If college is the first time you’re living on your own, you’re going to need some gear to help you get your work done and have fun at the same time. Our back-to-school essentials for college students are based on our personal experience with dorm-friendly gear, in addition to input from current college students who are trying their best to succeed.
We understand that college students are always on the move, so we’ve been mindful to curate a list of recommendations that includes items you can take with you to social gatherings and class. Additionally, the gear we’re recommending will be helpful even after you graduate, but let’s not think about “the real world” quite yet.
Lenovo Ideapad 1
Key Selling Point: The Ideapad 1 offers a lot of power for such a thin and light computer.
Choosing a college laptop is a huge decision because the machine needs to be small enough to carry around from class to class, but powerful enough to last four years — at least! The Lenovo Ideapad 1 is packed with enough power for hungry tasks like video editing, but slim enough to fit in a backpack with relative ease.
The machine has a 15.6-inch touch display, 8-core Ryzen 7 5700U processor, 12 GB (gigabytes) of memory, and 512 GB of storage. If you’re less tech savvy, just know that these tech specs are solid for a computer that weighs just three and a half pounds. You’ll be hard pressed to find any task that slows this machine down, and can feel comfortable using it for any type of school project.
Battery life is a key metric when deciding which laptop to take with you to school, and Lenovo says the Ideapad 1 can last up to 10 hours on a single charge. The amount of battery life you actually get will depend on the tasks you’re doing, your screen brightness, and various other settings. Plugging devices into the laptop to charge will also drain its battery more quickly.
Lenovo equipped this laptop with a surprising amount of inputs and outputs, including two USB-A ports, one USB-C port, an HDMI port, a headphone jack, and an SD Card slot. You’ll have no issues plugging in any tech accessories to this laptop, or connecting it to a monitor or projector. There’s no such thing as a perfect laptop, but Lenovo’s Ideapad 1 is the ideal choice for college students, and an absolute essential.
Canon PIXMA TS302
Key Selling Point: Wireless printing in a compact design.
Yes, our number-one college essential is a $50 wireless printer. Having your own printer will allow you to avoid the queue that inevitably forms around the ones in your library or computer lab during midterms and finals. Instead of being stressed, you can print your papers minutes before heading to class.
We like Canon’s PIXMA TS302 because of its price, fast printing speed, and wireless functionality. Canon says the printer can pump out up to 7.7 pages of monocolor projects (aka text) per minute. If you have a 20-page paper due, you can have it ready in under three minutes flat. The printer can handle color print jobs at a rate of up to four pages per minute, which isn’t bad if your work has a lot of charts.
One of the reasons college students of yesteryear avoided having their own printer is limited dorm room space. The PIXMA TS302’s wireless functionality allows you to store the printer under your bed, or another out-of-place space. If you have room on your dorm room desk, that’d work too. A printer may seem like a college luxury, but to us the Canon PIXMA TS302 is an essential.
Key Selling Point: Exceptional active noise-cancellation performance in a compact package.
Let’s face it, it’s hard to get peace in quiet on a campus full of friends, activities, and roommates. Loud noises can be distracting, which is why we recommend every college student get a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds. AirPods Pro are our go-to recommendation in this headphone category because of their excellent active noise-cancellation performance, comfort, and audio quality.
The earbuds work with any device — including Android phones and Windows laptops — and create an impressive buffer between you and the outside world. This is true even if you don’t listen to music or podcasts while you work. One of the AirPods Pros’ underrated features is the ability to use the earbuds’ microphones to amplify sound. This feature can be helpful if you’re taking classes in a large lecture hall and have trouble hearing your professor.
The AirPods Pro are helpful whether you choose to tune the world out or let important voices in, which is why they fit our definition of a college essential.
Key Selling Point: Keep all your gear together in this durable and handy rucksack.
Yes, a backpack made our college essentials list because, well, how else are you going to take your computer, books, and other gear from one place to another. Rains’ Backpack has an understated look, but enough space to hold your laptop, phone, and other devices with you. It has dedicated pockets for your most-used items to keep them from shifting around or getting damaged while you walk around the quad, and additional zippered compartments if you fill the main one.
We’re suckers for the simplest gear, which is why the one-strap, single-compartment setup and monochrome design work for us. We’re pleased that Rains offers this backpack in 10 colorways, so you can get one that matches your school’s colors or your personal favorite. A college backpack needs to last at least four years of constant use, and we’re confident this one from Rains is up to the task.
Key Selling Point: Samsung’s T7 will keep your most important projects safe in case of a computer crash.
Nobody wants to lose dozens of hours of work on a semester-long project because of computer failure, which is why Samsung’s T7 is an underappreciated college essential. The 1TB external SSD is compatible with Macs and PCs, and has enough storage to back up your entire laptop’s internal drive. If your computer crashes, you’ll be able to recover every file you need, even if you need to replace your entire machine, or work on a different one.
We’ve tested the T7 extensively, and found it extremely easy to use. Once you plug the drive into your computer, it’ll ask if you want to use it as a backup drive. Your initial backup will take a while, but subsequent ones will take less time because there’s less data to move. If you’re working with sensitive information, you can encrypt the drive to password protect it. Data loss can be heartbreaking, so every student should keep the Samsung T7 nearby at all times.
Casper Weighted Blanket
Key Selling Point: Casper’s Weighted Blanket can help ease anxiety when you sleep.
College is a time where you can have incredible fun, but it also presents a lot of opportunity for stress to creep in. Balancing a whole new environment, schoolwork, free time, what to eat, and who to hang out with is difficult, and a weighted blanket may be able to help. Some early studies have shown that spending five minutes under a weighted blanket can relieve some stress, while others claim that it’s helped with chronic insomnia.
There isn’t enough data to definitively prove the usefulness of weighted blankets for every person, but I’ve used a weighted blanket regularly over the past year and a half, and have found the added pressure can make it easier to sleep. The other benefit of a weighted blanket is that it can prevent you from moving around. If you’ve woken up because your body is twisting and turning, or you’re afraid of rolling off your bed, a weighted blanket can certainly help.
I’ve had a lot of positive experiences with Casper’s pillows, mattresses, and sheets, which is why we’re recommending its weighted blanket as a college essential.
Key Selling Point: Sony’s speakers are known for their exceptional audio quality, the SRS-XE300 is no different
Based on our experience, the person with the best speaker is generally one of the most popular people in the dorm, which is why Sony’s SRS-XE300 is a college essential. This is the company’s latest ultra-portable Bluetooth speaker, and our limited time with it has left us very impressed.
The SRS-XE300 is small enough to fit in a backpack or purse, but produces monstrously loud sound when you crank up the volume. It doesn’t distort, though, which is great if you need to fill a huge space. Sony says this speaker can last up to 24 hours on a single charge, so you should have no problem playing music during your entire event without running down its battery. A lot of college get-togethers happen outside, which is why the SRS-XE300’s water and dustproof design makes the speaker particularly college student-friendly.
The SRS-XE300 can move seamlessly between your dorm room, your friend’s dorm, the quad, and anywhere else you want to play loud music for a long time. Don’t be surprised when this college essential becomes the speaker you carry to your first apartment and beyond.
Your personal list of best back-to-school essentials for college students is going to vary based on the school you’re going to, the gear you already have, and even your major, but the general tools we’re recommending are applicable to just about any student. Our hope is that they can help limit your stress and make your academic environment — from your dorm room to anywhere else on or off campus — a little more comfortable. Having the right gear at the ready is a luxury, but being prepared for whatever your friends or professors throw at you can make a big difference.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.