ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled
Saved to My Favorites. View My Favorites
Articles / Campus Life / Lugging Your Stuff Around School

Lugging Your Stuff Around School

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Aug. 23, 2016

We’ve explored moving to college, but what about walking around on campus … or even high school? Going from class to class or to the library or dining hall can require a lot of accessories to support your collegiate and high school lifestyle. How do you plan on handling that?

I was inspired to write about this today by a thread I noticed on the College Confidential discussion forumWhat are you packing in your bag for school? brings out a long list of ideas for your backpack or carryall, so that you won’t be caught unprepared.

This helpful thread appears in the High School Life forum and is aimed at pre-college students, obviously, but I thought it might provide some good information for those of you who will be moving to college soon or who may already be there. Thus, let’s just consider this to be an “umbrella” post by me, covering more than one specific demographic.

Speaking of college, things have changed since I went to college. [Duh! Yes, here comes yet another excruciating trip down Dave’s Creaky Memory Lane!] Perhaps the biggest difference is today’s dependence on electronic items: calculators, cell phones, computers, iPods, etc. Today’s students can’t survive without these battery-powered tools.

I didn’t have a backpack or carryall when I was on campus. I used a briefcase. That seemed to be the best solution for my needs. I would put the necessary texts, papers, pens, pencils, food, and even a [drum roll, please] slide rule (!) inside my trusty Samsonite. Yes, Virginia, we had to actually think back then, during the Cro-Magnon Era. (I think I still have my old slide rule, although I would have to take a refresher course to use it these days.)


Back to modern times, though, I found it amusing to read some of the responses from students replying to the thread’s originator, who stated:

It’s the season where we’re all getting back to school… Some of us have returned already, some of us return soon. I myself am returning tomorrow! And I just had a question for all of you who have already returned to school/are preparing like me to return.

What are you packing in your bag for school?

I myself have a folder with paper, pens, pencils, my trusty calculator, a flash drive, and earbuds. I’ll put my lunch and water in it tomorrow.

Anyone wish to share?

That’s a good question because when you set out for class on some of the larger university campuses and big high schools, you might be gone from your dorm room (or off-campus apartment) or locker for some time, thus placing you in a kind of “traveling” situation. No one likes to be caught unprepared and/or under-equipped for even a typical day at high school or college, let alone on those exceptional days.

So, for the benefit of you students who may be wondering how to always be prepared, here’s some wisdom from CC posters, along with some comments from me.

– I already started school a few days ago, and here’s what I packed:

– My trusty pencil pouch with my pencils, pens, highlighters, erasers, etc.

– 2 folders for random papers (no real organization system right now)

– Box of colored pencils

– AP World notebook

– Honors Chem notebook

– APES composition notebook

– AP Calc AB binder

– Graphing calculator (for AP Calc) and scientific calculator (Honors Chem)

– Lunch

– Phone/earbuds

– Planner/Agenda

That’s all I can think of for now.

– I’m going back on September 21st so I dont even have to think about it for like a month, but I’m taking all college classes so I’m going to have my laptop, a folder with some paper in it (maybe 4, one per class and one for other stuff) and my pencil case with different writing stuff. I’ll also have food, water, sports clothes, headphones, phone etc. 


Dave says: Here’s a student who straddles both high school and college. I think s/he’s definitely more college than high school, so good info here. Seeing the term “pencil case” reminds me of elementary school, where my pencil case’s lid was a sliding ruler that had a pencil sharpener attached. Nice memory (for me!).

– TI-84

Pearson Chemistry (Indiana p.p)

James Stewart Single Variable Calculus 8th Edition, with Early Transcendentals

Art of Problem Solving Book 1: The Basics

Three different single-subject notebooks

A little, mini-notebook that I use for sketches and personal planning (also emergency notes)

Siddartha Mukherjee’s The Gene

Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland

like a lot of pencils

HP i5 ProBook w/ charger (provided by the school! thanks, 1:1 technology initiative)

the backpack itself is a JanSport; I wanna make it last me through college (and maybe grad school too, lol) …

Dave says: Excellent detail. This student is fortunate to attend a school that provides computers. I hope they also have enough electrical outlets for those chargers.

