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Best Back To School Gear For College Students

Best Back To School Gear For College Students

Unlike grade school, college doesn’t give you a list of school supplies to buy for the year. This is partly due to the variety of majors and classes that each student has the option of taking on. In addition,  you are also able to pick out your own school supplies and lucky for you – have the option of choosing how much money you want to spend on that. Even though every class has different requirements, organizing is the key to having a successful school year. With that in mind, here is a list of back to school essentials you’ll definitely want to have!

Helpful Tools to Stay Organized

Planner This is a must have for every college student regardless of your major.  There are two ways students use their planners. The most common way is by simply compiling all your appointments, meetings and homework dates together so that you have one place to refer back to. Another method students have used in the past is getting two planners to separate their business from their personal work. There are many unique formats for planners that range depending on the brand. While small planners are easier to carry and take with you, larger planners leave more space to for you to write notes down. If you are looking to customize your own planner, check out Blue Sky, Papier, or Purple Trail.  

Highlighters Never underestimate the power of color coding! Highlighters are a great resource to use whether you are identifying the main points of a text or writing notes in class. If you are a visual learner, highlighters can be super helpful when you’re studying or looking back at your notes. A good way to utilize your highlighters include assigning colors to:

  • Information that you need further clarification about
  • Main points/ideas
  • Information that you may be tested on
  • Different Topics/Subtopics

Post-it Notes Looking at your “To Do” List can sometimes be overwhelming if you have a lot of things to do. A helpful way to minimize your worries is by breaking things down. This is where Post-it notes come into play. Write little reminders of the immediate tasks you need to get out of the way. Stick them in places you can’t avoid looking at throughout the day such as the  bathroom mirror or the back of your phone. It’s not uncommon to feel a sense of satisfaction once you complete that task and are able to dispose of that sticky note!

Pencils/Colored Pens Much like highlighters, colored pens and pencils can go a long way when it comes to organizing your notes. One way to organize notes is by writing definitions in one ink color, important ideas in another and examples in pencil. Helpful Tip: Sometimes professors go through notes really fast, leaving you with not enough to change colors.  In those instances, try going over your notes afterwards and rewriting them using this method. While it may seem tedious, you have a higher chance of retaining information when you rewrite the notes.

Binders, Tabs and Dividers There are many different ways to go about using your binders. Some students purchase one big binder and label their tabs/dividers according to the class. Other students get separate binders for each class and label their tabs/dividers with key words such as  handouts, homework assignments and notes. The pros of having one big binder is that everything is in one place. If you have back to back classes, you only have to worry about bringing one thing and you don’t have to carry around a bunch of smaller binders. On the other hand, a big bulky binder may be harder to fit in your backpack. One of the benefits of separate binders is that there’s more room to organize your classwork. However, bringing multiple binders to the library to study can prove to be hassle later on.

Notebooks This is the most basic and obvious need for school. While it kind of seems mindless to just pick up any notebook, there are a few things you should look out for when choosing your notebook. The first (and perhaps most important thing) you should be checking for is whether or not the notebook paper is wide-ruled or college ruled. Although one does not outweigh the other, it can have an effect on how fast you go through notebooks and how big or small you write. Some notebooks have pocket dividers built into them – which is a great alternative for you if you are not interested in getting a binder.

Reusable Water Bottles As you approach midterms and finals, you may start to feel winded or drained from the long hours spent in the classroom. Therefore, it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day or carry a snack or two in you bag for an extra boost of energy. NIU has water fountains with special pumps designed specifically to refill your water bottles. Bed, Bath and Beyond is a great place to look for water bottles because college students get to save 20% off their purchase! You can find more college deals here.

Laptops/Tablets If you’re a business student, you may have heard your professors talking about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement. Having this as a resource is essential for most college students. While NIU has accessible computer labs in most of their buildings, it might be easier for you to purchase your own laptop to carry with you between classes and work from home. Apple and Microsoft both provide discounts/savings for college students. In the past, these deals have included free access to Office 365 and a free pair of beats headphones with the purchase of a laptop.

Overall it’s a personal preference of which tools you find most helpful and how you choose to use them. Each student may have their own unique and creative way of organizing their school work. The awesome thing about these tools is that they make studying easier, learning more fun and organizing simple. For great deals on school supplies check out Office Depot, Target or Walmart. Here’s a quick checklist with a list of supplies that will help you ace your classes!


School Supplies: Main Points:
  • Used to organize your school work, appointments & meetings.
  • Optional 2nd planner to separate business from personal
  • Big Planners = More space
  • Smaller Planners = Easier on-the-go
  • Used to highlight main points, questions/passages you need help understanding, concepts that will appear on your exams/quizzes
Post-It Notes
  • Reminders
  • Used to break down lists
  • Place holders for books
Pencils/Colored Pens
  • Used to organize notes and separate your topics/subtopics, definitions and examples
Binders, Tabs/Dividers
  • One binder with Tabs/Dividers used to label each class OR
  • Separate binders for each class with Tabs/Dividers used to label handouts, notes homework assignments, etc.
  • Wide-Ruled vs. College-Ruled
  • Check for built-in pocket dividers
Water Bottles
  • Bring one with you to class
  • Visit Bed, Bath & Beyond and save 20% off your purchase!
  • Portable & useful for lectures and working at home
  • Get awesome savings through Apple & Microsoft!


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