found in that old bag of takeout.

A Robe, Blanket, and Extra Pillows

At its most basic, a dorm is where you come at the end of the day to unwind and relax. That can mean streaming a movie marathon or curling up with a good book.

While sheets and blankets are undoubtedly already on your list, consider amping up the comfort level with as many extra fluffy things as will keep you happy and comfortable.

For example, if you’re studying in bed, you may want an extra pillow or two to stick behind your back so you don’t slouch. If you do end up getting that futon, consider adding a throw blanket and some decorative pillows to both make your couch more comfortable and your space more visually inviting.

Oh, and although you may not have used one at home, consider adding a robe to your must-buy list. You might have a long walk back and forth between the showers or you may just want something you can throw on over your pajamas for extra warmth. Either way, a robe can come in handy.

Taking Care Of Other Necessities

Once you’ve got your dorm essentials taken care of, it may be worthwhile to make sure you’ve got everything else down pat too. For example, consider checking to make sure your meal plan is all set up and you know how to access it.

If you’re paying directly for your tuition, you may wish to inquire with your bursar if it is possible to set up direct deposit to ensure you don’t miss a payment. And if you’re taking out student loans, you may be itching to find out if and when exactly you’ll receive your student loan refund and where it will be deposited.

If you’re worried about how you’ll pay for all of the expenses associated with being a new college freshman, your financial aid office may be able to help connect you with work-study or scholarship options, assuming you have already filled out the FAFSA® and have received some federal student aid package. If that federal funding enough to cover the entire cost of attendance, however, a private student loan may be able to help you pay for those uncovered costs.

Unlike other types of student aid, private student loans are offered by private lenders who will likely review your credit history and other financial factors in order to determine what type of loan you may qualify for, and they may not have the same guaranteed interest rates as federal student loans.

Private student loans aren’t going to be the right choice for every student, but if they seem like the right path for you, SoFi’s private student loans might be worth considering. SoFi offers an easy to use, 100% online, no-fee process that allows you to find your rate and eligibility fast.

Find out more about borrowing a private student loan from SoFi.

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