Ask A Denver Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

July 23, 2013 6:00 AM

The University Of Colorado campus in Boulder (credit: CBS)

The University Of Colorado campus in Boulder (credit: CBS)

The University Of Colorado campus in Boulder (credit: CBS)

As a college freshman, life can be tricky. Out from under your parents’ wing, you can start making your own choices and finding your way through life. One aspect of college life that can be particularly daunting is dorm life. Justin Weis, Associate Director of Residential Life and Housing at Colorado College, and Billy Cox, Resident Advisor at CU Boulder, break down some of the dos and don’ts of dorm shopping that will make your transition easier.

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Mind Your Bed

One thing that all dorms provide for students is a bed, however, the chances are good that it won’t be as cushy as the one at home. Weis offers the following advice: “One of the most important items to have is an egg crate foam to go on top of your mattress. Mattresses in residence halls are made to be durable, easily cleaned and fireproof. Having a bit more cushioning makes all the difference in the world for some students.”

Cox advises keeping bed dimensions and bedding in mind as well. “Students need to bring bed linens that are able to fit an extended twin bed, and they should also remember to bring pillows.” Having a comfortable place to sleep will greatly enhance your college experience, as sleep deprivation can make people more moody.

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Roommate Agreements Are Not Works of Fiction

While some people are very open to sharing their stuff, others prefer to be the only ones wearing that little black dress. These details are best shared up front. Weis says, “At the beginning of the year, RAs have the residents in their areas fill out ‘roommate contracts’ to discuss things like visitors, using each other’s stuff, etc.” Cox advises addressing these issues up front to mitigate any issues further down the road. “Students are encouraged to first talk to their roommate and have a one-on-one to set up the boundaries of the room.” While not necessarily a shopping pointer, this is good advice – especially if you have things that you’re really uncomfortable letting other people use.

Toiletries Are Not Included

One of the most dreaded aspects of college life for the uninitiated is the communal shower. Cox recommends stocking up on necessities like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste and other items, and he advises remembering other items for your shower kit. “Students also need to remember to bring a towel, shower shoes and a robe (if they use a robe),” said Cox who adds, “For a majority of students, their bathroom is not in their room and they have to walk through a public hallway to get to the shower so a robe is a more comforting option.” Shower shoes are an absolute MUST in any public shower, so be sure to pick up a good pair.Weis recommends stocking up on first aid supplies. “Having basic medical supplies is always helpful. Asprin, Bandaids, a thermometer and the like are things you don’t really think about until you need them. So it’s helpful to plan ahead.” Make sure you pack your necessities.

Hand Over the Remote

Dorm rooms are small and it’s hard to fit a lot of things in them. Cox advises holding off on bringing all of your belongings with you until you can get a feel for what you need. He also mentions splitting costs with your roommate. “Talk to your roommate concerning who is bringing a TV if you want one in the room. When you have more than one, it can get crowded,” said Cox. With today’s technology, some of these issues can be deterred. With a tablet or a computer, you can watch TV and movies with headphones to avoid disturbing your studying roomie.

Maximize Your Space

Both Cox and Weis recommend lofting one of the beds or using bunk beds to enhance living space. Weis points out that organization is essential. “The other main thing is to just stay organized. When you have such a small space, even a few things out of place can make it seem messy.” Thankfully, there are several tools available like stacking shelves and tiered bins with drawers that take up minimal space. These touches can help to organize your small room.

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Alaina Brandenburger is a freelance writer living in Denver. Her work can be found at