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All the comfort of home: Ways to upgrade your college dorm

Heading off to college -- and your very first dorm room -- can be a thrilling experience. But once the early excitement of living on your own for the first time begins to wear off, the dorm-dwelling life suddenly doesn't seem so great.

Notoriously cramped, the dorm room is an early lesson in hardship for most students. There’s little space for common comforts, and many over-zealous over-packers end up sending half a carload of stuff back home with their parents when they realize what a tiny space they’ll be living in for the next four years.

But just because the space is limited, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on every comfort. Here are some tips on how to make your dorm room feel more like home.

A Good Night’s Rest

Many dorm rooms come pre-furnished with a bed, but the mattresses they feature are often far from comfortable. Thin and lumpy, these mattresses have probably been at the school long enough to earn a PhD. If you’d like to upgrade your bed with something a little more cozy, get a high quality mattresses topper. Temper-Pedic’s CampusTopper puts a layer of the company’s trademark memory foam between you and that old bed, ensuring that you get all the rest you need to ace your classes. At $350, this mattress pad is a little pricey, but ensuring you sleep well for the next four years in invaluable.

Solving the Space Issue

Unless you end up doing time in the big house, a dorm room is probably the smallest space you’ll ever inhabit. So to keep it from feeling claustrophobic, it’s important to try to maximize your space. When you lack square-footage, it’s time to make the most of your vertical space. The Ceiling Storage Lift is a heavy duty storage system that puts all your belongings up above and out of the way.

A loft bed is another way to add a little space to your room. Like a bunk bed with the bottom bunk missing, a loft bed elevates your sleeping quarters and gives you enough room for a desk, couch or storage down below.

A Hot Meal

Dining in the food hall is convenient for busy students, but when you’re hit with a hankering for a late-night snack, you’re out of luck. Because of the risk of fire, many dorms ban hot plates, so home cooking -- or even a hot bowl of mac and cheese -- is out of the question. An induction cooktop looks and works a lot like a hot plate, but doesn’t pose a fire hazard, making it much more likely to pass an RA’s inspection. Unlike hotplates induction cooktops don’t get hot. Instead, they use a magnetic field to directly heat the cookware itself, allowing you to make a delicious bowl of ramen without burning the entire residence down.

Kicking Back and Relaxing

Between the common rooms, campus coffee shop, and the library couches, you won’t lack comfortable place to relax on a college campus. But sometimes you just want to unwind in your own space. Bean bags chairs, of course, are the old dorm room standby. However, you can do a lot better than a half-deflated sack of styrofoam. The Strathwood Portable Folding Hammock gives you a comfortable place to kick back when you need it, and then folds up as easily as a lawn chair. And best of all, you can use it as a “guest bed” when pals need a place to crash after a late-night of partying.