SCOTT GALLOWAY: Our kids are falling behind at school due to the pandemic. Teachers aren’t going to fix it.

Kids in masks returning to school
“Back to school 2021 feels more like ‘Stranger Things’ than the fall ritual we grew up with,” writes Scott Galloway.

  • Scott Galloway is a bestselling author and professor of marketing at NYU Stern.
  • The following is a recent blog post, republished with permission, that originally ran on his blog, “No Mercy / No Malice.”
  • In it, Galloway discusses how the impact of COVID-19 on our education system will be long-lasting.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Miles of plexiglass, masks, and deranged parents. Back to school 2021 feels more like “Stranger Things” than the fall ritual we grew up with. Yet there’s an eerie sameness between this fall and the previous most-unusual-back-to-school year of our lives … last year. Classrooms are experiments on viral transmission rates, and school board meetings are proof that antipsychotic meds are dangerously underprescribed.

Scott Galloway

Whitney was right

The children are indeed our future. In my book, “Post Corona,” I offered this thesis: “The pandemic’s most enduring impact will be as an accelerant.” And that’s proving out in many areas. In health care, office work, food delivery, banking, and more, we are seeing “decades happen in weeks” as Lenin said. (Note: He didn’t say it, but attributing the quote to Lenin is gangster.)

In one sector, however, everything is moving slower. Education. Our elementary school kids are learning less, and some are nearly a full school year behind where they would have been pre-pandemic.

Scott Galloway

While their parents harass doctors at school board meetings and fight epic Facebook comment wars, our kids are not learning to read or count. McKinsey projects that this learning gap will reduce lifetime earnings for K-12 students by an average of $49,000 to $61,000. By the time the majority of these kids have joined the workforce in 2040, it’s estimated we’ll have lost as much as $188 billion a year in GDP due to unfinished learning during the pandemic.

As with most things, these ill effects are falling disproportionately on the poor and children of color. Black kids are six months behind in math and learning, whereas white kids are “only” four and three months behind.

Meanwhile, the US educational system has been losing ground to those of our international peers for years. American students routinely score lower on tests of basic skills than students in other countries, a trend that isn’t likely to reverse.

Not for teacher

Who will get these kids back on track? Don’t count on teachers. It turns out that if you underpay, under-resource, and fail to accord equal respect to people for long enough … they’ll quit. Two-thirds of our school districts face a teacher shortage, and 28% of teachers are likely to retire or leave the profession earlier than expected.

Who can blame them? Since 1980, their income relative to other college graduates has been in steady decline. Men have always taken a pay cut to enter the classroom, but it’s gone from a 17% haircut to a 30% scalping. Teaching used to be an economically attractive profession for women, relative to their other options – though I’d guess that wasn’t because we paid female teachers so well – but now a female college graduate makes 13% less than her peers if she goes into teaching.

Scott Galloway

In addition to underpaying them, we’re now asking teachers to stand in a room full of potential delta variant factories, and to referee QAnon vs. anti-vaxxer brawls on parent-teacher night.

Teaching is arguably the most important job in society. Our future is in their care. And something has gone very, very wrong. We’ll know the profession has hit a new low when we start referring to them as “heroes” or (worse) “essential workers” – the lip-service labels liberals bestow on those we exploit to maintain our creature comforts through pestilence, poverty, and war.

The ivory tower

I write often about higher education – not only because it’s my day job, but also because it’s an integral part of the innovation and economic mobility at the heart of the American dream. College has become too expensive. It’s morphed from the ultimate lubricant of upward mobility to the enforcer of the caste system. Every day, it becomes less American. I thought COVID-19 would inspire partnerships with tech firms to dramatically expand access. I was wrong. Our elite universities have doubled down on exclusivity rather than embrace the opportunity for change.

But while I and many others were worrying about rising costs, administrative bloat, and a lack of teaching innovation, another worrying trend was gathering momentum. Young men are opting out of college.

Scott Galloway

In 1970, men accounted for 60% of college enrollment. That number has decreased to 40%. This largely reflects a dwindling male applicant pool. Women now submit 35% more college applications than men, which is forcing some schools to quietly prop up male admission rates. Yes, you read that right. Men are receiving affirmative action for being men.

This decline is a Rorschach test for pundits and comment-section warriors. People who think college is too woke declare that’s what’s driving men out. People who hate video games, THC, or feminism can blame them.

Employment economics probably explains the trend to an extent. Young men without college degrees have better options than young women. Many fields that don’t require a degree are gender imbalanced, and the traditionally male-dominated jobs tend to pay better. Thus, as the value proposition of college gets worse (higher costs, worse experience), men opt out because they can. Women stick around because they have fewer choices. With traditionally male-dominated skilled labor trades in high demand, we should expect to see even more decline in male college attendance.

But is that enough to explain how far women have pulled ahead? UCLA has expanded its enrollment by 3,000 students since 2013, and 90% of that increase is attributed to women. The essence of this data is too much of a good thing. An overdue correction may have, as often happens in markets, inspired an overcorrection.

We’ve lost young men in the shuffle, made them objects of our political arguments and targets of our algorithms. It’s easy to shrug it off. “Someone else’s turn to eat,” so to speak. Sure. But hungry young men without role models or prospects are, to be blunt, dangerous. The wheel doesn’t need to turn, it needs to be broken.

Specifically, we need to dramatically expand enrollments at our great public universities and invest in vocational and apprenticeship programs (for young women and men). I’ve given up on elite private schools – we’ve become Birkin Bags posing as public servants whose arrogance and self-aggrandizement is noxious. This week, I was invited to an NYU faculty education session on the use of pronouns. If the supposedly most brilliant among us can’t keep track of he/she/they, what hope is there that we’ll ever tackle have/have nots and how we (faculty and administrators drunk on luxury) are making the problem worse?

Abandoning ship

For a rapidly increasing number of American families, the answer to the problems with our schools is not to attend them. Home-schooling, growing in popularity for years, skyrocketed during the pandemic. Today, more than one in 10 kids are home-schooled. It may indeed be a solution for some families, but it’s impractical or unappealing for millions of households who rely on public and private schools to teach critical skills.

Scott Galloway

Hope

There are real signs of hope and change, though. UK-based Multiverse offers non-college-bound kids apprenticeships at many of the world’s premier firms. Promising kids get an onramp to the American dream that bypasses the arrogance and debt of admissions departments and outrageous tuition fees, respectively. In addition, this summer, the University of California sent out more than 160,000 admissions offers for Fall 2021, a record high. And institutions like the UC system that are taking positive steps got a boost this week from, of all places, the college-ranking industrial complex. Forbes magazine changed its ranking system in a way that could inspire a huge shift back to where higher ed needs to be.

