Ask A Baltimore Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

July 23, 2013 6:00 AM

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Freshman college students, or students moving on campus for the first time, are often unsure of how to furnish their new dorm room. Generally, they have three choices about how to proceed: transport furnishings from home, buy items that are needed and transport them or buy the items from retail outlets near campus. Each approach has its pros and cons, according to Chris Alvarez, a senior at Johns Hopkins University, who founded The Complete Dorm, an online service devoted to advising and providing all things necessary for a comfortable dorm life. He offers some insight for the uncertain student entering dorm life.

Photo Gallery: Must-Have School Supplies

Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Let’s Get Cleaning!

When Alvarez first moved on campus, it was a stressful situation. Rather than buy everything in Baltimore, he purchased the items from his home in Chelmsford, Mass. and transported it all, said Alvarez – a systems neuroscience major whose minor is in entrepreneurship and management. They spent the day scurrying from store to store in a mad dash to buy everything from personal grooming items to a microwave. It was that experience that led Alvarez and his friend Ian Han, who is pursuing a double major in public health and film and media studies, along with a minor in entrepreneurship and management, to create The Complete Dorm Room business two years ago. Alvarez also started Blue Jay Cleaners, a campus janitorial service for students.

Starting its second year when students return to the university in the fall, the business currently caters strictly to Johns Hopkins University students, although, according to Alvarez, the company has received inquiries from students of other universities interested in using the service. What makes their business successful is the level of service.

Students can purchase everything they need online at competitive prices and all the items will be delivered to their dorm room, Alvarez said. Not only are the items delivered, the business has created a database of all the dorm rooms on campus, which contains room size and other information, such as whether it is AC-equipped, WiFi-equipped, has an in-room bath or the room shares an exterior bathroom facility, etc.

“Students at all the universities in the city go to all the same stores on move-in days,” Alvarez said. “Inventories get sucked off the shelves. We wanted the move-in process to be much more fun and painless.”

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sleep Ask A Baltimore Expert: Essentials When Dorm Shopping

Don’t Get ‘Short Sheeted’

Modern dorm rooms are small, Alvarez said, requiring some organizational planning. Alvarez said that dorm rooms are often equipped with extra-long twin beds, something that many students do not realize until they try to make their beds with standard twin sheets.

(credit: Thinkstock)

(credit: Thinkstock)

Optimize Your Storage Space

Making maximum use of space is the best strategy, he said. That space includes under beds, in closets, dressers, etc. Putting shelves in the closet optimizes storage space. Whiteboards are another excellent resource for dorm rooms – a larger whiteboard for schedules mounted inside the room and a small whiteboard on the exterior of the door for messages.

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Photo Credit:

Don’t Forget These Key Items

Other must-have items are hangers, trash bags, shower flip-flops, shower caddies, extension cords, stick-and-peel tape for art or posters, wall-command hooks, coffee makers, recycling bins and fans if no AC is provided. Generally, students today do not go through the expense for cable TV service. Instead, they use online services, using their computers to watch favorite programs, he said.

(photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

(photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Home Away from Home

Make the room homey with posters, plants, artwork and photographs of family and friends, he added. Remember most dormitories prohibit the use of anything with an open flame, space heaters and heating blankets.

Most colleges and universities provide students with dormitory handbooks that list all of the rules and offer information about the do’s and don’ts of college living.

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The Complete Dorm Room
Johns Hopkins University
105 Whitehead Hall
Baltimore, Md. 21218

Jeffrey B. Roth has won numerous state and national news and feature-writing awards during his career. A well-known crime writer, investigative reporter and a feature writer, Roth writes for a number of magazines and newspapers. Listed in the Locus Index of SciFi and Fantasy authors, Roth is the author of a number of published short stories and poetry. His work can be found on

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