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The Best Dorm Room Shopping Tips For Parents

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Your son or daughter graduated from high school in May, you have the whole summer together, and they don’t leave for college until August.

But, there is one thing looming over your head, their dorm room. You need to work with your student to get ready for this big move, and doing so can be pretty overwhelming. Here are some tips for shopping for a dorm room.

Dorm Room Shopping Tips for Parents

What Do They Really Need?

You should get a list from the school of what your student might need. This will go beyond a regular school supplies list and much of it might just be suggestions as opposed to requirements. Go over the list with your college student and ask yourselves what they really need to bring.

Keep in mind that dorm rooms are rather small and there isn’t a lot of space. You can’t bring everything and many items should be left at home. You student probably won’t need as much if they are only going to school a couple hours away vs across the country.

Keep an eye on what the school does not allow in the dorms. As soon as your student knows who their roommate is, have them talk about what they are planning to bring. Your student doesn’t need a dorm room with two mini-fridges. Collaborate so your student doesn’t end up with doubles of some things and a lack of others.

Don’t Bring Furniture

You want to stay away from bringing any furniture unless you know for sure there will be space for it. Many dorm rooms already come with a bed, dresser, desk, and even bookcase. Sometimes they will also have a desktop lamp or other furnishings. There simply won’t be room for furniture from home.

If your student is moving into a less traditional dorm setting, there could be more space for that type of thing. See what the school suggests and make sure to view what the dorm looks like ahead of time, either in person or in pictures. That will give you a better idea of what your student will have room for.

Look For Discounts

Back to school discounts, student discounts, and military discounts are going to be a way to save money when buying items for your child’s dorm room. Places like Overstock, Pottery Barn, Best Buy, JanSport, FedEx, Adobe, and Apple, are great places to start.

RELATED: Student Discounts for Military and Veterans

In addition to discounts, check to see if your state is going to have a tax-free weekend, or if any stores offer free shipping on your orders. Even just saving $7 or 8 each order can help save some money.

AAFES has also announced that they will be offering a discount around the tax-free weekends in certain states. The discount will be based on the local tax rate and available at Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES.)

Most Important Items for the Dorm Room

When it comes to shopping for a dorm, some items are going to be more important than others.


You will want to figure out bedding. Many dorm rooms can have a Twin XL mattress which is about 5 inches longer than a regular twin. If this is the case, you will need to make sure that you have the right size sheets, blankets, and comforters. This is information you can get from the college ahead of time.

You can find bedding using a military discount at Brooklyn Bedding, Kohl’s, and Overstock.

Towels and Bathroom Items

In most cases, your student will have to walk down the hall to a communal bathroom, they won’t have one in their dorm room. This means that they need a way to carry all their toiletries, have shower shoes, and new towels. Some students might also be nervous about all this so it would be a good idea to go over how the bathrooms will work if they are co-ed or not, and what to expect.

You can find towels and bathroom items using a military discount at Costco, Overstock, or find them at your local AAFES store.


Just like the bathroom, doing laundry is going to be different than doing laundry at home. There will probably be a laundry room and your student may or may not need coins to operate the machines. They will also need a way to bring their laundry down and a way to carry their laundry soap.

You can find laundry supplies using a military discount at Kohl’s, Goodwill, or BJ’s Wholesale Club.

School Supplies

When it comes to shopping for a dorm room, it can be easy to forget about actual school supplies. Your student may need a new backpack, certain types of paper and binders, and plenty of pens and pencils. Don’t forget about those traditional school supplies that they will need for the school year.

You can find school supplies using a military discount at Michael’s, Joann, or visit AAFES.

Wait And See

For certain items, waiting to see what your student needs might be a smart choice. While they will want to move into the dorm with the right bedding and toiletries, items used for storage or even the amount of books to bring might be something to figure out after they move in.

While you may have seen the dorm room ahead of time, it might take a week or two of living there to figure out what they really need. Give your child a bit of a budget for the first few weeks so they can add a few things that they realize they need after they have settled in a bit.

Traveling to School

You as a family need to figure out how your student will get to the college and who will go with them. This could be different based on how far away the school is. If possible, having both parents come with can be a good idea. You can get them moved in and settled before you leave. If your child is going to school across the country this might not be possible and you will have to put them on an airplane and say goodbye to them before they leave. Look into military discounts on airlines as well as car rentals to help plan your trip.

When it comes to shopping for a dorm room, being prepared and organized is a must. You want to make sure to bring what you need, and not what you don’t. You want to set your child up for a good year and help them be excited about this next step in their life.





About the author

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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, and blogger. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.