Your college years will be some of the best years in your entire life, but they can also be quite stressful. Not only do you have coursework to deal with, you also need to juggle activities, relationships, and the whole process of growing up into a responsible adult.
For the most part, you can do this without the aid of tech, but there’s no doubt that tech can make your college life much easier. Here are some of the most useful gadgets and devices to have on hand — so useful that they’ll draw the envy of all your friends.
Items are listed in order of price, starting with the most expensive.
1. Acer Chromebook 14 for Work ($475)
There are many reasons why Chromebooks are perfect for students: portability, cloud connectivity, and great value per dollar. We highly recommend the Acer Chromebook 14 for Work (not the same thing as Acer Chromebook 14) because it’s rugged, high-quality, and one of the best performing Chromebooks at a reasonable price point.
If you opt for a less expensive alternative, that’s fine but keep in mind they don’t feel as good as this one, and they won’t be as fast or responsive. Just make sure it has these must-have Chromebook features!
No matter which college you’re enrolled in, it’s going to be a chaotic time. With roommates, friends, and a bustling campus, it’s tough finding a quiet spot where you can study or get work done. That’s when noise-cancelling headphones really shine.
3. Amazon Echo ($180)
The Amazon Echo is valuable for students in two ways. First, it acts as a personal assistant that can provide you with information (e.g. weather) and keep you organized (e.g. reminders and appointments) — think of it like Siri or Cortana but better. Second, you can use it to play music when entertaining guests or throwing a party.
4. Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader ($120)
If you read books on a weekly basis, then you need a Kindle. It’s lightweight, comfortable, carries thousands of books with you, and easier on the eyes than reading on a smartphone or tablet.
The Paperwhite model provides the best value, but you may want to consider the Basic model if you’re strapped for cash, or the luxury Oasis model if you have the cash to burn. Learn more in our guide to picking the right Kindle for your needs.
5. Fitbit One Activity and Sleep Tracker ($100)
Not everyone needs a Fitbit, but the Fitbit One is a special case: it doubles as a sleep tracker, keeping track of how long and how well you sleep. Getting enough sleep is tough as a college student, and getting good quality sleep is even tougher. The Fitbit One can let you know whether you need to adjust your sleeping habits or not.
6. Seagate 2 TB Portable HDD + Case ($77)
Keeping regular data backups is crucial for college. Trust me, don’t wait until you accidentally delete a term paper or semester project before realizing the value in a backup drive. Get one as soon as possible and use it regularly! Future you will thank you.
This 2 TB hard drive by Seagate strikes a good balance between price, capacity, portability, and everything you need in a backup data drive.
7. Philips Wake-Up Light ($50)
Do you have trouble waking up in the morning? Who doesn’t! There are many potential causes for that, but a suddenly-blaring alarm that jolts you out of deep sleep is a common one, especially among college students. That’s what the Wake-Up Light aims to rectify.
Simply put, the Wake-Up Light better simulates a natural sunrise wake-up. Instead of blasting noise, it gradually gets brighter and brighter until you arise. This minimizes grogginess and helps you start the day feeling refreshed.
8. Roku Streaming Stick ($40)
No matter how “good” a student you are, let’s be real: you’re going to spend an inordinate amount of time watching YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and/or Prime Video. So instead of watching on a cramped laptop screen, why not stream it to a TV?
The Roku Streaming Stick is a portable device that can be taken anywhere, connected to any TV, and made to stream hundreds of channels. Tech lounge? Friend’s dorm? Watch anywhere and at any time. Get started with these tips for Roku newbies.
9. LapGear Deluxe Lap Desk ($40)
If you’re going to use a laptop in bed, a laptop tray (also called lap desk) will work wonders for long-term comfort and posture health. It can also prevent the buildup of dust and heat in the laptop itself, which causes heat damage.
10. Pruveeo Car Dash Cam ($37)
Students who commute to college would do well to install a dashboard camera (“dash cam”) as soon as possible. If you ever get into an accident, a dash cam can be the evidence you need to win an irresolute insurance claim. Plus, it can capture all kinds of cool, offbeat footage!
