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A first-year's guide to dorm room essentials at UNC

Students return to on-campus housing at Hinton James Residence Hall after a virtual fall semester and a long winter break on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021.

When rising junior Winter Earnhardt moved into Koury Residence Hall last fall, she made the mistake of overpacking.

“I was the throw pillow person who brought way too many,” she said. “I very quickly learned that I didn't need all of it.”

Beyond throw pillows, Earnhardt said that she brought an excess of books, toiletries and shoes — all of which took up space in her room, rather than being used.

Current UNC students shared their favorite dorm room items, essentials and packing tips as the class of 2026 prepares to move into their residence halls.

What to bring

Earnhardt said she did research on what to pack via online videos of UNC dorm rooms, while Alexis Cameron, a class of 2022 graduate, consulted various essential packing lists to compile her belongings.

During her first year at UNC, Cameron lived in Stacy Residence Hall, a first-year dorm on North Campus. 

“I think the location was really cool and I didn't have to walk that much to get class,” she said. “It was still pretty social. I made a lot of friends my first year.”

Ahead of her first year, Cameron said that she tried not to buy too much before moving in because she wanted to see what her roommate had.

“Don't buy a bunch of stuff before because then you're just going to have to move it in, your parents are going to be annoyed because you got so many boxes,” Cameron said. “And you're just going to have to move it out at the end of the year.”

Beside the basic necessities, she recommended that incoming students invest in a mattress topper for the dorm beds and a broom for cleaning the floor.

Cameron continued living on campus in her sophomore and junior year. She said that having a TV and a futon enhanced her dorm experience — even though they may not be necessities. 

“Having friends over, it just makes for a better social experience,” Cameron said. “And it was a great place to take naps.”

In order to have a better experience in her dorm, Earnhardt was grateful that both she and her roommate brought lamps and fairy string lights.

“The lights in the dorm are like fluorescent, really bright lights,” she said. “That was really hard, especially when we were trying to wind down at night.”

What to leave 

For students planning to live on South Campus, rising senior Caroline Bowersox suggested leaving behind most formal or uncomfortable wardrobe items.

Bowersox, who lived in Hinton James Residence Hall, didn’t believe it when people said that she was just going to wear T-shirts and shorts until the first day of class.

“I had a class all the way in Hanes Art (Center) at 9 a.m. and my roommate and I walked there and it was so sweaty,” she said. “I was wearing a really cute outfit. It was just pointless.”

Earnhardt also said that she brought a whole rack of shoes and only ended up wearing the same few pairs.

“I wore tennis shoes or my Crocs 90 percent of the time, so I did not need boots and flip-flops and all of these shoes that I brought,” she said.

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