Dorm Room Essentials Checklist 2020 to Return to College Safely

Dorm room essentials look different in 2020. Find out what you need to bring to your dorm to stay safe in the era of COVID-19

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This is not the list of dorm room essentials we wanted to write. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our dorm room checklist was going to focus on tips to maximize your space in a tiny room and fun, affordable decor. Although those things are still important to have a great college experience, you’re probably also thinking about how you’ll stay healthy while living with new people in a new environment. 

Unfortunately, many colleges are advising students to travel light in the event that they need to shut down and send students home unexpectedly. You need to be prepared with COVID-19 safety measures in case the virus hits your campus. Make sure to check on whether there are any recommended or restricted items for your school before you start packing for your dorm.

You may also be required to quarantine in your dorm for two weeks once you arrive. Instead of checking out local restaurants and bars, you may be spending a lot of time in your room with your new roommate. That’s a recipe for boredom, so you should consider making a plan now on how you’ll keep busy while you’re keeping yourself and others safe.

Here are our top ten dorm room essentials for 2020–2021, a college year like no other. We hope that next year you’ll be able to focus on decorating your space without pandemic stress and exploring everything your campus has to offer. Until then, we’ve got you covered.

1. Masks

Woman wearing yellow mask

College dorms are one of the hardest places to socially distance. You’ll be living with people from all over and, if your school offers in-person classes, you and your roommates will be interacting with different groups before coming back to your room. Getting to know new people is one of the joys of going to college, but it also creates unique challenges with COVID-19. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends higher ed students, faculty and staff wear masks whenever feasible, but especially when it’s not possible to socially distance. Disposable and reusable masks capture respiratory droplets that can carry viruses, making them essential to protecting ourselves and each other from the pandemic. Just remember to wash your reusable masks after each use.

2. Tissues

A box of tissues

Remember when tissues were the main way we blocked sneezes and coughs and no one thought much about masks? We miss those days. Although you’ll probably be wearing a mask most of the time when you’re out of your room, you’ll want tissues for your dorm. For times when your face is mask-free, the CDC still recommends using tissues and chucking them immediately after use.

3. Hand sanitizer

 Person pouring hand sanitizer

Your college should provide hand sanitizer stations all over campus, but we recommend buying your own for your dorm room. Studies have shown that alcohol-based hand sanitizers knock out SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the World Health Organization recommends sanitizers with 60% to 80% alcohol content. Just remember that washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is still the most effective form of hand hygiene, so use a sink and soap when you have the option.

4. Cleaning supplies

Paper towels and bottle of cleaner

Since you’ll probably be coming into contact with a lot of different people and maybe sharing your living space with roommates, you’ll have to be vigilant about cleaning. The CDC advises us to clean our high-touch surfaces everyday, including “tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets and sinks.” That’s a lot of places to clean, so you’ll need a good supply of cleaning products, such as single-use gloves (toss ‘em when you’re done every time), disinfecting wipes, multi-surface cleaners, vinegar or plain old soap and water, which remains one of the strongest tools we have to fight COVID-19.

5. Entertainment

Playing cards with ace of spades

If you grew up playing gin rummy with your grandpa or have an indecipherable poker face, now is your time to shine. Card games have made a comeback in dorms while students quarantine before classes begin. If you’re looking for other fun distractions while you wait, try hosting online trivia with your friends from high school to stay in touch or play some online board games.

6. Medications

 Small, white tablets of medication

There is no treatment for COVID-19 right now, so if you’re experiencing symptoms like a cough, shortness of breath, fever or body aches, call your doctor or student health center immediately. For minor ailments like a common cold or sprained ankle from working out, you may want to have Tylenol, Aleve, Advil or Motrin on hand.  As always, consult with your healthcare provider before taking any medication to make sure it’s safe for you.

A gentle reminder to those who take a prescription regularly and are going away to college: Talk with your prescriber to make sure you have access to your medication in your new city.

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