Updated: May 1, 2020
I know it sucks, but most of us are about to go back to school. I am personally on my last year of college (WHICH IS CRAZY!!!!!!!) as I am graduating a year early. After going through most of high school refining my backpack and then the last two years of college wanting to have the least amount of items possible to be the most prepared, I think I've mastered the backpack essentials.
Here is a list of items that I will be starting this school year with, and just remember, you may choose to remove, add, or replace any items in this list.
Backpack - This year, I have decided to splurge and spend on a good backpack. It may seem
counterproductive as it is my last year, however I use a backpack so often. I have had a nice Jansport for almost four years now and I wanted one more good one. I use them when I go travel, go to friends' or family's houses, the gym, and much more. I went for the Fjällräven Kånken Classic Backpack in Graphite and I'm obsessed. My friends had one the last year and they kept raving about it and how it only gets better with age, so I'm splurging and getting one.
Pencil Pouch - I will use any pencil pouch or even a makeup bag as a pencil pouch, so I'm not going to recommend any specific one, however the contents of this is what I'll focus on. I like to keep things minimal, however I do like to take color-coordinated notes. I recommend 2- number 2 wooden pencils so that you always have a sharpened one during exam season. I would also get one push pencil. I've always loved the Paper Mate Clearpoint Mechanical Pencils. They simply feel more comfortable in your hand. I also write in pen 99% of the time, so I will always carry a blue, black, and red pen, along with a few miscellaneous colors. If you have never tried Sharpie Felt Pens before, now is the time. I don't have them in the picture because I left them in my gym bag as I knew I was doing homework post-gym (sad). They don't bleed through paper and write thinly, and since it is a marker-like tip, they stay very inky. Lastly, I like to keep 2 highlighters, a good eraser, and white out. Now I will say, I've always loved the Magic Rub Erasers, they erase any last bit of pencil and don't leave that weird eraser residue like most. I don't bother with a pencil sharpener as I always keep a backup pencil in my pouch and I can just sharpen them when I get back home. I also usually like to keep one chapstick with me in this pouch.
Binders, Folders & More - I've used the Fivestar NoteBinder since high school and I really recommend them. The reason why is that they're soft like a notebook but they'll keep your notes organized with the traditional 3-rings like a binder. I usually start the year with half a pack of college-ruled paper in it and a few dividers for each class. One I start taking notes I put them in the right section, or if I took notes on my laptop, I'll print them out and put them behind the corresponding divider. I usually also start off the year with one folder, just your classic plastic kind. I like to keep one for those loose papers that I may randomly get at the end of class or just don't have time to take out the binder and sort it. I also usually start off the year with a planner, but there's no guarantee I'll stick to it. I usually alternate between a traditional planner, keeping everything on my phone's calendar, or creating an excel file with all the assignments from all my sillabi (sigh).
Laptop Sleeve - As far as school supplies, bring my laptop in a laptop sleeve is my last essential. I've ordered from ProCase on Amazon for years and they truly have durable products. This particular sleeve is great since it has a zipper in the front allowing me to put an extra pen or pencil and my laptop charge. In fact, on exam days, I'll usually just bring this with me and no backpack. I can stick my pencil and eraser along with a scantron and I'm set. It also has a felt-like interior to protect my laptop and the outside is water-resistant. I temporarily lost and I better find it before classes come or I'm about to order the same one again.
Glasses - If you're college campus is outdoors, you need a pair of glasses. I love a pair like mine from Quay that look stylish and I feel good in them, but if I lose them, at least they're not as pricey as my Ray Bans.
Water Bottle - You guys are probably tired of SoCal students raving about their Hydro Flask, but this water bottle has become popular for a reason. It keeps my cold drinks cold for the entire day, or my hot drinks hot. On sunny days, I'll add ice to my water and that ice will still be there by the end of the day. I like to bring a 32oz with me as it does hold a hold but it doesn't weigh me down too much. If I get frustrated with in my backpack, I'll usually hold it by the top (just like many others do). Point is, bring your favorite water bottle with you since I don't think you want to spend an extra few dollars every day for water or scavenge your campus for the next water fountain.
Wallet and Emergency Pouch - The last thing in my backpack is that I always have my wallet (for obvious reasons) and then another pouch which I both keep in the front pocket of my backpack so that I can easily reach for them. This pouch usually contains hand sanitizer, a few extra hair ties, a nail clipper - I hate getting a hangnail in the middle of class and then being stuck with it until I get home - and a few tampons and liners. I often carry oil blotting sheets, powder, and lipgloss as well. These are just good backups to have just in case you have a full day on campus and are not able to head home easily.
That's pretty much everything I will be starting this year off with. I like to say it's not too much, but rather essentials at the beginning. As I start heading to class and figure out truly what I will need, I might bring an extra folder or a notebook dedicated for a particular class. I just always say, bring the essentials at the beginning and sort through what you need later. Just make sure you have your writing tools and laptop (if you like to bring yours) to the first week and you can always figure out the rest as you go. I hope you found something you are missing in your own backpack and I hope you have an amazing time meeting all your new professors and seeing your friends again.