Backpack Essentials: Featuring- Your Peer Coaches

Hey friend! As the new semester is approaching, it is time to start thinking about what supplies you might need to be prepared for classes to begin. Whether you are an online student or you are returning to campus this semester, it is important to be prepared. As students ourselves, we want to share with you a list of our favorite items for starting up a new semester. You may not want or need everything on this list for your backpack. This is a general and cumulative collection of items that we have found helpful throughout our time going to school. While going through this list, consider your own study habits and what will be most important for you to have on hand.

What’s In Our Backpacks

Academic Essentials

  • Pens/Pencils - Optional: Variety of Colors for organization
  • Note Cards
  • Sticky Notes and/or Flags
  • Notebooks
  • Planner (Physical or Digital)
  • Class - Specific supplies (can be found in the class syllabus. Ex: Paper for Art, Stethoscope for Nursing) 


  • Cell Phone
  • Computer/Tablet
    • There are computers all over campus that are available for student use. Weber State also offers laptops for you to check out if you do not have your own! For more information visit Computer Labs
  • Headphones
  • Electronics Chargers
  • Wireless Mouse

Personal Items

  • Gum
  • Snacks
  • Ibuprofen/Tylenol/Advil
  • Chapstick
  • Hand Sanitizer 
  • Water Bottle 
  • WildCat Card - Student ID (For more information on where to get yours visit Wildcard Services
  • Student UTA Pass (For more information visit ED Pass)

Coach Essentials

In addition to this list, we each wanted to give you some more information on our most essential back-to-school item and tell you a little more about how we use that item. 

Alexis - Backpacks

We can’t talk about “what’s in my backpack” without talking about the backpack itself. We all have used backpacks since our first day in elementary school. They have grown and changed alongside us. I was too cool for a backpack in my high school years and carried around my books in a large purse. Transitioning into my freshman year of college, I decided to get a small, cute backpack, focusing on the looks rather than the functionality. As my class load increased, my backpack space decreased. Shoving my course materials in the bag left slowly growing rips in the pockets. Soon my backpack started to fall apart altogether.  It was time to invest in a heavy-duty backpack that was going to last. 

Backpacks can be expensive; with higher quality fabric and zippers comes a higher price. Before I was going to spend my money, I made a list of features I wanted. There are a few requirements to consider if you are spending money on a higher-end backpack. Below are the top three features I look for in a backpack.

  • Shoulder Straps. Carrying around a few pounds of notebooks and texts is no joke. Try on the backpack (with and without added weight) and test the comfortability of the straps. Find one with built-in cushioned or foam padded straps. If straps aren’t your thing, test out a wheeled backpack.

  • Laptop/Tablet Size. An important use of a backpack is to keep our electronics safe. If you can, try to find a backpack with a designated pocket for a laptop or tablet; however, double-check that the pocket size fits your device size.

  • Pockets. The size and number of pockets depending on your needs. I personally love pockets! They provide individualized storage for all of your school supplies, personal items, or snacks. If you can, look for any secret pockets to keep your wallet or other personal items safe. 

Think of a backpack as an investment. Take the time to determine and research what features you want and the price range you can afford. Then, invest in a good backpack that will last you through your associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree. 

Candace - Five Star College Ruled Notebook

Out of all the items I purchase before the semester starts, the one I consider the most valuable is my college-ruled notebook. After all, it is holding what is supposed to be responsible for the bulk of my success: my notes! There are many different ways to take notes, and I find that the college-ruled notebook gives me the freedom to switch up note-taking styles. Traditionally, a college-ruled notebook is 8 ½” x 11,” and the line spacing is smaller than a wide-ruled notebook, allowing a single page to hold more information.

There are quite a few brands to choose from, but my personal favorite is Five Star. I find that it gives me the quality I want for the price I need, as a traditional “broke” college student! The Five Star college-ruled notebooks include built-in pockets to hold those loose handouts from classes as well as any materials you print out beforehand. Five Star also offers multi-subject college-ruled notebooks, which adds the convenience of having your notes for various classes all in one place.

