Looking for any advice and hints/must haves, for setting up a functional dorm room. From those with experience with the typical Tech dorms, what would you recommend for closet organization/storage? Not knowing how the doors on the closet functions it's hard to plan on what kind of things to buy. How about space savers/do-dads and the like for desks, lofted beds, showers, etc. Are the desk hutches and bunk trays that the college sells useful? I noticed they offer carpeting also, good idea? Can we bring our own area rug?
It might be easier to answer this question once dorm assignments come out so you have the specific dorm, but I'll try anyway.
From my own experience, the best advice I have is to not over-buy things. I tried to buy everything at home so I would be as prepared as possible before moving in, and some of the stuff I bought was completely unnecessary.
If you are getting things in the mail, I personally do not recommend ordering from whatever company Tech offers, just because it's over priced. The only upside is that it offers convenience, but all the things that you can order from the catalogs or whatever Tech sends now can be found at Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Big Lots, etc. during the "Back to College" Season. I bought all my sheets, comforter, storage drawers, and carpet from these places. You can bring your own carpet/rug, and as far as I know, there's no size limit. Additionally, the local YMCA at Tech does "Y-Toss" at the beginning of the school year, where they sell used dorm/home goods from the previous year. You can find decent quality things, they sell a lot of carpets, hutches, chairs, etc.
Storage containers/drawers are always useful. Tech dorms come with a 2 shelf bookcase that many people use as a hutch, but those who like more organization can buy a hutch or their own additional bookcase. For showers, if living in a communal hall, I recommend a basket or shower caddy of some sort just for ease, and shower flip flops.
My S lived in Lee and West AJ so our experience is from those residence halls. Lee did not have carpeting in the rooms and it was much easier. A small broom and dust pan was all that was needed to sweep the floor. WAJ had carpet and did not provide vacuum cleaners. My S and his roommate never cleaned the floor until move out day. I would not purchase an area rug. The floors are warm even on cold days. Our S never had a 2 shelf bookcase in either room so that must vary by dorm. The wardrobes in each room were fine. The WAJ wardrobe was bigger and sturdier and the drawers were very solid and big. My S actually did not use all the space. Of course, he also brought less clothing with him his second year. I don't think a closet system would be useful. My S used Command Hooks to hang his bathrobe and lab coat. The rooms are small so you need to maximize that space. Each student has a desk chair. For extra seating, my S brought a camp chair. When not in use, it was hung on a Command Hook. The only way to expand is upward by adding a standalone wall unit. We purchased 2 units, each 36 inches high, at one of the big box stores. I recommend waiting until you get to VT to purchase the wall unit because you really need to know how much space you have available. The rooms are not all the same size even in the same residence hall. We stacked the 2 units to have one unit that stood 6 feet. If you loft the bed, you can place the unit near the head of the bed. If you put a small tray on the top shelf, then the tray can hold your student's phone, glasses, clock, etc. On the other shelves, my S had a few bookshelf storage bin tote baskets that held all the "stuff" that doesn't really have a home. The microwave was on one shelf. The printer occupied another shelf. One year, he also had a small TV on one of the shelves. Both students can share one printer which reduces the number of cables in the room. My S did not buy a desk hutch or bunk tray and he did not miss them. The room came with the parts needed to loft the beds. The mattresses are rock hard. I added two extra thick mattress covers and a 3 inch mattress topper to the mattress. This makes the mattress almost 13 inches thick. It was super comfortable. The sheets that we purchased for the first year were listed as extra deep but it was still difficult to make up a bed that is lofted. The second year we ordered custom sheets from a store in located in Nevada. (There are several on the internet.) The price of the sheets was reasonable and we had no further problems with the bottom sheet popping off the corners. My S always referred to his bed as 5 Star. My S also took a sturdy 9x12 inch box about 3 inches deep that he used for storing important items such as receipts, the extra key to his car, passport, etc. It didn't have a lock and that wasn't needed. It really is good to have one place where your student keeps the important items. If you loft the bed, you definitely will want a small lamp or two for the area under the bed. You can get a clip-on lamp for reading in bed and a desk lamp for studying. Your student should bring a small shower caddy that holds shampoo, liquid soap, etc. My S also used a Command Hook to hold the caddy. Lastly, you either need to bring home the bins and boxes that you used to pack every thing for move in day or use collapsible items such as duffle bags.
Thanks to both responders. I think I'm on the right track. The rock hard mattress is worrisome! I've got an extra think mattress pad ready, but no plans on a mattress topper. May have to consider one. Luckily S's bed at home is pretty darn hard too, so he's not used to plush!
You should absolutely buy a memory foam matress topper. I got one when I went to college and now I can't sleep on anything else. It makes a massive difference.
Definitely loft your beds if you can. Most people put their desks under the beds, one year I had a futon we put under one and had the desk off to the side.
A carpet is optional. It makes it a little more comfortable/a little less jail-cell like, but it is a little bit of maintenance. I liked having one enough to make it worth the hassle. If you get one then plan everything out before you put it down so you can run any cords that have to go across the room (shouldn't be many/any but still) under it.
The little three drawer plastic things they sell at walmart/target/etc are important to have. One or two is usually plenty.
edit: Also I'd say 80% of people buy too much as opposed to not enough, so keep that in mind. The rooms are small and you only get half the space. That said also get a shower tote. And as I think about it a desk hutch is less optional than I was thinking.
Completely agree on the memory foam mattress topper. I got one for my son and he said had the most comfortable bed in the dorm (although I don't think he actually tried every other bed! :-) ) Get a king size topper from Overstock (all sizes are priced the same) and fold that sucker in half, place on top of your dorm bed, and put your fitted sheet over the whole thing. Totally sleepable and comfy!
The rooms in East AJ have carpet. Also, bring clothes hangers, a power strip, and a strong laundry bag that can be hung on a hook. My S started with a pop-up laundry basket but there was no floor space available for it. The mesh laundry bag ripped from the heavy load. Bring a LARGE, sturdy trash bin, with a lid, that both students share and plenty of trash bags. There are no trash chutes so the students have to take their trash outside to the trash bins and recycling bins.
Spend money and get good trash bags. Trash bags, toilet paper, and shaving razors are things people seem to cheap out on a lot when a negligible increase in quality/price (and most expensive doesn't mean best) actually gives a big increase in quality of life. Just get the good stuff and eat a sandwich instead of ordering a pizza twice a month.
Less is more.....you can always buy something you forgot (assuming you really need it) or get it at Thanksgiving. Oh, and moms, if you have a son, you will probably be wasting your money if you buy a spare set of sheets, cleaning supplies or first aid kits. Just my experience, even though I cringe at the condition his room must have been in.