Autumn is coming, which means that back-to-school season is nearly upon us whether we like it or not. And as surprising — and possibly panic-inducing — as it is to hear, that also means that it’s time to start prepping for the inevitable return to the classroom. Thankfully, with the right supplies, you can ensure you or your loved one kicks off the school year on the right foot.
With the help of the Verge staff, we’ve collected a range of items intended to help the student in your life succeed. They include staples that will last them long after graduation, like the 13-inch MacBook Air, as well as gifts designed to help them recharge between classes, from Nintendo’s Zelda-inspired Switch OLED to Codenames. We even have a gift that will allow them to capture memories in a fun, creative way.
Feel free to peruse our picks below, all of which should make the 2023-2024 school year one to remember.
Tile Pro (2022)
With the Tile Pro, you won’t have to freak out every time you misplace your keys or tote bag. The platform-agnostic location tracker lets you easily keep tabs on your belongings from up to 400 feet away using your smartphone, and unlike Apple's AirTags, it features a built-in keychain hoop so you can attach it to your belongings without the need for extra accessories.
Sony SRS-XB100 speaker
A quality Bluetooth speaker like Sony’s small-but-mighty XB100 can help students unwind and relax after a long day of classes — or just blow off some steam in between them. The portable speaker pumps out a surprising amount of bass for its size and carries an IP67 dust and water resistance rating, meaning your student shouldn't have to worry when they inevitably leave it outside during a downpour.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 12
School isn’t all about studying — it’s also about making memories with friends. Fujfilm’s latest instant camera makes it easy to capture and print photos with the press of a button, allowing you to create wallet-sized snapshots of your life within a matter of seconds. The Mini 12 comes with a built-in mirror on the front, too, so you can quickly snap selfies with friends instead of burning through film trying to find the right angle.
Kobo Elipsa 2E
Even if you don't mind toting around a library's worth of books on your back, an e-reader is a wise investment. The Kobo Elipsa 2E is one of our favorites because it's a terrific 10.3-inch device that allows you to annotate digital books, just as you would a physical book. You can even use it to create your own digital notebooks and draft a paper in handwriting before converting it to typed text — a feature that is invaluable in the digital age.
Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
College-bound students will need some sort of skillet to cook their meals. With the Lodge Cast Iron Skillet, they can sear, sauté, bake, broil, braise, and fry all kinds of foods for years to come. Not only does the hardy 12-inch pan offer terrific heat distribution and retention, but it's also safe to use in the oven or over an open fire. The included silicone handle is just an added plus that lets you ditch the oven mitts.
Asus Chromebook Flip CX5
The Asus Chromebook Flip CX5 is a more affordable alternative to the MacBook Air, just in case spending $1,000 on a laptop simply isn’t doable. It’s not as powerful, sure, but it’s still one the best Chromebooks on the market, given its impressive spec sheet and performance. This includes great battery life and a wide port selection, as well as a sturdy build that can withstand the bumps and bruises of everyday life.
Harbor Arch Productivity Softbound Focused Notebook
Every student needs some kind of planner. Erin Condren's productivity-focused notebooks are customizable and feature blank, two-page spreads that include lined, blank, dot grid, and checklist sections. That means your giftee can use the durable journal for taking notes, bullet journaling, planning, and even sketching. After all, who knows when inspiration might strike?
Apple iPad (ninth-gen)
Laptop, TV, e-reader, notebook — who can deny the impressive number of roles the iPad can play? The tablet’s sheer level of versatility, not to mention its lightweight build and 3.5mm headphone jack, are what make the entry-level model such a great back-to-school gadget. Well, that and its performance-to-price ratio, which is still quite outstanding for a tablet that came out in 2021.
Onn Google TV 4K Streaming Box
As they say, all work and no play makes Jack — or any student, really — a dull boy. Fortunately, Walmart's 4K Google TV box is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to access your favorite movies and shows at home. The reliable streaming device offers built-in casing and access to a wide range of apps, along with support for Google Assistant and HDR10, making it hands-down one of the best deals in streaming.
Echo Show 5 (third-gen)
Amazon's latest Echo Show 5 is a useful gift for any high school or college student. The 5.5-inch smart display fits perfectly on a nightstand, making it a great alarm clock that can also be used to check the weather or turn off the lights before bed. At the same time, it makes for a nice desk companion, one students can use to check their calendar, set deadline reminders, and play relaxing music to help them focus. Lo-fi beats, anyone?
Keurig K-Mini Single Serve Coffee Maker
There are a lot of fancy coffee makers on the market, but the Keurig K-Mini is a great solution if you need something simple that will fit just about anywhere. The compact, single-serve coffee maker is easy to use — just add water, a K-Cup pod from your favorite brand, and press a button — and it can even churn out tea or hot cocoa if you need a break from the caffeine.
Kitchen Safe Time Locking Container
Smartphones are great, but they can also be distracting, particularly when you’re trying to cram for that next exam. When the 'gram keeps getting in the way of your homework, however, the Kitchen Safe Time Locking Container will prove useful. All you need to do is toss in your phone — or any other small distraction — and set a timer for however many minutes or hours you need to focus.
2022 MacBook Air
Laptops are expensive investments, so you might as well buy one that'll last you a long time. The most recent 13-inch MacBook Air is a terrific jack-of-all-trades machine thanks to Apple's M2 chip, one that can easily handle your average workload and even some light gaming. It also features all-day battery life and an improved 1080p webcam, which is great if you're taking any classes online.
