Dorm Room Decorating

The outside of one of the dorms at Skidmore College – where one of my sons went to college and where my husband & I served on the Parents Council.

College is a time of great change for our daughters and sons. As they continue to learn and grow, ideas for careers will begin to take form. They’ll make new friends, take fascinating classes, become involved in the campus community and (of course) study study study! All this while living in a dorm room, perhaps even sharing it with one or two other people. Now with August soon to be upon us, many families are thinking ahead to the start of the college semester.

Although there’s a lot to think about – books, roommates, last minute things to do at home – decorating their room is going to be important on any future students list. I know from experience – decorating a dorm can be a challenge. The room will be small, and it needs to fulfill many functions (a bedroom, office, living room, personal space) and, to top it all off, it’s all temporary. Remembering my own college days, the rooms of my sons, and all the advice I’ve give to parents and students over the years, here are the best tips to make sure your son or daughters dorm room is functional, stylish, and personal.

First, the necessities…

  • Linens for both bed and bath. Double-check that the dorm uses the extra-long ‘college’ length for sheets. A soft, padded mattress cover is a good way to make sure the bed is comfortable. Bring two sets of sheets so if the busy student gets behind on laundry, they’ll still have a clean set of linens.  Bring at least 3 bath towels, handtowels, and a stack of wash cloths.
  • Lighting. The overhead lighting in most dorm rooms is usually not enough. A desk lamp will help with studying. I think clip-on lamps are perfect for a dorm room – clamp one on the bed for any late-night reading.
  • Storage. How much storage you’ll want to bring depends on the size of the room, and how much you’re bringing to school! But even if you’re packing light, it would be prudent to bring extra storage. Try stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or the Container Store to find coordinating storage units for socks, sweaters and anything else you want to keep out of the way!


Little things that make a big difference

  • Trinkets from home. As Dorothy says in ‘The Wizrd of Oz’ ‘There’s no place like home’, so be sure to bring accessories that will remind you of home while you’re at college.  Whether it’s a favorite teddy bear, a cozy blanket, or framed pictures of family and friends, including items you already know and love will make your dorm room feel more homey.
  • Wall-art. Whether posters of your favorite band, or framed prints of your favorite art, hanging something you enjoy on the bare dorm room walls will help you personalize your space. Remember though that most colleges won’t let you use nails – so use tape, sticky tack, or a corkboard.
  • Work with your roommate. Call your roommate before hand for practical things (like who’s bringing the mini fridge or TV), but also for decorating questions. See if you can decide on a color scheme for bedding.  If not, maybe try and pick a pattern to work with – floral, gingham, stripes…whatever you like best!

Turning your dorm into your personal haven may be difficult until you have your own private room, but it is important to make it feel like home in whatever ways possible—to provide a soothing zone away from the stresses of the classroom, and an area in which to relax by yourself or with friends and find satisfaction in the comforts surrounding you.


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