Home » From Our Readers, Gifts to Make, Headline

Reader Question: Dorm room gift ideas?

4 May 2012 6,899 views 30 Comments

by rhonda

It's reader question time again!  Strap on your thinking caps, ladies and gents, and see if you can help our reader Victoria who has a question about gift ideas for her friend who is heading off to school.  (This is a pertinent question with graduation open house season looming on the horizon!)  She writes:

My best friend is transferring from a community college to a 4-year University in the fall and she will be living on campus for the first time. I'd like to make her a cute gift for her before she moves into her dorm in August. Do you have any ideas?

What kind of gifts do you think are best for students who will be living in dorms?  When you were headed off to college, what handmade gifts would you have found the most thoughtful or useful?  Share your ideas in the comments!

[dorm room photo by ainlondon @ Morguefile.com]

Follow Me on Pinterest

Disclosure: this article may contain affiliate links or other forms of sponsored content. Opinions are 100% the author's. Full disclosure policy.


  • Elizabeth Plaid said:

    Rolls of quarters, some sort of coin collecting jar, a folding room divider, air fresheners and laundry sachets, decorated hangers, decorated laundry bags, first aid kits, “homesickness” kit with foods and photos/creations from the family, stationary sets, bookmarks and embellished paperclips…

    A white board and white board markers are essential for dorm doors! A few people at my college would move a push-pin to different parts of their corkboard to show where on campus they were. One person just used a map of the campus, but another friend gave more specific activities (class, hanging with so-and-so, finding food, library, etc). It’s good to have a way for friends to leave a message for you. The white board works, or a little envelope for holding notes helps keep the message a bit more private.

    Before sending appliances (like a toaster or electric teapot), check with the dorm’s guidelines. 3M hooks and poster strips are also good for hanging decorations. For anything hanging from the ceiling, use fishing line. A ruler is a good accessory, since everything has to be a certain distance from the ceiling (for fire safety).

    I know a lot of my college friends saved their quarters for doing laundry. Sometimes it came down to, “Do I buy a soda from the vending machine, or should I save my coins for laundry?”

  • Amanda said:

    When I went off to a 4-year university, my mom sent me a handmade blanket (really just two pieces of fleece sewn together). But it reminded me of home, and I still use it all the time (I graduated from college in 2001). Also, I remember NEVER having enough money for groceries or food. So a gift card to a local grocery store is a great idea, along with “non-perishable” snacks like beef jerky, trail mix or peanut butter crackers :) Most of all, I would include a hand-written note that says you believe in them and not to give up when the going gets tough!

  • Kendragon said:

    A crafty key holder with several hooks was a big life/time-saver for me. I was always losing my keys in my room!

  • BKWilliams said:

    A personalized bath robe and matching slippers, in case she has to share bath facilities. A personalized calendar that covers the school months and has family/friends photos on each page.

    Most people do not have twin size sheets for those dorm room beds. A nice set of sheets would be good and then personalize the pillow case. Extra pillows are good too.

    Storage is always needed in dorm rooms. Things like those over the door plastic see through shoe holders can hold lots of supplies.

    Elizabeth gave a great list of things in her comment. The first aid kit is great and I would add basic medicines like for headaches, etc.
    A basic sewing kit is good in case of emergency like a button pops off or small rip.

  • liveseygirl said:

    I don’t know about the US but in the UK dorm mattresses are covered in plastic so an under blanket is a must. You could make a cute door sign? Or if you have more time you could make a survival kit:

    1) get a box with a lid a cover it in cute fabric do it can double as storage once empty
    2) buy some of your friend’s fave food treats for the box
    3) buy/make/decorate a photo frame and add a pic of you guys/their family
    4) include some stationary or a book voucher for text books
    5) make a personalised pen pot from an old plastic cup. Perhaps cover it in the same fabric as the box so your friend looks coordinated
    7) close up the box and give with love

    Hope that is useful in some way x

  • liveseygirl said:

    P.S. sorry for typos am in the UK and it is 5am. Im up with the baby!

