The school year is coming to a close andis in full swing — but you’ll notice that home goods stores are already starting to stock up on back-to-school essentials like bedding, bath accessories and, well, beyond. It may feel like you have all the time in the world before dorm shopping becomes a must, but if you want my advice, the sooner the better.
Dorm shopping was always the first thing I did when I got back home from college. First of all, the stores are freshly stocked, so you’ll have your pick of all the best new stuff. And, more importantly, you really don’t want to deal with the maddening chaos that is a home goods store in the middle of August. You won’t even be able to fit a cart down the aisle where they keep the Twin XL sheets. While bedding, toiletries, snacks and flip-flops for the gross communal showers are a must, there are a few products out there that are easy to overlook but so crucial for easing into dorm life as seamlessly as possible. Whether you’re going back for your final round or it’s your first time away from home, you should absolutely invest in these nine nifty products.
Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
You may be freaking out about how much space you’re not going to have when you go away to college. Do you need to leave three of your top 10 favorite shirts at home? Will you survive without all 15 pairs of black leggings? I promise you, these are not questions you need to ask yourself before going to school. You don’t need to make any sacrifices as far as your fashion choices go; you just need to learn to be smarter with your space. Luckily, these House Day brand “Magic Space Saving Hangers” are a great way to adjust to a closet that’s about a quarter of the size of the one you have at home. One long hanger has five holes cascading downward, so you can get five articles of clothing in your closet with one hanger, and this is a package of 10. This is one thing I definitely wish I’d had.
$13 at Amazon
A shower caddy
I’m sure you’re already well aware that a shower caddy is absolutely essential for navigating the world that is communal bathrooms. You have to take all your toiletries to and from the bathroom every single time you need to shower or brush your teeth. While it’s super-annoying, it’s a necessary evil of college. As far as shower caddies go, this Sterilite 5-compartment model is the exact one I used in those days. Super-simple with a lot of separate compartments for shampoo, toothpaste, razors and anything I needed in the bathroom. A big plus about this caddy is that it’s plastic (a lot of them come in mesh or another fabric), and plastic just makes for easier cleanup. Trust me, you’re going to want to clean this thing a lot.
$14 at Amazon
Twin XL sheets
Bed Bath & Beyond
The one thing all incoming college freshmen have in common is that they have never heard of a Twin XL bed in their lives, and now all of a sudden it’s all anyone talks about. In case you haven’t been enlightened yet, in college we all have to sleep on a Twin bed. It sucks, but it is what it is. “XL” stands for extra long, so college beds are like if you stretched out a twin bed to be a few extra inches long. This is to give you more under the bed storage space, which you also need. So around this time of year you’ll start to see Twin XL sheets popping up in just about any store that sells bedding, just for all you lucky college kids out there! When I was shopping for mine I had less than no clue how you even buy sheets, but I was in Bed Bath & Beyond and happened to feel these Pure Beech sheets, and I was instantly sold. These are so soft that they make a dorm bed feel like heaven. And Bed Bath & Beyond carries them in so many colors and designs that it’s guaranteed you’ll find something to match your bedding, just like I did.
Read more: How to pick the right sheets
$40 at Bed Bath & Beyond
Airtight cereal & dry food storage containers
If you haven’t already, you’ll soon learn that college is all about saving what little money you have. This means making food last as long as possible, so you’ll need to come up with better ways to store dry goods like cereal. In their regular boxes, Cheerios and oatmeal dry up and become stale very quickly, so airtight plastic containers will become your best friends. Your snacks, coffee and tea will last much longer, and this set of three containers comes with its own measuring spoons and labels so you can go full Khloe Kardashian on your dorm room.
$22 at Amazon
A reusable water bottle
Remember what I said when we were covering airtight containers? College is about saving money! I didn’t have a reusable water bottle; I would buy cases of water bottles and have my dad carry them up every time he dropped me back at school. But do you know how much money I spent doing that? There are water fountains all over college campuses, and no one is stopping you from filling up 50 times at the cafeteria or gym, so utilize that! The Simple Modern Ascent water bottle is designed to keep your water cold and prevent spills, so feel free to bring it with you to class, practice or the library. Plus, they are super-affordable and come in a wide variety of really awesome colors and designs, so I wouldn’t blame you for picking up more than one.
$15 at Amazon
To put it lightly, college life can get incredibly and overwhelmingly stressful. I mean, I was at a point where I could pop melatonin like Tic-Tacs and I’d still be up all night wondering if I’d forgotten to write a paper. You’ll definitely need a safe outlet to relieve some stress, even when it’s 3 a.m. and you’re just getting all your stuff together to head over to the library. So don’t knock essential oils until you’ve tried them! My acupuncturist got me into oils a few years back, and I always kept some in my dorm as a sleep aid and to combat stress-induced migraines. I was a big skeptic at first, but I have to admit they did relax me (as much as a college student can relax, anyway). This pack of six essential oils comes with scents like peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender — all of which can be used to relieve stress, or at least make your room smell good. And for well under $20, why not try it out?
$16 at Amazon
A small air-circulating fan
For the love of all that’s good in the world, please don’t go to college without a fan for your room! I am constantly cold. I shiver at work in the summer, I need my bedroom to be 80 degrees in the winter, and I sleep with three comforters year round. So when I tell you I was sweltering in all my dorm rooms, please take me seriously. Rarely will you find a dorm room with AC (and even if your room does have AC, it probably won’t work as well as you’d like it to). When I was in college, I kept a small fan either on the floor in the corner or way on top of my dresser so the air wouldn’t blow directly into anything, and it made a world of difference. And you don’t need to break the bank; dorm rooms are so small that tiny desk fans like this Honeywell Turbo Force are more than enough to cool your whole room down.
$28 at Amazon
A safe or lockbox
Here’s another product I kept in my dorm room. I stashed this exact SentrySafe electronic lockbox I found on Amazon all the way in the back corner under my bed, and I even fastened it to the bedpost with an old bicycle lock. In the lockbox was all the cash I took out for the semester, personal documents like ID cards and things of that nature and any sentimental items like cards or pictures from family members. Call me paranoid, but you don’t know the person sleeping 10 feet away from you (at least not at first). I actually had a roommate once make fun of me for keeping a lockbox, but I caught that same roommate weeks later snooping around under my bed for snacks and toiletries. Still think I’m crazy? Safes can get a little pricey, but in my opinion, they’re always a good investment.
$48 at Amazon
Good, noise-isolating headphones
Listen, roommate life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies like it is on TV. Sure, some of my college roommates were and are still to this day my very best friends, but I had my fair share of the more … eccentric ones. And I know firsthand that your studying for midterms or trying to go to bed does not always stop your roommate from making a sappy Facetime call with a long-distance partner or trying to learn a new instrument. So, headphones that block out the background noise are a necessity.
You have two basic choices: noise-isolating or noise-canceling models. The former block out external noise with either full-size, around-the-ear designs or in-ear buds that penetrate a bit into your ear canals. The latter actively cancel out droning sounds like air conditioners (but don’t expect them to convert a roommate’s heavy metal soundtrack into silence).
In terms of noise-isolating in-ear models, the new $250 Beats Powerbeats Pros are excellent, but the 1More Stylish True Wireless and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air will get the job done at less than half the price.
A great pair of noise-canceling headphones will cost you upward of $300 — just be aware that new $400 Bose models are due on June 30. In the meantime, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are our top picks. But if you’re on a budget and just want big ol’ around-the-ear models without active noise-cancellation, check out the Tribit XFree Tune (under $50).
See at Amazon
Top 6 AirPod alternatives for $100 or less
This article was written by Toniann Pasqueralle.