Ah, the most exciting time of the year for an incoming college freshman: dorm décor season. Time to pick out color schemes, buy new throw pillows and flock to Target for all the things every college student never knew they needed. In all that excitement, it’s hard to not go overboard and know what you actually need. I completely understand because that’s exactly where I was last year. Thankfully, hindsight is 20/20 and over the course of my freshman year I figured out exactly where I went wrong and what actually worked out. So, to make things easier, learn from my mistakes!
DO: Take Photos and Measurements
Usually, at orientation there is an option to tour your dorm hall and a model room. Do the tour! Take pictures of the room from multiple angles so you have something to reference when shopping. Try to envision where you would put the furniture, if you’ll loft the bed, etc. If you just so happen to have a tape measure with you (which my mom always has in her purse haha), take measurements of furniture, like the desk, and/or walls that you plan on hanging decorations. If you don’t happen to have a tape measure on hand (which most normal people don’t), most schools post dimensions and some furniture measurements online.
When I was dorm shopping, I used my pictures and measurements primarily for making sure my big ticket items would work in my room. For example, I kept my bed lofted and bought stairs with storage shelves. I double-checked with my measurements of the bed frame and the wall to make sure the stairs weren’t too big before I dropped major cash on them.
DON’T: Buy Everything Before Move-In
Somethings you’ll need to wait till you move-in to buy. You may not have as much room on your walls or in your drawers as expected or maybe your well laid plans of organization and decoration go awry once you get into your room. It’s usually pretty safe to buy purely décor items, cleaning supplies, bedding, and other essentials beforehand. However, I recommend waiting until move-in to buy organizational items and larger furniture. This way, you don’t have to move as much and can make sure that what you buy will actually work well in your room.
This was the number one mistake that I made when dorm shopping! I was so excited to plan out and buy everything that I ended up spending too much money for things that were not the best fit for my dorm. After move-in, I realized I had way more storage bins than I had things to put in them, my drawers were way deeper than the dividers I bought and I didn’t really know where to put all the stuff I had brought. If I had just waited until I got to town, I would’ve known what I was working with before I spent my money.
DO: Talk to your Roommate(s)
Whether you are rooming with your high school bestie or are randomly paired with another resident, it is important to talk to your roommate about your plans for the room. You’ll want to make sure you know who is bringing bigger items like the microwave, fridge, futon/couch, or any other communal items so that duplicates can be avoided. You also might want to coordinate décor. Some roommates like to have a shared color schemes, matching bedspreads or even identical sides of the room. Either way it’s important to figure out how you want to coordinate décor with your roommate(s).
For me and my roommate, we talked a lot before move-in. We split up who would cover costs for communal items like our micro-fridge, rug, mirror, and shower curtain. On the décor side, we coordinated but didn’t match. We both kind of wanted to do our own thing but didn’t want our sides to clash. We both had grey as a color but she added a green and cactus theme and I added a blue theme. So, our room looked cohesive but our sides looked personalized and expressed our own styles.
DON’T: Go Overboard on Decorations
Everyone wants their room to look super cute and Instagram worthy. But remember that your dorm will only be your home for the school year. Decorate the walls and your desk but be mindful in picking stuff that can move with you to an apartment or another dorm in the following years. Try not to overspend on trendy décor that may be outdated or break by the next year. College can be an expensive time, and you don’t want to break the bank on dressing up your dorm to the nines.
For my dorm décor, I tried to make sure that stuff I bought was versatile and relatively inexpensive. For instance, I bought some corkboards, whiteboards and a light box. These items could basically go anywhere in my dorm and I could change out the pictures or words to keep the look fresh. Also, corkboards are kind of timeless and I’m even using them in my apartment this year!
DO: Make your Dorm Feel Like Home
Like it or not, your dorm will be your home for your entire first year of college! You want to feel comfortable and at home in your room. It will make your transition into college life and living on your own way nicer. If you can’t stand bare walls or feel that your dorm is the ugliest place on this planet, staying positive and avoiding homesickness can be more challenging. So dressy up the walls and make your dorm the coziest place possible!
I am so thankful that I felt at home in my dorm. I love photos, so I hung a million pictures of me and my family, college and hometown friends. I wrote funny quotes on my whiteboards and tried (key word: tried) to make my bed as comfy as possible. Since I liked my dorm, it was a place that I knew I could rest between classes and chill out on stressful days. Having a place that you feel comfortable to relax is an important aspect to thriving in college!
Hopefully, these tips help as you shop and plan for the cutest and coziest dorm on campus! Leave a comment telling me about your biggest successes or mistakes in designing your dorm!