I love back to school season because of all the cute school supplies and the thrill of opening up a fresh pack of colorful gel pens. Can you blame me? But I’ve always been a chronic over-buyer when it comes to supplies, and that’s really not good. Plus, the supplies list that schools send out usually list extra items that you really don’t need. I know there’s security in feeling over-prepared, but I promise you will not need a binder for every single class—this coming from the girl who used to actually buy an entire binder for every class! You may not even use some of the things you thought you were going to use, and you’ll end up spending more money than necessary.
If you’re about to begin your first year of college and are unsure of what school supplies you actually need, then here are my suggestions! (P.S., don’t forget to check out my post on the 13 Items That Are A Complete Waste Of Money!)
1. One binder.
When I was in high school and middle school, a small binder for each class was actually expected most of the time, because our teachers wanted us to divide up the sections for class notes, homework, quizzes/exams, and projects. So basically, one class got an entire binder full of looseleaf. On any given day, I’d have at least three binders in my backpack for whatever classes I had. But in college, that’s totally unnecessary. Especially if you prefer to type all your notes as opposed to writing them. I think one 1.5-inch binder is perfect for organizing handouts, exams, and other papers for class. I use a binder for keeping track of all of my syllabi, so I know exactly where they are when I need to refer back to them. That being said, one item I’ve kept with me from high school is my 3-hole hole puncher. Whenever I need to add hole-less papers to my binder, it’s easy to just punch some holes.
You can use divider tabs to separate the papers in your binder for each class. This way, you can keep all your papers from your history class in one section, all the papers from your math class together, and so on.
2. Notebooks for at least half of your classes.
If you’re like me and take the best notes when you’re typing on a laptop, purchasing notebooks may be a little tricky. It’s good to keep notebooks around regardless, but I don’t see the point in buying notebooks for every single class when I’ll just use my laptop instead. However, there are some classes that you’ll have where you simply cannot type your notes. Take math class, for example. It would take an insanely long time for you to type all those formulas and solve equations. So using pen and paper is clearly the most efficient way to take notes. Same goes for physics or chemistry class. For some classes, you may not know which form of note-taking is better until you actually start the class. So, it doesn’t hurt to buy two notebooks for college (you likely won’t take more than four classes your first semester).
3. At least 2-3 folders.
You could probably feed all the hungry college students on campus with the amount of papers you’ll accumulate (if they ate paper). Gone are the days of folding up homework worksheets and sticking them in between the pages in your notebook. I keep one folder just for any papers related to administrative matters (my degree progress reports, any bursar or registrar documents, etc.) because every single one of those is important and I’d hate to lose one. I usually put small handouts and extra looseleaf for class in my other folders. It just makes organization way easier. Of course, use your best judgment and your class schedule to really decide how many folders you’ll need.
4. A pencil case, and pens and pencils.
I personally love using mechanical pencils and colorful pens because college lecture halls don’t come equipped with pencil sharpeners, so you don’t have to worry about sharpening mechanical pencils. While colorful pens help many people—myself included—learn better, you’re definitely okay simply purchasing black and blue ink pens, because those are standard for many things, and apparently more professional than purple ink. Your pencil case should be big enough to fit some pens and pencils, one or two highlighters, and a few other necessities. I used to use a plastic pencil box because I loved having all of my colored pens and highlighters on hand (yep, every one of them), but I ended up not even carrying my pencil box to class after a while because it got annoying.
5. A planner.
Planners are God’s gift to unorganized and forgetful college students everywhere. They’re seriously amazing for keeping assignments and obligations in check. I don’t know what I would have done all those years if I didn’t have a planner by my side. I literally write down EVERYTHING in my planner, and it helps me stay focused. Plus, it makes me look super busy when I sit in the library and write feverishly in it. Invest in a planner that has exactly what you need in it. If you like something colorful and adorable, I highly suggest the Happy Planner. I recently did a review on the ClassTracker Planner, so be sure to check out my thoughts on that!
6. A stapler.
Believe it or not, you sometimes still have to hand in physical papers and homework assignments in college. I personally relish those instances because, let’s face it, if your school’s wi-fi is notoriously crappy, hell hath no fury like that of a sleep-deprived college student trying desperately to submit an online assignment at the last minute. A mini stapler is absolutely perfect because you can keep it inside your pencil case so you always have it with you. Alternatively, paper clips are really great supplies to keep on hand. You can get a pack of super cute ones for just $1 at Target. Ah, you gotta love Target.
7. A USB thumb drive.
Invest in something that you can store files on once in a while. In college, a lot of space on your laptop gets taken up by 20-page papers and lecture slide downloads. You don’t need an expensive thumb drive—just something small that you can keep in your backpack or desk drawer just in case you reach the point where you’ll need to move some important documents to make space on your laptop.
8. A pair of scissors.
You’d e surprised by how often you’ll need a pair of scissors in college. In fact, scissors and tape are two supplies that students often forget to bring to college. It’s always the little things…You won’t really need to carry them around in your backpack everyday, but they’e good to keep in the desk drawer in your dorm room. You probably already have a bunch of scissors lying around at home, so you don’t even need to buy another pair for college.
9. Sticky notes.
They’re really great for creating quick to-do lists and marking your place in textbooks while studying. They don’t take up much space, so it’s easy to carry them around with you. And, if you buy them in packs of three, you can leave two sticky note pads in your desk drawer and one in your backpack.
If you’re starting your first year of college, what’s the biggest question on your mind?
If you’re returning for the new semester, what’s your favorite must-have supply item?