  • Onna said:

    Great suggestions so far. We always had “shower caddies” but we shared a bathroom with lots of girls and didn’t leave our stuff. Quarters are super as is a white board. One thing I loved my Mom had made for me was a sign that read Dorm Sweet Dorm, loved that thing and had it on my door all four years.

  • Kirsten T said:

    For a girl a large bath towel with velcro and strap to wear to and from the showers down the hall. A bath caddy with bathroom supplies and toiletries. A lap blanket or cuddly blanket for those late night study sessions. A quick and simple embroidery job on a pillowcase with a name or design.

  • truebluemeandyou said:

    I got asked the same questions on my blog a while back and a few of my reader’s answers were: fleece knotted fringe blankets in her new college colors (the no-sew kind where you just cut and knot), paint or mod podge a wood storage box (shoebox size to trunk size)& fill w/her favorite goodies, cute decorated laptop/book bags, photo calendars, decorated tackle boxes to organize and keep jewelry and makeup, “Stay Calm and Carry On” on anything and everything, Some sort of decorated carrier/caddy for toiletries (Dollar Store!), an over the door storage hanger, decorated cheap flip flops,and finally a laundry sack (you could buy a cheap one a run a sheet of fusible fabric through it with “Keep Calm…” or whatever you want and decorate the bag with it). A white board suggested above @Elizabeth, was also a suggestion on my blog.

  • truebluemeandyou said:

    Can I have a do over? I just saw so many grammatical errors in my post!

  • Kaitlyn said:

    When I and my roommate were in college, the one thing we wish we had more of was room and places to store things. I’ve seen a few cute ideas around about making chair covers with pockets- if you can find out in advance what sort of furniture she’ll have, you could sew a personalized chair cover like that. If she’ll have space under her bed, make/customize little boxes to store things.

    Adding to what other’s have said: A lot of girls spent time in each other’s rooms or even in the hallway, so a small throw blanket would be a great idea as well. I also have to agree with the coin-collecting jar. Shortly after moving in, we started throwing change into a large plastic jar we found at the dollar store.

  • Fatcat said:

    A Dorm Sweet Dorm sign or pillow.


  • Jen said:

    http://youtu.be/6x1GkgbVP1I How about this dorm room

  • Christine said:

    I love crafty things to inhabit my space–it makes things feel that much more like home for me.

    Thus I would suggest
    -a frame with some of your friends favorite pictures in it
    -a headboard or curtain made out of origami (I prefer cranes because of heir simple shape)

  • Heather said:

    The three best gifts I received when I moved to college was a bucket of cleaning supplies and paper towels- now, I was less than impressed to receive this gift at my open house, but a month after school started & the place started to get grimy, I was the ONLY person that thought to bring cleaning supplies–and no one in college wants to spend their precious grocery money on Windex.

  • Adrienne said:

    A first aid kit in cute bag or box you decorate.

    New towels are always nice.

    Over-the-door hanging rack, nice for small space to put on the door.

    Cute door mat for wiping feet.

    Anything practical, like a box with toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, tylenol, midol, cleaning rags, lotion, anything like that. Maybe throw in something fun too, like a picture frame.

  • S said:

    Personalized towels in their favourite colour. This was my favourite gift, and I’ve given it to friends & they all loved it as well!

  • Morgan said:

    My favorite gift I got for college was a ceiling tile painted and personalized with ribbon attached. It was a great place to tack important dates and assignments as well as pictures of my friends and family!

    It was also nice to get practical gifts like plastic dishes and cups so that I could eat in my room on those days I didn’t have time to go to the cafeteria.

  • Cyndi said:

    The best gift I got before I went off to college was a tote full of notebooks, stapler, tape, pens, pencils, and binders! It was great. I think other great ideas would be microwavable meals, popcorn, granola bars…etc

  • Sally R said:

    A basic tool kit. Pliers, screwdrivers (flat, phillips, tiny & largish), hammer, wrench, a few screws & nails, razor blade cutter thingie, duck tape, masking tape, electrical tape. Even if the recipient doesn’t know how to use them they will come in handy if they ask for help.

