It’s officially school supply season, according to the back to school aisles at Walmart, Target, and Office Max and every other store in the world, it seems.

School supply shopping can be super overwhelming but it can also be exciting. It’s fun to pick out which color notebook you want for which class and stock up on your favorite pencils and choose the cutest folder with the cutest puppy on it. But when you go to college, school supply shopping can be really confusing. Teachers aren’t going to tell you what you need because frankly, they don’t care. Other than your textbooks and your brain, they don’t care what else you bring to class.

School supplying shopping is all about knowing yourself and your study and note-taking habits, but for your first semester, you might need some guidance. That’s why I’m here. I’ve been down the path eight times, eight semesters worth of college school supplies, and I’ve learned a thing or two that I’m going to share to you.

Here are five must-have school supplies for college that you might not have needed back in high school.

1) Note cards

Studying in college is a lot more intense than studying in high school, even if you took AP courses. Note cards can be a saving grace though. They can be used as study materials across disciplines. Luckily, they are super cheap and easy to pack around with you. Stick your note cards in your purse, your backpack or even your pocket when you’re studying for a big test. Having the physical note cards in front of you have also been found to be more effective than digital ones, especially during the process of creating the note cards, which is a study tactic all its own. I also used note cards as quick to do lists in college and to remind myself of the layout of upcoming tests.

2) A flash drive

Because so much of college is digital, a flash drive is the new binder. Not only are flash drives integral to preventing a catastrophe when your computer breaks during finals period, flash drives can also be extremely helpful when doing group projects. For me, flash drives were most useful for big projects like data sets and entire textbooks that I needed to access regularly, but didn’t want taking up space on my desktop. Flash drives are usually pretty cheap, but if you can afford to pay more for a larger one, you’ll reap its rewards for longer. I recommend getting a flash drive that you can attach to your key chain or wallet so you’re less likely to lose it.

3)  A planner or task tracker

Many of us likely used student planners in high school, but they’re a necessity in college. Of course, they take different shapes and can be entirely digital, but I think a good, hard-covered planner that I can throw in my purse or pull out during class is best. You can shop around for the planner that’s right for you, but be sure to use it to its full potential. I put in all my assignments at the beginning of the semester, wrote in recurring meetings, and even added people’s birthdays to the monthly view page so I could plan ahead for gifts and cards.

4)  One good, durable folder

It’s highly likely that you won’t have a ton of paper materials in college, but even if you have a fair amount, I caution against having individual folders for every little thing. My first semester I had a folder for each class, each extracurricular, and one for my general things . Let me tell you, I almost always had the wrong folder with me when I needed it. My folders were also flimsy and got torn or sullied frequently. From then on, I invested in one good, durable folder that was pretty much water resistant and went with me everywhere. That way I didn’t have to switch out folders for every day of the week or class and I kept things like a general to-do list and a class schedule and my return address labels in there for general use, along with any pertinent paper assignments or outlines for that week or month. Reminder: regularly clean out your folder and be honest with yourself about what you will need and won’t need going forward.

5) Page tabs

I’m a fiend at annotating the margins of the novels I read, but when it comes to textbooks, I’m hesitant. I want to get the most I can out of them when I sell them back, but I still need to denote the important parts of each reading. Many times, as I’m reading, I’ll notice a good argument I want to come back to later or reference in a paper. This is where page tabs come in. They’re a great way to mark your place and you can even write on them so you can remember why you tabbed that page to begin with. They’re sticky, but can be removed easily without ripping the page, which is critical for maximizing resale value.

RELATED READ: 5 School Supplies You DON’T Need In College

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member