The Pruveeo F5 is one of the best-value options available right now, but if you want to go with something even better, check out our guide to picking the best dash cam for you.
11. iClever Folding Bluetooth Keyboard ($30)
A folding Bluetooth keyboard may not seem like a big deal, but you’ll be surprised at how often you pull it out. It can connect to any modern smartphone or tablet, whether Android or iOS, allowing you to take notes in any circumstance. Yes, it’s extremely portable.
12. Anker Ultra-Compact Power Bank ($26)
A power bank (also called portable battery) is something you may only use infrequently, but whenever you do use it, you’ll be happy to have it around. It’s a lightweight device that can charge or power any device that draws energy through USB: smartphone, tablet, portable speakers, the aforementioned Roku stick, most of the gadgets below, etc.
This power bank, when full, is enough to charge more than three iPhone 6s or two Galaxy S6 smartphones. And yes, the power bank itself is rechargeable through a normal outlet.
13. Tile Mate Key Finder ($25)
Tired of losing your keys? Attach the Tile Mate to your keyring and it’ll act as a GPS tracker. At any time, you can pop open the Tile mobile app and see where your keys are. You can also tap a button to make the Tile Mate start ringing, making it even easier to find.
14. HAVIT Portable Laptop Cooling Pad ($22)
For workstation laptops or gaming laptops, a cooling pad is necessary to help regulate internal temperatures during resource-intensive tasks. This one by HAVIT is lightweight, super quiet, and ultra-portable. Combine it with the lap desk mentioned above for maximum comfort.
15. Belkin 12-Outlet Surge Protector ($20)
Your dorm room may lack in the number of available outlets, in which case this 12-outlet power strip is well worth its cost. Though 12 outlets may seem like a lot, those slots fill up quite fast — especially if you have friends who like to bring over their own phone chargers, etc. The fact that this also doubles as a surge protector is just icing on the cake.
16. AdirChef Personal Coffee Maker ($20)
College students need coffee, I know, but you can make great-tasting coffee right within your dorm — and save a ton of money in the process. If a plain 12 oz. coffee at Starbucks is about $2, and you drink two coffees per day, that’s $120 per month. With this personal coffee maker, you can buy a bag of pre-ground Starbucks that’ll last you a month for under $15.
And as if that weren’t enough, the AdirChef comes with a stainless steel travel mug — perfect for taking to class or anywhere else on campus.
17. Fugetek Selfie Stick ($20)
You’re going to take a lot of selfies at college, and most of them will include friends in the frame. To get the best shot, you’ll want a selfie stick — and this one by Fugetek is the perfect compromise between quality and price. It’s strong enough to hold a DSLR, and extends up to 49 inches in length.
18. Norpro Mug Warmer ($15)
Nothing helps an all-nighter more than a steaming cup of coffee — and nothing is worse than when hot coffee turns lukewarm. Same goes for hot cocoa, tea, etc. Most mug warmers aren’t very good, but this one by Norpro is simply excellent: it’s safe, effective, and affordable.
19. Panlong OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner ($13)
If you know nothing about cars, it can be stressful when the Check Engine light comes on and you have no idea what to do. This inexpensive scanner can pull the diagnostic information out of your car and show you what’s wrong right on your smartphone — then you can look it up on the web.
It will work with any OBD2-compliant car manufactured after 1996 (explanation of the OBD2 standard). The only exceptions are Nissans and trucks with 24V voltage.
20. Amazon Dash Buttons ($5)
Amazon Dash buttons are surprisingly useful, but require a Prime membership (free six-month trial and then 50-percent off for students!). Each Dash button is tied to a specific item, and when you press it, that item is immediately ordered.
You’ll have to buy a separate Dash button for each item, so it’s only worth it for items you know you’ll keep reusing for the foreseeable future: toilet paper, laundry detergent, paper towels, etc. Also, check out these hacks for improving Dash buttons.
Be careful that you don’t overload on too many gadgets! Dorm space is limited, after all. But if you think of any other items worth mentioning, please share them with us in the comments below!