Super Cute Dorm Decor Ideas for Girls (Tips From a Recent Grad)

The ideal person to share the best dorm room ideas is someone who just went through the process. Recent college grad Madi Wojtowicz shares cute dorm room ideas and dorm essentials that all new college students need.

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Packing up and moving your life into a 200-square-foot space can seem overwhelming. But with the perfect mix of functionality and decoration, college dorm rooms will feel like home to new college students in no time. As a recent grad, I’m here to share the cutest essentials that helped me make the most out of a small space and enjoy life in the dorms.

Dorm Decorating Ideas for Girls

Choosing a color scheme is a great way to organize your thoughts when considering freshman year dorm room decor. While staying true to your personal style, decide between bright colors or neutral colors—or perhaps a combination of both! Either way, being intentional from the start is a good idea for college girls looking for the best ways to personalize their living space.

Pro tip: Struggling to find inspiration? Pinterest is a great resource for comparing different styles, interior design ideas, trends and more. 

Upgrading Your Twin XL: From Bedding to Headboards

After selecting your dorm’s color scheme, a smart next step is customizing your bed. Many university housing offices give students the option to junior loft or loft their beds before arriving on campus (I experienced both setups and liked them equally). No matter its configuration, nearly every dorm bed has a Twin XL mattress, so keep that in mind when purchasing sheets and comforters.

Depending on your color scheme, Amazon has a wide selection of Twin XL bedding sets for under $50.

If you’re looking for a statement piece or a unique pattern, see if you can find the perfect bedding set on Etsy.

To take your bed to the next level, consider adding a few cute throw pillows of varying textures or a pop of color with a fuzzy throw blanket.

A comfy bed equals better sleep, and sleep matters. Research shows that when students get a full night’s sleep, they concentrate better and show higher cognitive function. Sleep is one of the 16 proven self-care tips that help college students protect their health.

Pro tip: Most dorm bed mattresses aren’t necessarily luxury quality. That being said, foam mattress toppers are an easy solution if comfort is a concern.

Dorm Decor Headboard

Another popular way to make your bed more appealing to flop into after a long day of classes is by adding a headboard. Dorm room headboards can be especially beneficial if your study habits include sitting up in bed to read or do homework. Or if you like to sit up and watch TV.

At face value, installing a cute headboard on a bed that doesn’t already have one may seem like an ambitious task. The good news is, a DIY headboard is very achievable—no matter how crafty you are.

Most DIY headboards can be installed in an easy way; many don’t even require nails or screws. DormCo’s Bevel Tacked Plush College Headboard, for example, slides between your mattress and bed frame with adjustable wooden legs for extra support. 

DormCo’s Plush Tufted College Headboard would be even less difficult to transport and install, as it is a headboard cushion– basically a giant, extra firm pillow.

There are plenty of different shapes and materials of headboard cushions to choose from, such as plush velvet white or classic panel velvety white. Tons of options! 

Just be sure to double-check that the headboard you select is compatible with a Twin XL bed – so you’ll need a Twin XL headboard. With some research, you might even be able to find the exact dimensions of your dorm’s bed (if your university provides that information). You can expect to spend roughly $100 on a headboard, depending on the brand.

Pro tip: A cheaper, more temporary option for extra support when sitting up in bed is a backrest pillow. These pillows are very popular in the dorms, and they typically range from $30 to $40.

Wall Decor Galore

What a dorm room lacks in square footage is made up for in the decorating potential of its empty walls. With a bit of inspiration and a few Command strips, you can work wonders.

Framed photos can really elevate a space while also bringing some pieces of home into your dorm. I carefully selected photos of my friends, family and dog to print and added them to some cute collage frames that I easily hung with Command strips. You can do a small collage near the desk area, a gallery wall or entire photo walls.

Artwork is another great way to add some personality to your dorm room. While you can find very cool canvases at most home and furniture stores (i.e. HomeGoods, At Home, IKEA, etc.), Etsy also has countless downloadable art prints, usually for only a few dollars. All you need is some cardstock, a printer and a frame of your choosing. Etsy also has a great selection of tapestry wall hangings.

