Dorm Room Checklist: The Tech You Need

The tech you really do need for the best college experience

new college student

Getty Images / ablokhin

Whether it’s off to your first year of college, or your last, you’ll want to stock up on the latest tech before you go. Here are some dorm room ideas for your gadget shopping basket; print this page so you can take it with you to the store!

Check It Off Item Why You Need It
Bluetooth Speaker Tell Mom and Dad: a Bluetooth speaker isn’t just for playing music anywhere; it can also be used for conference calls to discuss assignments, or listen to educational webinars. Some are designed for outdoor use, with shockproof and waterproof designs, and some are small for greater portability.
Camera College isn’t just for studying; it’s for discovering the world. As you make friends, attend parties and events, go on trips, or explore your college town, you’ll want to capture those special moments. Of course you can use your phone camera, but a “real” camera will allow you to capture better quality images and give you greater creative control.
Ethernet Cable or Wi-Fi Router The last thing you need when trying to do research is a sluggish internet connection dragging you down. Even if your dorm has Wi-Fi, it may be slow, so you can use your own router to ramp up the speed. Or, get even faster speeds by bringing an Ethernet cable and plugging your computer into the wall jack.
Flash Drives A flash drive is one of those things that’s invaluable to have, yet easy to forget. Bring one (or more) along to transfer files, create backups, or bring your work with you in case the internet access in your dorm gets too spotty. Flash drives are inexpensive, and, with lots of whimsical designs available, they don’t have to be all work.
Laptop Computer It almost goes without saying that you need a great computer for your studies…and for fun. There are several factors you’ll want to take into consideration to ensure you get a computer that will last for your entire college experience. Do your research before you decide on the right one for you.
Media Streamer Depending on how you want to view entertainment, a media streamer or media player can come in very handy. The difference between the two is that a media streamer streams files stored on other sources (such as Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu) while a media player stores the files itself. Just make sure the one you choose works with the entertainment setup you’ll be using.
Music System Music is an essential part of college life, and you’ll want to be able to play yours conveniently. If your dorm room is large enough, or if you’ll be living off campus this year, consider a small stereo system. You can also consider an MP3 player plus a docking station, or a docking station that accommodates your phone. Don’t forget headphones for those times when your roommates aren’t on board with your musical choices.
Noise-cancelling Headphones Speaking of headphones, sometimes it’s you who will want to tune out others’ noise. In these cases you’ll be grateful to have a set of noise-cancelling headphones, which block out much of the noise around you. They’re well-known for use in airplanes, but they’re just as handy when you’re trying to get that paper written when everyone else in your dorm is in party mode.
Printer While so much information is shared electronically, there will still be times that require you to produce printed materials. Your busy schedule won’t necessarily allow you to get to a print shop before you need to deliver them, and for these occasions you’ll want your own printer.
Robot Vacuum Cleaner College students aren’t known for their cleanliness, and with so little time on your hands, you don’t need to waste any of it dispelling that stereotype. Instead, get yourself a robot vacuum cleaner, which you can start manually, or program it to clean at specific times.
Smartpen A revolution in note-taking, smartpens allow you to write notes (on special interactive paper), and also record the entire lecture. Later, you can play back parts of it by tapping the pen to a word on the page. It’s the perfect compromise between writing everything and transcribing recordings. Models differ by storage capacity, so think about how many hours of recordings you’ll want to store at one time.
Smart Speaker Smart speakers are like permanently-hands-free smartphones that allow you to play music, check the weather, make phone calls, set an alarm, order food, get information, and more. The Amazon Echo is probably the best-known smart speaker line currently available, and the Echo Dot is the most affordable version.
TV When it’s time for those well-deserved study breaks, make sure you have a great TV to display all your entertainment. Just remember, “great” doesn’t have to mean “giant.” Make sure the TV you get is proportional to your space, whether that’s a dorm room, a bedroom in a group house, or a tiny apartment living room. Also, think about other ways your entertainment could be delivered. A powerful computer plus a high quality monitor could suit your needs just fine.
Smartwatch College life can be hectic, and your phone can help, but not if it’s stuffed down at the bottom of your backpack. A smartwatch is always available to you so it’s the perfect tool for things like getting reminders of to-do list items, staying on top of the news, and tracking your fitness. Oh, and since it's also a watch, you can make sure you’re getting to your classes on time.
Surge Protector With all the other items on this list, you’re going to need a lot of electrical power, and you’ll want to make sure to protect your devices from power spikes with a surge protector. The most affordable are also known as “power strips,” and they allow you to plug the strip into a wall outlet, then plug several devices into the strip.
Wireless Charger Plugging in devices is so old-school! Instead, use a convenient wireless charger. Some stand, while others lay flat, so figure out which works best for your space. When shopping, also check for charging speed, cooling ability, and, of course, price.

Where to Buy

You can mix and match these items in any way you'd like. Watch for exclusive offers from tech providers like Amazon, Best Buy, etc. Many retailers offer great back-to-school deals.

Budget Tip

You don't need to purchase everything new. Check places like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace to see who might be selling what you need. Also, garage sales/estate sales can turn up some terrific tech deals. You never know who is unloading a tech item, for instance, because they can't figure out how to use it or they just no longer need it. Always plug everything in before you make a final purchase and triple-check that the owner has wiped the device of all personal information.