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MIT student blogger Anthony R. '09

Useful items to bring for dorm room by Anthony R. '09

A couple people have asked about suggestions for useful items with which to furnish their (or their student’s) dorm room.

While I am not going to list obvious things, like soap and shampoo, I want to say that not everything needs to be sent from home. Some folks think they need to get all sorts of things at home before they come, but there are plenty of drug stores in the area, so unless you have a particular surplus of your favorite Puffs Facial Tissues or Cottonelle Wipes, I’d save the shipping expense. Just bring enough stuff for a few days to hold you over while you settle into your permanent room assignment.

That said:

MIT does not provide linens, pillows, or bath or hand towels. MIT *does* provide toilet paper, and arguably, dispenser-style paper towels. (By arguably, I mean that while they don’t officially leave paper towels around for your usage, they seem to be easily procured if you know where to look. If you like a special Quilted type, better get your own – these are the standard dispenser-issue.)

If you think you will be making some meals on your own, or even saving some takeout food for later, you may want a small fridge in your room. Hold off on getting this until you find out whether or not you will have a roommate: you won’t need two fridges. You’d probably want to order this directly to your dorm once you have your permanent room assignment.

If you aren’t staying in an air-conditioned dorm, a window air-conditioner (again, talk with roommate, but this one’s less obvious) will make you very, very happy. Again, you’d probably want to order this directly to your dorm once you have your permanent room assignment.

Dorm lighting tends to disappoint. Invest in a desk light or even an inexpensive room light (perhaps a torchiere without a halogen bulb that can set things on fire if knocked over).

There are plenty of power outlets in each room, but they don’t always tend to be in the most convenient places. Invest in a surge protector or power strip. Also, the ethernet/network drops aren’t always where you want them, so think about a long network cable. (Your RCC [residential computing consultant — an upperclassman] will have an ethernet cable to give you, but you may want something longer.)

Clothes hangers tend to be useful if you have anything more than what you’d fold up in a chest of drawers. Get an extra-beefy hanger or two for hanging up your heavy winter coat (if you don’t have one, you certainly will when winter comes around!). There might be a hook or two around your room, but save that for a towel or the occasional shirt that needs a temporary residence.

Paper notebooks, appointment planners, calendars, and the like can easily be found here, but do yourself a favor and don’t buy them at the COOP — everything there is grossly overpriced. :-(

Do you have a printer at home? While you won’t *need* one here, and can certainly print your stuff in any Athena cluster for free, it’s sure nice to not have to run downstairs or to another building when you’ve just finished that essay at 3AM.

Some people find a wall-mounted whiteboard to be useful for their room. I’m not a subscriber to the whiteboard-on-your-door thing, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

You won’t need to bring any furniture — chairs, bookcases, drawers, beds, desks are all plentiful. You will need laundry detergent, and it’s expensive in small quantities at LaVerde’s. Get some at another area supermarket once you arrive.

If you had particular luck with a certain math book or two and want to bring them with you, feel free. It’s good to have other resources when something in your MIT textbook doesn’t make sense.

I’m sure I’ll think of other things, and when I do, I’ll post again. :-)

11 responses to “Useful items to bring for dorm room”

  1. Adnan Esmail says:

    Some questions about what to bring:
    1. When you say desks, bookcases, chairs, and drawers are plentiful, what do you mean? Do you mean that they are easy to find at a cheap price, or that they are given away?

    2. Where do you get the larger appliances (window air-conditioner or mini fridge) inexpensively? I’d think that MIT’s shop would be overpriced. Am I correct to assume this?

    3. Can we safely leave take-out food or frozen goods in our suite fridges? I can’t help but ask, since you recommended purchasing a dorm fridge for these items.

    4. Forgive my inexperience, but do most MIT dorms have some built-in closet or cupboard for clothes?

    By the way, thanks for the helpful list.

  2. Anonymous says:

    hi, thanks!! you’re very helpful

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hey can you give me an idea about the quality of cell phone reception in the area. It is time for me to re-up my contract with verizon but want to know if it makes sense to switch for better service at MIT. Thanks

  4. Anthony says:

    Adnan — sorry, I was out for a couple days — I will respond to your questions soon.

    Anonymous: Go ahead and keep Verizon — I think everyone will agree it has the best coverage in the area. (There are many dead spots for *all* carriers on campus, but Verizon is probably the best of the lot. I have T-Mobile, and would call it #2.)

  5. Adnan Esmail says:

    Thanks for the helpful answers!

  6. Anna says:

    Two questions, I hope you have time to answer smile

    In your first posts you wrote that it’s difficult to study after taking years off after school. How is it difficult, in particular — to make sit yourself to study, to organise time, to stay awake smile ? I took two gap years, rather relaxed and slow, and would like to know what to expect and how it’s possible to deal with difficulties that arise.

    Another question is about ESG. Do you know anything about experience of being a part of Independent study group? Does it have disadvantages (they must be, as long as not every MIT freshmen decides to study at ESG smile

    Thank you.

  7. Anthony says:


    Excellent questions — while I don’t have firsthand knowledge of ESG, I do know many people in the program. It is limited to 50 students, as far as I know, so that would explain the small number of participants.

    As far as gap years…… that’s a complicated question and I’ll have to think about how to respond grin

    Adnan: the dorms come with standard furniture, and in some dorm[s], you can even hoard extra furniture because the oversight is lax (or the house manager doesn’t mind). I’m mainly referring to bookcases and desks, with specific knowledge of the way things work at East Campus.

    Take-out and frozen stuff would be fine in the hall/suite fridge, but people do sometimes take food if it isn’t properly labeled (and even then, it happens). I mainly meant that it’s convenient to have your own, clean fridge that isn’t shared by thirty other people. As far as where to buy these things… they can be found used pretty cheaply if you look in the right places or mailing lists on campus.

    And yes, dorm rooms have closets.

  8. Amy P. says:

    I have Cingular cell phone service at MIT, which works really well about 80-90 percent of the time. I think T-Mobile even works in the subway tunnels in Boston, but Cingular does not. MIT is notorious for having many dead spots for cell phone service–this is just a fact of life. Most of the students I know have Verizon.

  9. Anna says:

    Thanks smile Waiting for any information on gap year smile

  10. hi,

    this isn’t so much about what to bring for a dorm room, but is a bike useful/necessary at mit?


  11. Anthony says:

    Hi Sara — yes, a bike is useful, but not necessary … it depends on where you live and on the places you frequent. I don’t have a bike, but I do have a subway pass and use it often. I live near the subway stop, however — most dorms aren’t as close. Bikes are convenient and if you’d rather bike across campus in three minutes instead of walk for ten, then by all means, bring one smile