Stuff She'll Need In the Dorm

My granddaughter is off to the University of Tennessee in August. I want to prepare a sort of “starter kit” for being on her own. I’m trying to think of everything she will need from safety pins to a sewing kit to a giant coffee mug.
Brainstorming from you youngsters (anyone under sixty) would be appreciated.

A shower caddy and shower shoes. Do they allow stuff like hot plates or those water heater thingies? Ear plugs.

Quarters. Put them in old film canisters or in those M & M mini containers. Excellent for late night munchies, games of pool and laundry facilities.

Will she have a microwave or access to one? What are the policies on appliances in the dorm? When I was in university, I used a Rival Hot Pot to make spaghetti, mac & cheese or Mr. Noodles on a regular basis. If she has access to a microwave, popcorn is always nice.

A pre-paid phone card could be handy, and might inspire her to keep in touch!

My biggest suggestion: phone cards. These can never go out of use.

Others: Some blankets, extra pillows, paper, pens, etc. Think of ‘creature comforts’ and ‘necesseties’ here.

I’ve been there. I’m 28, I still rely on phone cards when deployed.

Agreed! Even if the dorm supplies bedding, it’s scratchy and nasty.

I recall one student in my dorm was given individual ziplock bags filled with exactly one cup of laundry detergent each. I thought that was a cool idea.

If I say a bong, you’re going to hit me, aren’t you?

If the dorm isn’t air conditions, a small fan would be a good idea.

I went to Michigan, so it wasn’t needed in the winter months, but there were plenty of hot nights in Sept. and May that I was very thankful for it.

I graduated from UT this May. It’s a good school. Freshman facilities are generally tolerable and I can tell you right now what she’ll have already.

  • A microwave/mini fridge combo. The fridge is only good for a few beverages and sandwich meat, but it gets the job done.
  • The dorms will supply the toilet paper, so don’t worry about that.
  • If you join the dorm association (for a small fee) you get access to movies, video game systems and games and sometimes free food.

IMO, you will definitely need the following:

  • A raincoat with hood (or umbrella) and a backpack that’s at least somewhat resistant to water. She’ll be walking to class in the rain a LOT, if my experience is correct.
  • Definitely extra blankets and possibly a small fan or floor oscillating fan. There’s never any guarantee that the heat/air unit will work properly.
  • She should always have printer paper and ink. It’s absolutely vital because now the library charges for printing. Some teachers may have you printing vast amounts of material (although probably not freshman level classes…just be ready).
  • Cinderblocks to put under the feet of the bed if she opts not to do a loft. I never had a loft, but I almost always had cinderblocks under my bed for storage space. Space is almost always the first thing that runs out.
  • If she wants a pet, make sure it’s just a fish. Absolutely everything else is banned, and they enforce that rule hard. Doesn’t mean some people don’t have cats and such…
  • A flashlight and a first-aid kit. You’d be surprised.
  • If she’s taking her car, make sure the spare is in good shape and she has a tire iron and jumper cables. Oh, and FYI…the traffic in K-town is about to be orders of magnitude worse than ever due to highway construction. Get ready to hurry up and wait.
  • Comfortable shoes. I guarantee you this as well: your granddaughter will be walking a lot, and much of it uphill. As a result, her feet and legs will be in pain until she’s used to walking up the Hill every other day. Foot maintenance stuff would be nice.
  • A bathmat, if she isn’t doing the community bathroom thing. I will second shower shoes.
  • A tour of the good eateries. There are some hole-in-the-wall joints and places you’d never notice that are fantastic.

That’s all I can think of now…I’m probably missing things. But then, I’m not a girl and therefore can’t really predict a woman’s needs. I’m low maintenance.

She needs a personal tear gas keychain, for those late night walks to the library.

And a Lava Lamp for the dorm room.

I had a lava lamp and I loved it. How cliche’. Alas, I don’t really have space for it now.

A nice fluffy bathrobe and some towels. I’ll third phone cards and a small dorm fridge if she can have it - if it has a lock, all the better.

Beware about buying sheet sets - the beds in some dormitories are custom designed and as such need special sheets that can only be purchased through the school.

A bathrobe is absolutely essential if she’s going to use the communal bathrooms. Who wants to get dressed in the bathroon or walk back to their room wrapped in a wet towel?

Sonofa! Sorry that was me.

This sharing of one computer thing is getting really old.

Air freshener, in the spray can; phone cards, Top Ramen [if she likes them, and she’ll probably learn to], laundry soap, socks, extra pillows, shower shoes, plastic utensils/cups/plates, pens, one of those eggcrate mattress cover thingies, plastic milk crates for storage, blankets, shampoo, conditioner, soap, washcloths, towels, a fabric drawstring laundry bag that she can toss right in with her laundry, an alarm clock, stationary.


– Sleeping bag (for when she’s too tired to climb up into the top bunk)
– Quarters (for laundry)
– Duct tape
– A screw driver set
– Extra sheets/blankets
– A fridge
– T.V.
– Alarm Clock
– Coffe Maker (if allowed)
– Posters for the walls

Phone cards are good unless she has a cell phone with free weekends and evenings.

Not yet mentioned:

- A good bowl and a spork (unless the mug is REALLY big).
- cheap book-ends
- a corkboard or whiteboard for the door

Best of luck.

A phone card for sure.

A really nice backpack. I mean a hardcore hiking backpack (I still have the Jansport one I bought as a freshman back in the day). When shlepping around piles of books, notebooks and paraphrenalia, a good backpack will make life so much more pleasant.

Sticky putty for to put up posters and such.


MP3 player.

Kroger, Target or Wal-mart gift cards so she can buy those emergency items, tampons when she doesn’t have money, that sort of thing. Cash is too easily spent. You might consider gift certificates for chain eateries. I’m sure school food gets pretty old. A shower poof and liquid soap are good - you don’t have to worry about trying to launder washclothes and icky bars of soap. Maybe pack a few of her favorite books or movies to escape to when she’s feeling bogged down. I know space is at a premium, but those are like comfort foods - essential for the soul.


I second StGermain’s idea of liquid soap – bar soap is a huge PITA when you’re using communal bathrooms.

A “boyfriend” pillow to turn her bed into a sofa during the day.
Earplugs, AND an electric fan, AND a sleep mask–all to counteract the other dormdwellers.
An umbrella.
Hope she has a computer; tell her to put all of her music on it, instead of wasting space on her whole CD collection PLUS a boombox.
Underbed storage boxes.
A piece of carpet. Major improvement to any dorm room.
Pop tarts.