I remember around this time last year, I was scouring the web for college school supplies lists and making very detailed plans of what exactly I might need at college. If I were to go back and give my pre-frosh self or other incoming freshmen some brief advice, here are some of the things I would say. This post also pretty much doubles as a “What’s in my College Backpack” post as well.
Invest in a high-quality laptop. You’re a Computer Science major, so you’ll be spending *a lot* of time with your laptop. You basically won’t be able to live without it, so do yourself a favor and get a good one that won’t fail you when you’re in a time crunch to finish that programming assignment. I personally have a 2017 MacBook Pro. I really like how light-weight it is and easily compatible with my other devices when using features like AirDrop. Having a Mac was also especially convenient for me starting with 122 in the beginning because of how easily accessible Terminal is on the mac. For the most part, it has been quite reliable aside from the one annoying sticky key incident I ran into towards the end of the spring semester.
Consider purchasing a tablet for keeping all your notes in one place. I remember when I was moving into my dorm during orientation week I had brought a stack of 6 paper notebooks from home thinking that I would use one notebook for every class that I was registered for. Turns out, I did no such thing. By the time I was cleaning out my room to move out I had 3 entirely blank notebooks and 3 quarter-used notebooks. Mid-way through my fall semester I convinced my parents to get me an iPad with an Apple Pencil for me to take notes in class. The issue I ran into was that I hated carrying around *all* my notebooks with me all day walking around campus but when I didn’t do that, I’d often get mixed up or forget to bring the exact notebooks for the classes that I had each day. Very quickly, my notebook situation was a mess and when I was trying to get my homework assignments done I would waste a lot of time trying to search around in my notebooks for where I had taken down information from class. Getting an iPad quickly became the best decision that I made for studying and note taking in college. All my notes for every class are all in one place. I can move around the placement of my notes, copy-paste them, do a quick word search in my notes for a particular topic, etc. I never need to print out readings or lecture notes because I can just read and highlight on them from my iPad using Goodnotes. Every day before I leave my room, I just need to make sure to pack my Macbook and iPad into my backpack and I’m good for the day.
Get spare charging cables or a battery pack. If you’re like me, you’ll end up spending nearly no time in your dorm room studying and you’ll mostly be up and about studying. In my case, you can nearly always find my studying and working in Gates. Because I stay out pretty late a lot of the times working, my battery is bound to die at some point during the day whether it’s my laptop, my iPad, or my phone. So every day before I leave I also make sure to have my charging cables or a battery pack so that my devices can be sustained throughout the day. One thing that tends to be annoying about this is that at night before I go to sleep I also like to charge everything and this process every day is a lot of back and forth moving and plugging of cables. So for convenience, I would recommend perhaps getting multiple charging cables, possibly one that you can leave in your dorm room and one that you can carry around with you during the day if you don’t plan to frequently head back to your dorm to study. If you don’t end up doing that, maybe still invest in some kind of storage system for your cables so that they don’t get super tangled up between always being in your backpack or plugged in.
Save your future self with a hard drive to back up your computer from time to time. This is mostly for emergencies so that you’re not completely at a loss if something unexpected happens to your computer and it stops working or you lose your files or some lengthy code that you were mid-way through working on. Even if something disastrous like this happens, if you have a recent backup of your computer on your hard drive, you can always access important files or tools that you need especially in any time-sensitive deadline situations.
Pick up a pack of whiteboard markers. Here at CMU, it’s super popular to work on whiteboards whether you’re collaboratively working with someone or you just need some space to write out some of your proof ideas. Within Gates, in particular, you can pretty much find a whiteboard, a whiteboard table, or glass windows anywhere you look. On the other hand, whiteboard markers are comparatively more scarce because they tend to get misplaced or stolen or be completely out of ink. You’re likely to find some scattered somewhere, but it’s also to carry around a couple of whiteboard markers with you for any impromptu proof writing or problem-solving. I prefer a pack of fine tip ones for regular whiteboards and ultra fine tip for whiteboard tables. I also have a mini whiteboard eraser to go along with my markers..
Invest in a nice water bottle. Just do it. It helps reduce plastic waste and helps save the planet. You’ll likely be using it every single day when you’re out and about on campus. Also, around the CMU campus, there are water fountains all over the place that you can conveniently fill your water bottle from. Admittedly, you will pick up a lot of free water bottles while you’re at CMU from random companies, but I always still prefer my own.
Sooo that’s a list of my daily college essentials. I don’t really use much else when it comes to day to day studying aside from maybe a 2 pocket folders for the occasional loose leaf papers and handouts. This helps me keep my backpack pretty light which is really nice for being up and about around campus!