  • Victoria said:

    I suggest everything that people forget. I was the only girl my freshman year that had duct tape, and tools and everyone used them all the time. Other commonly forgotten things are staplers and scotch tape,I used my room mate’s stapler for a year and a half becasue of it.

  • SundaysChild said:

    hmm.. homemade .. food? fudge .. cookies, brownies, trail mix .. cleaning kit sounds great, include some hand sanitizer, rubber gloves, air freshener, a FLASHLIGHT! and a selection of over the counter remedies for headaches, colds, flu, hangovers (they can get real expensive) ..

    and money, cash, moolah, laundry quarters, loaded up gift cards, gas cards – money is always the right colour, size and style. Could be creative and load up cards for the supermarket, gas station, restaurants all in the area (Subway, McD’s) .. phone cards, prepaid cell cards? umm .. maybe throw some condoms in too. coughcough.. sorry, reality, I remember college. LOL


  • Shauna said:

    My favorite gift: Laundry basket with ribbon weaved through it, which makes it easily identifiable as yours, as well as pretty, a new towel with name, large box of laundry soap, and a stain remover.
    I also second the cleaning kit. That would have been nice.

  • Kathryn said:

    In addition to all of the above ideas, I would suggest a hot air popcorn popper with a bag of popcorn and popcorn salt; not only is it great for low cal easy to make study snack, it could be an ice breaker to invite others on the floor to share.

    One thing I had pinned is a DIY Bed Pocket Pouches

    Another item I had planned on making for my son, but the link is now dead, is an ottoman made out of a large plastic tote – it was basically a skirt made for the circumference of the tote with a matching pillow attached to the top with the lid still removable so it doubles as storage.

    Once she goes off to college, especially the first few weeks, keeping in touch and/or just sending her something small from the dollar store, even if it is just a pack of gum, that you know she would like can let her know you are thinking of her and keep her spirits up.

  • Lupita said:

    I would suggest:

    -a body pillow in colors that go well w/ their sheets/ comforter

    -a collage of pictures of family/ friends/ etc

    -decorations for the room like a 3-d monogram or the school’s letters

  • JesusChique said:

    Get a pretty piece of cord 1 1/2 – 2X the width of her window. Attach a hook on each end, big enough to hang on the curtain rod at each side of the curtain. Glue picture frames in assorted fun colors and sizes (or something to match her color scheme) so she can hang photos of family and friends.

  • Leighann said:

    I’ve made “Junk Drawer” boxes for each of my cousins before they moved out for college. Usually I put the type of things you’d find in a junk drawer at home, but in a box, since dorm drawer space is limited.
    I’d include binderclips, thumbtacks, mini-stapler, mini-sewing kit, band-aids, super glue, altoids, post-it notes, and a sharpie. I also included a note about secondary uses for the items, like supergluing a papercut, or sharpie on a scuffed shoe.
    The best part was that I could find this mishmash at the dollar store, including the box, and it only cost me $10… which was great with my tight family budget.

  • Andi said:

    My favorite gift when I moved into my dorm room was a set of personalized magnets. My RA made magnets in school colors using foam shapes and magnet strips from the craft store. Later, the sorority mothers used the same idea for their little sisters.

    Basically, anything in university colors is a good gift, too – there’s no such thing as too much school pride!

  • partycraftsecrets said:

    I was addicted to takeaway noodles when I was a student – so why not make a stash of hand-painted chopsticks, they don’t take up much room, and they’ll be a fun way of getting noticed on campus!


    I also love all the ideas of making crafty places to stash treasures mentioned above, a memories jar from home would be fun, or put a paper / felt heart in a jar for a quirky shelf accessory!


  • sherry said:

    Lots of pre stamped envelopes addressed to mom :o)