Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

When you think about getting to decorate your dorm room, you think about picking out the perfect comforter, buying fairy lights to create just the right ambiance, and hanging posters that will showcase just how fabulously individualistic you are. It sounds so fun and easy. You know what you like, and that’s all that really matters. Well, it would be except for the fact that your new home comes with a funky sized mattress that many students have slept on before you.

Twin XL is a phrase that will become your new best friend this summer. You must begin to search for sheets, blankets, comforters, duvet covers, and (most scarily) mattress pads that will fit your 39 by 80 inch mattress. What makes Twin XL different is that it is the size bed used almost exclusively by university dorms. It’s a little bit long than a regular Twin and smaller than a Full or Queen size. You likely have not knowingly encountered one before, and it can be hard to find bedding in this in between size. And as if the sizing didn’t make it hard enough, you are also expected to buy a mattress pad so your bed won’t give you constant back aches. But there are like five thousand different kinds of mattress pads to choose from. In the following segments, I’m going to try and breakdown the different options you have for bedding and mattress pads in the hopes that you will be a little less confused by the time you finish this article.

So, without any further ado, I give you…


Fitted Sheets

Of all the things you are going to be buying to put on your bed, it is most important that the fitted sheet fits correctly. As the name implies, these sheets are made to fit a certain kind of bed. Not only that but they are basically what holds your bed together. If you were to buy the twin size, you’d find your self unable to cover the last couple of inches of your bed, which means your mattress pad would be free to slide around while you try to get some sleep.

Picture yourself rolling over in the middle of the night, only to wind up on the floor because your mattress pad wasn’t held tightly to your bed because you were lazy and bought the wrong size fitted sheet. It might be hard to find Twin XL fitted sheets. but many schools offer some sort of partnership with a bed linens company where you can purchase them (a portion of the proceeds usually goes to your school too, as if you weren’t giving them enough money already). Theoretically, Queen or Full size fitted sheets would work, but you might find yourself sliding around a bit because of all the lose material.

Find them at Ebay, Garnett Hill, or Target.

Flat Sheets

Flat sheets are a little more flexible. If you don’t mind not being able to tuck your sheets under your mattress, you’ll be fine with a normal Twin size. If you want to have plenty of extra material to wrap your self up in at night, go for the Full/Queen size. If you want to play it safe, get the recommended Twin XL.  You have many more options for your flat sheets at a much wider range of prices.

Find Twin size sheets at Ikea.

Find Twin XL sheets at Walmart or Dorm Co.

Find Queen/Full sheets at Overstock.


As long as you plan on having a comforter or duvet too, get whatever kind of blanket you want. It can be for decoration or because you get extra chilly at night, whatever. Seriously. Just pick a soft one.

Find blankets at Brookstone (I’ve had this blanket for years and it’s so stinking soft and cuddley) or Tilly’s.

Comforters/Duvet Covers

Pretty much the same rules for sheets apply here. It’s all about your own preference. I’ve heard many college students say that they are perfectly happy with their standard Twin size covering. It just won’t hang over the edges much. Of course, you can always get the safe Twin XL option. Queen/Full sized comforters are a little bit trickier because they will hang over the edges of your bed quite a bit. This can be good if you want to cover under bed storage, but it can also make the pattern on the comforter look a little funky if it isn’t a repeating pattern. Just be aware of what you buy! Also, if you are buying a duvet cover, don’t forget to grab a duvet insert to go with it! Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with nothing more than another blanket.

Find duvet covers and duvet inserts in Twin and Queen at Ikea.

Find duvet covers and comforters in Twin, Twin XL, and Queen at Urban Outfitters.

Mattress Pads

Basic Cotton Mattress Pad

This is what you want if you aren’t worried about the comfort of you bed. Usually they come with stretchy edges so they can grip your bed (and you can worry less about your fitted sheets!), are thinly padded, not spill proof, and are machine washable. This will hold up to typical wear and tear and is the most basic option you can get (usually the cheapest too!).

Find it on Amazon or Bed Bath and Beyond.

Memory Foam Mattress Pad

This is definitely the next step up in the world of mattress pads. After you’ve spent a few nights sleeping on one of these, it will mold to your shape and turn your bed into the pinnacle of comfort. Be wary though, as the foam in these absorbs heat and can make you too warm at night. Keep in mind that these come in a variety of thicknesses, usually ranging between 1/2-3 inches (the general consensus on the web seems to be that a 2 incher will get the job done while still supporting your back). Your parents will thank you for the lightweight nature of this as they lug all your stuff up four flights of stairs.

Find it on Amazon and Downlite.

Temperature Regulating Mattress Pad

If you have a tendency to get too warm at night, check out a pad designed to cool you down. This can be important when you’re living in a dorm and have little control over the temperature. For those who feel cold at night should consider opting for a fleece or flannel mattress pad for added warmth,

Find cooling pads on Residence Hall Linens.

Find warming pads on Overstock.

Other Considerations

Often times, mattress pads of all sorts will come with extra add ons. The most popular ones are hypoallergenic and water/spill resistant. Think about your own lifestyle when buying one of these, as they can tack on additional costs. Some brands also offer pads with bed bug barriers, something that you shouldn’t have to worry about, but if you’d rather be safe than sorry, the option is there.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

the author

Kathleen is a Northern California native and incoming freshman at Washington & Lee University. She spends much of her free time obsessing over the future (not in a crystal ball way) and making plans to visit as many countries as humanly possible throughout her four years of college. She loves her dog Morton, Grey's Anatomy, and money. One day she hopes to become the perfect mix of Cristina Yang, Mindy Kaling, April Kepner, and Amy Poehler. Until then you can find her crying over how exciting life is and retaking the Myer's Briggs Test to make sure she really is ENTJ.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply