Ask a College Advisor: What Learning Supplies Should I Get as a First-Year Student?

Hear from one of our education professionals on getting all the learning materials you'll need for your first year of college.

portrait of Stephanie DeBord, MA
by Stephanie DeBord, MA

Published August 15, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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Ask a College Advisor: What Learning Supplies Should I Get as a First-Year Student?
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Question: What learning supplies should I get as a first-year student?

Answer: Your first year of college is just around the corner, and many questions are probably buzzing through your mind. Among those questions, you may be wondering what kind of learning supplies you should get to set yourself up for success.

Of course, each student will have their own preferences, learning styles, and study habits, but there are many common school supplies that almost any college student can find useful. As you prepare for your first day of school, check out this list to get yourself started!

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Ready to start your journey?

Writing Materials

Although a bulk of college classwork is now done on computers, it's still helpful to have a few pencils, pens, and other note-taking supplies on hand, especially if you're a math or science major. Additionally, many professors require students to use blue or black pens on exams. Popular writing materials include:

Unlike high school courses, most college professors provide class materials and handouts in a virtual format. For this reason, many college students won't need as many binders or folders as they did in high school.

Study Materials

Although lots of college learning materials are stored online, many students still find physical notecards very helpful when studying. As you learn new information, notecards are useful for memorizing this content. Other study materials include sticky notes and colorful pens or highlighters to color code study guides.

Calculator

You may still need a trusty calculator, even if you're not majoring in a STEM field. Most students are required to take some introductory math courses, and many of these require a scientific or graphing calculator. If you don't already own one, you can check your course schedule and syllabi to see if you need one before making the investment.

Planner

Postsecondary courses often provide less structure for students than high school classes, so staying organized at college is important. A physical planner or calendar app can help you keep track of assignment due dates, academic deadlines, class times, and any other obligations you have going on in your life.

Technology

Today, nearly every college class requires the use of some sort of computer. Whether this is a college laptop, tablet, or desktop computer, you'll likely need a device to conduct research, take digital notes, write papers, and submit assignments online.

There are relatively affordable options for students looking to buy a laptop, and university libraries also offer computer access for students. Additionally, some colleges provide a laptop once students pay tuition.

In addition to a laptop, Microsoft Office applications like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint can also be useful. Fortunately, many colleges offer subscription programs for students built into the price of tuition. Remember to get a case for your laptop or tablet so you can safely carry it to class with you.

Backpack

A backpack is a must-have for college students. And while stylish is fun, make sure you select a backpack for college that is also roomy and comfortable. You'll need a place to store your supplies, snacks, technology, and a water bottle!

Optional Supplies

Many of the specific supplies you'll need will be based on your school, degree program, and personal preferences. For example, some schools have printing labs across campus that allow you to print and staple assignments before class. If your school does not offer these services, it may be wise to invest in a printer, paper, and stapler. Other optional supplies include:

Summary

Many different supplies that can help make your life at college a bit less stressful. Fortunately, college students have a lot of freedom when it comes to taking notes and organizing their work. As you settle into your routine, you'll figure out what supplies are most helpful for you!

Have a Question About College?

In our Ask a College Advisor series, experienced advisors provide an insider look at the college experience by answering your questions about college admissions, finances, and student life.


DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.


BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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