Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

In past years, one of my favorite things about a new school year would be shopping for school supplies. I like being organized and color-coded, having everything I could ever need at school in my backpack. The thrill of galavanting through the aisles of Staples has diminished from my heart since entering college two years ago, but my love of organization has not. College is obviously different from high school; the professor doesn’t send you a supply list before the start of the semester, requesting you have two black pens and three different color highlighters. At the very least, you’re expected to walk into the first class with the assigned textbooks, a pen/pencil, and paper to write notes.

In college gone is the novelty of a pencil case full of erasers, binder clips, white out, and mini staplers. It’s impractical and unnecessary. I carry the bare minimum to class and around campus (maybe just a bit more), and it hasn’t failed me once. Here’s all you need:

One binder + five pocket dividers + lined/graph paper

I manage to keep myself organized with a single 1-inch binder: four dividers for four classes and one divider to hold important miscellaneous papers (campus map, advising guidelines). The front pocket of each divider serves as an ‘inbox’: assignments to complete, readings, notes to look over. The back pocket is the outbox: assignments to hand in, handouts to file away in my dorm so they don’t take up space in the binder. I store all syllabi in this binder for easy access to stay updated on assignments or readings.

I make sure to have a few sheets of lined/graph paper for notes. (I prefer graph paper but I like a choice.) I am firmly against notebooks. I believe it’s unnecessary to carry such weight. Binders allow you to carry papers you need, remove ones you don’t need, and add more as you need it. You never have unnecessary weight on your back as you would with massive 5-subject notebooks.

Two pens + two pencils + highlighter

Simple enough: one pen/pencil to use and the other of each as a back up. I’m not a fan of having more. It means you have extra to share AKA extra to lose. As heartless as it sounds, I don’t believe in letting neighbors in class borrow pens or pencils; if you are in college and need to ask your neighbor to borrow a writing tool, you are doing college wrong. I only use highlighters to mark points to remember in syllabi or assignment prompts.


Have one. Use it. I promise it’s worth it to see everything on paper: daily assignments, exam or presentation dates, project due dates, meetings, assignments, appointments, and events. Nobody remembers all those things off the top of their head.


I keep a pad of post-its in my bag and also a blank sheet on my planner and binder for convenience, just in case I’ve already packed my laptop during class and I get last minute instructions on an assignment or I’m jotting down a group member’s contact info. They’re very convenient and the colored paper ensures I won’t miss looking back to it.

Laptop + laptop charger + mouse (if applicable)

Unless you are absolutely against typing your notes, I strongly encourage bringing your laptop and its accessories to class. I always bring my laptop, charger, and mouse to every class or meeting. I can easily access the internet, my calendar, or files anywhere and anytime.

Laptops are heavy enough, do I have to bring my charger too? Yes, unless you are 100% sure you have enough battery to last you however long you need. Walking back to your dorm for a charger is a waste of time and energy.

A mouse isn’t a necessity, I just find it easier and more efficient than using a trackpad.

Phone charger

You use your phone all the time: texting, calling, checking your calendar, using the calculator, as a flashlight, staying up to date on social media, playing games, checking the time, taking pictures, listening to music, looking things up on the internet, setting a wake-up alarm. I wouldn’t be able to function as efficiently as a student (or a human being) without my phone. Phone chargers are compact enough that there’s no excuse not to bring it, in case of emergency or otherwise.

Water bottle

Not essential for class, but essential for life. Everyone carries a water bottle in college. There are so many water fountains in every building and dorm, you don’t need bottled water if you have a reusable bottle. They’re a simple tool to stave off hunger, stay hydrated, and be healthier.


You never know when you’ll need money or your ID. Just to be safe.

Contact case + glasses

I have been in the library at midnight, bent over biopsychology notes, a Starbucks iced mocha at my side, hoping my contacts weren’t drying out so much they would pop out at any blink. Like for laptop chargers, it would be a waste of time to have to run back to your dorm if you lose a contact or they start bothering you. Play it safe and bring a contact case and your glasses.

With all these materials on my back I’m ready for classes, meetings, studying anywhere, or simply taking a break to scroll through Reddit. When I make sure I have everything in my bag in the morning before I leave my dorm, I have no need to return until the end of the night. Stay organized and hydrated, Prospies.

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the author

Alicia Lalicon is a junior at The College of New Jersey, pursuing a Psychology major with a Women’s and Gender Studies minor. When she’s not reading about mental health and feminist ideas, she proudly enjoys dancing across bamboo sticks as the secretary of Barkada (TCNJ’s Filipino club). Her life philosophy is to always strive for improvement: physically, mentally, and intellectually. Her life motto is “You don’t owe anyone any emotions or reactions.” You can find her being seemingly cold-hearted on Twitter, reblogging black clothes and food on Tumblr, and reading intently behind a book or laptop screen.

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