Blog title superimposed over an image of a college dorm

7 Decorating Tips to Spruce Up a Drab College Dorm

There can be a lot of rules in a contract about decorating a college apartment or dorm, and although it may be more challenging to stay within the limits of a contract it is still possible and important for the emotional well being of your college student. They need to feel at home where they will be living for the next eight months or more. Here are some tips to decorate your college students space and make if feel like home using poster, bulletin boards, wall decals and more.

Review the Contract

Make sure you and your student are well informed about the rules and policies in the rental agreement regarding decorations. Items like nails and command strips may be strictly prohibited and you must therefore find a way to decorate without putting large holes in the wall. Because renters have so many people moving in and out of college rentals the walls can get to looking pretty bad in a short amount of time especially if someone was a bit too liberal with the thumbtacks.

One thing I would make sure to do is take pictures of the apartment before they move all their possessions in, to document the state of the apartment when they arrived so the landlord can’t hold them responsible for any prior damages. Pay special attention to the walls, floor and any damage that you see.


The right bedspread can do a lot to make the whole room feel brighter and more inviting. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if your child will make the bed first this will help in the move in process and make an impact on the decorating process. Make sure they choose a bedspread they like, this is their space and their choice.

Quilt Bedspread
A quilt or comforter is the best place to start when deciding on a color or theme for a dorm room.


Posters are a basic necessity of a college student because it is a great and inexpensive way for them to express their personality and because they aren’t heavy they don’t require a large nail to put them on the wall. Check out alltheposters.comLink opens in a new tab for a wide array of options to cheer up a dreary apartment.

Rosie the Riveter poster
This is one of my favorite iconic images and perfect for a girls dorm.

Bulletin Boards

A bulletin board is usually a necessity in a college dorm so they have a place to put their event flyers, to-do list and concert tickets. Why not make it look like it was part of the design plan by giving it some personality? Get a swatch of fabric or some nice paper and put it on corkboard, and get some cute thumbtacks to add some more pizazz. Or start from scratch and make one of theseLink opens in a new tab.

Blank Bulletin Board
This blank bulletin board is an opportunity for creative expression, so make it count!


One way to decorate an apartment without damaging the walls it to order some decals that fit your college student’s personality. This is a great way to dress up the walls without damaging them because decals will come off easily with a warm blow-dryer. There are a lot of designs to choose from online and in some cases you can design your own. Take a lookLink opens in a new tab at some of the options that are available and then watch this video to learn how to apply a decal to the wall.

Tricks of the Trade

There are ways to get things on the wall without using nails. Sticky Tack does well to hold small photos and pictures on the wall, in large quantities it may hold up a poster. Command Strips, are also supposed to be really great way to stick heavier stuff to the wall, but be sure to follow instructions exactly when you remove them or you will damage the paint. Some apartments will let you use thumbtacks, I have found those to be quite effective especially when you get the ones with the plastic heads.

Photo of Thumb Tacks
Some places allow the use of thumbtacks on the walls, others don’t.

Color Coordinate

It can be tough living in an apartment where everyone has the same set up and furnishings from one door to the next. A couple of coordinated items like pillows, a throw, and a vase in an accent color will do wonders to pull a living room area together and make it look connected without making any permanent changes.

White paneled living room with bright blue couch
This is not usually the kind of furniture a college dorm is furnished with, so get some colorful pillows to brighten it up.


Rugs are a great way to add color to any room and are a good way to cover up nasty carpet. Plus your college student can use it in every apartment they live in. Tip: Don’t buy a rug until they are moving into the actual apartment because they are bulky and will take up too much space

Close-up of colored woven rug
A rug of any size can help to cheer up a room and make it more inviting.

There are so many things a college student can do to make their apartment feel like a home that expresses who they are. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and the discovery and inventions they come up with are part of what make it fun and unique.