Wasted Woes: I Wish I Hadn’t Bought That

Remember: You’re Shopping for School Supplies in college, not high school


Alexis Hayward | Web Editor

Morgan Nimmons, Contributing Writer

I wish someone would have told me that school supply shopping in college is very different from shopping for school supplies in high school. You’d assume that’s common sense, right? Well, going supply shopping in college with a high school mentality is more common than you would think.

In the back of my closet, I have stacks of three-ring binders, loose-leaf paper and notebooks that I never needed. Think of all those poor trees that could have been spared from my wasteful purchases. I didn’t discover until around the end of my sophomore year what supplies I actually needed in order to make things easier on myself while in college.

Luckily, those who are inexperienced can learn the ins and outs of proper school shopping for college and save time and money from well-seasoned students, such as myself and others who have been there and done that.

Notebooks and Binders

Some of the items typically included on a school supply list in grade school is a large three-ring binder, loose leaf paper and spiral notebooks. Carrying all of that in a backpack and having to walk across a huge college campus to attend class can be harmful to your back. Plus, I don’t think you want to be walking around campus looking like Backpack Boy from Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide (if you don’t know what show I’m talking about, I can’t help you). Let’s not forget that all of that loose leaf paper ends up being scattered all over the room, anyway.


In order to save space in my backpack and in my closet – where all of my binders and notebooks ended up being stored – I started taking notes on my laptop. Taking notes on my computer also saved a lot of paper (and trees!), and most of my professors preferred my assignments to be handed in as a Word document anyway.

Those who do not have the funds to purchase Microsoft Word have the option of downloading the free application OpenOffice, which provides six programs: Writer (Word Processor), Calc (Spreadsheets), Impress (Presentations), Draw (Graphics) and Base (Database Manipulation). This program came in handy at a time when I was not able to purchase Microsoft Office .

Another great alternative to Microsoft Word is Google Docs, which also allows users to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations. There’s even a Drawing feature that allows you to create charts and diagrams. Plus, an app version that offers an offline Google Docs option. There are also various applications for note taking that are free such as Evernote and Microsoft OneNote  – both are also available on smartphones.

Pin Drive/Flash Drive

I doubt that I am the only one that has misplaced my flash drive numerous times throughout my college life (I still don’t know where it is since the last time I found it). It was mandatory for my computer courses in high school, so losing it was not an option; however, I don’t really use it much now, if at all.


Instead of buying a useless pin drive (or flash drive, whatever you want to call it), I started using the website Dropbox to save my school files. Again, I’m relying on modern technology to solve my problems (I know, sad), but Dropbox is great because you can access your files from any computer by simply logging into your Dropbox account and voila, all of your school assignments are at your fingertips.

There is also the option to download Dropbox to your computer so you can save your files from there. God forbid, you accidentally delete an assignment on your computer, you can still access it through Dropbox if you synced it. The free account allows up to  two gigabytes of free space, and by either referring friends or upgrading your account, you can have access to 16 GB of space.

Another way that I stored my school assignments were to email them to myself. This mostly was useful when I was doing a class presentation. I would send my portion of the assignment to myself and my group members (sometimes even to the professor). I can’t tell you how many times I have seen students plug in their flash drive to present their assignment and spaz out when they discover that their assignment miraculously disappeared from the device.

Traditional Index Cards

I would say that index cards are one of the most important items that college students can have. They can be used to jot down key points for a speech or review terms or concepts for an exam, among many other things.

However, you can probably tell from my previous suggestions that I am a big fan of going paperless, so for me old-fashioned 5×7 note cards are a no-go.


There are so many different flashcard apps that students can download for free rather than carrying a bunch of bulky note cards in their pockets. My particular favorite is Quizlet, which is available for Android and iPhone and has three modes of studying: Flashcards (user goes through cards at their own pace), Learn (a question is shown and user types in the answer) and Match (classic matching game).

The other flashcard apps that I have also used are Flashcards – formerly known as Flashcardlet – for iPhone and SuperCard for Android. Both free, but for those who would still prefer to use traditional flash cards, go for it! As long as you are finding a way to study that makes your life easier, that’s all that matters.

To close, and for those who are tired of solely reading my input, here are a few perspectives from experienced college students of different majors who have shared the same wasted woes:

CaptureAs a college student, I went out and started buying the standard school supplies I knew as necessities in high school. While some things proved to be very important, such as mechanical pencils, pens with comfortable grips and note books, others ended up being a waste of money. We as college students are on budgets as it is, so throwing your money away on what professors say you need that you will never use in class like blue test books or binders is an annoyance. I had purchased loose leaf paper, 1/2” and 1” 3 ring binders, and a box of crayons I never used. Yes, the crayons were impulsively purchased but ironically I ended up purchasing colored pencils that were great for making flash cards and highlighting.”

-Laura Amendola, Senior, Communications Studies

CaptureI don’t think there are much cheap alternatives for art, which is sad. For pottery, it’s easy because the things that these famous artists use are handmade like, taking a stick and sharpening it and refining it to a legitimate clay tool. For drawing classes, when I bought all my supplies for the class, I didn’t need almost half of them, which sucks. However, I still use them for recreational pieces so I’m not too sad about it.”

– Marie Smith, Junior, Studio Art

CaptureMy first few semesters at FAU, I was very disorganized and with papers everywhere in my room, it was hard to find everything I needed to prepare for finals, especially the cumulative ones. To save myself time, I bought plastic drawers to insert papers from each class. It helped me stay organized and it made me feel a bit more accomplished.”

– Teresa Vosilla, Senior, Biology