What You Actually Need For College

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With my first year of University recently coming to a close, I’ve learned the items that are absolutely necessary to have in college, and the ones that are a waste of money. 

Going back to school was a huge decision for me, and I’m so glad that I did.

It’s super exciting starting college, yet that excitement can cause you to buy a whole bunch of supplies that you don’t really need. 

Back at the beginning of the school year, I put together 10 Must Haves for College. Definitely go check out that post because I still agree that everything on that list was helpful throughout the school year.

Of course it varies with what school you’re going to and what program you’re taking, but in general terms, I’ve come up with the essential items that I personally used a lot, as well as the items that have just been a waste of money and you should skip out on. 


What You Actually Need For College



I mentioned this in my first post on must haves for college, but after using a backpack for the whole school year, I can’t even tell you how helpful it was.

I grabbed my Doleesune backpack off of Amazon at the beginning of the year, and man of man was it ever a champ. I brought my laptop to school everyday, and having the laptop pouch is so necessary. With that, plus my lunch bag, three notebooks, calculator, pencil bag and a water bottle (and usually a to-go mug!) this backpack has held up so well. 

Yes, it’s super friggin heavy, which is a bummer, but having a backpack where the straps won’t tear is so important. Invest in a good one to begin with.


Note System

Whether you like to type out your notes or write them out by hand, having a solid note taking system is the key to success. 

Personally I like to write out my notes by hand because I retain the information better that way, so a few notebooks and some awesome pens are my go to. I use the Staedtler Triplus Fine Liner pens as well as some Five Star notebooks I picked up from Staples. 

Actually keeping up on writing notes throughout the school year is what’s going to make or break you. You’ve got to stay on top of it if they’re actually going to be useful to you. I put together a post all about writing kick ass notes here and how it’s helped me in my studies tremendously. 

What You Actually Need For College
Photo by Galymzhan Abdugalimov

Cue Cards

When it came to studying, these helped me so incredibly much.

Before this school year, I had never really had a solid study strategy. I kind of just read my notes or the textbook and went from there. 

This year I started using cue cards and it made a world of a difference. I’m definitely a learner by writing things down. By rewriting the key concepts from my notes and the textbook onto cue cards before exams, I could definitely tell how much more prepared I felt, and how much it actually worked.

My grades on exams were great, and I definitely owe it to the cue card method. 


Reusable Water Bottle

Staying hydrated is so so essential and having your own water bottle helps tremendously with that. I definitely recommend getting a nice one that you’re going to enjoy using, because it’ll entice you to drink more water. Not to mention it’ll help you to avoid buying drinks on campus all the time! 

I used a CamelBak one for the longest time, and I love my Contigo water bottles as well. I personally like bottles with a straw and they’re also super cute so it makes me want to drink more water!



What To Skip Out On



I have found that for all of my classes, we very rarely got any papers handed out to us and that everything is done online. Binders are chunky and big and a pain in the butt to carry around all day. 

Instead, I would have a report cover in my backpack to collect any papers I got to prevent them from getting crumpled. These are sleek and small and don’t add a lot of weight to your backpack. You can pick up a bunch online, or find them at Walmart or Staples. 



Most universities will give you the option of renting a locker, and in my experience it’s just a waste of money.

Lots of the time my classes were in different buildings and I never wanted to bother to make the trek to my locker. I also used exclusively online textbooks which definitely lightens the load of your backpack. All of my textbooks were on my tablet and it was actually the greatest thing ever. 

If your textbook company has an app or an online option, I highly recommend using it. Not only is it usually cheaper than buying the physical copy, often there is a search function on the textbook which makes it suuuuper easy to find key concepts and terms.

The only downside to this is not being able to sell back your book at the end of the year. But in my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons here. 


Of course everyone has their own preferences on what they need and don’t need – this is just what has worked best for me. I find that staying organized is the key to success in school (and in life!), so I’ve tried to find the best items to help with that!

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