A college living space.

For students going off to college this fall, the pandemic has changed the rules. For one thing, they'll need to pack masks and plenty of hand sanitizer. And some schools are limiting the number of people who can help students with their move. Ohio State University, for example, is limiting it to one or two people.

Despite these changes, one thing remains the same: Your child still needs to pack all the things needed for dorm living. We've rounded up a number of Consumer Reports-tested products that he or she is sure to appreciate.


To pack wisely, it also helps to know what not to bring. Search the college’s website to see what each room offers. Be sure to check the list of prohibited items, too, such as extension cords, halogen lamps, electric blankets, toaster ovens, and space heaters. 

Here are seven essentials for your student. Most of them are CR Best Buys, which means they offer impressive performance at an appealing price. (We've also got some advice on doing laundry and washing face coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which may be helpful to share with your child.)


One of the most comforting things you can get for your student is a great set of sheets. After all, she needs whatever hours of sleep she gets to really count so she can wake up ready for class. And she needs sheets that last.

Check with the school to see what size sheets your child needs; most dorm beds are 5 inches longer than the standard twin, so only twin XL sheets will fit. Cotton sheets, like the ones we recommend below, are popular. We buy only queen-size sheets for our tests, and the prices we list in CR's sheet ratings reflect this, so keep in mind that twin XL sheets cost less. 

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L.L. Bean Pima Cotton Percale (280TC)

Price: $149

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Dorm rooms can get hot and dry in the winter. A small cool-mist humidifier keeps the air moist, alleviating a dry throat and skin, and can help shrink swelling in nasal passages to make it easier to breathe. Just remind your child that a humidifier needs to be cleaned after every use to prevent bacteria from growing and being released into the air. The model highlighted here is for a small space. Check CR's humidifier ratings for additional details on this one and other humidifiers we test.

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CVS Health GUL540V1

Price: $32

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Noise-Canceling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones come in handy for listening to music without disturbing others. Below is a CR Best Buy from our noise-canceling headphone ratings. They provide above-average sound at a great price. 

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Monoprice BT-300ANC

Price: $45

Sound quality
Noise reduction
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Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Here's a speaker that's compact enough to keep on a desk and has a reasonable price. In CR's wireless speaker ratings, the portable speakers we test cost as much as $400, but the one highlighted below gives a real bang for the buck. 

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JBL Pulse 3

Price: $170

Sound quality
Ease of use
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Handheld Vacuum

You may dream of your child having a clean dorm room, but you can do better than that. Give him or her a hand vac, and crumbs and other rodent-attracting debris will be gone in no time. There are test results for 15 hand vacs in CR's vacuum ratings, and the one below is a CR Best Buy.

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Black+Decker DustBuster CHV1410L

Price: $60

Bare floors
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Coffee Maker

Being able to brew a cup of joe anytime day or night is a real perk if the dorm allows coffee makers or your child lives off campus. You’ll find over two dozen impressive drip coffee makers in CR's coffee maker ratings that are under $100, including the one we highlight below. 

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Hamilton Beach 12-cup Programmable 49465R

Price: $25

Brew performance
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Microwave Oven

For dinner on the run or late-night snacks, a microwave comes in handy (for dorm living, check if it's allowed). We tests small, midsized, and large countertop models for CR's microwave ratings, but you'll probably want to skip the large ones when space is tight. Small countertop microwaves tend not to perform as well as larger models because they’re typically underpowered, but give the small microwave below a look. 

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Amazon Basics Voice-Controlled Microwave

Price: $75

Heating evenness
Ease of use
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