I do love my physical notebook, but I will occasionally take notes electronically using a stylus. Typing notes prove to be less effective for memory retention, making the stylus crucial. I often find myself using the pen feature with my laptop and tablet. This allows me not only to take notes on downloaded powerpoints but also to draw images or diagrams as well. With instant access to all my course notes, the versatility and portability of a laptop or tablet are hard to beat. This may be a feature worth looking for if you are in the market for a new piece of technology. Whether I choose to use my laptop or stick with the classic pen & paper, organized notes are a must for me throughout the semester. 

Kat - Bic Black Pen

For me, my most important school supply is my writing utensil. Throughout my time in school, I have been on the eternal hunt for the best pen or pencil. When I am writing notes, I do not want to be interrupted by my writing apparatus. Meaning I don’t want my pencil to rip the paper or my pen ink to stop flowing. I personally have very sweaty hands and strong pressure on the page. These two combined cause me to smear my pages even though I am right-handed and rip the pages I am working on if my writing utensil is too sharp. I also want my notes to look clean even when I make mistakes. Meaning I want a way to either erase or cover up my spelling errors. All of these are elements that I have kept in mind in the search for the perfect writing utensil for me. 

My favorite writing tools are the Paper Mate clear point mechanical pencils with 0.7 mm lead and the Bic black ink crystal pens. I like using the mechanical pencil when I am doing work that requires erasing. For example, I like to be able to go back and erase when I made a mistake while doing a math problem. Or, when sketching up an idea in my design classes, I like to use pencil until I have made a more finalized decision. I like to use my Bic pen for everything else. I use it for note-taking in all of my classes and meetings and when I am creating my to-do lists. When I make a mistake or a misspelling I quickly scribble out the error and continue on with my writing. 

I believe the perfect writing utensil is different for every person. My recommendation for finding your perfect writing utensil is trial and error. When you are experimenting, keep in mind the elements that you find most important in your writing. Don’t be afraid to mix it up every once in a while because you might just find your new favorite pen. 

Rachel - Post-It Flags

I LOVE Post-It Flags. It’s my little “must-have” splurge. Although similar to Post-It notes, Flags are transparent and thinner, as they are meant to highlight important information. They can be used in textbooks, notebooks, planners, and more! When I run out (or rather, when my kids use them to decorate their bedroom walls), I cannot last more than a couple of days before running to the store to get more.  I especially like that I can write on them with just a regular pen. They are thick enough to hold up well and are even repositionable. Some Flags come with an arrow on one end, in case you prefer having a way to literally point at specific information. 

They come in a ton of sizes and colors, which makes color-coding a breeze. I tend to use the ½ inch and 1-inch Flags most often because they are small but still have room to write on the edges (though I have small handwriting). Having too many flags, or flags that are larger than 1 inch, tends to make it more difficult for me to find what I’m looking for. However, that is just my preference. I encourage you to find what works for you! As for colors, I like to switch them up chapter by chapter.  Occasionally I take classes where we read several different textbooks simultaneously, so in that case, I choose to color code by topic or module. This technique helps me to draw connections between different sources discussing the same concepts. 

I use these Flags in assigned readings for class to bookmark certain pages and in textbooks when it is too time-consuming to copy down tables, charts, or other visuals in separate notes. I simply place the Flag on the page where I can see it once the book is closed, but directly across from the paragraph or table I want to mark. When it’s a book I own, or in other situations when it’s appropriate to underline the text, I may do that as well in addition to placing a Flag there. Flags make it so easy to locate and cite information in a timely manner. 

These Flags also help me prepare for exams. Most often, I have had timed, open-book exams in both multiple-choice and essay form. I often write definitions or concepts on the Flags for quick perusal. There are so many fun options!  It is just a small item that has made a big difference for me in studying more effectively.

You Got This!

Getting ready for a new semester can be an overwhelming prospect, but it doesn't have to be. We hope that this list can get you started in a good direction for starting the new semester off right. 

If you are ever feeling totally overwhelmed by starting a new semester, set up a meeting with us! We would love to help give you individualized tips for starting the semester off on the right foot. You can make an appointment with us below!

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Until next time! This has been Confessions and Contemplations from us, your Academic Peer Coaches.

About The Author

Kat A.
Certified Peer Educator


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