Your Backpack Essentials for College

College life: it is one unpredictable show, and you will never know what will get at you, one way or another. For one, there are the classes and requirements that you have to deal with on a daily basis. On another, there are factors that you just cannot anticipate completely. In this everyday battle, you will have to be constantly prepared, starting with your arsenal: the serviceable college backpack. It must contain all the essentials that you need to withstand the daily grind of college.

What does a college student need to have in his backpack?

1. Pens

This is an absolute non-negotiable. The pen is your primary weapon in your arsenal. How else can you write down notes? More importantly, how can you answer your exams? Going to school without a pen is like going to war without a gun.

Though pens all write the same, some pens are better than others. In particular, get pens that have a finer point—those that say “0.8” or “0.5” on the side. The reason for this is that pens with fine points allow you to have a more pleasing handwriting. Some pens with less fine points usually produce thick strokes and lines, which are often illegible and straining to the eyes.

When you are able to find such a pen, get at least three of it and bring them with you at all times. Pens are unbelievably easy to lose. It would not come as a surprise if, by the end of the month, you are down to your last pen without a clue in the world where the other two went.

Again, always bring three at least three pens. You will never know when a pop quiz comes up.

2. Notebooks

Your notebooks are another non-negotiable. This is where you write and store your notes about the lessons, the dates of important exams, and deadlines for requirements.

The biggest concern here is whether to use notebooks or to have a laptop for the same purpose. While typing on a laptop is significantly faster than writing on a notebook, the latter is proven to be much more effective in learning. Studies show that handwriting engages the brain more, as the brain is more stimulated with writing compared to typing. 

Most of all, using laptops have a higher tendency of distractions. Sure, we sometimes doodle on our notebooks, but we could scroll down Facebook and watch entire Netflix shows on our laptops. The worst case scenario with laptops is that some professors restrict the use of laptops. In any case, having a laptop in your backpack is heavier than having notebooks. Hence, it is best that you jot down your notes with a notebook and pen.

Another common alternative is to use your phone to take pictures of the slides your professor’s PowerPoint presentation. This is the fastest method, though it also has a high tendency of distraction. And let us be real here: who actually looks at the pictures—the “notes”—that they took on their phone? Ask yourself that and realize that physical notebooks are still important.

It is highly advised to bring one notebook for each subject of the day. So, if you have three subjects for the day, bring three notebooks. Though if you are on a budget, it is all right to have one notebook for multiple subjects or even all of them. In this case, make sure to organize it neatly so that you can go to a particular topic with ease. Bear in mind that having a single notebook can be very challenging.

3. Readings

In today’s times, having a digital copy of a reading has become the trend for schools. However, nothing beats actually having a physical copy of the reading.

The biggest difference between a digital copy and a physical copy is that the former requires you to bring a laptop, which, again, weighs a lot. More importantly, having a physical copy of the readings allows you to write your own notes on them with complete freedom. Some third-party computer programs grant users a similar function, but it is quite limited.

If the concerned readings are whole books, especially textbooks, sometimes having a laptop with digital copies instead are a better alternative. Very rarely, however, do professors require students to bring textbooks because they are so heavy, unless they are novels which are usually fine in a student’s backpack. In the case of a textbook, try to photocopy just the needed pages for the day or the week.

In any case with physical copies, have a folder ready to store the readings in your backpack. They will protect your readings as they prevent them from being crumpled and crushed by your other stuff..

4. Snacks

While you can enjoy complete meals in the college cafeteria, having your own snacks in your backpack can be helpful.

There may be times when you find yourself feeling hungry or craving during class. Snacks will help you stave off the hunger for the meantime until the next full meal.

An important reminder here is that snacks should not substitute a complete meal. Snacks do not have the necessary nutrients to nourish your body. One of the macronutrients that snacks commonly lack, for instance, is protein. Without this, you will find yourself feeling weak. So if you are thinking of having Doritos for lunch, do not try it. Always try to get all three macronutrients—carbohydrates, protein, and fat—in every meal

You do not have to bring a lot of snacks. You are going to class, not a picnic. Bring a maximum of three snacks in your backpack. Of course, you do not have to finish all three within a day—eat enough to keep the hunger away in the meantime.

