I don’t know about you, but I just LOVE going back-to-school shopping for school supplies, even if I do identify as a doctoral student now. There’s just something about new notebooks and fresh pens that makes my heart happy! When I was younger, I would prep for weeks before going school supply shopping by making multiple lists – one for actual school supplies, one for school clothes, and one for locker decorations. I don’t plan near as much now for back-to-school supplies shopping, but I enjoy it just as much as I did when I was in middle school.
Over the weekend, I convinced my husband (a junior at East Tennessee State University) to go to Target with me for some school supply shopping in preparation for our fall courses which begin this Monday. It’s no surprise that college students – both undergraduate and graduate – don’t need near as many school supplies as secondary students; however, there are some basic school supplies every college girl should purchase to help make her academic semester a success. Below, I’m sharing a list of the “grown up” school supplies I always purchase at the start of each new academic year for my courses. Note: This school supply list is not program specific. It has been created to work for all my college-going ladies.
Based on my many years of schooling at the college level, I believe there are three basic items every college girl (and guy) should have for college. While the three basics below may be pricey, if you purchase quality versions of these items, they will easily last you all of college and on into graduate school should you decide to go that route.
- Backpack: When I was younger, I would always purchase my school backpack from Target. They had such cute options! Unfortunately, it’s my experience that those backpacks don’t hold up in college. Most college students don’t have access to a locker so your backpack literally goes everywhere you do… to class, to your dorm, to Starbucks… If there is one non-electronic school supply item you should splurge on, it is a quality backpack. For Christmas my freshman year of college my parents got me a North Face backpack, specifically the Women’s Recon Backpack, and I’m still carrying it today as a doctoral student! Recently, I’ve even been talking about purchasing a second one because I use that backpack for events outside of school like vacations or day hikes! It has so many pockets, it’s easy to carry, and it’s super durable.
- Planner/Calendar: While not pricey, a planner is a must-have for any girl who wants to on schedule or ahead in college! If you’re an active student like myself, then a planner will save your tail many times over the course of the school year! While I usually use a Vera Bradley planner, this year I purchased my planner from Target! My local store had such cute options that I couldn’t resist a blush pink and gold planner! Note: I used to keep two different planners: one for life and one for school. That was a TERRIBLE idea! Sometimes my life events would conflict with school events I had scheduled and vice versa but I wouldn’t realize it until it was too late! A couple months into my freshman year of college I realized a single planner for both school and life would be much more handy! Hint: Be on the lookout for a special blog post next week involving my planner.
- Laptop: All through undergrad I had a Windows laptop; however, my husband encouraged me to switch to an Apple MacBook. In all honesty, I didn’t have $1500 to drop on a new computer for graduate school, but luckily my husband’s grandfather was purchasing a new MacBook and let me have his “old” one. I’ve used it for over two years now, and my husband and I plan to purchase me my first new MacBook – a MacBook Pro – for Christmas or the New Year. I’m not saying you need a MacBook for college, a computer with Internet access and Microsoft will do (I know because I used one my whole undergraduate career), but as a doctoral student with online classes and required media projects, a MacBook is WAY more helpful than a Windows.
Besides a new planner, there’s nothing more I enjoy purchasing for back-to-school than new writing utensils. Even if you intend to keep it digital in college with eTextbooks and notes, you’ll still need pens and pencils for class eventually. Personally, I always keep an assortment of writing utensils with me in my backpack, especially now that I teach community college composition courses.
- Pens: Personally, I love the Paper Mate Flair Marker pens for notes, to-do lists, and planner additions. I use the more official G2 gel black pens for noting or signing important documents.
- Mechanical Pencils: I rarely use pencils anymore now that I’m in my doctoral program – pens are more “socially” accepted at that level. That said, in undergrad, I used pencils for notes or in-class assignments all the time. My favorite are the Paper Mate #2 Mechanical Pencils that twist at the top.
- Highlighters: I go through so many highlights each semester. While I mainly use my highlighter to mark special or important sections in my textbooks, I also use them on course powerpoints or my own spiral0bound notebooks. I prefer the thin Sharpie highlighters with the bold tips in basic yellow. I found other colors of highlighters only distracted me.
