Starting college or university is a huge milestone in a young adult’s life. It marks some semblance of independence as the person pursues furthering education that will serve as a foundation for their future career. And while there are plenty of essentials a college or university student needs before heading back to school, like a laptop, printer, and reliable Internet connection, there are other things you might not have thought of. And that goes especially for those who will be living in a dorm, but also for those who will be living in some sort of segregated space in their parents’ homes, or even on their own. When I went to university, for example, I still lived in my parents’ house but in the basement apartment.

So what are these non-essential but highly useful items that any college or university student will find handy and will make their life easier, no matter where they are?

Coffee Makers

First, there’s coffee. Some people don’t drink coffee at all, and I totally respect that. But for those who do, a coffee maker is a necessity. You can pour a cup of java first thing in the morning to pour into your to-go cup and bring it with you to classes. Or, grab a cup while completing assignments, at lunch, and/or when you are up late studying and need to keep yourself from falling asleep. Not only can a coffee maker be a lifesaver in terms of providing you with the fuel you need to keep going at full speed, but it can also save you money in the long run because you aren’t spending $5-$10 on a fancy cup of coffee at the local café every day. (Though you should splurge once in a while – you deserve it!) There are options from basic single serve coffee makers that use pods to more elaborate but small machines for coffee aficionados; even ones with milk frothers so you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out by making your own coffee at home or in your dorm.

Toaster Ovens

Toaster ovens aren’t just for pop tarts, though no one is judging you if you love those for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night snack. Toaster ovens are an easy way to cook delicious meals quickly and efficiently without taking up a lot of room. If you’re living in a dorm, small apartment, or even your parents’ basement, a toaster oven is an ideal option, especially for students who don’t know how to cook or don’t have the time to prepare a meal in between classes, extracurriculars, and studying. Warm up a frozen pizza quickly and easily or toast a few slices of bread you can slather some peanut butter or avocado on to eat on the go. And when you do have time to make something more elaborate, you can even cook a meal in some of the more feature-rich ones.

Bar Fridges

Another item that is ideal when you’re cramped for space, whether it’s in a dorm room, an apartment, or the corner of your bedroom in your parents’ house, is a bar fridge. Not only does it take up little room, but it also won’t be as much of an energy hog as a full-sized fridge. And it can hold the essential things you require, like a selection of energy drinks, kombucha, water bottles, milk, eggs, and butter. You can preserve leftovers from take-out meals to have for lunch the next day along with just enough food to last for the next week or two, like yogurt, fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and more. Ideally, look for one that has a top freezer section for storing frozen dinners, freezing meats and poultry before their best by dates, and make-ahead freezer meals.

Fitness Tracker

When you’re a student who has their head buried in books or staring at a screen trying to learn, learn, learn, it’s easy to forget to exercise. A fitness tracker can actually help a lot in this respect, especially ones that provide reminders to move via a gentle buzz and nudge that you have been sitting for too long and it’s time to get up and move about. You can also track your steps to ensure you make the recommended 10,000 per day and stop to take a much-needed break and go for a walk or run to clear your head and achieve this. Ones that track continuous heart rate can also prompt you to relax if you notice your heart rate rises without a viable reason. And many also track sleep and can provide valuable insight on if you’re getting enough and the quality of your sleep.


I’m a fan of the Instant Pot, which is a great small appliance for both those who know how to cook and those who don’t. You can make hearty and healthy meals quickly and easily with a set and forget attitude, which is just what a busy student needs. If you forget a meal inside, it will remain on a Keep Warm mode for hours. And you can make food that usually takes hours in a fraction of the time. Make everything from pulled pork for sandwiches to dips, mac & cheese, soups, and more. Easily cook items directly from frozen and prep meals ahead of time to pop in the Pot and go.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Everyone could use a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones, but especially students who need to shut out the world around them and focus on their work. This works not only while on campus or in a dorm room with a roommate who might be too noisy and distracting, but also while at home to cancel out distracting neighbourhood noises, like the neighbor mowing the lawn, construction nearby, or the garbage trucks coming by. While over-ear headphones totally envelop your ears and block out noise using both active and passive noise cancellation, sometimes all a student needs is an unobtrusive pair of true wireless buds with active noise cancellation technology. And the bonus is that they can listen to music privately while studying or in between classes.

Bottom line

There are tons of ways to make your life easier as you enter a new chapter in your life as a college or university student, and great products that can help.

It’s safe to shop at Best Buy for back-to-school gear. The staff puts the public’s safety first in all stores, taking all necessary precautions, and will be adjusting protocols to ensure that customers can shop in the way that’s most useful for them. For those who aren’t comfortable going into physical stores just yet, or don’t have the time nor the means, they can also shop online.

Christine Persaud
With 20+ years of experience in trade and consumer tech journalism, I have covered the tech space since before social media was a "thing" and the smartphone as we know it was even invented. Writing for various technology, lifestyle, and entertainment sites, I have covered and reviewed hundreds of tech products, from home appliances to wearables, fitness tech to headphones, TV entertainment products and services, and more. I'm also a passionate foodie who loves to cook and bake, a TV show fanatic (happy to give what to watch recommendations!), and proud mother to a 12-year-old son.