5. Water

Along with snacks, having your own source of hydration can help a lot.

Majority of colleges have their own drinking fountains located throughout the campus. However, having your own water—preferably, in a bottle or tumbler—is helpful for hydrating on the go.

There are backpacks that have a holder on the side for water bottles. Other backpacks do not have this feature. In which case, storing the water bottle inside is possible. This is quite risky, however. If you store cold water in the bottle, water droplets will appear on the bottle due to condensation and can get your readings and notebooks wet. 

The solution to this is to save up for a vacuum flask, as it insulates the cold water and prevents condensation. If you are on a tight budget, wrapping a towel around the water bottle works to absorb the water droplets.

Have one always ready in your backpack, preferably one that has a maximum capacity of 500 millimeters for enough hydration.

6. Phone charger

Mobile phones have become an invaluable component in the modern life of a student. Whether it is for entertainment, communication, and productivity, our phones are highly versatile. But what good is it if its battery is dead? As good as a brick in your pocket.

Just as a snack should always be available to you as a source of energy, your phone also has to have its own source of energy. Some students have the habit of making sure that their phones are fully charged before leaving for school. This is highly recommended—however, there might come a time when you forget to charge your phone before going to school.

Usually, a charger is composed of two parts: the cable and the wall plug. If you have multiple chargers for a lot of devices, you should bring as few of both parts as possible. For example, if you have three devices that all use USB type-C cables for charging, you only really need to bring one said cable and one wall plug—unless you need to charge all three devices at some point.

As a general rule, own at least two chargers—one with you in your backpack, and one at home. At least if you lose one, you will always have a backup.

7. Umbrella

Imagine that you are well on your way to class with your freshly printed paper, immaculately written and ready to be submitted. You are a couple of meters away from the building when you suddenly realize that the clouds have formed, thickening steadily yet rapidly over the earth, covering the gleeful sun whose rays you earlier enjoyed. With unrelenting force, the violent vapor precipitated upon the lands, and upon you—and your backpack is a casualty in the torrent.  

An overdramatization? Perhaps not, because when you finally get to a shelter from the rain, you now have a wet paper in your hands and nothing to submit. Even worse: all of your stuff are wet. Your notebooks and readings have pretty much suffered the same dreaded fate as your paper. You yourself are also drenched, and the chances of you getting a fever later are high. And the worst of all, how could the professor let you in the class?

Putting it simply: always bring an umbrella. This cannot be stressed enough. While rain can be anticipated from watching weather forecasts in TV news channels or from reading through the weather app on your phone, it can be very unpredictable at times. Depending on where you study, the chances of being soaked by rain can vary, but this does not mean that you have to wait until it is raining to actually bring an umbrella.

This applies whether it is rain or shine. Just as bad as a sudden torrent of rain is the unbearable heat of the sun. While your backpack and its contents are safe, you would be greatly affected. The mildest impact on you is that you sweat so much as to drain your shirt—an inconvenience for many. At worst, you could get a heat stroke. Wearing a cap and sunglasses might help, but having an umbrella could make a world of difference.

It does not have to be a long umbrella. A good quality, foldable, compact umbrella should do the trick and fits right in your backpack.

Final notes

These items are essential to have in your backpack in your everyday college life. Bear in mind, however, these few final notes:

  1. Your backpack should not be heavy. The primary indicator that your backpack is heavy is that you feel shoulder pain or back pain after a few minutes of wearing it. In the long run, your shoulders and back will suffer and have complications. Always take out what you do not need.
  2. Keep your backpack balanced. Rule of thumb: keep the heaviest items closest to your back, the lightest farthest. This keeps your backpack—and your back—balanced.
  3. Clean out your backpack on a regular basis. Over time, and especially when you are in a rush, you will constantly add more stuff to your backpack. As you do, your backpack becomes thicker and bulkier. Usually, it is only a simple inconvenience, but it will feel like an actual discomfort as time goes by. 

Aside from that, all you need to remember is to make sure that you are always prepared—especially for the worst. For the college student far away from family, for instance, it is best that you come fully equipped to deal with the unpredictability of college life. With the proper preparation and tools, college life will turn from unpredictable to exciting.

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