$17 at Amazon
Mosiso keyboard cover and laptop case
Excellent value laptop accessory bundle
$32 at Baggu
Baggu Puffy laptop sleeve
Stylish and sustainable laptop sleeve
$150 at Target
Sony CH-720N headphones
Best budget noise-canceling headphones
$99 at Amazon
AirPods (2nd Generation)
Solid earbuds for walking on campus
$60 at Anker
Anker 735 charger (GaNPrime 65W)
$7 at Amazon
Life-Mate Badge Holder
Easy-access to your key to everything (including your student ID)
Show more (7 items)
It’s August, which means back-to-school shopping season is in full swing. With so many products out there, it can be hard to know what you actually need.
I graduated college two years ago. During my time at university I compiled what is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate list of tech, tech accessories and more to make your academic life easier. So from one recent student to another, here are the back-to-school essentials I’d recommend.
Watch this: Back-to-School Essentials You Actually Need
07:43 Best laptop for students Stephen Shankland/CNET
If you’re only going to get one thing from this list, I’d recommend the 13-inch M1 MacBook Air. It works well for standard tasks like research, writing essays and taking Zoom calls. Plus, starting at $1,000, it’s currently the most affordable MacBook Air at Apple.
Read more Best laptop accessories MOSISO
Protect your laptop from scratches, dents, liquids, crumbs and other hazards with this keyboard cover and laptop case bundle from Mosiso. The set includes a laptop case, keyboard cover and a screen protector. I don’t love the screen protector because I prefer to clean my screen with a microfiber cloth, but the laptop case and keyboard are definitely worth the money.
Add some personality to your laptop with Baggu’s colorful sleeve. This laptop sleeve provides extra cushioning when you’re on the go, and it comes in fun patterns. I also love the fact that it’s made of recycled materials.
Note-taking essentials Sarah Lord/CNET
The Remarkable 2 is an E Ink sketch tablet. You can use it to handwrite notes and annotate PDFs, and you can transfer your notes to the cloud or your computer. Handwriting can help with retaining information and doing it digitally means you can keep your notes backed up and save some trees. I prefer writing on it to the more expensive iPad because the Remarkable 2 has a more paper-like feel.
The Rocketbook Core notebook allows you to digitize your handwritten notes without breaking the bank. Write in it with the included Pilot Frixion pen, scan your notes with the Rocketbook app and send them to the cloud. Then just dampen the included microfiber towel to erase the page and dry it to reuse it. The Rocketbook looks like a regular spiral notebook. The pages feel like matte photo paper, so the pen glides on them more than it would with regular paper. But overall, the experience is pretty similar to writing in a normal notebook.
Audio essentials David Carnoy/CNET
A good pair of headphones can help you get in the zone while studying. If you can go without noise-cancellation, the Sony CH-520 headphones are a solid budget option. They’re lightweight and comfortable and they have decent sound and great battery life. I’ve even seen the black pair drop down to as low as $38 at retailers like Amazon.
If noise-cancellation is a non-negotiable for you, the Sony CH-720N headphones are a good pick. They’re lightweight, comfortable and have good audio quality with great noise cancellation and ambient sound modes. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t as premium as the Sony WH-1000XM5’s, but they’ll do what you need them to do. And if you can find them on sale for less than the $150 retail price, you’ll get an exceptional bang for your buck.
Battery Life Rated up to 5 hoursNoise Canceling NoMultipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless earbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX4 — splash-proof)
I liked wearing earbuds as I walked around campus because they’re less bulky and let in a bit more sound so I could stay aware of my surroundings. I used the original AirPods in college and still recommend them. More specifically, I’d get the second-gen version because the sound quality is great and because, starting at $130, they’re currently the most affordable AirPods at Apple. I’ve even seen them drop down to $100 at retailers like Amazon.
Aside from getting a degree, what is college for if not sitting on the grass in between classes, vibing to music with your friends? Here’s the speaker I’d recommend for that: the JBL Go 3 Eco. It’s water- and dust-proof and has surprisingly good sound quality for how small it is. And it’s largely made of recycled materials to make it more sustainable.
Lifestyle essentials Anker
You can charge all the tech I’ve mentioned in this article with this Anker 735 charging brick. I was constantly looking for outlets at once in school when I should’ve just used this. There are two USB-C ports and a USB-A port, meaning you can charge three devices at once. It’s a game-changer.
Aside from a laptop, this $7 Life-Mate Badge Holder may be the most important thing you buy for school. In college, my student ID was my key to everything — dorms, dining halls, libraries, you name it — so I needed easy access to it. Having it on a lanyard like this is what worked best for me.
I’ve used this Matein backpack for over six months and it’s maintained its shape and has lots of pockets, which I love. Another cool feature? It can act as a charger. Start by plugging the backpack’s internal USB-A cable into a power bank. Then plug another USB-A cable into the backpack’s external USB port and you can start juicing your devices up. This backpack lists for $40 but I’ve seen it as low as $24 at retailers like Amazon, which is amazing.