You’re almost guaranteed to find unique art that will match the theme of your room perfectly on Etsy, which for me meant a combination of minimalist line art and Taylor Swift lyrics.

Pro tip: If you have too many photos for a frame, consider making your own giant photo wall collage by directly attaching them using—you guessed it—Command strips.

Another college dorm decor must-have is string lights. Whether you choose fairy lights or neon, color-changing lights, you won’t regret this addition. String lights can change the atmosphere of a dorm room dramatically. Most dorms only have two or three fluorescent lights in their paneled ceilings, which doesn’t necessarily scream “home” to most. Make your room cozier with little extra cost by hanging lights around the perimeter using Command light clips.

If you don’t like the idea of hanging a bunch of decorations on your wall, temporary stick wallpaper might be a better fit. Say goodbye to boring beige walls and hello to a fun patternbright color or even a bold accent wall with removable wallpaper. 

Stick wallpapers are easy to apply and mess-free; no need to worry about pastes or glue. At the end of the school year, simply peel it off. No residues will be left behind after removal either, which means no damage fees for you! 

Last but not least, a full-length mirror is not only a necessity for getting ready and mirror selfie-ing, it also provides the illusion of making a small space seem bigger than it is. Before purchasing one, check to see if your university’s dorms provide mirrors—many do. If not, you can attach your own mirror with lots of Command strips or Command hooks (no one needs the bad luck that comes with a cracked mirror). Another option is purchasing an over-the-door mirror and using the included hardware to hang it.

College Dorm Room Essentials

Just like it is important to enjoy the way your dorm looks, there are also some more practical items that are key to making your new home livable (especially with a college roommate).

1. Storage (And More Storage)

Fitting your life into half of a room can be daunting. Where do you put everything in this small room?! Being strategic about storage will allow you to bring everything you need without creating clutter.

First, almost all dorm rooms have built-in closets with a few shelves. Make the most of this provided storage. Use the rack to hang as many clothes as you can fit. Space-saving hangers might be a good investment if you have a large wardrobe. Shelves can be used for whatever you choose, from snacks to socks. However, to maximize this space (while staying organized), small plastic bins can work wonders and offer great storage for small items. Not to mention they make moving in and out much smoother!

In addition, your dorm will likely provide a desk, which also means desk drawers. Use this space for—surprise, surprise—school supplies, important documents, electronics and textbooks. I’d recommend using plastic bins for organization here, too.

When it comes to bringing your own storage, opt for something tall, narrow and preferably lightweight. (That giant wooden dresser from your childhood bedroom probably isn’t the way to go). 

For example, an 8-cube storage organizer is great for folded clothes, shoes and more. The compatible 11-inch cloth drawers come in a wide variety of patterns and colors, are collapsible and can stretch to accommodate their contents. This unit takes up minimal square footage but actually offers tons of storage.

Pro tip: If your dorm bed is junior lofted, turn the storage organizer on its side and slide it underneath to save space.

Another option that is particularly lightweight and therefore easy to move is a plastic storage tower. While you might recognize it from a past elementary school classroom, this organizer can store a lot more than art supplies and construction paper. With most towers having five or six drawers, this can be a perfect place to keep toiletries, makeup, dishes, food—you name it!

Pro tip: Speaking of construction paper… Most plastic drawers are clear, so if you don’t want guests to see their contents, try taping a piece of paper to the inside.

2. Extra Seating

College dorms serve as hubs for social activities. When inviting friends or floormates into your room, it’s nice to have a few places to sit. That being said, you likely won’t be able to squeeze in a couch and armchairs. Not to worry—there are plenty of seating options that take up very little space.

Floor pillows are a great example. These comfy seating cushions can easily be stacked or stored under your bed, and your guests will definitely appreciate not having to sit on a hard floor when they come over. Choose from a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes to create boho style floor seating options.