Rankings are devastatingly important to the demand a school registers. Young people are inexperienced and insecure, which are the pillars upon which margin from brand equity rests. The next time you see a ranking of the “world’s strongest brands,” recognize that it’s left off the uber brands … universities. If Apple were a school, it could have paid for its $5 billion spaceship with naming rights across the side of the building, on each lecture hall, and over every urinal. Coke and McDonald’s don’t hold a candle to MIT and Michigan. Anyway, the most insidious input to these paramount rankings is the rate of admission. More accurately, non-admission. The more people they turn away, the higher the ranking, the more apps, the more margin power, the more student debt, the higher the pay of administrators, the more incentive to reject more students … and the wheel turns.

Forbes’s most recent ranking, however, includes “access” as a factor (specifically, the percentage of kids at the school who received a Pell grant). When that essential element is taken into account … UC Berkeley is the top-ranked school in America. Four UC campuses are in the top 25, as are five other public universities. This. Is. Big.

Ms. Jensen

My iPhone keeps serving pictures of my boys from years ago. It’s very rewarding and, at the same time, heartbreaking. I feel a rush of happiness, and then longing sets in. I will never have back the 5-year-old who let me grow his curls out. Gone is the 8-year-old who’d sleep naked unless you found pajamas with Jedi Master Yoda on them. If you don’t find the preceding two sentences nauseating, it means one thing: You have kids.

Back to school, one week in, has been wondrous in our household. There’s been a step change in our 11-year-old. He left the fourth grade a boy who swore every morning he had unbearable stomach pain and had to be literally dragged out of bed. As a new fifth grader, he’s asking us to help him organize his homework the night before, as he wants “to impress Ms. Jensen.”

When he said this, I told him that a man expresses quiet confidence – we talk a lot about “what a man does” – and that one of the ways you develop quiet confidence is by being prepared, and that I’m really impressed with him as he’s clearly developing into a man. He beams … I mean beams. A feeling of reward and confidence visibly washes over him, and he lurches to hug me, only he evades my embrace, runs into his older brother’s room, hits him in the face, and screams “nobody likes you!” Everyone celebrates in their own way.

I tell him to stop (being a dad means issuing several million verbal warnings each day) and say he needs to get to bed right away. He responds, as he does dozens of times each day, with “why?” Because … we’re back to school.

Life is so rich,

Scott

P.S. Registration for my final Business Strategy Sprint of 2021 closes on Tuesday. Join us.

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Police departments are warning parents not to post detailed back-to-school photos of their kids

man helping child zip up backpack. back to school
Police departments and TikToks warn against revealing too much information in back to school photos.

  • Parents often post back to school photos of their kids posing with signs stating information like their grade and teacher.
  • Police departments and TikToks warn that this could make kids a target for predators or scammers.
  • “It’s important when you post online to keep that personal information to a minimum,” a police officer told WBAY-TV.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

During back-to-school season, police departments and popular TikToks are warning parents that revealing too much information about their kids in social-media posts could put them at risk for predators and scammers.

Taking photos of children posing with chalkboards or signs stating personal information, like their name, grade, and school, are popular on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but these posts might not come without risks.

Personal information like this could be used by predators to build trust with a child or could be used by scammers to answer security questions, Travis Waas, a Grand Chute Police Department officer told WBAY-TV.

A predator could say: “‘I know you! Your favorite color is blue, and you like doughnuts, and your birthday is April 25. I know your mom!’ And it builds this false sense of security with this person that really should not be around your child,” Waas said.

One TikTok with over 300,000 likes advised parents to avoid posting personal information and instead write something simple on the chalkboard, like “first day of school” instead.

“Some of them have the child’s name, teacher’s name, school, favorite sports or activities, and maybe you don’t want a bunch of strangers knowing that,” the TikTok said.

The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois warned parents in a Facebook post that they should limit personal information shared online, no matter what their privacy settings or friends list looks like.

“Think before you post,” they said.

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How mental health resources in schools can help students returning with anxiety and gaps in social skills

elementary school teacher
The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one psychologist for every 500 students.

  • Mental health professionals are crucial for the well-being of children, especially those in poverty.
  • Schools can serve as critical access points, but unfilled positions this year will be a challenge.
  • The roles must be filled by experts ready to handle students’ anxiety, grief, and social skill gaps.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Even before COVID-19, as many as one in six young children had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. New findings suggest a doubling of rates of disorders such as anxiety and depression among children and adolescents during the pandemic. One reason is that children’s well-being is tightly connected to family and community conditions such as stress and financial worries.

Particularly for children living in poverty, there are practical obstacles, like transportation and scheduling, to accessing mental health services. That’s one reason school mental health professionals – who include psychologists, counselors, and social workers – are so essential.

As many kids resume instruction this fall, schools can serve as critical access points for mental health services. But the intensity of challenges students face coupled with school mental health workforce shortages is a serious concern.

Read more: I created my own role at Deloitte after burning out to become its first ‘chief wellbeing officer.’ Here’s how, and what my job is like now.

Key issues

As school psychology professors who train future school psychologists, we are used to requests by K-12 schools for potential applicants to fill their open positions. Never before have we received this volume of contacts regarding unfilled positions this close to the start of the school year.

As researchers on school mental health, we believe this shortage is a serious problem given the increase in mental health challenges, such as anxiety, gaps in social skills, and grief, that schools can expect to see in returning students.

Anxiety should be expected given current COVID-19-related uncertainties. However, problems arise when those fears or worries prevent children from being able to complete the expected tasks of everyday life.

Meanwhile, school closures and disruptions have led to lost opportunities for students to build social skills. A McKinsey & Co. analysis found the pandemic set K-12 students back by four to five months, on average, in math and reading during the 2020-2021 school year. Learning loss also extends to social skills. These losses may be particularly profound for the youngest students, who may have missed developmental opportunities such as learning to get along with others.

And it’s important to remember the sheer number of children under 18 who have lost a loved one during the pandemic. A study published in July 2021 estimates that more than one out of every 1,000 children in the US lost a primary caregiver due to COVID-19.

Hiring more school psychologists

Hiring more school psychologists may not be simple. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one psychologist for every 500 students. Yet current estimates suggest a national ratio of one-to-1,211. It’s like having to teach a class of 60 instead of 25 students.

Shortages are particularly severe in rural regions. There are also not enough culturally and linguistically diverse school psychologists.

Scarcity of school mental health personnel affects important student outcomes from disciplinary incidents to on-time graduation rates – especially for students attending schools in high-poverty communities.

To address these shortages, legislators have proposed federal bills that aim to expand the school mental health workforce. Meanwhile, local school districts and state education agencies are using American Rescue Plan funds to increase mental health training, hire additional mental health staff, or contract with community mental health agencies.

Preparing all school personnel

We believe increasing the number of mental health providers in schools is important. Workforce increases, however, must be coupled with attention to readying all school personnel to cope with students’ anxiety, grief, and gaps in social skills.