Nanoleaf Shapes Mini Triangles Smarter Kit (nine-panel)
The right decor can make any student who is homesick feel, well, more at home. Thankfully, Nanoleaf's Shapes Mini Triangles are a kind of wall decor that will brighten up their living space as well as their mood. The Smarter Kit provides everything they need to get started, including mounting materials and nine modular light panels, allowing them to achieve the ideal smart lighting setup in no time.
Nintendo Switch OLED - Tears of the Kingdom Edition
The Nintendo Switch OLED is perfect for the gamer on the go, especially if they share a place with roommates. The console's hybrid nature means they can play games while docked or in handheld mode, the latter of which is fantastic thanks to the console's 7-inch OLED display. This limited edition model is the same as the standard model but slathered with Hylian iconography, making it ideal for Zelda fans.
Fjällräven Kånken Mini Cooler
If you want to save money on food, packing your lunch ahead of time is a no-brainer. The Fjällräven Kånken Mini Cooler is a soft, insulated box that will keep your food fresh and drinks cool hours after preparation. And while it certainly makes for a great school lunch box, the colorful bag is also a useful tool for ferrying drinks and snacks to picnics, parties, or anywhere else your studies might take you.
Apple AirPods (second-gen)
They may be from 2019, but Apple’s second-gen AirPods remain a solid pair of wireless earbuds that have stood the test of time. They lack water resistance and more premium features like noise cancellation, but they fit the bill if all you need is a reliable pair of good-sounding earbuds to listen to music while walking to class. Plus, they sync well with other Apple devices, making them particularly handy if you're an iOS or macOS user.
Classic team-based games like Codenames offer a good opportunity to break the ice with new schoolmates, whether you're living with them or just linking up on the quad. The collaborative game charges two so-called "spymasters" with connecting a series of seemingly unrelated cards via a one-word clue, which their teammates must then uncover before the opposing team. It's simple to learn, in theory, but tough to master.
Oxford Book Tote
If backpacks aren’t your thing, the Oxford Book Tote is a stylish alternative that’ll protect your belongings with heavyweight canvas and a durable, water-resistant exterior. It also comes with plenty of pockets for stowing everything from a 13-inch laptop to that poli sci book you've been putting off, along with a detachable strap that allows you to use it as a crossbody bag.
LaCie Rugged Mini (2TB)
Few things are more frustrating than finishing a long paper, only to lose your work because you didn’t back it up properly. That said, you can avoid such a scenario by investing in a portable hard drive like the LaCie Rugged Mini. This particular hard drive comes with 2TB of storage, which is more than enough to back up all your important documents, and it's rugged enough that it should be able to withstand all kinds of jolts and jostles in your backpack.
Anker 313 Power Bank (10,000mAh)
Given how much we rely on our phones these days, a portable power bank is a must. Anker's 10,000mAh offering measures roughly the size, yet it offers enough power to juice most smartphones twice over. It's also easy to throw in a backpack or purse without adding much bulk, meaning your student will never have to worry about their phone dying while they're on campus or commuting.
Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds
Dorm life has its perks, but noisy roommates are not one of them. Luckily, a good pair of noise-canceling earbuds like Sony’s WF-1000XM5s can help you tune them out, making it easier for you to study in peace when everyone around you refuses to do so. Sony's latest offer other perks, too, including stellar sound quality and IPX4 water and sweat resistance, so you can enjoy listening to your favorite tunes even while working out at the gym.
Let's face it, life on a student budget rarely allows one to order groceries via InstaCart. Fortunately, Baggu’s standard bag makes it easy to lug to up to 50 pounds of groceries home from the store. The reusable nylon bags are collapsible, too, and come in a variety of fun patterns that give them an edge over the drab brown bags you typically get at the store.
Amazfit GTR 4
When you’re stressed with schoolwork, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be hard. Fortunately, the Amazfit GPR 4 makes keeping tabs on health, fitness, sleep, and even stress levels easier, so students can ensure they don’t neglect the basics when busy. The platform-agnostic smartwatch also features other perks that make life easier, including turn-by-turn navigation and support for Amazon Alexa.
Hydro Flask Wide Mouth Bottle with Flex Sip Lid
When it comes time to study for an exam, the humble Hydro Flask is a handy tool that can help students stay on task (and hydrated). That's because the insulated, stainless steel bottle can keep your coffee warm long after you've prepared it, saving you from having to make multiple trips to the kitchen. It also comes in an array of fun colors and includes a handle, so you can easily take it with you on the go.
Stabilo point 88 fineliner pens (20-pack)
Pens are as basic a school supply as it gets, yet they're still a necessity if you prefer taking physical notes over the pounding of a keyboard. Stabilo’s fineliner pens feature a metal-cased tip and come in a variety of attractive shades that make color-coding easier, so you can take organized notes more easily.
Yamazaki Tower Deskbar
Cluttered house, cluttered mind. It’s hard to focus when your desk looks like an absolute mess, which is where a desk organizer like Yamazaki’s Tower Deskbar comes in handy. The sleek, steel accessory is outfitted with a small bin and an elevated wooden platform, ensuring your keys, wallet, and even your smartwatch are never far from reach.
Sunbeam Orion Blue Ultralush Heated Blanket
It may be hot now, but cooler days are just around the corner. If you want to avoid turning up the heat — and potentially bothering everyone in your home come the fall — picking up a heated blanket like Sunbeam’s Orion is an excellent idea, one that lets you to set your desired temperature using an inline remote. Trust us, your roomies won’t notice a thing.