Pro tip: In a pinch, two or three floor pillows can be used as a makeshift mattress for an overnight guest. Did someone say slumber party?!

Folding butterfly chairs are also popular for seating in the dorms. Similar to a camping chair, they can be deconstructed and tucked away in a corner or under the bed when not in use. Just as your friends will enjoy this cozy option when they visit, a plush butterfly chair makes a great spot for studying or curling up with a good book, too. 

Pro tip: Many butterfly chairs are washable! Simply remove the fabric cover and toss it in the washing machine like you would bedding. If you fear your chair is past the point of no return, you can purchase a replacement cover for much cheaper than an entire chair.

3. Personal Items

From a shower caddy to Squishmallows, it can be hard to decide what to pack and what to leave behind when you’re planning for a new dorm room. The following are frequently overlooked items that should definitely make it into your “pack” pile:

  • First aid kit
  • Rubber or plastic shower caddy with toiletries (Fabric and mesh caddies are much harder to clean if they get dirty and dry if they get wet—which is very likely in a community bathroom.)
  • Shower shoes (Community bathroom…enough said.)
  • Towels
  • Robe (If your floor has a community bathroom on your floor, be prepared to walk down the shared hallway before and after showering.)
  • Laundry detergent and dryer sheets
  • Clothes hamper
  • Dirty laundry bag (In addition to the hamper in your room, it’s nice to have a laundry bag or tote to carry your dirty clothes to the laundry room. This not only makes your trek easier, but it’s helpful when separating lights and darks, too.)
  • Stain stick (Keep one of these in your backpack for emergencies.)
  • Clorox wipes (Cleaning probably won’t always be your top priority, but Clorox wipes can do the trick with a few swipes on any hard surface. A lazy cleaner’s dream.)
  • Fan (Even if your dorm has AC, temperatures can vary greatly. Having a fan can keep you comfortable on hot summer days or when your building’s heat is blasting in the winter.)
  • Umbrella
  • Sleep mask (If you have a roommate, there’s a good chance you might not always be on the same schedule. A sleep eye mask can ensure you still get your beauty rest when your roomie wakes up for their 8 a.m. class or comes back from the library at 1 a.m.)
  • Water bottles
  • Plates, bowls and silverware (While most of your meals will probably be in dining halls, it’s still a good idea to keep a few dishes on hand for snacks or takeout. Consider keeping a scrub brush and some dish soap on hand to keep these clean after use.)

4. School Supplies

The school supplies you need for college are probably a bit different from what you used in high school. How do you know what to bring? While it really depends on personal preference, there are some must-haves that will help you feel prepared for your first day of classes.

First things first, choose your backpack wisely. When you have a long walk to class, your back and shoulders will thank you for a bag with extra support and padding. Of course, it’s still important to choose one that you think is cute! (See a full list of the best backpacks for more options.)

Unlike high school, you won’t have many paper assignments or worksheets. Because of that, lots of color-coded folders will just take up space; you probably only need one with some extra loose leaf paper inside. Most assignments in college are completed electronically, so be sure to bring a laptop or tablet. That said, taking handwritten notes is still common, so feel free to bring a notebook and some pens/pencils.

Another must-have is a planner. At first, juggling your class schedule, various assignments and student organization activities can seem overwhelming. Using a planner or calendar to organize your week will leave you feeling on top of everything.

Final pro tip: You’ve got this! Starting college is a big life change, but you’re ready for it. Now that you have the cutest dorm on your floor and everything you need to be successful, you’re all set to have the best year ever!

Madi Wojtowicz

Madi Wojtowicz

Madi Wojtowicz (she/her) is a 2022 graduate of The Ohio State University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in communication and a minor in political science. Madi now takes pride in helping organizations achieve their PR goals by nurturing strategic media relationships and creating written and visual content. She is also a proud cat mom, avid rom-com reader and self-proclaimed foodie.

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