For example, when it comes to anxiety, schools can help students build both tolerance of uncertainty and coping skills through strategies such as seeking support, positive reframing, humor, and acceptance. School mental health professionals can train other staff members on simple strategies to use in a nurturing relationship. Long-term benefits such as sense of belonging can happen when each student has an informal mentoring relationship that offers emotional nurturance and practical help.

More schools have adopted social-emotional learning curriculums in recent years. However, additional time may be needed to teach and reinforce basic skills such as taking turns and sharing.

In addition, school mental health personnel can assist with defining a clear process for identifying who needs help, and be ready to share resources about grief and how kids respond to loss.

Partnering with families and communities

Even with these efforts, schools cannot be expected to identify and meet all young people’s mental health needs. Strong partnerships with families and communities are critical.

Seeking input from families may offer valuable information about student experiences. This might be done, for example, by adding questions to beginning-of-the-year student forms. Knowing how families are experiencing loss or insecurities, for example, can help school mental health personnel plan for and target supports.

The youth mental health crisis requires a comprehensive response. We believe the priority should be ensuring equitable access to a mental health professional through school settings.

Sandra M. Chafouleas, professor of educational psychology, University of Connecticut and Amy Briesch, associate professor of school psychology, Northeastern University

The Conversation
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The best back-to-school sales and deals in 2021

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best back to school 2021 sales deals

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

While there is still time for students to soak up the summer sun, plenty of retailers are taking the opportunity to host back-to-school sales.

To save you the trouble of having to scour the internet for deals, we rounded up the best back-to-school sales in 2021 that are happening right now. From clothes, Apple products, and school supplies to mattresses and dorm room essentials, you’ll find everything you need for heading back to school. Even if you’re not a student, you’ll likely find great deals on clothes, tech, and more. We’ll continue to update the best back-to-school deals here as they come up.

For more opportunities to save, check out our round-up of the best sales happening now and available Amazon deals.

Here are the best back to school deals available in 2021

New MacBook Air (M1) (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)Mac Mini (2020) with M1 (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Hum Smart Electric Toothbrush Kit (medium, Preferred: Amazon)cleaning set (medium, Preferred: Grove)BlackWidow TE Chroma V2 (medium, Preferred: Amazon)

The best back to school deals on mattress, bedding, and dorm room essentials

Dormify 25

Avocado: Get $100 off latex mattresses now through August 9 using promo code SUMMEROFAVO.

Bed Bath & Beyond: Save 20% when you sign up as a college student. 

Casper: Get 15% off mattresses and 10% off pillows and bedding.

Container Store: Get 20% off any three items from the Customer Favorites sale. 

Dormify: Get up to 60% off select dorm items, including bedding and storage. 

Dyson: Get up to $100 off the Dyson V8 Absolute vacuum and Cool Link desk fan through August 14. 

Macy’s: Save on sheets, duvets, and pillowcases with limited-time sales.

Mattress Firm: Save up to 50% on select mattresses.

Overstock: Save on college dorm room essentials, including decorations, bedding, and more. 

Pottery Barn Teen: Save up to 30% on all dorm essentials, including bedding, furniture, and decorations.

Target: Get 30% off select kitchen appliances.  

Best back to school clothing, shoes, and accessory sales

J.Crew kids clothes showcase

American Eagle: Get 25% off sitewide.

Adidas: Get 33% off sitewide when you sign up to become a rewards member. 

Backcountry: Get up to 50% off outdoor gear and apparel during the Summer Semiannual Sale.

Banana Republic: Get an extra 50% off sale items. 

Crocs: Save up to 60% on sale shoes. 

JCPenney: Get 30% off select styles when you spend $75 or more using the promo code MYDEAL7.

J.Crew: Get up to 40% off back-to-school and summer picks. 

Kohl’s: Save 30% on Levi’s jeans and jackets. 

Lulu’s: Save 20% on purchases with verified student status through Student Beans. 

Macy’s: Save on clothes, shoes, and accessories with limited-time back-to-school specials. 

Mango: Get up to 70% off clearance items. 

Nike: Save up to 40% on shoes and apparel for men, women, and kids. 

Old Navy: Save up to 50% on store and sitewide. 

Target: Save on kids’ clothes starting at $4.

Best back-to-school shopping deals on school supplies

colorful school supplies

Amazon: Save on school and office supplies, including backpacks, disinfecting wipes, and more. 

Grove Collaborative: Get a free Mrs. Meyer’s starter cleaning kit when you spend at least $20. 

JanSport: Students get 20% off purchases verified through SheerID. 

Office Depot: Save up to 55% on school supplies, including backpacks, lunch boxes, and office supplies.

Public Goods: Save 20% on cleaning products, toiletries, and other household items when you verify student status via Student Beans

Staples: Get up to 83% off school supplies. 

Swell: Get 25% off select water bottles. Discount applied at checkout. 

Target: Save money with office and school supplies starting at 25 cents.

Walgreens: Save 20% on select items using the promo code SCHOOL20

Walmart: Get school supplies for as low as 25 cents. 

The best back-to-school tech deals on laptops, tablets, and more

Dell sale

Apple: Get free Airpods when you buy select MacBooks and iPads or the iMac.

Best Buy: Save hundreds of dollars on laptops, iPads, and accessories through Best Buy’s Student Deals. 

Dell Outlet: Save on a variety of new and refurbished laptops. 

HP: Get up to 58% off laptops, monitors, and more.

Lenovo: Save up to 76% on clearance items, including laptops and accessories. 

Frequently asked questions

When do back-to-school sales start and end?

Although students head back to school in late summer and into fall, sales usually start in July and run through late August or early September. Many retailers have student and teacher discounts year-round, too. Discounts for students include deals on Amazon Prime, Paramount Plus, and more. 

What’s on sale for back-to-school shopping?

Popular items for sale during back-to-school shopping include apparel, technology, school supplies, and dorm supplies for college students. Often, you can find office and school supplies cheaper than $1 during July and August. If you are unsure what you or your child may need, take a look at this back-to-school guide for shopping list inspiration.

 

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A complete 2021 back-to-school supply list for K-12, including remote and in-classroom learning essentials

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students need school supplies like notebooks, backpacks and more
  • We’ve compiled a school supply list full of everything students need for a successful school year.
  • From elementary through high school, here are the best backpacks, remote learning supplies, and more.
  • We also included essential hygiene products for kids, including face masks and hand sanitizer.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Every year, kids get a school supply list filled with all the gear they need to make it through the year. While your kids may take this as an excuse to get new clothes, shoes, and gadgets, you need to get all the basic school supplies for them, too.

Since the back-to-school season can be pricey, we’ve worked hard to create the very best school supply list, while still saving you some money. We included general supplies that often appear on kids’ lists, whether they’re starting kindergarten or heading into their last year of high school.

