Our elementary school supply list filled an entire page and included things like crayons, safety scissors, tissues and Elmer's glue. August was a race to WalMart to get the coolest character book bag and matching lunch box.
Our middle school supply list was half a page and included things like combination locks, protractors, highlighters and binders. August was a trip to Staples for all of these new, "grown-up" supplies.
Our high school supply list either didn't exist or was a few bullets tacked onto the end of a two-page syllabus and included things like a flash drive and Spanish dictionary. August was a last minute search through the house to see if we could scavenge a pencil before the first day.
But no one really tells us what to bring to college--or everyone's advice differs. Here is a short and sweet list of general school supplies you will actually need when you get to campus.
1. A Book Bag: Dark and Dependable
A quality backpack is the number one item on any sensible college supply list. It will be used and abused--tossed on dirty classroom floors, wet pavement and the nasty rec room floor of your dorm building. A lighter color pack may be a prettier or cooler choice, but it will not be worth it to constantly wipe off the very visible dirt and grime that will accumulate in a week or two. Invest in a dark, sturdily-made bag with lots of pockets (for organization). Searching for your student ID amongst a pile of clutter is annoying, but one thing that is sure to ruin your day is your book bag ripping open and spilling all of your possessions as you're trying to hurry from the dining hall to your one o'clock class.
2. A Notebook: Plastic Cover and Multi-Subject
Long gone are the days where teachers required a separate binder or notebook for each class. In college where there are limited handouts and unlimited lecture notes, a multi-subject notebook with as many divides as you have classes is all that you need. Keeping all of your notes in one place will cut down on accidentally leaving your Geology binder in a coffee shop two miles away, and a plastic cover is essential to protect your precious work from rain or drink spills. Notebooks are way more inexpensive than binders and will last you an entire semester.
3. A Laptop: Reliable and Personalized
Some tech-savvy students may choose to take notes digitally instead of using the old pen-and-paper method, which obviously requires a laptop or tablet. However, even if this is not you, bringing a device to class is a must. More and more professors are taking advantage of online resources and are even giving assignments that can only be completed through a web medium. The last thing any college student wants is to have to borrow a clunky, out-dated machine from the room next door while the rest of class is busy typing away on their own personal computers. Also, personalizing your computer is fun (and can cut down on theft). Use laptop stickers to reflect your interests!
4. Pens: Better Than Pencils Any Day
Pens are the preferred writing utensil of the college student for many reasons. They are easier to write with because they require less effort than a pencil. They do not need sharpening or a constant refilling of lead (the correct size lead). They do not require a pencil case because they do not leave gray marks all over the inside of your nice book bag. They can also be erasable just like pencils. Pens > Pencils.
5. Highlighters: Use Them Wisely
You've most likely been warned against highlighting passages in textbooks because either the books were school property, or teachers said that highlighting didn't help. Whereas in college, highlighting can be a useful tool that can turn your passive textbook reading into active learning. Use a certain color to mark key terms, formulas, rules and concepts. Make a key so that you keep your highlighting straight, just try not to color the whole chapter--stick with the essentials.
6. Flash Cards: Paper or Digital
Flash cards may seem like a juvenile way to study, but they're surprisingly effective at drilling hard foreign vocabulary or physics formulas into your head. Websites like Quizlet take this much loved method and turn it into a paperless tool, but you may find that physically making the flash cards is an important step in reviewing the material. Index cards can also be a part of your writing process. By copying down notes from sources onto separate cards, you can then pile or arrange them into your future paragraphs.
7. A Flash Drive: Back Up Your S***
There will never be a more devastating event in your college life than putting over twelve hours into a paper and suffering a computer crash. With tears running down your cheeks, you race to the nearest tech-support center and beg for them to salvage your work, but it's all in vain--you have to start over. Avoid this stressful spectacle by ALWAYS backing up your paper to a flash drive whenever you exit out of it. It only takes one incident where your work is lost to realize that the few extra seconds it takes to make two copies is well worth it.
8. An Umbrella: Compact
A mini umbrella is a necessity–put it in your book bag and take it whenever you leave your dorm building. Classes do not delay for rainstorms and no one wants to walk twenty minutes in a monsoon without some sort of rain gear. Even if Apple Weather shows clear skies and stifling temps all day, still bring an umbrella. Do not let the weather ruin a perfectly good day or your perfectly good mood.
College is all about independence and keeping up with responsibility. You may not need everything on this list or you may end up with your own list three times this size, and that's okay. Buy items that you know you will need and use, and leave the ones at home that you won't. Student stores on campus will stock everything you could ever think of (and offer sales and discounts). Happy supply shopping!
Lead Image Credit-Flickr Creative Commons-Nick Amoscato