- Dry Erase Markers: I know what you’re thinking, Why do I need dry erase markers if I don’t have a dry erase board? The answer is simple. There are study rooms on every campus with white boards. You should take advantage of them when you study for a big test. Don’t rely on the library, campus, or other study buddies to have dry erase markers for you.
- Wite-Out: Wite-Out is a major school supply must for me now that I mainly use pens to take notes or write up and sign important documents. When I was younger, I didn’t much care for wite-out, but as I’ve aged, I’ve learned that it’s more professional to wite-out something than just scribble over it and move out.
While institutions are trying their hardest to go green, at least one of my undergraduate professors each semester required me to use paper in one form or another. Personally, I’ve always purchased notebooks and filler paper because I’ve always preferred taking notes on paper. Even if I have access to class PowerPoints or printed supplemental materials, I’ll still take notes on paper because it helps me retain the material. Regardless of whether you take notes digitally or on paper, chances are you’ll need either notebook or filler paper for in-class assignments.
- College-Ruled Notebook(s): During undergrad, I liked to keep five or six separate spiral one-subject notebooks – one for each course. It helped me keep my subjects separate and manage my time better, especially during those first two years of undergrad when I was taking general education courses. As a graduate student, however, I prefer keeping a single five-subject notebook for the entire year. I do this because so many of my courses relate to one another that it’s helpful to be able to turn quickly back and forth among my course notes. Tip: Some professors may require you to keep a class journal. Do NOT make your class journal or note-taking notebook. Keep two separate notebooks. Why? Sometimes professors take up your journals but don’t return them before a major assignment or test comes up. ALWAYS make sure you have access to your course notes!
- College-Ruled Filler Paper: I’m going to be honest, I only used filler paper for in-class assignments and group activities. While I could have just used the paper in my course notebook, I hate the little frilly pieces that come with ripping a page out of a notebook. They drive me crazy! Note: You probably only need one pack of filler paper if you use notebooks to take notes.
- Index Cards: I know there are digital flashcard options out there – my husband reminds me of them often – but I always prefer using paper index cards to study important course material. Call me old-fashioned, but writing my notes on index cards in different colors helps me better connect with the material.
Besides the basics, writing utensils, and paper necessities, there are a couple other school supplies I always purchase each year to help me stay organized and succeed in my courses.
- Binder(s): Most professors will give you additional paper notes or printed reading materials, and instead of placing them in folders, I always hole-punched them and placed them in a binder in the correct order. I’ve seen too many students drop all of their pages or misplace them that it scared me into keeping my extra printed sheets organized in a 3-ring binder. Tip #1: Get a binder with pockets so you can place any sensitive papers on the side, and purchase additional dividers with pockets if you want to keep your subjects organized. Tip #2: Get a binder with a clear front pocket so you can place a printed course schedule in the front of it for reference. Instead of carrying around a paper schedule that first week and looking like a total freshman, you can carry your bind and look the part of a seasoned college student.
- Manilla Folders: When I entered college, I didn’t even think to purchase manilla folders, but by the end of my first semester of college, I was having to purchase them all the time. Some professors require you to submit lengthy assignments in manilla folders, and it looks more professional to turn in documents and important papers in a manilla folder than in a folder with a unicorn or puppy on the front.
- Post-It Notes: I have had an obsession with post-it notes since I was in middle school. I love having a variety of colors and styles at my disposal for course study and work. Post-It notes help me stay organized and on-track with my academic studies. I use them to tab pages in my textbooks, make brief notes or to-do lists, and even mark important events or assignments in my planner.
Closing Out This Purchase Post
Depending on your personality and course load, your back-to-school supply list may vary from mine; however, I believe this list is perfectly sufficient for any girl headed to a two- or four-year college for the first time this fall. While I chose to do my back-to-school shopping at Target this fall, Walmart, Walgreens, and even the Dollar Tree have most of these items as well.
I’d love to know what items you’ll be purchasing or have purchased for back-to-school this year! Let me know in the comments below, and connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter for even more back-to-school content!
Until next time my darlin’,