An Honest Back-to-College Checklist | #BackToSchool

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This is not going to be a generic back-to-college checklist. The usual lists out there are lengthy and contain materials you probably won’t need at all.

Checklists I’ve come across are filled with school supplies which you will soon stop using once you get into a university. I used to have a DIY pencil case filled to the brim back in secondary school, but I also had copybooks and physical textbooks (it was a time before devices in the classroom became a thing—I feel so old!).

But once you enter college or a university, your list of back-to-school supplies suddenly drop. 

Of course, there may be exceptions to this and some of you may still bring a lot of materials to college. But the list I’ve come up with is true to my experience at Monash University.

back-to-college checklist
Not exactly promoting minimalism, but I’d rather have a lighter bag in college. Maybe I am a minimalist. ‘Less is more.’

Moreover, if you decide to follow my checklist, you could save yourself some cash by sticking to the essentials. Pretty stationery is not so cheap nowadays.

By the way, the list below takes international students into account. After all, I was one.

So, here it goes, my honest back-to-college checklist:

For international students

  • Student visa: this is the first thing that needs to be ready! Whether it’s in your passport or in the form of an IC, keep it with you at all times.
  • Your passport: International students are usually required to carry their passports at all times unless you have an alternative (like a special identification card).
  • Medical check-up: Make sure you’ve done it and confirmed it with your school.
  • Insurance card: This is so important! Know what and how much you can be insured for. Collect it as soon as the ‘ready for collection’ email hits your inbox.
  • Reachable phone number: You will need to buy a SIM card ASAP because you will have to fill up some forms and make friends (we’d exchanged numbers on the first day!). And enjoy mobile data!

Your ultimate essentials

  • Your student card: Sometimes, the guards won’t let you in without your student card. Besides, your card is your key to printing services and other perks (like discounts!).
  • Your laptop/tablet: You can use the available PCs on campus, but I just prefer to bring my own device. It’s also handy; you can bring it to class to take notes.
  • Chargers: You’ll be on campus the whole day, so you have to make sure your devices don’t run out of juice!
  • Your wallet: Well, I don’t think I need to explain this.
  • A water bottle: You can most likely refill it for free on campus! Keeps you hydrated.

For your studies

  • Essential textbooks: I know this is something you shouldn’t do, but I’ve photostat textbooks instead of buying them (hello, Malaysia!), which is way cheaper. Yet, when I was staying on campus, I would go to the library almost every day to borrow the textbooks I needed (some were even available online through the library’s website). There are usually several copies, and besides, your expensive tuition fees cover the university’s resources… so make full use of them! Moreover, some subjects didn’t require me to study the textbook like a madman, so why spend your money? Do your research before buying any textbook.
  • Notebooks and/or a planner: Frankly, you don’t need a thousand cute notebooks or a fancy planner or a binder or any physical supplies. In college, everything is online: your tutors’ notes, lectures, etc. To save you the trouble, you can have everything on one device. Note-taking apps are out there. Our timetable could be synced to Google calendar! Nevertheless, one or two notebooks won’t hurt; research has shown that you learn better when you write things down. Just don’t overdo it.
  • A few pens and highlighters: Only if you still carry notebooks around.
  • Calculator, if relevant: I never needed one; yes, even if Psychology was my major.
  • Earphones: To filter out the noise people make around you.
  • A power bank: In case power sources aren’t available (oh, crowded days!) or within your reach.

That’s reality, folks! Your college supplies don’t have to be Instagrammable. They have to be efficient and lead you to be productive.

Want to save this checklist for later? Click here to download the back-to-college checklist for free!

It’s a printable pdf—so you can print it, stick it somewhere and refer to it every time before you head to school. Here’s a preview:

Eventually, everyone will have different needs in college. This checklist only serves as a basic guide, so you are free to personalise it. I’ve left some space in the printable pdf for you to add your unique essentials!

Now, I’m curious, what items are in your honest back-to-college checklist? Let me know in the comments section!

D. K. Waye.


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Daphnée has been a freelance writer since she was hired by Vulcan Post in 2016. Meanwhile, she has been blogging since 2011. Today, she works as a Marketing Office, but she still remains a fun-time blogger. She hopes that her writing will motivate and inspire you to live a better life.

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