What You Really Need for College

Every semester there seems to be a new list of things you need. These lists most of the time contain things you really don’t need and as a result you can end up overspending.

I have made this list keeping in mind only what is absolutely essential for the entire semester. Not just 2016 but any semester really. I also am replacing many of the physical items with free downloadable materials or just free apps to save even more while being more effective.

I have spent entire semesters with these. Know that supplies do not make you a successful student, its how you use them so develop your own studying style. Only buy what you need and will use for your studying style.

Note: I will update this list if I missed anything or find a better recommendation.

There are things in this list that would make your experience better but they are marked optional since they are not essential. I have linked the items to Amazon so you can see the range of prices and how cheap you can get them.

The Essentials:

  1. Notebook and Journal.

The amount of subject on a notebook depends on the amount of classes you will be taking this semester. I have found 2 types of notebook to be helpful and they are both Five Star.

I personally prefer the notebook as it is way cheaper than the NoteBinder. I love the size, the quality and look. It does the job perfectly for me and fits very well in my bag. 

A journal helps you keep track of your to-do lists and  helps you vent when you need to (I'm guilty of this). Instead of buying a journal you can easily download a nice journal app for free. Because I use an android phone I recommend Journey. Its simple and easy to use, minimal clean design, you can password protect your entries and its free. So far you have no limitations on the amount of entries. They also have a chrome extension for you to access your entries and log new ones.

  1. Highlighters, Pens and Pencils.

This is pretty straight forward. For the highlighters try sharpie. They have a nice window for you to see when to stop highlighting and they are smear proof (I used a sharpie pen/marker to test it). I have had these highlighters for many semesters (you can see the wear).

If you want that cool line coming down from the highlight, get your kid to move your arm when you are highlighting….

The pens and pencils don’t have to be expensive to be good and convenient.

Try the BICpen packs, you get a dozen pens and as long as you use them completely you should have more than enough ink for the semester.

For the pencils you can buy mechanical pencils. The BIC pencil packs not only include the lead but the erasers too so you can save on those items as well. And hey you don’t have to sharpen them…I hate sharpening. Just keep in mind their lead size so when you run out you know which lead size to buy.

  1. Planning and Sticky Notes:

Yes, planners are extremely important for keeping track of your goals, assignments and exams. My recommendation is to download freebies for the day, week and even month.

I have included a list of links below where you can download free daily, weekly and monthly planners. You can also look for more choices by going to Pinterest and searching "free downloadable calendar" or "to-do list", or "stationery" or "planners". Under the stationery tag you will even find free downloadable bookmarks.

  1. Eliza Ellis Free Monthly Planner
  2. Eliza Ellis Free Weekly Planner
  3. Eliza Ellis Free Daily Planner
  4. The Sarah Johnson Free 2016 Planner
  5. Short Stop Designs Free 2016 Calendars

If you opt to buy a planner try to get the ones that include 2 years. In this case 2016 and 2017. You will have a planner for about 3 semesters. I got my PlanAhead planner in Jan 2016 from CVS for about $15, I still have it (photos below). You can find it on Amazon too.

Tip: Use your classes' syllabus to plan out your entire semester. Color code your classes. You can plan the exams and assignments due. This will help you determine when to start studying for which exam and what content.

You will also need sticky notes. Not only can you use them to summarize parts of your textbooks (which helps you learn/memorize tremendously) but also as bookmarks. You can get the regular size and cut them into small flags or you can get both, the regular size and the post it flags. It depends on your studying style.

  1. Organization:

You will need one huge organizer. In it you can store just about anything. I own a 12-tab organizer and as you can see in the photos below you can use it for more than just class. Remember to clean it out every semester to make room for new classes.

 Move your old notes/assignments to a bigger storage such as a fabric bin. I got my organizer from a drugstore a very long time ago, its very durable and spacious. Since there is no brand on it I'm not sure of its exact name. Therefore I am suggest getting a very similar one.

  1. Studying Aids:

Flashcards (free). Yea get the Quizlet app or use their online site for these. You will carry with you your decks and not have bulk in your bag. They also have many settings and styles you can apply to your decks to study them. Also, its free. You can even see other people's decks and use them to study as well. I've used this app multiple times to memorize anatomy and microbiology components.

Textbook stand (Optional). This can be very helpful with huge textbooks to save space on your desk while studying and to save your neck from snapping.

  1. Tools:

Small stapler and staple remover duo (perfect for when you print your assignments in school and no one wants to lend you a stapler)(includes a staple remover too)

Correction Tape aka White out (for when your kid moves your arm while you are writing…)

Ruler (get a clear one as it will help you so much during labs).

  1. Apps (All free and optional)

This is a screenshot of the apps I mentioned before, and some others I think will help you as well as they helped me. I will do a more detailed article on this section and update this one with the link when I do. They are all free and very useful. Remember I am on an android phone so I'm not sure if they are available for iOS.

  1. Gadgets (optional)

Flash drive/Thumbdrive. This is very important for presentations, or assignments in general. Alternatively you can use Google Drive (free app) to store everything there. Keep in mind you will have to sign into your google account to access your presentation when your presentation day comes, which can be a little embarrassing.

Battery pack for your phone/tablet.

  1. Textbooks Advice:

In this section I just want to make a few suggestions to get the cheapest price on textbooks you will need.

  1. Half.com (very cheap prices for minimally used textbooks)
  2. Amazon.com (using prime and their price range you can get a cheap textbook in 2 days)(remember the textbook must have the prime tag for you to get it in 2 days)
  3. eBay.com (same as half)(you can find cheap prices biding)(wait until the last 11 seconds to bid if your internet is reliable, no one can beat you)
  4. If the above don’t help try searching for the international edition of the textbook. I bought a chemistry book like this and there was no difference between the international and the US edition.
  5. Ask your professor if an earlier edition is fine. Changes between one edition earlier and the current are usually very minimal and do not affect your education.
  6. Check your school's library and see if they have it. Usually you might find it as a teacher hold, meaning you cannot take it out of the library but you can definitely make copies of it.
  7. Check for pdfs online…you know what I mean. You can store them in Google Drive and access them from anywhere with or without an internet connection.

List of all essential supplies mentioned:

  1. Five Star 5-Subject Notebook
  2. Sharpie Clear View Highlighters
  3. BIC 12-Count Ball Pens
  4. BIC 24-Count Mechanical Pencils
  5. PlanAhead 2016 + 2017 Planner
  6. 12 Pocket Organizer
  7. Post-it Notes
  8. Post-it Flags
  9. Small Stapler and Staple Remover Duo
  10. Correction Tape
  11. Scissors
  12. 12-inches Clear Ruler

All the essentials in the list above (except for the planner which you can get for free as mentioned) total a price of $48.10 (before taxes) in Amazon using Amazon Prime trial. Without Amazon Prime trial all the shipping raises the total to $93. See the cart.

Amazon Prime Tip: It has been extremely useful for me to have Amazon Prime (it was a gift, from mom). Especially when it comes to getting my textbooks on time for class. If you don’t want to pay for it I recommend getting their trial to buy your textbooks/supplies and canceling later. You will get free 2-day shipping on Prime items and not pay for the service (yeah broke college student here).

Alternatively, you can get their Prime Student Trial in which you have to use a credit card to sign up but you get it free for 6 months and can cancel the trial before the 6-months so your credit card wont be charged. You will also need a .edu email to sign up or provide proof of student status.

To cancel your prime trial click on 'Your Account' which is by your name at the top of the page > under need support (to the right) click on 'Update Prime Membership' > on your left click on 'Do not continue my free trial'.


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