5 School Supplies Every Freshman Should Buy


There are a few school supplies that are no-brainers for students—stuff like pens, pencils, and notebooks are pretty much a given. But if you think that’s all you’ll need to get through your freshman year of college, think again! There are plenty of useful tools that may have flown under your radar, but thankfully we’ve picked them out for you.

Here are the top 5 school supplies every incoming freshman should buy:

1). Graphing Calculator

Unless you’re a mathematical savant like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, chances are you’ll need to take at least one math course in your general education studies. If you’ve been rocking the ol’ scientific calculator since your freshman year of high school then it’s time for an upgrade. Whether you’re taking economics, statistics, or advanced mathematics, you’ll need the right equipment to crunch the numbers.

2). Highlighters

One of the stark differences between high school and college is that you’ll be responsible for your own college textbooks. While it’ll require some time (and money) to pick them up, there is a plus side—you can write in them! Pick up a few multicolored highlighters to make the most essential information stand out.

3). Adhesive Page Markers

Similar to the tip mentioned above, making your textbooks as efficient as possible for your learning habits is a key element to success. Next time you walk down the office supplies aisle grab a pack of adhesive page markers; these little strips will allow you to bookmark certain pages without having to dog-ear any corners. BONUS TIP: Use different colors to indicate certain topic points for easy reference.

4). External Hard Drive

In the course of your college career you will amass an INSANE amount of computer files—digital handouts, syllabuses, essays, class notes—the list can go on forever. No matter how much memory you have on your computer, it’s always a smart idea to keep a backup. You can pick up a decent sized external hard drive (around 500GB of storage) for under $100, and the assurance that all your work won’t be lost if your laptop breaks (or gets stolen) will make it worth every penny.

5). Cork Board

So this may not be an item you can keep in your backpack, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable of a school supply. Sure, you can keep track of your schedule on your phone and set up all the alerts you want, but at the end of the day nothing is a better reminder than having things literally right in front of your face. Consider investing in a cork board and pinning your “to-do” lists, lingering projects, or even receipts to it. Make sure to hang it somewhere highly visible (above your bed or on the back of your door) so that you’re always aware of what you have going on.

What school supplies are you bringing this year? Which would you recommend to an incoming freshman? Share your knowledge in a comment below.

written by
Sean Castillo
July 12, 2012

37 Responses to “5 School Supplies Every Freshman Should Buy”

  1. addiegee
    July 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    a stapler too!

    • Deb
      July 17, 2012 at 7:36 am #

      @addiegee: YES! Every student should have a stapler and keep it with them in their backpack.

  2. LilliannaW
    July 14, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Whiteout is an extremely useful tool. It makes crossing out unnecessary (when using pen), which saves space and it is easier to read (no more reading notes that are constantly interrupted by crossings-out).

  3. Clen
    July 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    My friend at UCLA uses a corkboard to pin his and his roommate’s schedules so they don’t coincide.

  4. Kaylee
    July 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    A day planner can be very useful. I’m lost if I don’t have homework or due-dates written in a planner. My high school supplied them, now I bought my own, and the fun thing is that you can customize them with stickers!!!!

    • Julie
      April 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      I agree; I’d be lost in high school without mine!

  5. Sandy
    July 17, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Hole puncher! When you print out those powerpoints, you will probably want to keep them in a binder

  6. Dan
    July 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    It’s spelled “syllabi.”

  7. Taylor
    July 17, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    I recommend having a mini-fridge. For me, it’s nice to be able to keep chilled snacks and cold soda/water bottles in it to have on hand without having to go to the vending machine or cafeteria.

  8. Mikayla
    July 19, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    Wow! Helpful comments. Good organizational tools at the dorm would be great too, like lightweight bins so you can separate textbooks from subject work, since you won’t be needing everything in one day.

  9. Brieanna
    July 22, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    I would like to say there is actually a good chance if you are not going to be an engineer that you will not need a graphing calculator. They are expensive and I made it all the way through calculus and my junior year with out one, I would ask your professor before buying that.

    • Laura
      August 19, 2012 at 9:07 am #

      @Brieanna: @Brieanna:
      As a matter of fact, many institutions are asking students not to use graphing calculators. Like brieanna said, ask the professor.

