It’s like you blink and you’ve gone from back to school shopping for toddler backpacks to those annoying extra-long twin sheets for dorm room beds. So whether you’re sending your own kid off to college this year (sniff!), or maybe your niece, nephew, or even grandchild, we’ve got a ton of ideas that will help make their dorm room feel more like home. Or maybe even better in some ways.

[click here for our 2016 back to school guide]

That’s why we’re thrilled to be partnering with Best Buy, which is more than just tech. In fact, it’s more like a one-stop shop for those affordable small appliances and gadgets that are today’s cool dorm room essentials. So while you’re making sure they have the best laptop or tablet, you can outfit their room too. So we’ve done some virtual shopping for you, and put together some of our favorite picks to make a college dorm or apartment a cool place to live, work, and quietly hang out while studying 24/7. (Ha.)

– Don’t miss an awesome Best Buy gift card giveaway just for CMP readers below, plus a chance to win a HUGE grand prize!  –

A mini fridge: Because the cafeteria isn’t open 24 hours a day. 

Back to School Guide for College: Insignia compact mini fridge

Haier Mini Fridge ($79.99, on sale)

We’ve seen a lot of mini fridges that aren’t actually mini, unlike most dorm rooms. But that’s not the case with this Haier Mini Fridge. It’s small, and while it comes in both black and white, we think the black makes it a little less conspicuous than the bright white. Plus, you can’t beat the price.


A coffee maker: For those super late nights… studying

Back to School Guide for College: Insignia coffeemaker

Black and Decker 5 cup coffee maker ($19.99, on sale).

Just resign yourself to the fact your college student is going to pull more than his or her share of all-nighters, and do them a favor: Get them a decent coffee maker. No need to splurge on something that makes enough cups for the dorm.  This one is highly rated, super affordable, and do they really need more than five cups at a time?

Cool Tip: Students can get great deals on all your back-to-school tech just by registering at with your .edu email address. You’ll score coupons for laptops, printers, microwaves, software, headphones, and more.

A microwave: Because how else will they heat up the ramen? 

Back to School Guide for College: Insignia microwave

Insignia Compact Microwave($49.99, on sale)
Yes, a microwave is definitely an essential! Speaking from experience, it’s kind of nice not to have to hit the cafeteria for a hot bowl of oatmeal or forage for ramen in the middle of the night. The compact size of this microwave is perfect for a small dorm room, and hey, it matches the fridge. Get both!

A television: Because PBS and The History Channel are totally educational

Back to School Guide for College: Sharp HDTV Roku TV

Sharp HDTV Roku TV ($379.99, on sale)

We’re huge Roku fans, so it’s no surprise that we’re picking this really affordable Sharp HDTV Roku TV that has the streaming service built right in. No need to deal with cable; just add an internet connection for instant access to movies and shows through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and more. Just think of all the educational documentaries they’ll be watching.

A blender: You know, for smoothies. Of course.

Back to School Guide for college: Insignia blender

Hamilton Beach single-serve blender ($19.99)

Now certainly we have no idea at all why a college student would need a blender besides making healthy breakfast smoothies. But we own this very model and it’s a great buy for a solid, small blender.


A vaccum: Hopefully seeing it will inspire them to use it 

Back to School Guide for College: Eureka bagless vacuum sweeper

Eureka bagless stick vacuum ($19.99)

This vaccum doesn’t take up much space, and you can’t beat the price. Hey, owning one may be the first step in learning how to use one.


An electric toothbrush: Hopefully seeing it will inspire them to use it (ha) 

Back to School Guide for College: OralB Electric Toothbrush

OralB Professional Deep Sweep Electric Toothbrush($44.99)

Even though by now they should be expert brushers by now, we think this gift may ensure that they’re getting a little extra help in the tooth care department at a time they’re busier than they’ve ever been before. Plus, you can ship them replacement heads every so month or so, if you want to be all helicopter-y like that. We mean…helpful. You can be helpful.

An alarm system: Because you want them to actually make those 8AM classes

Back to School Guide for College: Philips Wake Up Light

Philips Wake-up Light ($89.99)

Here’s a kinder, gentler way to help guarantee they make it up in time for those early classes, and hey, it might just improve their energy level overall. More energy, more learning, right?  Plus if you start thinking about the hourly cost of missing even one college class — this one purchase could actually save you thousands.


A room fan: For good roommate relations

Back to School Guide for College: Vornado compact fan

Vornado Compact Air Circulator Fan ($29.99)

If your college student is heading off to school, there may or may not be air conditioning. Probably not. Plus, two to three people in a small room = stuffy, making a small room fan is an absolute must. We absolutely love Vornado fans which are super small but super powerful, easily cooling — or at least airing out– the entire room making studying and sleeping a breeze. Yes, we went there.

Thanks to our sponsor Best Buy, for offering tons of cool tech and small appliances for college kids that we kind of want for ourselves too. And giving lots of them away free! Follow them on TwitterFacebook, Instagram, and Pinterest and follow hashtag #BESTCOLLEGE


EXTRA COOL: WIN IT:  We’re giving away one $250 Best Buy gift card to one lucky CMP reader – whoo! Just leave a comment letting us know which one small appliance from Best Buy you wish you had in college, or that you’d like to buy for your own kid. Leave it along with a link to that item and you’ll be entered! Enter by Friday, August 14 at midnight PT to be qualified, one entry per person, US only please 18+. One winner will be selected at random. See our general contest rules here.

BONUS: You have a second chance to win another $250 Best Buy gift card on the Cool Mom Tech college tech shopping guide, too.

Also, encourage your college-aged child to enter to win one of six Grand Prize packages from Best Buy, featuring approximately $2,500 worth of the latest and greatest back-to-school products in the #BESTCOLLEGE Challenge Contest. A fully teched-out room seems totally worth it to us

Congratulations Lorna B, winner of the $250 Best Buy gift card!

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