Undergraduate Programs

Decorating Your Dorm: The Quad Basics

Two students hold video game controllers while seated on wooden chairs in their dorm room.

Congratulations! You are in, and just received your roommate and dorm room assignment. Living in the quad at Clarkson University is a great place to meet other first-year students new to the campus and college living just like you! The Quad is comprised of four residence hall buildings that are all connected. Whether you are in Ross, Brooks, Cubley, or Reynolds, you will have the same room layout on the first three floors with the top floor of these buildings being a bit different.

Before you start shopping

Before you begin to think about decorating your dorm, you need to understand what you already have in your room. The last thing you would want to do is bring a big work desk, only to find out you already have one in your dorm. The Quad features double rooms, meaning you will share with your roommate. Each person per room is provided with a bed with the ability to loft, a desk, a chair, some built-in shelving, a closet, and a wardrobe with a mirror above.

Now that you know what is provided, you can better understand what you need to bring to fit your needs. For myself, I found that I needed to bring extra storage for all my clothes, along with a table to put my microwave on.

The next step is to connect with your roommate! You can do this by reaching out to them through their email. You can find this on your MyCU homepage under student housing. Reaching out to your roommate is a great way to divide up who brings the fridge, microwave, TV, and coffee maker. This is also a great time to figure out a theme for your room if you wish. My roommate and I decided on a color scheme of pink, white, and grey so that our room would look cohesive.

A great way to get to know your roommate and help figure out your room design is to create a collaborative Pinterest board. This way your roommate can show you things they like and you can do the same. Pinterest is filled with great decorative and organizational tips. Pinterest also has great examples of packing lists that you can use to formulate your own.

With a list of what you need to bring and what your roommate is bringing, you can begin shopping. I suggest making a master list of everything you want to bring, but before you go packing your candles and air fryers, make sure you read up on what to bring and what not to bring as provided by the office of residence life. Triple check that you are not bringing anything that is a fire risk as you could be fined.

Once you have all of your essentials, it is time to shop for all of your dorm décor and organization stuff to make your dorm room feel like home.

Door & Walls

The first thing someone sees when going to your dorm is the door. The best purchase I made for my dorm decorations was a small whiteboard that was attached to the outside of our door. During the first week of classes, my roommate and I would make surveys and polls on our whiteboard, this encouraged us to meet and interact with other students in our building. We found that all the people walking by would interact with the whiteboard but also with us, and this was a great way to make friends and learn more about our floor mates.

We affixed our whiteboard to the door using command hanging strips. This provided a strong hold without the fear of damaging the door. We also used the backside of the door to hang up a full-length mirror and a few organizational command hooks to keep our keys on.

Command wall hanging strips are perfect to hang up all your posters, signs, tapestries, and other decorations. I used Command hanging strips to hang up my picture board. This board was a great place to pin up pictures of my family and friends, and also different campus event posters.

The quad dorm walls are cement meaning that regular tape and tacks will not work to hang posters or pictures. There is a strip of blue cork board along each wall just above the side of the bed which works perfectly to pin whatever you like along it. If blue is not your color, I have seen people who cover their boards in the fabric that matches the color scheme of their room.

Lighting is also a very important thing to take into consideration. The dorm comes with one overhead light and a window that provides a lot of natural light. In addition to these, I had a desk lamp that had USB ports on top of it. The lamp was great for when I wanted to study late at night but did not want to keep my roommate up with a bright light. We also purchased LED light strips that we wrapped around the window. This was great at night to add some color to the room. LED lights are allowed in the rooms but must not be above the doorway, attached to the ceiling, or next to combustible materials. Before adding any decorations be sure to double-check the fire code rules.


A student sits smiling on her green and white bedding in her dorm room, with a poster in the background featuring a sun, sunflowers, and a horse. Her laptop is open on the bed beside her.
Clarkson student sitting in her decorated dorm!

