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Back to school isn’t just for little kids. College students need school supplies, too. Whether you’re a fresh-faced freshman or seasoned senior, this back to college guide’s for you.
With so many universities using online courseware and asking students to BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, technology is at the top of every back to college shopping list. Lightweight laptops have the most functionality and don’t weigh you down, while tablets are lighter in weight and function. Some students opt for a stylus to make note taking — and doodling — easier. Whatever you pick, choose a device that includes a camera to access Web-based study groups, presentations and counseling. And don’t forget calculators for those heavy-duty math and science classes. If your major requires field or lab work — or if you’re a klutz — make sure your back to college checklist includes an extra-durable computer or mobile case to protect your gear.
Technology also makes it easier to keep up with assignments, club meetings and social engagements. “The number-one thing I learned in college was time management,” says Faith Inman, a former resident advisor at William Peace University in Raleigh, NC. “A good cloud-based calendar or planner app really helps.”
Then there are the functional items college students need, like desk lamps (and light bulbs), and desktop and drawer organizers that turn any space into an effective study space. “Think about what you really need to control clutter without taking up a lot of space,” advises Lindsay Brust, director of sales and marketing at UniversityParent.com. “Reflect on the spaces you were most productive doing homework in high school and try to recreate them.”
With space at a premium, bed risers are also a good investment. “They only cost about $15 to 30 and provide a student with ample amount of extra storage space.” Add a few under-bed organizers, and you’re all set. And don’t forget to pick up power strips and extension cords. “In a dorm or apartment, real estate in electrical outlets is worth gold,” Brust notes.
Be sure to check with the school on what is and is not allowed in the dorm room as well as what is already included. For example, some colleges allow microwaves and coffee makers, but others don’t.
Old school supplies are still relevant. “College students constantly have to sign documents, take notes and jot things down, so pens are key,” Inman notes. It’s also helpful to have a notebook handy for those times a computer isn’t practical, like if your battery runs out. Speaking of batteries, pick up a long-lasting portable charger before you head back to school.
You also need a durable backpack or tote for schlepping your gear from your dorm to class to the library and back. Choose one that fits your style and your stuff, and be sure to carry your backpack properly so you can give your back and shoulders a break.
Don’t forget to include some stylish items for your dorm room or apartment on your back to college checklist.
“With limited space, it’s imperative to have stylish décor that also has great function,” says Lee Heyward, Charleston, SC-based style consultant and author of Simply Effortless Style. “Think double duty. A storage cube in a fun upholstered fabric gives great style to a room, it’s an extra seat, and it provides great storage.” Also look for stackable storage for your tiny closet and thinner models that slide neatly under your bed or a couch.
Another popular back to college item is photos of friends and family. “When it’s exam time and tensions are high, it’s comforting to look at photos of the people who are your support system,” Inman says. Picture frames are great for beside your bed or on your desk, but gift consultant Janet McKean of McKean & Company in Hillsborough, NC, likes larger formats, too. “Buy or make a wall graphic of your favorite people, locations or sports figures,” she suggests.
McKean also recommends personalization as a way to create your own style and to help you keep track of your stuff. “You can personalize almost anything with your initials or a symbol,” she explains. Create your own look by preprinting labels, iron-on transfers or even notebook covers.
“Preparing for back to college can be stressful and that, unfortunately, leads to poor buying decisions when left to the last minute,” Heyward says. Start planning early and pick up items over the summer when you have time to think over your choices. “This eliminates making impulse decisions on items you end up having to buy again or replace too soon.”