College will soon be back in session, which also means a new batch of freshmen will start living the dorm life. If that applies to you, we think it’s a good idea to stock up on a few essentials for your new tiny abode before you get there, especially if this is your first time away from home. We’ve got tech recommendations, of course, but not everything on this list is a gadget. That’s because we also wanted to cover the other items that will bring college students the comforts of home to their dorm and hopefully make student life less stressful.
Echo Dot (5th Gen, 2022 release)
Belkin MagSafe 3-in-1 Wireless Charging Pad
Anker Soundcore Space A40
LINENSPA Reading Pillow
ZWILLING Enfinigy Cool Touch 1.5-Liter Electric Kettle
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3
Nanoleaf Lines WiFi Smart Wall Lights
LapGear Designer Lap Desk
Vornado 630 Mid-Size Whole Room Air Circulator Fan
OXO Good Grips Airtight POP Cereal Dispenser
Pure Green Natural Latex Mattress Topper
Lunya Sleep Mask
I resisted a smart speaker until a few months ago. After getting an Echo Dot, I now use Alexa to set alarms, play focus music, remind me about stuff and keep tabs on the weather — all of which would have been very helpful back in school. Sure, your phone can do most of that, but anything that helps you pick up your phone less is a productivity booster in itself. Plus, the Dot works with all major music services and the sound quality is surprisingly good for its size. There’s more than enough punch here to entertain a dorm room and do justice to your study beats. — Amy Skorheim, Commerce Writer
Belkin MagSafe 3-in-1 wireless charger
If you own multiple Apple products and you’re constantly detangling charging cables, we highly recommend a 3-in-1 wireless charger like the Belkin BoostCharge Pro. It has a 15W MagSafe charging base for your iPhone and charging spaces for your Apple Watch and AirPods as well. The horizontal layout lets you charge any Qi-capable phone, though at reduced speeds, or other compatible earbuds and accessories. On top of that, the flat pad format of this charging station means you can easily pack it in your bag the next time you go on a trip. — Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer
Anker Soundcore Space A40
A good set of noise-canceling headphones can help you get some peace and quiet anytime you need to work or want to escape the rowdiness of your fellow dormmates. You don’t need to spend a ton to find a quality pair, either: The Anker Soundcore Space A40 delivers effective active noise cancellation, eight to 10 hours of battery life per charge, a transparency mode, IPX4-rated water resistance and solid audio quality for less than $100 (and even less than $80 often times when on sale). If you don’t like their bassy default sound, you can also customize the profile through a useful companion app. Just note that these are earbuds; if you’d prefer an over-ear pair, try the Anker Soundcore Life Q30. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer
Linenspa shredded foam pillow
Comfort is key to dorm living, which is why we recommend an oversized reading pillow like this one from Linenspa. It helps change up your seating position so you’re not in your desk chair all the time, and it’s definitely a lot more comfortable than just piling up bed pillows against the wall. The pillow is filled with shredded memory foam so it won’t put a lot of stress on your back, plus it comes with a soft velour cover. That posture support makes it great for reading, playing games or watching TV. As a bonus, there’s also a handle on the top that makes it easy to carry around. — N.L.
Zwilling Electric Kettle
Dorms may limit the number and types of kitchen appliances you can have, but most are fine with a simple electric kettle like this one. Zwilling’s Electric Kettle boils water eerily fast and doesn’t have an exposed heating element, which some housing regulations don’t allow. It also looks lovely and, in our experiments, boiled 16 ounces of water in two minutes flat. Sure, it can help you make tea or coffee, but it's also worth it so you can stock up on instant cup foods for morning oatmeal, midnight Cup Noodles and the cravings in between. — A.S.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3
For when their phone’s speakers just won’t cut it, the UE Wonderboom 3 can make their dorm-room parties and chill sessions on the quad even better with punchy sound. The small, barrel-shaped speaker is compact enough to fit in a backpack, and it could be attached to the outside of a bag with a carabiner clip thanks to its built-in top loop. We found the Wonderboom 3 to deliver the biggest sound of all the portable Bluetooth speakers we tested in its size range, and the latest model has improved battery life and wireless range. There’s no app, but it can be paired with other UE speakers for stereo sound. And if it accidentally falls off a table or takes a bit of a beating, its IP67-rating and drop-proof design should sufficiently protect it. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor
Nanoleaf’s modular smart lights let you add personality and functional lighting to your half of the room. The 90-degree “Smarter” kit comes with four Lines that attach at right angles, so you can make a few different designs (a square and an X come to mind). The set is expandable and each bar has millions of available colors with the ability to display two hues at once. Lines works with Alexa, HomeKit, Google Home, IFTTT and other smart home platforms, so you can set themes, create routines and control the lights with your voice. But possibly the best news for dorm dwellers is the included mounting tape that won’t punch holes in your walls and anger your RA. — A.S.