Read on to find our top picks for backpacks, lunch boxes, pens, pencils, highlighters, notebooks, planners, paper, folders, binders, art supplies, calculators, and so much more.

Here is the ultimate school supply list for grades K-12:

The best backpack for elementary school

L.L.Bean Junior Original Book Pack

The L.L.Bean Junior Original Book Pack comes in fun patterns, including dinosaurs, outer space, and daisies.

L.L.Beans makes high-quality backpacks that are both fun and practical. The Junior Original Book Pack backpack is sturdy, just the right size, and includes a pocket for a water bottle and reflective strips for safety. You can read our guide to the best student backpacks here.


The best middle school backpack

jansport superbreak backpack

The JanSport Superbreak backpack comes in tons of fun colors and patterns.

JanSport is still the go-to backpack brand for tons of school kids. The Superbreak backpack is sturdy, simple, and it comes in tons of colors and patterns. The list of options on Amazon is epic. You can read our guide to the best student backpacks here.

Superbreak Backpack (small, Preferred: JanSport)
The best high school backpacks

North Face recon backpack

The North Face Recon and the Fjallraven Kanken Big Backpack are the best backpacks you can bring to high school.

In high school, a backpack serves two purposes. It’s a practical place to toss your books, pens, laptop, phone, and lunch; but it’s also a fashion statement. If you just want a practical sporty look, the North Face Recon is the best backpack for you. Those of you who are more interested in style than pure function will like the Fjallraven Kanken Big Backpack.

Recon Backpack (small, Preferred: The North Face)
The best preschool lunch box

Bentgo kids lunch box

The Bentgo Kids Bento Box is divided into small compartments to match your child’s appetite.

The Bentgo Kids Bento Box is made from sturdy plastic with rubber edges, so it won’t crack if dropped, and the two clasps are easy for little hands to open and close. The inner tray is portioned into five compartments just the right size for the appetites of the pre-school crowd. Best of all? The foods won’t touch. You can read our full guide to the best kids lunchboxes here.


The best elementary school lunch box

A sparkly blue Wildkin Luncbox

The Wildkin Lunch Box is insulated and comes in over 30 patterns. 

The Wildkin Lunch Box is insulated, so you can pack hot or cold lunches. It zips shut all the way around and has a convenient carry handle. It comes in tons of fun colors to make every kid happy, and the square size fits most bento boxes.

Lunch Box (small)
The best middle school lunch box

Mackenzie Dual Lunch Box

The Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Dual Lunch Box is divided into two compartments, allowing for greater lunch food diversity. 

The Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Dual Lunch Box comes in a ton of patterns so your middle-schooler can have their choice. It has two main compartments so you can separate hot and cold foods. It also comes with a shoulder strap, carrying handle, and interior mesh pocket. 

Mackenzie Dual Lunch Box (small)
The best high school lunch box

Rubbermaid

The Rubbermaid LunchBlox is perfect for high-schoolers to pack everything they need for a sandwich or to separate food for snacking throughout the day.

The Rubbermaid LunchBlox is well-designed with four different containers that snap together so your high schooler student can pack sandwiches, chips, or other goodies that might otherwise be easily smashed. The containers snap onto an ice pack, helping to keep food at a safe temperature. These containers can be carried in a simple lunch bag or you can purchase the LunchBlox bag separately.


The best ballpoint pens

uni ball pens

The uni-ball Jetstream RT Ballpoint Pens write smoothly without smearing, and they come in a three-pack.

If you love ballpoint pens and hate the way gel pens smear, you’ll love the Uni-Ball Jetstream RT Pens. The ink is a school-approved black, and it dries almost instantly to avoid any smudges as you frantically take notes in science class. The anti-smudge property makes them ideal for lefties. These pens come in a three-pack on Amazon for a reasonable price, so parents will love them, too, though you’ll probably need more than three to get through the school year.


The best gel pens

Pilot G2 pens

The Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Gel Ink Roller Ball Pens write smoothly and help color code all your notes.

If you prefer gel pens and you don’t mind the occasional smudge, the Pilot G2 gel pens are the best ones you can buy. Although your teacher will skin you if you turn in homework in colorful ink instead of blue or black, having multiple colors for note-taking can be very helpful. Take it from a serial color coder — it helps. I’ve been using these pens for the past few years to keep my editorial assignments in order (and color coded!), and I’ll never go back to normal pens.


The best pencils

Ticonderoga pencils

The Dixon Ticonderoga Wood-Cased 2HB Pencils write well, sharpen easily, and pass every test.

Dixon’s Ticonderoga wood pencils might as well represent the word “pencil” in the dictionary. These pencils are iconic for a reason: They write well, last long, and satisfy that “number two” pencil requirement for scantron tests (do they still have those?).

Pencils (small)
The best mechanical pencils

uni ball mechanical pencil

The uni-ball KuruToga Mechanical Pencil lasts long and writes well.

If you hate sharpening your pencils, you’ll love the Uni-Ball KuruToga mechanical pencil. It’s not your average mechanical pencil, either. It has stronger lead for less breakage and it’s very comfortable to hold. You will need to buy more lead and possibly some erasers after a while, but that’s the case with all mechanical pencils.

For kids who are learning to write, Papermate’s Handwriting Mechanical Pencils are ideal. These pencils are shaped to be flatter and easier to grip for young kids.


The best highlighters

Sharpie highlighters

The Sharpie Clear View Highlighters come in both wide and narrow sizes, and you get four different colors.

When it comes to highlighters, Sharpie is probably among the best-known brands. These Clear View highlighters come in narrow and wide sizes so you can choose which kind you need. The highlighters will last you a long time even if you’re a highlighting fiend, and you get four different colors in a pack for color-coding.


The best composition book

AmazonBasics Composition Notebook

The Amazon Basics Composition Books are inexpensive and sturdy.

Elementary school supply lists always include a composition notebook, but if you like to have one for high school or college, you can get the college-ruled version instead of the traditional wide-ruled option. Amazon makes great composition notebooks with sturdy covers, sewn bindings, and good quality paper, so you can’t go wrong here — especially if you get the four-pack.

Composition Books (small)
The best wide-ruled notebook

Mead wide ruled journal

The Five Star Spiral Notebooks are the ones every kid wants.

If you were a cool kid in school, you probably had Five Star notebooks. These are great notebooks, even though they’re pricier than some. They’re durable enough to last through a school year, and come with holes ready to snap into a three-ring binder. Check out our guide to the best notebooks here.

Wirebound 1 Subject Notebook (small)
The best college-ruled notebook

Five star notebooks

The Five Star Spiral Notebooks will get you through all your subjects in style.

Once you hit high school, you need a notebook for each subject. Five Star notebooks are a great deal at less than $3 each. The notebooks are sturdy, the paper is crisp, and the covers come in different colors to help you color code your subjects if that’s your jam.


The best planner for high school

Mead Five Star Planner

The Mead Student Academic Planner will help you remember all your homework assignments.

