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10 Dorm Lighting Solutions If You Hate the Big Light

published Jul 21, 2023
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Credit: Mainstays / Nellsi

I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid using the Big Light in my dorm room. When my roommate and I first moved into our sophomore year dorm, we accidentally tripped a circuit breaker, leaving all of our outlets out of commission. Our only options were to use our room’s fluorescent lighting (you know, the harsh, insufferable light that comes in most dorms), or live in total darkness until we could get an electrician to stop by. We chose darkness — and an extended wait time. Because we’d arrived early to campus for RA training, it took a few days for a maintenance worker to restore our power, which meant we spent multiple nights tripping over shoes and running into bed frames. I started using my phone flashlight to get around, which made me feel like a small Victorian child roaming about by candlelight. All so that we didn’t have to turn on our dreaded Big Light. I know I’m not alone in my disdain — there’s an entire contingent of people on TikTok who vow to “never, ever, ev-er use the Big Light.” If you’re one of us, check out the below list of less harsh, more aesthetically pleasing lighting options.

1 / 10

Maximalists, this one’s for you. A floor lamp is helpful in any space, but this one is particularly great for a dorm because of its versatility. It has multiple mini lamps that can be adjusted directionally, as well as three different levels of lighting. This one will require an outlet, so be sure you place it in a spot where the cord will reach an outlet, or use an extension cord. Also, if the functionality of this lamp speaks to you but the colors aren’t your vibe, here’s a more neutral option you can try.

2 / 10

A small bedside table lamp is a dorm must-have because it can be a subtle nighttime lighting option. There are some really cute ceramic lamps out there, but let’s be real — those will probably break (if not during the school year, then likely when you move out). That’s why I recommend something more durable, like this plastic lamp, which is less breakable … and less expensive in case it does break and you need to replace it.

3 / 10

Twinkling fairy lights are popular for a dreamy dorm aesthetic, but they double as more than decoration — if you have enough, they can actually light an entire space. The dim, low-key lighting this straight light curtain provides is great for end-of-day wind-down time.

4 / 10

If you want something a bit different from standard string lights, these are a slightly elevated alternative. These colorful orb-covered lights give off a garden-party vibe — and as a bonus, they’re battery-powered, so they’re not relegated to a power outlet.

5 / 10

A clip-on lamp is a dorm room must. If you’re still up studying but your roommate is sleeping, for example, it will work great as a low-key reading light. You can also move the light around, from your headboard to your desk to your living room, and wherever else you may need it. This lamp is powered by a fairly long cord, which means it doesn't need to stay too close to an outlet.

6 / 10
was $49.99

A floor lamp with shelves pulls double duty as a lighting and storage solution. This can serve you well in the corner of a compact space, or it can become more of a statement piece when staged next to a chair and styled with a pretty vase or plant.

7 / 10

These LED lights may be marketed toward kids, but they’d look just as at home in a college dorm room. When turned off, the lights look like simple wall decor — and when turned on, they’re a mellow, calming source of light. This light comes in various designs, including a heart, a butterfly, and a flower, but the cloud option is my pick because it emits a neutral light, whereas the others are more colorful.

8 / 10
was $19.99

You might be tired of seeing this trend all over TikTok, but I have friends who really do enjoy their sunset lamps! This one stands out among the many options because it plugs into any USB source and you can adjust the angle of the light. These LED lamps are a vibey option, best for relaxing activities like reading, watching a movie, or impressing your cute new neighbor down the hall.

9 / 10
Best Buy

LED strips in a college dorm room? Groundbreaking. Honestly, though, I get the hype, because these lights are a fun and easy way to transform the color and energy of your room quickly. They can be controlled by a switch or an app on your phone, making them a low-maintenance option. As an RA, though, I must say this: Please be mindful when you eventually remove these strips so that you don’t rip the paint off your walls. When it’s time to take them down, blast the strips with a hairdryer so that the adhesive will warm up and become easier to remove. Your security deposit will thank you.

10 / 10
was $23.99

This little night light is my ideal combination of novelty and functionality. It has a variety of colorful options, or you can set it to a simple white. Because it runs on batteries, you can use it anywhere — just be sure to recharge it after every 10 hours of use, because if it runs out of power, you might be forced to switch on the dreaded Big Light after all.

Madison Renee

Fashion Design

Madison Renee, aka Madison Salmonson, is originally from Dallas, Texas, but currently resides in Savannah, Georgia, where she attends The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She learned how to sew when she was 10 and ever since, sewing machines have been a happy place for her. Madison actually didn't consider pursuing art until high school, where she would have a crisis about the future and then just make a new dress to blow off steam. She finally decided to go for it and is now a senior fashion design major with a minor in fibers. At SCAD, Madison has become a Resident Assistant and designated "micro-influencer" friend.

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SchoolThe Savannah College of Art and Design '24
MajorFashion Design
FavesIced lattes, Wallows, "Friends," the beach
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