This is your bread and butter. What you will carry every day to class.
A high quality Backpack or Messenger Bag is key for protecting your stuff from the elements. Get one with lots of pockets.
You will want a 5 subject notebook or a three ring organizer and loadable paper. If you take notes on a laptop or tablet, bring a smaller notebook for emergency paper. In class it is not uncommon for some professors to issue impromptu assignments. Without paper you’ll be dead in the water. Furthermore, should you run out of battery, you will still be able to take notes.
Your writing utensils are very important. They should be comfortable in your hand and suit your writing style. You will want a good quality black ink ballpoint pen and quality mechanical pencils as your main writing utensils. It helps to bring a red and blue pen for marking up work, though some prefer an all in one multicolor pen. Highlighters and post it notes are essential tools when annotating handouts, and your own books.
Each professor or department will have their own opinion or policy on calculator use. Some let anything go. Some will require a specific brand of calculator. Some classes, especially remedial ones, will put restrictions on how good the calculator can be, and might even prohibit any calculator. These restrictions most commonly prohibit calculators with Computer Algebra Systems (CAS), Programmability, or Graphing Capabilities built in. Get the calculator that is recommended by your professor.
For general use a scientific calculator or a graphic calculator is a good thing to have on hand for when you need to do unexpected calculations.
To verify a calculator is working properly and is good enough for general use, try calculating √⋅√. If it’s answer is anything other than 2, you should reconsider relying on that calculator.
Business students ought to consider getting a financial calculator. These calculators have common functions used in Business coursework built in.
Sometimes you may find yourself in situations where you lack the time to upload a large file to the cloud for a quick transfer, or find yourself on an offline computer with important documents. A flash drive is invaluable in these situations. Get one that can attach to a lanyard or keychain so you don’t loose it.
Some programs in your school may have a computer requirement, requiring that you own a computer. Some programs will go a step farther and require minimum specifications your computer must meet. Some programs go even farther and require a computer from a specific manufacturer, or even a specific model of computer. In these cases, get a computer that meets your schools requirements. Most Professors look dimly on students who disrupt class by not being properly prepared.
If your school does not have a computer requirement, you may be able to save money by relying on computer labs operated by the university.
Laptop or Desktop
Laptops can be a convenience, but sometimes they aren’t a needed item. If you get easily distracted in class, forcing yourself to leave your computer at home by getting a desktop can be a smart move, assuming your professor doesn’t require a laptop for in class work. Desktops are often cheaper then an equivalent laptop, and offer several advantages, such as larger screens, more ergonomic keyboard options, and other perks. Some laptops support docking, which allow them to act like desktops.
For a student looking to take notes in class and very little else, they would do fine with a simple paper notebook, a tablet computer, or even a calculator and keyboard.
Sometimes lab computers are configured in a way that allows the running of portable applications. These are special applications designed to run from a flashdrive or cloud storage without traditional installation.
Learn to use the network resources offered by your college, such as cloud storage, SFTP servers, or whatever else is offered.
Open Source Software
When selecting software, you should consider using Open Source Software when possible. Open Source software is free as in freedom, and often free as in beer. Additionally Open Source software can often be used on Windows, Linux, and Macintosh computers.
Some commons open source applications useful for students include.
Applications more useful for specific majors include
Art & Humanities
- PuTTY – Terminal application.
- FlightGear – Flight Simulator
- FreeCAD – 3D Computer Aided Design application.
- LibreCAD – 2D Computer Aided Design application.
- KiCad – Electronic design automation
- R – Statistical programming environment
- QGIS – Geographic Information System Software.
General Living Supplies
Furniture & Appliances
When getting supplies for your dorm room, it’s important to find out what’s already there. Having two microwaves is rarely useful. Look up the dimensions of your room – Even a minifridge may not fit in a small room for example.
You certainly don’t need every appliance on this list. Indeed, if you are living on campus a number of these items may in fact be prohibited, though what is and isn’t allowed depends on your individual college. Most items in the Cooking list are either included in a dormitory kitchen or banned outright, typically for fire safety. If you rent a private dwelling off campus, you will have more freedom in what you may bring, with the added responsibility of those items.