The Mead Student Academic Planner is designed specifically for students. In addition to weekly and monthly planners, it also gives you space to write your schedule.

Five Star 2021-2022 Planner (small)
The best notebook paper

Mead paper

The Mead Filler Paper is strong and doesn’t let ink bleed through.

You’ll go through a lot of paper, so grab a few packs of the Mead Filler Paper in either wide-or-college-rule. It’s sturdy and doesn’t let ink bleed through.


The best folders

Folders

The STEMSFX Heavy Duty Plastic 2 Pocket Folders come in a six pack and they’re durable.

No matter how much mom harps on about taking good care of your school supplies, some of you won’t pay her any mind. To make your folders last longer, get these heavy duty plastic ones from STEMSFX. You even get six different colored ones in a pack, so you can color code your subjects.


The best binders

Staples binder

The Staples Better Binder is durable, sturdy, and long-lasting.

You can buy the Staples Better Binder in a variety of sizes to suit your teacher’s preferences. These binders are known to be fairly durable and the rings are well made unlike the dollar store versions that always fall apart. Check out our guide to the best binders here.


The best dividers

Avery dividers

The Avery Insertable Dividers keep your subjects apart in your binder.

If you have a ton of subjects or you just like being organized, the Avery Insertable Dividers will do a great job of corralling your subjects into sections in your binder. These tabs are sturdy, so they shouldn’t rip like flimsier versions.


The best art set

Art set

The Crayola Core Pack for Back to School — Grades 3-5 comes with almost every art supply you need.

If you need markers, crayons, and colored pencils for your kid, look no further than the Crayola Core Back to School — Grades 3-5 kit. It comes with pretty much everything your kid needs for art time in elementary school, and its $12.99 price tag is decent.


The best colored pencils

Prismacolo pencils

The Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are excellent for budding artists.

If you want some colored pencils that are more high-end and suitable for real art, the Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are wonderful. You get 12 colors for less than $7 — you can’t beat that.


The best glue sticks

Elmers glue stick

The Elmer’s Washable All-Purpose School Glue Sticks work well and they’re way less messy than glue bottles.

Who wants sticky glue bottles when you can have glue sticks? Elmer’s Glue Sticks are better quality than the cheapo ones you’ll find elsewhere. The glue is stickier and longer lasting than other brands’ glue sticks. You can get them for a good price, too.


The best scissors

Fiskars scissors

The Fiskars 5-inch Blunt Kids Scissors cut well, last long, and they won’t poke you.

Scissors are one of those things that you shouldn’t skimp on. Dollar-store scissors don’t last long, they break, and they’re dull. Fiskars’ scissors may be pricey at $10.50, but they are great. These scissors are sturdy, strong, sharp, and safe for kids with their blunt tips. You can also get them with the pointy ends if you’re not worried your kid will poke themselves (or a classmate) with them.


The best sketchbooks

Strathmore sketch book

The Strathmore Sketch Spiral Sketchbook is perfect for inspiring creativity.

If your budding artist needs a real sketchbook, you can’t go wrong with Strathmore’s wares. The paper quality is excellent, and these sketchbooks are even made with recycled paper. I’ve used these sketchbooks exclusively for more than a decade, and they are top notch.


The best printer

Epson printer

The Canon Pixma TR4520 has a built-in scanner and easy-to-use interface, but best of all, it costs less than $100.

The Canon Pixma TR4520 is an inkjet printer that has all the features you need for an incredible price. It has a built-in scanner and copier, so you won’t need to buy those separately. It’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa voice assistant and wireless, so you can print from anywhere nearby, as long as you’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the printer. 


The best USB drive

PNY turbo flash drive

The PNY Turbo is an affordable USB drive for students who need to transport files between home and school.

Students may need to bring documents back and forth with them for sharing or printing, so they’ll want to have a flash drive on hand. The PNY Turbo has good read and write speeds (180MB/s and up to 80MB/s) for basic everyday use, and that’s why we named it the best budget option in our guide to the best USB drives.


The best calculator

TI36X scientific calculator

The Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro Engineering/Scientific Calculator will do the math for you and help you pass algebra.

If you hate math as much as I did, you’ll love the Texas Instruments TI-36X Pro Engineering/Scientific Calculator. It’ll do the math for you and help you pass those math classes with flying colors.


The best index cards

Oxford index cards

The Oxford Ruled Index Cards make great flashcards for study time.

If you’re a flashcard person and a color coder, you’ll love these colorful Oxford Ruled Index Cards. You can easily make flashcards for studying or take notes on them, and the different colors in each pack help you color code by subject or topic.


The best ruler

Westcott ruler

The Westcott Stainless Steel Office Ruler won’t break or slide when you need to measure or draw a straight line.

Some school supply lists include a good ruler, and the Westcott Stainless Steel Office Ruler is a good bet with its sturdy metal design and non-slip cork base. It’s also 15-inches long, so you get a few extra inches.


The best sticky notes

Post it notes

Post-it Notes are amazing for note-takers, color coders, and organization freaks who cannot live without lists.

Take it from a sticky note addict: Post-it Notes are great. They come in fun colors for color coding, they’re stickier than imitators, and they’ll help you be more organized.


The best pencil case

Zipit Pencil Case

The Zipit Pencil Case is the perfect place to store pencils, glue, and other school supplies. 

The  Zipit Pencil Case comes in three fun patterns. It has a hard outer shell to protect all the supplies inside. The case also zips shut, so you won’t find your supplies scattered all over the floor if it gets knocked off your desk. 

Include medium product card. Copy can be:  The Zipit Pencil Case has a hard outer shell to protect all the supplies inside.

Pencil Case (small)
The best hand sanitizer

Purell sanitizer

Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer contains moisturizing ingredients and is 99.9% effective in killing germs. 

Hand sanitizer will be a must this school year, so be sure to stock up. Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer has a high concentration of ethyl alcohol (70%), making it very effective at killing germs.

Advanced Hand Sanitizer Soothing Gel (8 oz) (small)
The best face masks

Cubcoats face mask

Cubcoats makes adorable cloth masks that kids might actually want to wear. 

While not all schools are requiring masks this year, some families are choosing to continue to wear them as a precaution. Cubcoats’ reusable masks are made of two layers of fabric. Older kids might gravitate toward the simple design of Vida masks.

Kids Face Mask 2-Pack – Kali the Kitty & Bori the Bear Mask (small)Protective Mask (5 Pack) (small)

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Kohl’s blows past quarterly earnings expectations as it targets future partnerships to keep store traffic growing

kohl's
Kohl’s shares jumped 4% in premarket trading after news that the retailer beat revenue and sales expectations was released.

