10 School Supplies College Students Actually Use
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Student Life

10 School Supplies College Students Actually Use

Keep your back to school list short, sweet, and affordable.

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Do you really need that whiteboard/calendar combo? What about that rose gold desk organizer?

We all have things we want (like a black glitter 2 pocket folder that I couldn't pass up), but there's only a handful of things that you need in order to do well in college. This back to basics list will help take the guess-work out of your shopping and keep your expenses to a minimum.


Doing homework and writing papers would be very difficult without access to your own laptop. You will need one for all of your classes. Go as cheap or expensive as your budget allows. As long as you can access the internet and utilize Word, PowerPoint, etc. it will work just fine.

Pick up an inexpensive flash drive, too. You will use this for PowerPoint presentations and turning in papers.

Buy a MacBook Pro on Amazon.


You will go through so. much. paper.

Have both printer paper (both for printing and when unlined paper is preferred) and college ruled notebook paper on hand. Your professor may require graph paper or a specific type of notebook for journals. Always read your syllabus!

Buy it on Amazon.


You will be taking a lot of notes and you'll need to write fast. A pen that writes smoothly can help you do just that.

Black ink is usually required for writing papers and bubbling in Scantrons, but you are free to use what you like on your notes. Some people prefer colored gel pens to make their notes more memorable.

I recommend Paper Mate InkJoy ballpoint and gel because they write well without leaving pen smears.

Sharpies are not ink pens but get a black one, anyway. You will need one for many of your science courses (for labeling) and can use them to put your John Hancock on anything you don't want to go missing.

Buy a pack of Paper Mate InkJoy pens on Amazon.

#2 Pencils

Pencils are best for performing calculations, sketching, making outlines, and bubbling in test forms. If you may need to erase, choose a pencil.

Whether you prefer an automatic pencil or the good old-fashioned kind, splurge on a sturdy brand. I recommend Ticonderoga for durability and aesthetics.

Buy a pack on Amazon.

Highlighters and Post-Its

Soon your notes and books will be as bright as neon lights. But, hey, all the important parts stand out! Is it all important? Maybe. Footnotes, too.

Sharpie makes a variety of highlighter styles and there all work great. If you prefer a lighter way to mark important information, Mildliners may be for you.

Post-It notes and flags are helpful for marking book pages and making important sections of notes stand out without leaving permanent marks on the pages (helpful if you'll be renting the book or if you hope to sell it later).

Buy Flag+ Highlighters on Amazon.

Folders and Notebooks

You'll need a way to organize all of your notes and PowerPoints. Some people like to use one big notebook and divide it by subject, some prefer to use two pocket folders for each class (and maybe a spiral notebook, too), while others just throw all their papers in the floorboard of their car and hope that they find them when they need to reference them.

Don't be that last person, though. Find a way to organize your work that makes sense to you. Midterms and finals come around quicker than you can imagine. Organize your materials after every class and you'll never know the struggle.

Buy a pack on Amazon.


Yes, your smartphone has a calculator, but you can't use it on exams. Don't try.

Purchase the type of calculator that your professor allows in class. If you show up for an exam with a graphing calculator and you're only allowed a five function version, you may have to take the test without one. As always, check your syllabus.

Buy one on Amazon.


Printing is available on campus, so this is not a need-need. The campus printers are faster than home versions. This is a huge plus when you have a lot of material to print and you're in a hurry.

That said, it is so much more convenient to print at home. It is more cost effective, too, if you consider the cost over 4 years. If you can afford a printer, especially if you don't live on campus, it is worth the investment. I recommend choosing a model that uses inexpensive ink. Compare the cost of the ink cartridges before making a selection.

Buy one on Amazon.

3 hole punch

Owning a 3 hole punch may sound over the top, but you'll be printing PowerPoint presentations for notes and multiple handouts and syllabuses for multiple classes. You will be glad to have a way to easily organize all the papers.

You can punch holes in your notes so that you can organize them in a 3 ring binder or notebook. This will keep them neat and easily accessible.

Buy one on Amazon.


Some professors require that papers be stapled before you come to class. That's reason enough to own a mini stapler.

Your stapler will also come in handy for homework that needs to be turned in, stapling a syllabus together, or even temporarily fixing a hem on your pants or skirt.

Buy one on Amazon.

Please note that all items are in stock as of the time of publication. As an Amazon Associate, Odyssey may earn a portion of qualifying sales.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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