I'll never forget the moment I first laid eyes on my freshman year dorm room, taking in its cinderblock walls, an over-used Twin-XL bed, and sticky desk that smelled faintly of beer--all the ambiance you'd expect university housing officers to foist on unsuspecting 18-year-olds.
Really, a dorm room is a blank canvas filled with potential, and while it won't take much to really make it feel like home, you'll need more on your shopping list than just a laptop, bedding, and school books. (Though, yeah, it may take a creative eye to look past the fluorescent lights.) Your dorm room will never be a luxury apartment, but a few crucial gadgets can transform it from a cell into a multi-functional space for studying, sleeping, and hanging out.
Grovemade Desk Collection
You'll be spending a lot of time at your desk--especially during midterms and finals--so keeping everything neat and organized will really help with the study flow. Grovemade's Desk Collection contains hand-crafted wooden pieces (pick between maple and walnut) that give all of your devices a home. The complete collection includes a laptop stand ($119), a monitor stand ($119), a pen holder ($39), an iPhone dock ($99), a keyboard tray ($99), a plant holder ($29-$39), a mousepad with a built-in stylus holder ($79), a wrist pad ($49), a trackpad tray ($59), and a desk lamp ($99). Since the collection is on the pricey side, pick and choose your favorite pieces to create an optimal setup.
Although it's a little pricey, there's no arguing how good your desk will look with a few Grovemade desk accessories.
Your dorm may include a cable hookup for your TV, but it probably won't play well with your Netflix subscription. The easiest fix? Google Chromecast ($35), a small streaming device that plugs into your TV or monitor's HDMI port and receives video content beamed from your smartphone or tablet. It connects via Wi-Fi and is compatible with a bunch of video apps, including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and HBO Now.
Stick the Chromecast dongle into your TV or monitor's HDMI port, and use your smartphone to beam video content to a bigger screen. Credit: Derek Walter
Of course, you'll have your laptop, but a monitor can make a world of difference when you're working on a big project. I like the Acer H236HL ($119), a 23-inch widescreen LCD monitor with in-plane switching to keep the display crisp. It has 1920-by-1080p HD resolution, plus VGA, DVI, and HDMI inputs to use it as either a makeshift TV with that Chromecast, or as a secondary laptop display.
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