What Size Microwave Do I Need for college?

One of the most important things I brought to college was a microwave. Bringing my microwave was important for a few reasons. First, not having to use the dirty community microwave. Second, I could use it without waking anyone else up. Third, the people in dorms are dirty.

One question we asked repeatedly was the size microwave we could bring If your college/ university allows microwaves you can bring anything rated small, compact, or less than 800 watts. While you should check with your college/ university, in general, anything less than 800 should be ok.

Continue reading to learn more about why these microwaves are best for door rooms, examples of acceptable microwaves, and university examples.

What is a small/ compact microwave?

A small/ compact microwave is microwave with an oven capacity of less than one cubic foot. These microwaves have the smallest wattage, as well as the smallest physical size. These microwaves usually have a width between 12 and 18 inches, and a height between 8 and 16 inches. 

Wattage is the measure of energy in a given direction. Microwave wattage ranges from 550 to over 1,200 watts. Wattage determines how long it takes to cook food, and the lower the wattage, the longer it will take. 

What are the uses for compact microwaves?

Compact microwaves are best used for the following:

  • Reheating food
  • Heating liquid (tea, water)
  • Cooking popcorn
  • Cooking noodles
  • Cooking frozen meals

All of these foods take a low amount of wattage to achieve heating temperatures and don’t take long to cook. The low wattage and food selection decreases the chances of a microwave can catch fire. 

Schools also provide microwaves

Most schools also provide universities in a number of locations. You can find microwaves in the following places:

  • Dorm common areas
  • Lounges
  • Commuter lounges
  • Cafeteria

Personally, I never used the microwaves in the common areas. The common areas were a free for all, and I couldn’t imagine putting my food anywhere near it. Also, these microwaves were only cleaned when the janitors cleaned the floor. When I was in school, the janitors didn’t clean the dorms on the weekends. 

Most schools have lounge areas for students that don’t want to walk back to their dorm rooms in between classes. These places usually have spots to buy food, work on homework, or watch TV. In addition, these places also have multiple microwaves for students to warm up food and drinks. 

Another place that may have microwaves is the commuter lounge. Commuter lounges are places that students that live off campus can go and hang out. These places are like other lounges, except they may not have food to buy. In most cases, the commuter lounge will also include a few microwaves to use.

One obvious but forgotten place you can find a microwave is the schools’ cafeteria. Most people expect to buy food when entering a cafeteria, but it can also be a place to hang out and bring food from your dorm. Just make sure there aren’t posted rules that say you cannot bring food from outside the cafeteria.

Do you need a microwave at school?

This comes down to personal preference and expected usage. If you expect that you will be cooking a lot of popcorn, making a lot of tea, or making frozen dinners, then you should consider bringing a microwave. Also, if you are not a fan of sharing things like microwaves, you should bring your own. 

You do not need a microwave if you don’t mind using a microwave that others use, don’t think you will use a microwave very often, or you are a commuter. Another option is to work with your roommate or housemates to determine if you need a microwave. 

Consider buying/ borrowing used

If you decide that you need a microwave, consider buying a used microwave or borrow one from a friend or family member. I wrote a post that can be found here answering the question about buying used microwaves. In short, you can buy a used microwave, and it may be the best option for a college student. 

Buying a used microwave can save you 50% of the cost of a new microwave, it is better for the environment, and you may be helping someone in need. You can buy used microwaves from places like Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist. 

Before buying a used microwave, make sure you ask the necessary questions and ask for a demonstration. If the seller is unwilling or unable to demo the microwave, DO NOT buy the microwave. 

University examples

Below are a few examples of the acceptable sizes of microwaves. Please check with your college/ university to make sure microwaves are acceptable, and the size required.

  • University of Minnesota: 700 watts or less
  • University of Illinois: 800 watts or less
  • Michigan State University: Compact microwaves
  • Marian University of Fond du Lac: 800 watts or less
  • Concordia University Wisconsin: microwave supplied in every dorm room
  • University of Oregon: Not allowed
  • University of Los Angeles; Not allowed
  • University of Texas: microwave supplied
  • University of Alabama: 700 watts or less (with permission) 

Small/ compact microwave examples

Below are examples of microwaves that may be acceptable at your college:

  • Daewoo Countertop microwave: 700 watts, 0.7 cubic feet
  • GE Countertop Microwave: 700 watts, 0.7 cubic feet
  • Danby: 700 watts, 0.7 cubic feet
  • Whirlpool Countertop Microwave: 120 volts, 0.5 cubic feet
  • Westinghouse Countertop Microwave: 600 watts, 0.6 cubic feet
  • Nostalgia Countertop Microwave: 800 watts, 0.9 cubic feet
  • Magic Chef Countertop Microwave: 700 watts, 0.7 cubic feet. 


To conclude, while it depends on the school, you can bring microwaves to school. The microwave size should be small/ compact, and the wattage should be less than 800 watts. These microwaves are best used for heating up froze dinners, reheating leftovers, and heating up liquids. 

Before bringing your microwave to school, check with the schools’ website, Director of Residence Hall, or a Resident Advisor to see if a microwave is acceptable. 

Also, some schools are including microwaves in dorm rooms, check with your school to see if that is an option. Finally, if you do decide to bring a microwave, look to buy used as it will be cheaper, and better for the environment. 

Did you take a microwave to college? What size did you take? What happens if you take the wrong type of microwave to college/ university? Have you ever seen one catch fire in a dorm room?

Leave a comment below!

Additional questions

What is the standard size of a microwave?

The standard width of a microwave 29 to 31 inches, the standard height of microwaves is 16 to 20 inches and the standard microwave capacity is 1.5 to 1.9 cubic feet. 

Can you have a microwave in a dorm?

In most cases, you can have a microwave in your dorm. To make sure its acceptable, check with the Director of Student Life, a Resident Advisor, or the Schools’ website. 

What are the sizes of microwaves?

The sizes of microwaves, also called oven capacity, ranges from 0.5 to 2.5 cubic feet. The lower the cubic feet means the smaller the size and wattage of the microwave. 

How do you measure the size of a microwave?

Microwaves can be measured in two ways, inside and outside. If you are measuring the inside of a microwave, it is measured based on microwave capacity. Microwave capacity in cubic feet and it measure the length, width, and height of a microwave.

You will need the following items to measure your microwave:

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Scratch paper
  • Calculator

First, open the microwave and measure from the left to right side of the microwave, making sure the tape measure touches each side. This measurement will be our length. write this number down (in inches)

Second, again with the microwave open place your measuring tape in the back of your microwave, and measure to the front of the microwave. This number will be out width, write this number down below the first number. Make sure that this number is also written down in inches.

Next, with the microwave open, measure from the top of the microwave to the bottom. This is going to be your height. Right this number down in inches. 

You should have three numbers: length, width, and height. Multiply all three of these numbers together and you should receive a number between 500 and 3000. Finally, divide your number by 1000, this number will be your cubic feet. your number should range between 0.5 and 3.000 cubic feet

Below is an example of the calculation:

  • Length: 10 inches
  • Width: 15 inches
  • Height: 12 inches
  • 10 X 15 X 12 = 1,800
  • 1,800/1000 = 1.8 cubic feet

To measure the outside of the microwave follow the above directions, but don’t multiply at the end. You can use either inches or feet to measure the outside of the microwave.