  • Kohl’s shares jumped as the retailer’s Q2 sales and revenue beat analyst expectations.
  • Kohl’s said growth was fueled by increasing sales, which increased by 30% from last year.
  • Kohl’s will launch new partnerships this year, similar to opening Sephora stores within Kohl’s.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Kohl’s beat second-quarter sales and revenue expectations and raised its 2021 outlook as strong sales numbers drove the company’s growth.

Digital sales increased 35% from same period in 2019, driven by the retailer’s men’s, home, footwear, and active sections.

The retailer also hinted that it would roll out new brand partnerships in the coming months, in the same vein as its recent deal to open Sephora stores within 850 Kohl’s outlets in the next two years.

“We continue to be encouraged by the traffic we’re seeing and customers returning to stores,” Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass said during a Thursday earnings call. “We are on the eve of launching several transformational partnerships that will drive sustainable growth for years to come.”

Kohl’s revenue hit $4.45 billion, a 30% increase from the same quarter last year, and sales were up 30% compared to last year. Kohl’s earnings per share climbed to $2.48 compared to $2.22 a year ago, in part reflecting a $255 million share repurchasing program this quarter.

Both earnings and revenue beat Wall Street’s expectations of $1.22 a share and $3.99 billion, respectively.

Gass said Kohl’s stock of national brands like Nike, Levi’s, and Sonoma would boost the department chain during the back-to-school season and indicated that the school shopping season is most important for its leading children’s business.

Some analysts are encouraged by Kohl’s deal with Sephora, where the beauty giant will open locations within Kohl’s and sell Sephora personal care and makeup products on the Kohl’s website.

The store-within-a-store will replace the retailer’s existing beauty products and will eschew the beauty counters typically found at department stores. Seventy Sephora locations will open in August, and waves of openings will continue into the fall.

“We just launched our game-changing partnership with Sephora that will transform Kohl’s into a leading beauty destination,” Gass said. “We had a very successful launch of the support at Kohl’s digital experience.”

The retailer said the company plans to fuel growth in 2021 by bolstering sales in activewear and beauty, phasing out underperforming brands, and expanding into decor, kid’s bedroom, and storage products.

The company expects to expand sales in active and outdoor to 30% of sales, and the share of active and outdoor is already up 4% from 2019.

“Our performance in the second quarter marked another important step in further establishing Kohl’s as the leading destination for the active and casual lifestyle,” Gass said.

During the pandemic, Kohl’s took less of a hit in monthly foot traffic compared to 2019 levels than other department store chains like Macy’s. Retail stocks have performed well in 2021, with the SPDR S&P Retail ETF up around 50% since the start of the year.

“We are really pleased with our second-quarter results and the progress we are making with our strategies. Our efforts are gaining traction and we enter the back half of the year with key transformational partnerships that will drive sustainable growth for years to come,” Kohl’s CFO Jill Timm said.

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5 tips for parents navigating the uncertainty of back-to-school season this fall

outdoor classroom lunch
Darsi Greens second grade class practices social distancing while eating lunch on the basketball court at Weaverville Elementary School in Weaverville, California.

  • COVID-19 forced many schools to enact remote learning last year, and that could continue this fall.
  • As parents face the challenge of helping children learn from home, there are ways to ease the process.
  • Stay in touch with your child’s teachers, enforce realistic expectations, and help them with their studies.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

COVID-19 undoubtedly changed K-12 classrooms for the near future.

When school resumes in the fall, even if education returns to pre-pandemic “normal” – with students attending classes all day and in person – teachers are likely to use more online tools and virtual resources than they did pre-COVID-19. The push into remote learning due to the pandemic opened up resources and opportunities that many schools might not have used before the pandemic. This has led to rethinking the K-12 education system as a whole and how online learning can continue both when students are in school or studying at home.

That means parents need to be prepared to continue the role of facilitator of learning and technology specialist for their school-aged children.

Read more: An inside look at Stanford Graduate School of Business’ pivot to remote learning – and why it plans to keep some of its innovations post-pandemic

A daunting challenge continues

The pandemic exposed deep inequities in our society – not just in health issues but in everything from which families could afford childcare to how easily schools could transition to remote learning. But any parent may feel daunted by the prospect of managing their child’s or children’s remote learning.

One’s education degree doesn’t always matter, nor their level of education. For example, a second-grade teacher might struggle in the role of instructional aide for their teenage child taking physics. Likewise, a high school teacher might be unable to break down the basics of teaching reading to their own kindergartner learning at home. Parents with high school diplomas or less may do just as well assisting their kids with schoolwork as those with a law or medical degree.

Furthermore, consider parents who had three children at home in three different grade levels – or even three different schools. Some juggled three different teachers working in different formats, learning platforms, and time schedules.

As teacher educators who are reevaluating how to prepare teachers for future learning disruptions, we’d like to offer parents and caregivers some tips for the upcoming back-to-school season.

1. Get to know the teacher

Your child’s teacher may be unaware of your concerns, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, if your child remains in virtual learning full- or part-time, you may want to ask the teacher about meeting times; whether video and audio should be on at all times; and how to use the learning platform to submit work or ask questions. Parents could meet with their child’s teacher – virtually or in person. Fostering a positive working relationship with your child’s teacher can improve academic performance.

Consider the day-to-day changes that your child will experience upon returning to the classroom. For example, children will begin to work in collaborative group settings and may be required to resolve conflicts with peers. The small changes may affect your child’s transition, so it’s beneficial to check in with the teacher regularly.

2. Embrace technology

Even children new to a specific learning platform are likely to be digital natives who can figure out how to use the newly introduced technology on their own.

Allow your child the opportunity to explore different learning websites and apps, either ones recommended by the teacher or ones that adhere to expectations determined by you. These might include active read-aloud activities, educational games, and virtual field trips.

Even if your child is not in a virtual learning environment, online learning tools can help reinforce topics taught in class and provide additional help for a child struggling with a specific lesson or topic.

3. Keep expectations high

Encourage your child to complete homework, assigned activities, and reading. This requires affirming their knowledge and ability to do the work on their own. Routines are critical during this transition period coming out of the pandemic, but foster your child’s independence through flexibility in those routines. Remember that some good came out of the pandemic, as families were reminded to slow down and readjust as needed.

4. Focus on your own strengths

Learning occurs in all aspects of our day-to-day lives. As a parent-turned-teacher, consider everyday tasks such as cooking, household chores, and managing finances to be true learning experiences for your child. Discuss with your children your own transition from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic in terms of technology use, work habits, and stress, among other things.

5. Encourage reading

Provide at least 30 minutes a day for your child to read books of their choice. All children, no matter their age, should be encouraged to read daily to increase their literacy.

If your child continues to attend class virtually, library books may not be as readily available. In that case, try e-books – with and without read-aloud components. Also consider assisting your children in using the internet to research types of books they may want to read.