    • Kara
      April 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

      I agree. I am a math major about to graduate and I have never had a math class where I actually needed a graphing calculator. In fact, I have had very few in which a graphing calculator is even helpful. In some, it could just get in the way. You definitely don’t need it for statistics or economics and in many advanced math classes, you rarely encounter numbers.

    • Casey
      April 21, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      I’ve heard that at the school I’m going to, they are banning calculators for tests at least. They were sick of all the cheating going on.

  10. chelsea
    July 22, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    I have twin all th way through calculus 2 (which is the last math course i will have to take) and have never purchased a graphing calculator. Scientific will do fine until absolutely necessary. My scientific cost ten bucks whereas graphing calcs cost upwards of one hundred bucks. Don’t buy one unless a class specifically requires one.

    • chelsea
      July 22, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      @chelsea: sorry, autocorrect on a typo. I have made it all the way through calculus 2**

  11. Fils
    July 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    @Kaylee, a day planner is very useful but a calender is even better because you’ll stay ahead of your game. You know your plan for this month and sometimes the following one so it’s one of the best way to manage your time and keep yourself on track …

  12. Nmeli Anene
    July 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    This was very useful to me, please keep comenting

  13. Mrs. Klein
    July 29, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    I posted the question to my friends regarding what to send with my children to college. One additional item was a tool box with a hammer, screwdriver, staple gun and glue gun. Have these been helpful to any of you as well?

    • Tati
      July 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

      @Mrs. Klein:

      Yes actually! You would be surprised of the small reason you would need those. They come in handy…for things falling apart. Ha.

  14. Cierra
    August 3, 2012 at 6:21 am #

    This is very helpful because I completely forgot that I need to shop for school supplies rather than just things for my room. Where is a good place to purchase a cheap laptop but is reliable? Nothing more than $700-800 is a bargain to me.

    • Cardinal
      August 4, 2012 at 6:09 pm #


    • Marco
      August 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

      @Cierra: I suggest NewEgg. They always have good deals on computers and they have a 2-day free ground shipping for everything!

    • Amber
      August 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

      @Cierra: Asus is a good brand. Not well known outside of the computer-wise, and very well priced. Just got an Asus that is 99% perfect for me (U46E) for about $650 +tax. Check ‘em out.

  15. Cardinal
    August 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    I would look into buying a laptop from BestBuy. I bought mines for $309 plus tax and it is very reliable. Toshiba Laptops are good.

  16. Stella
    August 6, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    really good tip about the external hard drive!!!

    • Jack
      April 22, 2013 at 7:37 am #

      not sure about external hard drive. It might be a necessity a few years ago, not any more. Free cloud backups such as dropbox, skydrive, or google drive, are all readily available, and you can access your files anywhere.

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  18. StellaMackenzie
    August 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Very helpful post. It’s good my TI-83+ won’t go to waste. I’ve had that thing since sophomore year of high school and still haven’t had to change the batteries.

    I feel like I personally will either need some notebooks or a longer lasting battery for my laptop. I’m lucky to get two hours with it.

  19. Mark Toliver
    August 19, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    I would definitely bring an external hardrive. I use an easy service called Google Docs, so when I break my laptop, I always have back up! It’s like a Flash Drive, but on the Internet.

    • Summer
      April 21, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

      I use Google Docs too! Definitely the way to go!

      • Julie
        April 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm #


  20. Matt
    October 6, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    I would suggest getting a small dry-erase board. Something big enough to work a math or physics problem on and use it to do homework then copy on the problem onto paper. This allows you to review your own work and also (if the dry-erase board is big enough) step back to view any problem areas

  21. Casey
    April 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    I’m considering buying a tablet of some sort for college. I already have a pretty good laptop, but I was wondering if it would be beneficial to bring a tablet for taking notes and possibly buying textbooks on.

  22. Ali
    April 23, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Get a hole punch that can go in a binder. My professors are always giving me classwork to put in my binder that isn’t hole punched. Drives me insane

    • Julie
      April 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      My friend has one of those; she says it is really convenient.

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