Updated on August 10, 2017.
We put together this guide to help you be as productive as possible at college. We interviewed professors, consulted program websites, and tested out products.
Many of the recommendations here are also office favorites. Our digital team not only builds our websites, iPad app, and other products, but we also do a lot of testing of how our websites and apps look, feel, and work on different products. Our countless hours of writing, coding, editing, shooting video, taking photos, etc. have also helped shape our recommendations.
Our fashion team is also providing recommendations from how to make your dorm room as comfortable as possible. This guide and our tips for getting the most out of school will help make your transition to college smoother.
You’ll look super hip rolling up to English Writing 101 with your artsy Moleskine notebook in hand. The grid version is a Web team favorite for sketching up new websites and features.
$17.28 at Amazon
These waterproof and sweat-proof (Yes! Sweat-proof!) headphones are durable and the Bluetooth-Noise-Suppression-Technology combo makes them perfect for after-class gym sessions and intense studying. They come in gray, red, and blue.
$79.99 at Amazon
Best Spiral bound Notebook
Stay on task during class and look good doing it with this inspirational notebook.
$7.95 at Paper Source
Best Alarm Clock
Though your iPhone will hopefully wake you up, your sleep schedule might require an extra security measure.
$11.15 at Amazon
For those with a lot of reading on their calendar or taking an on-the-go major, the iPad Pro is easier to carry all over campus than your laptop (plus, it’s just as powerful as most PCs). With an iPad Pro, you can have all of your reading material with you wherever you go without breaking your back. The iPad Pro’s new 10.5-inch Retina/hiDPI screen is very easy on the eyes. We do not recommend low-resolution laptops for sustained periods of reading.
$749 at Amazon
This laptop has two killer features that make it perfect for students: It’s really lightweight, and it has a very high-resolution screen that is easy on the eyes. College students do a lot of reading, writing, and web surfing. Staring at computer monitors all day (and phones and other devices) can lead to eyestrain. Using a Retina/hiDPI screen can help lesson and prevent eye strain. The Macbook is lightweight and has a beautiful Retina screen. The one thing it doesn’t have is tons of power. If you need a more powerful Mac with a Retina screen, the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros are also fantastic.
$1,289 at Amazon
Best PC Laptop
For the college student who needs a laptop but would rather use Windows, this is a really strong option. It’s lightweight, has a long battery life and has a pretty high-resolution screen (not technically hiDPI, which will cost you more).
$699 and $777.99 (with Microsoft Office) at Amazon
Best Desktop Computer
For art students, photo journalists, video editors, and others who need a big display and lots of power, this is the computer. The display is gorgeous. This display not only does 4K video; it can also do 5K video. It’s absolutely amazing for editing photos in Adobe Lightroom.
$2,199.99 at Amazon
Best Outdoor Reading Device
If you like reading outside in the quad or at a coffee shop, the Kindle Paperwhite is your best choice. Its e-ink display looks great outdoors. It’s also a very high-resolution screen with text that looks fantastic. Another bonus of the Kindle Paperwhite over an iPad is that it’s cheaper and can fit in a jacket pocket (and even in some of your back pockets). Pro tip: rent your textbooks on Kindle and save a bundle on each semester’s books.
$119.99 at Amazon
Prep for copious note-taking with these easy rolling gel pens. These are a staff and professor favorite.
$10.75 for a dozen at Amazon
Best Tea Kettle
Perfect for a late night cup of tea or cocoa, this hot water pot will make a college dorm just a bit cozier.
$54.95 at Amazon
Best French Press
Making a late-night cup of coffee will be so much easier with a French press, and this stainless steel one is one of the best.
$24.99 at Amazon
Best Wall Decor
Add some wall decor and create an organizational system with this quad of dry erase calendars and corkboard.
$29.95 at Paper Source
Best Tote Bag
Grab this sturdy tote for transporting all your books and notes to and from class.
$168 at Madewell
There are two things that get a college student through the day: coffee and more coffee. This BPA-free plastic and stainless steel travel mug will make sure it not only stays hot, but stays at the perfect temperature, for hours. Admittedly, $150 for a travel mug sounds pricey, but this baby will get you (and your coffee addiction) through 4 years of college, grad school, internships, and your first job.
$149.95 at Starbucks
Fresh bedding is important, and this set goes with anything and gets you a twin-size comforter, a standard pillow sham, and a throw pillow.
$49.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond
Best Sheet Set
Pair your bedding with a simple set of solid twin-size sheets.
$34.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond
Sit in it to study or lay it out flat for a quick pre-lecture class snooze.
$79 at Walmart
Add a bit of ambiance to the fluorescent lights of your dorm room with this standing lamp.
$21.90 at Amazon
Best Shower Caddy
This easy mesh shower caddy is perfect for carrying shampoo to-and-from the shared bathroom, and the material will help keep mold at bay.
$7.99 at Target
Best Space Saver
Save some coveted closet space with this shoe hanger.
$24.99 at Target
Best Graphing Calculator
Any advanced math or science students will want to invest in this college-weight calculator.
$130.99 at Amazon
Best Water Bottle
Stay hydrated between classes with this ultra-sturdy (and trendy) water bottle.
$35 at Amazon
Best Sound Speaker
Perfect for playing music in a dorm room or an impromptu movie-viewing party, this speaker has a 24-hour play time and 66-foot Bluetooth range.
$32.99 at Amazon
Not only does this add extra seating in a dorm room, a futon also makes for a better bed than the floor when friends and siblings come to visit.
$229.99 at Target
Sure, there’s likely a printing lab on campus, but when you’re due in class in ten minutes with an essay you just finished, it’s best to have a personal printer handy, and this one offers great value for the price.
$69.99 at Amazon
Best Laundry Basket
This laundry hamper is so lightweight, discreet, breathable, and useful that on Amazon user wrote a four-ode stanza to it. In the words of “odinkarr”: “So don’t waste a moment, you know in your heart, go on and just click it: ‘add to your cart.’”
$14.28 at Amazon
Best Brief Case
Though the price tag is a bit higher than a canvas or faux leather satchel, Filson’s lifetime guarantee ensures that this bag will far outlive your college career.
$325 at Filson
Keep your schedule at the forefront of your mind and add some wall art to your dorm room with this Rifle Paper Co. calendar.
$26 at Rifle Paper Co.
Best Shelving Unit
Add some shelving to your sparse dorm room, and just add baskets to make it look neat and organized.
$64.99 at IKEA
Best Floor Decor
Give your room a homier feel with this simple striped rug.
$12.99 at IKEA
Best Camera for Beginners
If you have a photography class lined up this year or are involved with your college newspaper, this is the camera to get. It’s easy to hold, simple to use, and can even shoot HD video. We recommend adding on the 70-300mm lens, and the starter bundle comes with a camera case, tripod and bag, and 16GB SanDisk Memory Card. Add on this 35mm prime lens to create the perfect combo for learning how photography and videography. That 35mm lens is the best deal in a camera lens anywhere. It works fantastically well in low light situations and can do very shallow depth of field.
$596.95 at Amazon
Best Camera Bag for Students
This bag can carry everything. There’s room for your iPad, laptop, DSLR, photography gear, and there’s even space to stash a notebook and some snacks.
Looking for something smaller? The Lowepro Fastpack 250 is a great bag to carry around every day and can fit a laptop and a dslr without any bulkiness. It’s also a comfortable daily laptop bag.
$96.90 at Amazon