Labor Day is coming up fast, and that means students are heading back to school. In fact, someare already there. We originally posted this list way back in June and advised you to get your shopping in before the mad crush of late summer shoppers. Well, that mad crush is now here, but these products remain solid choices for back-to-school essentials like bedding, bath accessories and, well, beyond. Whether you're going back for your final round or it's your first time away from home, you should absolutely invest in these 10 nifty dorm room 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.
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.
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
The Coddle Convertible Couch is a novel idea for our world of power-hungry gadgets: a convertible sofa with built-in USB ports. The leather is of decent-enough quality (it also comes in microfiber, and in different colors), and it's comfortable as both a couch and as an extra-large twin bed. And -- unlike other, less expensive models that also have integrated USB ports -- it's got backrests fold down independent of one another. But the $999 price is admittedly steep. If you don't need the fold-down backrests, you can find this similar convertible model from Sam's Club, this one at Amazon or this decent-looking standard sofa from Wayfair, each for $400 or less.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Here's another product I kept in my dorm room. I stashed a slightly different 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.
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 $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 or more. The two biggest contenders are the Sony WH-1000XM3 and 2 Bose models, the older QuietComfort 35 II and the brand-new Bose 700. 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).
And if you want both noise-isolating and noise-canceling, you can't do better than the new $230 Sony WF-1000XM3.
This article was written by Toniann Pasqueralle, with a contribution from Rich Brown.
Originally published in June, updated in August with a new introduction, the sofa blurb and other small changes throughout.