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Filling a College Student's Backpack

Updated on July 29, 2014

What you should get: College edition!

I bet you've seen these signs in Target already, and it's only July. That means back to school season is upon us again!

As a college student that has done this back to school stint a few times, I thought I would offer some pointers on what to look for and what I did when shopping. Hopefully this might help some of you guys out!

You ready?

Step 1: Picking the backpack

Pick a backpack that reflects you! Do you hate conventional backpacks? Perfectly okay - you can get a messenger bag or a purse. You like Spiderman? Get a Spiderman bag (who cares if you're over the age of 8? You rock that backpack)!

All jokes aside, you should determine what amount you want to spend on a bag. Then do your research! Get some ideas for a bag you'd like to have. If you already know what bag you want to have, check if there have been reviews done on it. You don't want to be stuck with a bag that's going to snap within the first week of school. Also, check to see if multiple vendors have the bag you're looking for. That way you can find out who has it cheaper and who's offering deals.

Stores/Sites you should check:






Vera Bradley


My Personal Backpack!

I decided I wanted a knapsack because I liked the style. Here is the same exact one I use. I have been using it for about a year now and it's still going strong. It's tough, durable, and roomy. I usually carry about a few notebooks, one heavy textbook, my laptop and some food. Trust me, I've beaten up this bag and it still in great condition. It's cute and stylish, and I have gotten multiple compliments. The price being relatively reasonable is also plus. I highly recommend this bag, if you're looking for one like it!


Step 2: Notebooks, Binders, or Laptop

Analyze how you like to take notes and how many classes you will be taking in a semester. Do you like typing on a laptop and does your professor allowed to have a laptop? It might allow you to cut down on the amount of binders/notebooks you need.

I decided binders weren't my thing because the pages rip out and result in chaos (and I didn't think that those reinforcer thingies cut it). I like writing notes in a notebook because it allows me to read them easily on the bus. To cut down the amount of notebooks, I buy about 5 5-subject notebooks. I figure I can probably fit about 2 classes worth of notes in each notebook if I'm taking about 5 classes per semester. For classes that require me to write faster notes than my hands could write, I use my laptop and save the notebooks for another semester.

Of course you don't have to do it my way. You could buy all 1-subject note books and choose to buy another set for another semester. You can choose to only buy 5 binders and refill each semester. You could choose to write all your notes on your laptop/tablet and have some notebooks as a backup. There are many, many choices!


Step 3: Writing Utensils

Pens, pencils, and highlighters galore

I believe that every college student should have pens, pencils, and highlighters as starters. Whatever pen you decide (erasable, felt tip, ballpoint, fountain, plume and ink, etc.) is up to you. Just make sure they are durable and long lasting!I recommend that these pens are either black or blue, in case you ever have to turn a written assignment in. Same thing goes for pencils - you've got your regular wooden ones and mechanical pencils, and whatnot - just make sure they will last. I also recommend that these are number 2 pencils, since you might have to take a scantron exam sometime in your college career. You should also aim to have some highlighters, as they may come in handy when you study.

Some other writing things that are extra, but not necessary are sharpies and multicolored pens for emphasis and private studying.

Step 4: Calculator!


Normally, college will require you to complete or have completed some basic level math. Chances are the most complicated calculator you'll ever need is a basic calculator. Unless you're a math major, in which case you'd have to check with your professor on that one.

Even after you've completed your course, it would be good to just have a calculator, especially if you're managing your bills or figuring how much you'll need for groceries. I'm aware that this function is on every phone, but, y'know, in case your phone doesn't work, you still have one.


Step 5: Planners!

This way, you don't lose your mind trying to figure out where you need to be

I HIGHLY recommend having a planner. The beauty of college life is that you have freedom to do whatever you want. You can join anything and everything. At the same time, you need to pace yourself and understand when you ought to be studying and when you can allow yourself to take a breather. For this, I suggest you get a book planner that goes with you everywhere. Write down test dates, party dates, project due dates, event dates, birthdays, etc. Plan out what you need to complete for the week so you aren't stuck cramming for a physiology exam 2 days before the final.

My Planner

I got a planner similar to this one a Target on sale. What I like about this planner is that it extends past the normal 12 months. Before every month, it gives you a full calendar so you can note down all important dates. It also gives you space to write down things you want to do for the day + important notes you should know.


Step 6: Miscellaneous

Things that you may consider buying as well

We're all fallible beings, and we're bound to make multiple errors while writing. For this, I say you should consider adding erasers and white-out to your arsenal of supplies.

Another thing you may consider adding is a ruler. While you may not directly need it for all classes, it might be good when you want to organize a chart while studying.

Sticky notes and notepads are also a plus, so you can pin up brief important notes to yourself during the day. This might also require you to get a small magnetic board or corkboard.

Don't forget: staplers, hole punchers, and reinforcers!

Some Other Great Ideas from Lensmasters (Thanks guys!)

Packing/Duct tape - suggested by CalobrenaOmai

Flash drive/Hard drive - suggested by poetvix

Sound off!

So, are you ready to shop for Back-to-School yet?

See results

Other Backpacks

Here are some other traditional backpacks that you might want to try checking out!

Thank you for stopping by! - Anything I missed? Drop a comment below!

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I leave the better part to the parents, Grandparents get to fill in some cuter fun stuff! Like a phone card, or Address book, with everyone's email in it!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      @braincell2020: Thanks! I was running on fumes and was surprised it made it through.

    • braincell2020 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @Rhonda Lytle: Oh my goodness that's a nightmare! This is actually a great idea - my flash drive was one my saving graces this year. Thank you for stopping by!

    • braincell2020 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @Elyn MacInnis: Thank you!

    • braincell2020 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @CalobrenaOmai: Thank you for the suggestions, and for stopping by! I took a look at your lens - you did a great job, keep it up :)

    • Rhonda Lytle profile image

      Rhonda Lytle 

      4 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

      I think the planner is a great idea for college. The only thing I would add is a flash drive so one can make edits to notes and presentations on the fly and it never hurts to have a backup just in case of crashes. I once was on the 12th page of a research paper when that happened and lost everything. Wouldn't wish that on any student.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Ha ha ha I love the calculator! What fun! Great stuff!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      That poll is hilarious!! I didn't have to buy a back pack for college because the one from high school still worked then I switched out to this new pack that came with an air bed. I needed a graphing calcular for the math courses I took but still had a basic on the side.

      So glad I wasn't the only one that saw the need for a planner. I was going to college for graphic design so additional item surfaced a lot. On top of a backpack I needed a portfolio bag along with a multitude of other items. Would have loved those reinforcers for my syllabus packets.

      Oh packing and or ducktape will also be of great use. This is such an awesome lens. I think I crammed too much in mine. Awesome work!

    • braincell2020 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you so much!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I've been beyond college age for a very long time, but I still love buying school supplies and try to find an excuse for needing something new every year around this time. Love your choices!


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