Lorrie Webb, department chair and professor of curriculum & instruction, Texas A&M-San Antonio and Rebekah Piper, assistant professor of education and human development, Texas A&M-San Antonio

The Conversation
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Amazon has a discounted Prime membership for students at half the cost – here’s how to sign up

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Amazon Prime Student 2x1
  • An Amazon Prime Student membership includes six months free and then a discounted monthly fee.
  • Prime Student comes with many of the perks of an Amazon Prime membership plus college-exclusive benefits, including a GrubHub+ Student membership.
  • It lasts four years or until your listed graduation date, whichever comes first.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyPrime Student (medium)

Students are eligible for a wide range of discounts on fashion, tech, and travel. But one of the sweetest student discounts available right now is Amazon Prime Student. It includes many amenities of Amazon Prime at 50% off the regular membership price, but that’s not all. Amazon Prime Student now also boasts student-only discounts for services like Grubhub+ Student, Calm, and Course Hero.

Want to know how to sign up for Amazon Prime Student and take advantage of its exclusive offers? We have all the details below.

How to sign up for Amazon Prime Student

To sign up for Amazon Prime Student, you’ll need a valid .edu email. From there, Amazon will ask for an intended graduation year. That’s it. If you still have access to your university email, this offer is wide open to you.

If you don’t have a .edu email address, you can sign up using an alternate form of proof of enrollment like a school ID card or an up-to-date transcript.

How much does Amazon Prime Student cost?

An Amazon Prime Student can try out Amazon Prime for free for six months. By comparison, a typical Amazon Prime comes with a shorter 30-day free trial.

After the trial ends, you’ll be charged a discounted rate of $6.49 per month, or $59 per year. In comparison, Amazon Prime comes with a 30-day free trial and is $12.99 per month after that ($119 per year).

For what it’s worth, JPMorgan estimates that an Amazon Prime membership is actually worth $785 annually. We considered a standard Amazon Prime subscription to be an excellent deal, but the discounted rate and benefits offered to Amazon Prime Students make it a no-brainer.

Benefits of Amazon Prime Student

Amazon Prime Student includes many Prime benefits the average person cares about: free next-day or two-day shipping on more than 100 million eligible items, unlimited streaming of tons of popular movies and TV shows, unlimited photo storage, 30-minute early access to select Amazon Lightning Deals, and unlimited access to over a thousand books on Prime Reading.

Plus, Amazon has deals on back-to-school shopping for college essentials such as tech and dorm items. You can find them all in Amazon’s Off to College store, with many items eligible for free Prime next-day or two-day shipping.

An Amazon Prime Student subscription, however, has several bonus perks. And just in time for back-to-school season, Amazon has added several enticing student-exclusive offers for food delivery, relaxation tools, travel, and homework help:

Prime Student subscribers also have access to these ongoing exclusive offers for college students, including:

Prime Student (medium)

Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us.

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Chipotle says it will repay some teachers for buying school supplies. Here’s how to get a shot at a refund.

Woman shops for school supplies
94% of public school teachers pay for school supplies out of pocket.

Chipotle is giving away $100,000 to help teachers buy back-to-school supplies, and 140 teachers have already replied to the tweet for a chance to reimburse the costs of their back-to-school material.

In the US, 94% of public school teachers have personally paid for school supplies, with the average teacher spending $479 out of pocket and others spending thousands to outfit their classrooms.

To participate, teachers can reply to the tweet with the hashtag #SuppliesContest and a photo of their school-supplies receipt. Teachers have responded with pictures of receipts for everything from printers and books to colored pencils and crayons.

Public-education funds have tightened, and teachers in 42 states are paid less than they were a decade ago. As a result, teachers and school districts often resort to stopgap measures like social media and GoFundMe pages to raise money for essential classroom supplies.

We wanted to lend a hand to a community that has endured so much over the past year,” said Chris Brandt, Chief Marketing Officer. “Chipotle is a company that’s been committed to supporting teachers and we will continue to find creative ways to show our appreciation for the professionals who are cultivating a better future for our communities.”

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We spent weeks researching mini fridges – these are the 4 best in 2021

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  • Mini fridges are great for the office, wet bar, dorm, and backup for the kitchen.
  • We like Midea’s 3.1-Cubic Foot model for its spacious design and separate freezer.
  • We interviewed engineers and refrigerator repair professionals and took several fridges apart.

A mini fridge can be a convenient addition to the office, home office, garage, or anywhere else you care to have a chilled six-pack or assortment of snacks and soft drinks at the ready.

We spoke with several refrigeration experts, including the folks at Liberty Home Guard, to find out what makes a good mini fridge, what to avoid, and how to take care of one in order to ensure it lasts for years to come. (Pro tips: Keep it clean inside and out, don’t block vents, and position it at least three inches out from the wall). You can read more about our research and methodology here.

When shopping for mini fridges, the most important features to consider are shelf configurations (and adjustability), design aesthetics, and whether or not you want a freezer. If you only plan to store beverages in your mini fridge, you may prefer one specifically designed for holding cans, or one with a glass door so you don’t have to open it every time you want to peruse your inventory.

Mini fridges, it turns out, aren’t generally built to last the way that full-sized ones are, so keep in mind that a good one will need to be replaced around the five year mark, depending on how much you use it.

Here are the best mini fridges of 2021

Our research methodology

Selection of mini fridges at a store

While writing this guide, we spoke to David Moreno, a New York City-based refrigerator technician with Liberty Home Guard, and also chatted with a mechanical engineer, and a sales associate at The Home Depot. We even disassembled a few mini fridges ourselves to compare their parts, because, as Moreno said, “what I see with mini fridges is a lot of these manufacturers find a factory that produces them, and license out the name. They’re produced in bulk using really cheap components, but they do come at a great price point.” To that point, we found that the four fridges we disassembled used parts from two manufacturers, both from the same province in China. 

Based on what we learned from the experts, and our own experience as consumers (we’ve owned over a dozen models), we decided on our recommendations based on the following criteria:

Design: Because most mini fridges essentially have the same components, design is an important consideration. Simplicity is key; as with any fridge, the more complex, the more that can go wrong, according to Moreno.

Our overall pick is the most versatile mini fridge we could find, with room for everything from cans and condiments to takeout boxes, as well as a pint of ice cream or a couple of ice trays in the freezer section. 

Size: Within the realm of mini fridges, there are many sizes. Consider what you’re going to store, and how much of it. Our recommendations run the gamut from 1.1 to 4.4 cubic feet, which is about as large as they get before being too bulky to fit under a counter or desk.

Configuration: It’s important to determine what your mini fridge is going to hold — and how much space those things require — before making a purchase. Removable and adjustable shelves are preferred, and we paid attention to fridges that had both.

Usage: The fewer times you open and close a fridge, the less you engage the compressor, and the longer the fridge lasts. I personally have an EdgeStar fridge that’s in its sixteenth year, but I only open it every week or so, and often not for months at a time. I also have a Magic Chef model that gets about the same amount of use. It’s over five years old, and it’s doing just fine, save for some mild clicking once in a while. 