When you’re just too lazy to sit at your actual desk, a lap desk like the LapGear Designer can make working from the bed or couch more comfortable. The Designer is softly padded and lightweight, with an easy-to-clean top that’s large enough to fit a 15-inch laptop. A stopper at the bottom helps keep things from slipping off when you’re sitting at an angle, plus there’s a slot for holding a phone and a handle for carrying the whole thing around. — J.D.
Vornado 630 Medium Air Circulator
Many dorms lack air conditioning, so having a fan that’s powerful enough to keep you cool during the late-summer months is crucial. The Vornado 630 should do the job, as it moves air around a room powerfully yet takes up little room on a tabletop or larger window sill. It doesn’t oscillate, but you can tilt its head vertically, and the way it circulates air allows it to send a breeze through most of a room. A simple dial lets you swap between three speed settings, while the sturdy plastic frame is easy to clean and keeps the thing relatively quiet when it’s on. If you’re moving into a particularly large dorm room, the Vornado 660 is a stronger alternative. — J.D.
OXO Good Grips cereal dispenser
When I was in college, we called cereal, ramen and vodka “the five food groups.” I hear today’s college-bound generation drinks less (and is probably better with numbers), but I suspect cereal is still a staple, which is why this dispenser from OXO is a must-get. The silicone seal on the pop-top lid keeps Crispix crunchy and Lucky Charms fresh (though it can do nothing to make Grape Nuts less gravel-like). It also keeps ants and other pests out and the clear plastic looks nice on a shelf. But I particularly like being able to open the lid, pour out the cereal and close it back up with just one hand. — A.S.
Pure Green 100% Natural Latex mattress topper
Chances are, the bed in your dorm room isn’t very comfortable. It’s also probably not easy (or cost effective) to change the mattress. That’s why we recommend getting a mattress topper: It’s the one way to control how your bed feels without spending a lot of money. We prefer a natural latex option like this one from Pure Green because it delivers comfort and support without the sinking feeling of memory foam. It also won’t absorb much body heat, which helps keep you cool throughout the night. Pure Green sells its mattress topper in three different thicknesses — from one inch to three — to fit your particular needs. Opt for the 1- or 2-inch if you want firm or medium-firm, or spring for the 3-inch model if you prefer a something softer. — N.L.
Lunya Sleep Mask
Roommate pulling an all-nighter with the lights on? Want to catch some z’s in the afternoon in between classes? Or maybe you’re just particularly sensitive to light? If you can relate to any of this, we recommend getting a sleep mask to make it easier for you to drift off into dreamland. This one from Lunya is one of our personal favorites because it completely blocks out light and feels comfortable to boot; it’s like wearing pillows on your eyes. We tend to prefer this model over masks with eye cups because it’s not quite as bulky. The Lunya’s wide elasticized band will fit most people and it even covers the ears, which helps reduce noise. It’s also machine washable, so you can easily keep it clean. — N.L.
Playing casual board games is a great way to socialize at gatherings without the need to engage in small talk. A really popular one is called Codenames, a party game that pits two teams of spies against each other. Each “spymaster” has to get their teammates to guess hidden words (which are plotted out on a grid) using only one-word clues and a number. For example, if you wanted your team to guess the words “costume,” “web,” and “spider,” you might say “Peter, 3” to indicate that there are three clues on the board that match that word. There are also clues you have to avoid, which makes the game a little harder. The game is easy to explain and it encourages communication, which helps break the ice. — N.L.
If you want a game that’s more light-hearted, we recommend Herd Mentality. It accommodates four to 20 players, which makes it perfect for parties. In it, you simply take turns flipping over a question and trying to write down what you think everyone else will answer as well. For example, if the question is “What is the best way to cook an egg?” you write “scrambled” and it turns out that is what most other players answered as well, you will get points. But beware of giving the answer that’s the odd one out, because you’ll get the dreaded Pink Cow and be in danger of losing the game – unless you can somehow trick someone else into getting it instead. — N.L.