One thing that my roommate and I always got compliments on was how nice our beds looked. In addition to the mattress that comes with the room, I added a mattress cover, and topper to make the bed extra comfortable. My comforter was a plain color that matched the rest of the room, and on top of that, I added a few throw pillows that added pops of contrasting colors, textures, and patterns. One pillow I really suggest bringing is a bedrest pillow. Bed rest pillows are perfect for doing homework while sitting in bed or just relaxing.

If you are like me and like to have your phone near me at all times, the USB lamp I mentioned previously is great for when you are in bed and need to change your phone. My desk was next to my bed and the charger was the perfect length to go from the desk to the bed.

The bed is the easiest part to decorate! Just get a few pillows ⁠— some functional, some for fun ⁠— and you are all set!


A student sits at her desk in her dorm room scrolling on her laptop.
A first-year dorm desk setup.

Your desk is where you will be studying and doing the majority of your homework. My advice to you is to keep it decluttered. The desks come with a separate storage unit that can be moved off the desk to give you more room. I decided to keep mine on top of the desk to store all my textbooks and notebooks. If you are bringing a monitor or two, you will most likely have to move this shelving to another area in your room, I have seen it be placed under the bed to store snacks, or in the closet to store shoes, whatever fits your needs.

Because I kept the shelving unit on my desk, I placed small decorations such as plants and picture frames on the shelves to keep my desk workspace clear. I did, however, have a placemat calendar which was a great way to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and campus events.

Closet & Floor

The last part of your room to decorate is your closet and floor. The closet is a great size and I was able to fit all of my clothes on the hanging rack and the shelves above. The closets do not have doors, so if you want to hide your clothes away and add some more to your room, a tension rod with a curtain works and looks fantastic. 

Two students situated on small ottomans each hold playing cards in their hand, with other playing cards laid on a third ottoman between them in their dorm room.
Roommates play a card game in their dorm room.

The floors of your dorm room are not carpeted. So dirt and dust can build up and be noticeable very quickly. A solution to this is getting a door mat to keep right inside your room, there are a lot of fun and creative designs you can get that can be a statement piece in your dorm. Area rugs are also a great addition to your dorm and help it feel like one large room instead of two rooms in one.

One thing that I wish I knew before moving in was that my room was going to be the room where all of our friends hang out. We noticed very quickly that we had no additional seating besides our beds and desk chairs. While a couch would have been perfect, there was just not enough room, so we opted for two small bean bag chairs from Walmart. Another alternative would be to get storage ottomans that can also be used for seating. Some more creative ideas I have seen have been lofting a bed and placing a futon or hammock underneath.

The Fourth Floor

A student stands posed next to her bed in her dorm room after completing her decorating, which includes strings of small green decorations and lights shaped like a cloud and a star.
A student in her fourth-floor dorm.

As I mentioned, the first three floors of each building in the quad are the exact same. The fourth floor however is slightly different. I happened to have a friend who transferred to Clarkson in the spring and lived on the fourth floor. It was a beautiful room very similar to the rest of the quad but with slightly bigger closets and higher ceilings. The main difference in these rooms is that there is no corkboard strip, and the walls are not cement. The fourth floors have fewer rooms, yet this allows the residents to get to know each other better.

All decorated!

Now that you have a better understanding of the freshman quad, you can start planning to have the best room on your floor. If you are nervous about not packing everything you need, or not knowing how to organize your room I suggest you check out this blog on various dorm hacks. Or take a look at Clarkson’s very own room decor Pinterest board!

Don’t worry too much about making your room perfect, my roommate and I changed the layout multiple times over the course of the first semester until we found the perfect fit for us.

Author: Cassidy Marshall

My name is Cassidy Marshall, I'm a Communication, Media & Design Major with a new product development & marketing minor in the class of 2024. I am currently a member of the Pep Band, Kappa Delta Chi, and am a student worker in the Marketing and External Relations Department. In my free time, I enjoy photography, exploring downtown Potsdam, and attending all the hockey games with my friends.

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