The College Essentials You Need for a Successful First Year

It’s time to head back to school! 

But this time, you’ll be a college freshman experiencing brand new things. That includes figuring out what college essentials you need for your first year. 

Though times have changed since the COVID-19 Pandemic, chances are students will be heading back to school again in the future. So, knowing what to expect during your first few months on campus will be a huge help, especially after being holed up studying at home for so long. 

So, what college essentials do you need for a successful first year? Let’s take a look. 

Backpack or Messenger Bag

Unlike high school, there are no lockers to keep your books in throughout the day. Instead, you have to carry your books and supplies on you. Having a bag that stands up to heavy textbooks and doesn’t break your back is essential. 

The good news? You don’t necessarily have to carry everything with you. Classes are split up throughout the day so you can leave some things in your dorm or car and come back for it later. 

Binders for Each Class

In college, separating materials for individual classes is what keeps you organized. Have a binder for each class so you can organize your notes, classwork, and assignments all in one place. This prevents you from having an overstuffed, giant binder for everything and struggling to find what you need when the time comes.

Citation Style Manual

You’ve already heard about the dreaded college essay. Having a citation guide on hand to help you will make all the difference during late-night writing sessions. 

A great manual can answer any of your questions, so you ensure your citations are on point. 


College can feel like a non-stop highlighter fest. Whether it’s color-coding the crucial phrases in your notes or highlighting key sentences in a textbook, a little color goes a long way. 

Grab your favorite colors, keep them in your bag, and prepare to light up the place. 

Index Cards

Nothing says “study” quite like the index cards do. These are easy ways to get a quick study session when you’re bored and have a few minutes to spare. 

When you realize something is important, jot it down on an index card and revisit it before tests or finals. Having study materials on hand in a pinch can be a huge help. 

A Digital or Paper Planner

You’re on your own and handling your plans. So, you need a place to keep track of all your responsibilities.

From classes to tests and assignment due dates, a lot is going on, and it helps to have a back-up system for your brain. Whatever works for you, make it happen. The last thing you want is to miss a due date because you forgot to put it down somewhere. 

Pens and Paper

This might seem obvious, but it would shock you how many people show up to class unprepared. Keep each binder stocked with lined paper and a couple of pens in your backpack. 

You don’t want to miss out on important notes or be scrambling to ask for a pen or pencil on test day. Always assume you’ll forget and include more than you need.

There are a ton of essentials you’re likely to need for college. The ones we’ve listed here just happen to be the most common. Good luck with your first year!