Price: While most mini fridges worth recommending fall within the $200 – $400 range, we did consider budget options, particularly for those who don’t plan on using their fridge too often. Since all mini fridges have a lifespan of about three to five years, spending a lot of money on one doesn’t make much sense, with the exception of built-in options, which require more of an investment. We’re researching built-ins for our next update, but for now, Moreno suggests a Whirlpool model.

The best mini fridge overall

Midea 3.1 cubic feet mini fridge

The 3.1-Cubic-Foot mini fridge has a separate freezer and plenty of space designated for cans, food, and more.

Pros: Smart layout with designated sections, separate freezer storage, easy-to-clean glass shelves

Cons: Back wall freezes, can storage is basically useless if you don’t store 12-ounce cans

A mini fridge with a separate freezer is great if you need to store ice cream, ice, or medication, and a well-thought-out freezer section makes this a great package for galley kitchens, dorms, and wet bars where you want to have all possible storage options.

Between the slick glass shelves (which we like because they don’t have any plastic pieces that could trap bacteria and grime), the can holder, a section on the door for two-liter bottles or wine bottles, and a space on top for butter or smaller items, this mini fridge is packed with features. Basically, you could easily live out of this fridge if you wanted.

There are a few reasons this fridge isn’t for everyone, though. If you don’t store 12-ounce cans, you might find that the can holder on the door becomes wasted space, and while most people agree that the freezer works well, some have found that temperature fluctuates above freezing. The back of the refrigerator compartment also tends to get colder, which you can use to your benefit by storing certain things toward the back and others toward the front, but it can also be a nuisance, depending on how you look at it.

All in all, this is a sufficient size and versatile configuration for studios and dorm rooms, and it’s especially handy for anyone who needs to store a decent amount of frozen goods. It’s also exceptionally easy to clean, which is always important.

The best compact mini fridge

Midea 1.6-cubic-foot mini fridge filled with fruit, cans, and bottles

The Midea 1.6-Cubic-Foot model has a chiller, a shelf, and stores just the right amount of food and beverages for most mini fridge needs.

Pros: Compact, versatile, easy to clean

Cons: Tiny chiller/ice-making section

A mini fridge is most often auxiliary, and in offices and dorms where space is a premium, the smaller the better. We also find that staying on the budget-friendly side makes more sense when it comes to mini fridges. According to the expert technicians we interviewed, alongside our own research pulling fridges apart, many brands license their name out to such a small number of manufacturers that there’s very little difference from one fridge to the next.

Midea’s 1.6-cubic-foot model is on the small (and affordable) side, but we find it’ll hold a couple of six-packs, a bottle or two of wine, and still leave room to spare for smaller items.

While it’s small, the 1.6 cubic foot model includes a chiller for making ice, and the simple wire-rack shelf is easy to pop in and out to clean. Another great feature is the reversible door, which isn’t as common as it should be.

Other than that, there are very few components to this fridge, and no flimsy plastic parts apart from the chiller door, which requires more delicate handling. 

The best convertible mini fridge

Avanti Dual Function Mini Fridge

Compact and versatile as a fridge or freezer, Avanti’s Dual-Function mini fridge has a single shelf for easy storage and cleaning.

Pros: Reversible door, flush back for space, convertible

Cons: On the smaller side, little space for upright storage, no door storage

If you’re looking for a mini fridge that you can put to work in a pinch as either a fridge or a freezer, this is the easiest, most compact and stowable option around, and came recommended to us by the experts at Liberty Home Guard.

Note that if you do use this fridge as a freezer, you’ll want to be hypervigilant about condensation and be sure to get a good seal every time you open and close the door. This is basically destined to be a problem with most similar models, so it’s important to understand that you’re working with a very small, very inexpensively built appliance.

A lot of people build this fridge into their RVs because of its size, light weight (33 pounds compared to most others’ 40+ pounds), and versatility, as well as the fact that it can get well below zero degrees and store frozen foods. Some even end up purchasing two of these fridges to store side by side, using one as a fridge and one as a freezer.

The best mini fridge for drinks

NewAir 126-can mini fridge

A double-paned glass door and adjustable shelves for optimal drink organization make NewAir’s 126-can Mini Bar Beer Fridge a great pick for the home bar.

Pros: Double-paned glass door for easy visibility, relatively quiet, removable shelves

Cons: No designated space for wine bottles

If you want a wet or mini bar fridge, look for a model with a (double-paned) glass door. This allows you to keep an eye on your inventory and not have to stand there with the door open while fishing around or deciding what you want. As we mentioned earlier, the longer and more often you open your mini fridge door, the more you overwork the poor little built-in compressor, and the faster you shorten the appliance’s life. 

NewAir refrigerators are built with the same compressors we found in Magic Chef mini fridges and others owned by Whirlpool. Again, because there are only a handful of big manufacturers, the parts are roughly the same, and so too is the quality. If you really want to step it up and are looking for a wine fridge, we have recommendations here.

Otherwise, NewAir offers multiple sizes (a 90-can as well as the 126-can model we recommend), a sleek stainless steel design, and five removable shelves so, yes, you can get that case of wine in there no problem, should you want to divide space differently.

FAQs

Should I buy a mini fridge?

Mini fridges are great for offices, dorms, recreation rooms, and so many other places, but it’s important to know that they aren’t usually built all that well, and you can’t expect to get more than five years out of even a good one. That’s because mini fridges are built using cheaper components — namely, cheaper compressors — than standard refrigerators, and they’re just not built to last as long. 

If space isn’t necessarily the deciding factor, and you’re going to be using (opening and closing) the fridge a lot, you may consider purchasing a full-sized refrigerator on the more affordable side. 

If you are set on a mini fridge, though, it’s a perfectly useful and worthwhile investment. Just consider that it might be wise to not spend too much, taking into account the shorter lifespan. Our recommendations above run the gamut of what we found (based on research and expert interviews) to be a reasonable price range.

How do I care for a mini fridge?

Taking care of any fridge will go a long way.

According to David Moreno, a service technician with Liberty Home Guard, the most important thing is to keep the back of it (or any type of fridge) at least three inches away from walls and other surfaces. In order for a compressor to do its job, it has to collect heat, and in order to run optimally, it has to have air to release that heat. Otherwise, it’s working double-time.

Also, make sure to keep your fridge clean inside and out. This includes dusting the back, and in particular dusting the coils. Keeping the fridge clean on the inside is important for your hygiene of course, but also the fridge’s. After some point, the wrong mix of spills and ensuing mold can start to damage the components.

And, to make sure you maintain a good seal with your gaskets, be sure to wipe the gaskets clean every month. The more a fridge leaks air, the more the compressor runs, and the more the compressor has to run, the shorter its lifespan will be.

Check out more kitchen guides

wine fridge 1
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