In my last blog, I talked about some items that you should bring to your college dorm. Since I lived in the dorms at UC Berkeley all four years of college, I’ll be sharing some items that you should not bring to your college dorm.
To preface, the dorms at colleges are typically small and you will most likely be sharing your room with two or three (or even four or more!) other students. When I was a first-year, I lived in a triple with two other girls in a room that used to be a laundry room. In our room, we had a bunk bed and a lofted bed which was above two desks, so we each did not have much personal space. This might be a big change for students who have had their own space growing up and are now having to share their space with new people.
First, you should definitely look at your college’s housing website in order to see what items are provided for you and what items are allowed in your dorm. If you have a question about what items are provided versus not, definitely reach out to your campus housing department to ask. Additionally, you can always wait to purchase extra items until after you have moved in. Move into your college with your essential items, but wait on your extra items until you actually see how much space you have.
Here are some items you should not bring to your college dorm room:
1. Large TV: Dorm rooms are typically tiny and consist of bunk beds in order to help save space. If you have a dorm room like this, chances are, you will probably not have enough space to have a large TV.
If you are living in a dorm mini-suite which comes with a little common space in your room, then you may have the space for a TV. However, be careful with expensive electronics like televisions, because an accident could happen where someone breaks it. Your roommates may use your TV or you may have friends over and then an accident happens. Who pays for damages in that case? Personally, bringing items like TVs which would typically be shared among roommates is risky just in case something happened to your property.
Once you start college and become busy joining clubs and studying for exams, you will find that you don’t really have a lot of free time. This has happened to many of my residents who would bring a TV, but then nobody would ever use it because everyone became so busy.
Finally, your dorm may provide some communal TVs in the lounges that you can play video games or watch movies on. You could also stream Netflix shows or watch YouTube videos on your own personal laptop. With all of these factors, you do not really need to bring your own TV to college because there are other options available!
2. Too many Clothes/Shoes: Your dorm room will be small and you will probably be sharing your space with other students. In my freshman dorm room, I only had one bureau with a set of five drawers to store my clothes. Going from having my own bedroom with many drawers and my own closet, I could not bring a lot of clothes to college because there would be nowhere to store them.
You should only bring the clothing items that you will actually wear! If you haven’t worn the clothing piece during high school, chances are, you will probably not wear that item in college either - so leave it at home. Additionally, you might want to stray away from bringing a lot of clothes that say “high school” or your high school class on them. Though it may be fun to represent your high school, wearing a “senior sweatshirt” or “high school class of 2021 t-shirt” will give you away as a freshman student.
In my last blog about items you should bring to your college dorm, I mention this, but make sure that you are packing clothes that fit with the weather at your college campus. Do not overpack!
3. Appliances (coffee machine, hot plates, toaster): You should double check your college’s housing website to see what kinds of appliances are allowed versus not allowed. Items like hot plates and toasters may not be allowed because they can be fire hazards.
For items like a coffee machine, you can usually get free coffee at your college’s dining halls or use your meal points to buy coffee at your campus cafes. You do not need to spend your own money purchasing these items when the school is providing them.
Similar to the TV, you don’t really have a lot of space in your dorm for many appliances. Bringing appliances opens the larger conversation with your roommates of who can use what. Are you going to allow your roommates to use your appliances? Is the appliance for your use only? What happens if you catch your roommate secretly using your items? You should have this conversation with your roommates and set expectations early.
4. Printer: Similar to items like the coffee machine, your college will probably provide you printing services at your dorm or in your school libraries. Printing may be free through your college or you may have to pay a couple cents per page printed. I did not own a printer when I lived in the dorms all four years of college, but I used the printers provided for us in the dorm’s Academic Center. These printers were super accessible and easy to use.
If you brought your own printer, then you would need to have the conversation with your roommates regarding who can use the printer. Are you all sharing the printer? Who is paying for paper and ink/toner? Are you allowing your neighbors to use your printer? My freshman year, there was one room who had their own printer and many students on the floor would ask them to use their printer for free. That is something to think about because your peers may take advantage of you and your printer. It might be difficult to say no or to ask your friends to pay you for printer usage.
5. Microwave/Mini-Fridge: Like the other appliances, make sure to check your college’s housing website to see if you are allowed to bring your own private microwave and refrigerator. Due to fire hazard, your college may require you to purchase a standard microwave and refrigerator set from an approved vendor. With the approved vendor, then you and your roommates could split the cost of renting the items and everyone could use them.
Having a microwave and refrigerator in your dorm can be useful. I would say having a mini-fridge is super helpful so that you can keep food in your room. The microwave is less useful unless you are heating things up often. If your dorm allows you to bring your own microwave and mini-fridge, then you should have the conversation with your roommates regarding sharing these items. There would not be enough space in your room to bring three separate fridges for each roommate.
6. Ironing Board: There is probably not enough space in your dorm to store an entire ironing board and iron. Instead, you should buy wrinkle remover spray. You can get small bottles of this, spray it on your clothes, and then it removes the wrinkles in your clothes. For large and bulky items, see if you can find smaller variants that serve the same purpose!
7. Candles: Candles are probably not allowed in your dorm because they are a fire hazard. Many fire hazard items are going to be banned because accidents could happen. Accidentally leaving a candle running could light your entire room on fire. My freshman year, a fire occurred in a room, which then set off the fire alarm sprinklers for the entire floor. Every single room on the floor got drenched in gallons of water from the fire sprinklers. The entire floor was displaced and had to sleep on cots in other dorm lounges for a few weeks. As such, many colleges probably want to prevent this kind of damage and displacement of students and will ban fire hazard items. Follow their directions otherwise you may get charged if you start a fire!
A nice alternative to candles would be wall flowers or air fresheners! You can find these at many stores and they can make your room smell nice with no fire whatsoever.
8. Vacuum: Vacuums are big, bulky, and would take up a lot of space in your already cramped dorm room. Your college will probably have vacuums that you can borrow from your dorm’s front desk. There is no need to bring this item to school if your college will be providing one for you.
9. Unnecessary Furniture: Check your college's dorm website to see what furniture is provided in your room. Chances are, you will not need to buy your own bed or desk as these staple items will be provided to every student. I would also stray away from buying any kinds of furniture pieces until you have actually seen your room. Plus, there is usually no need for extra furniture since the main items are provided and you probably don’t have the space for other pieces.
Hopefully this blog helps you when you are back-to-school college dorm shopping! If you want to read my blog about items you should bring to your college dorm, check it out here: https://www.shcollegeconsulting.com/our-advice-blog/what-to-bring-to-your-college-dorm-room.
Rachel is the Founder of Study Hall College Consulting. Rachel graduated from UC Berkeley in May 2020 where she double majored in Cognitive Science and Legal Studies. For more application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.