- Electric Kettle or Coffee Maker. Tea or Coffee prepared by yourself is often much cheaper.
- Microwave, Toaster, or Toaster Oven for quick snacks. Consider an oven if living off campus.
- Mini-fridge. Consider a full size fridge if living off campus.
- Insulated Lunchbox, Bottle. Being able to prepare your own meals saves serious cash over eating out.
- Travel Silverware.
- Dish Soap, Rags or Paper Towels, Sponge.
- Box Fan. Even if your room has air conditioning, there’s a good chance it’s centralized and won’t perform to your standards.
- Dehumidifier. Reducing the humidity of your room can make it feel cooler.
- Extra blankets can be used to keep warm on cooler nights.
Create a spreadsheet listing all items you are bringing with you of nontrivial cost, along with short descriptions of unique markings or serial numbers. Save it in an online account.
- Safe. A small safe or locked box for sensitive documents, medication, laptops, etc will help deter theft. Generally there are no good ways to mount a safe in a dorm or apartment, so consider investing in a sturdy cable to tie it to permanent room fixtures or large furniture.
- K-Locks for stationary electronics. They won’t stop determined thieves, but they will stop people from just walking off with your stuff.
- Permanent Markers. Write property of “YOUR NAME” on expensive items in hard to find areas, so you can prove your ownership if needed.
- Bicycle license. Your city may allow you to register your bike with local police. Having your bike serial number on record makes it harder to resell.
You’ll want good, durable clothes for the environment you’re in. If you’re studying in Florida, leave the heavy winter coat at home.
Bring at least one set of formalwear. Doesn’t have to be expensive, you can typically find cheap suits at thrift stores.
Good shoes that fit you well are paramount if you walk to class. Bad shoes let water in, and give you blisters.
A swimsuit is useful to bring if your gym has a pool, hot tub, or lazy river. It’s also good if you’re near an ocean or a large lake.
If you have clothes with the logo of rival schools on it, leave them behind. Get at least one piece of clothing with your school logo on it.
Learning to eat cheap is a good way to save money during college.
There are a lot of foods that you can easily prepare with variety without access to an oven.
- Instant Noodles (Ramen, Udon, Mee Goreng, Chow Mein)
- Instant Soup (Tomato, Tomato Bisque, Vegetable, Minestrone)
- Microwavable rice (Top with a variety of sauces, instant curry, etc)
- Texas Toast (Garlic, Cheese)
- Toast (Add Jam, Butter, or Avocado for flavor)
- Sandwiches (Peanut Butter and Jelly, Cheese, etc)
- Apples, Bananas, Grapes, and Olives.
- Pizza (Leftover, Microwavable, Bites)
- French Bread
- Nachos (Microwave shredded cheese on chips, or buy queso dip)
- Potatoes, Baked Potatoes, Instant Mashed Potatoes, Microwavable hashbrowns, fries.
- Instant Pasta
- Microwave Quesadilla
You can make these cheap foods more palatable with a small selection of spices and sauces. Salt, Pepper, Ketchup, Mustard, Dijon, Mayo, BBQ sauce, Hot Sauce, Sriracha Sauce, Teriyaki sauce, and Soy Sauce can put a new spin on food before you get tired of it.
Check out the Microwave Cooking cookbook for more info.
You’ll also want some supplies for personal care. Below is a list you can tailor to your own needs.
- Laundry detergent.
- Laundry bag or basket (Ideally collapsable to save space)
- Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash (3 In One saves space)
- Comb or brush
- Basic First Aid Kit (Doesn’t have to be fancy. Have some bandages, antibiotic ointment, etc.)
- Sandals and a robe, if using communal showers.
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss.
- Razors, shaving supplies
- Earplugs and Eyemask. If there’s unavoidable noise or bright light, you’ll want to be sure you can get some sleep regardless.
- Condoms. You can often get these for free at University Health centers.
- Feminine hygiene products. You may be able to get these for free from Student Government Initiatives or a Women’s center.