So if your school is like mine, you're not allowed to have any appliances, just a fridge and a microwave. That means no food processor, blender, hot plate, or even a coffee maker that doesn't have an automatic off switch. This is quite a challenge because most of my non cooking recipes require a food processor or blender, and cooking just doesn't taste as good from the microwave (besides it kills a lot of the nutrients in veggies). But I have found a few tools that make things possible.
1) My favorite tool is my pampered chef hand chopper. It's not cheap, but I got it as a Christmas present and it has really come in handy. It can be used for most things you would use a food processor for, but it's hand powered and obviously not a strong, so I would try to use it with anything extremely frozen and recipes don't get quite as smooth as they would with a food processor. That being said I've used mine to make pesto, banilla soft serve, hummus, chocolate covered Katie's "Brownie Batter", and my favorite thing to make, fresh salsa. It's the most versitile of my tools, and even though it's not perfect, it has made my life a lot easier!
2) The simpler and cheaper alternative would be a mortar and pestle. I got one from the Christmas tree Shop for $3 or $4. I accidentally broke it soon after, but that's beside the point. This is great for making humus, or any recipe with chickpeas, and guacamole. It actually will get the hummus smoother that the hand chopper will, but it is a little more work.
3) Another simple tool is a hand held cheese grater. I use this for garlic, parmigian cheese in my pesto, and my favorite, ginger (I love my ginger hot chocolate, especially on a cold day). You could also use it with a frozen banana for banilla soft serve if you don't have a better tool.
4) Next tool is kind of obvious, but measuring cups and spoons are kind of essential if you want to follow recipes. Now I hate measuring and usually like to guesstimate or make recipes that don't require measuring, just tasting (like my salsa, hummus, banilla soft serve, every recipe I make on a regular basis), but sometimes, much to my dismay, you have to measure.
5) I don't know if this counts as a "tool", but a microwave safe bowl with a lid is essential if you want to make homemade popcorn. Make sure you double check that it's microwave safe. I learned that the hard way, by melting a bowl in my microwave (fire alarm went off and everything).
6) While a can opener is not diverse in its uses, it is necessary if you need to open a can. I used it for chickpeas and pumpkin.
These were the only "tools" I can think of that were useful this past year. Obviously you'll need utensils plates and containers, but those aren't tools.. This should be a good start to your back to school shopping. I'll post soon about food I always keep on hand in my dorm, that you'll probably want to add to your shopping list :)