– Start school on August 29th and haven’t gotten my schedule yet so I haven’t put my backpack together but here is what I usually have in my back pack:

– A-Day or B-Day binder


-TI-84 I think??

-mechanical pencils

-pocket mirror

-mini stapler

-belveta crackers in case I get hungry

-2 water bottles

-mascara for when I don’t have time and just put it on the ride to school

-3 pairs of headphones

-extra hair bands

-listerine breath strips

-multiple eos lip balms

-extra socks

-hand sanitizer




-big red gum



– aerie cozy up perfume because it’s amazing!!

That’s pretty much it


Dave says: Wow — breath strips, lip balm, multiple chewing gums, deodorant, and perfume! Certainly, this student is a lock for the Fragrant Hall of Fame!

– At this point, I just take my computer, a wad of scrunched up handouts, a calculator, and a pencil. Chances are good that on any given day I’ll forget one of the above items.

I’m not exactly the most organized person out there.  

Dave says: There’s something to be said for simplicity … until an forgetfulness steamrollers it.

– -5-Subject Notebook (for various subjects)

-3-Subject Notebook (for Latin, we take so much notes q.q)

-2 1-Subject Notebooks (most likely for AP Lang and APUSH)



-Scientific Calculator (I hope I don’t have to drop ~$100 on a graphing calc for pre-calc)


-Phone (has planner app)

-Bag w/ Goggles, Towel, Swimsuit, Snorkel, etc. for Swim Team

-An Overwhelming Sense of Anxiety

Dave says: Looks efficient. I was sorry to see that comment about anxiety, though. The eve of a return to school can inspire that in those of us who are less than confident.

– TI-84

Pencil case (pencils, highlighters, flare pens, eraser, highlighter, normal pens, whiteout)


5 Star flex notebinder (Using these for 5 yrs now. I use it like an organized take home folder)

Current book


Earbuds (Necessary. omg)

3 subject notebook


small pouch with hair ties & period supplies

lunch (decided i’m done with school food this year lol.)


water bottle (drink throughout the day. plus so my other bottle doesn’t get warm in my car before tennis practice.)

snacks! (late lunch again. 1:08 pm !!) also, gum.


small post-its for annotating books

No binders yet. I put everything in my notebinder until I have a test in a class. Then I’ll move the entire unit into a binder until the exam. That way, I don’t have to lug 1.5-4in binders around school and then home every day.  

Dave says: Ah … food and earbuds [“omg” LOL]. One does not live by natural sounds alone!

– I am going to be having in my backpack (I am a rising freshman.) :

-A backpack. (Sorry, I know that’s a silly thing to say…)

-2 binders

-Lots and lots of pencils!

-School gym clothes! (9th and 10th graders have to take P.E. in our school.)

-A pack of twist-able colored pencils.

-One or two books to read for fun.

-A map of my school.

-The bell schedule of my school.

-I created a checklist that I check off after completing things during the day, I will have that with me.

-A compass. (For Geometry Honors.)

-A TI-84 calculator.



-Paper clips.


-Possibly deodorant for P.E.???

-Agenda/planner. (Apparently, they are giving it to us on the first day of school.)

-Composition Notebooks

-My actual schedule.

and more things I may have forgotten to write on here! Yeah, my high school wants us to have a lot of things with us for some reason …

Dave says: This rising freshman is so well prepared that s/he could open a school supply business on the side. I’d be curious to see what’s in his/her bag senior year. Maybe a lot less (or more!).


So, there you have some ideas about getting it all together for class, either in high school or college. Better start doing those 50-pound barbell squats immediately. A strong back complements a strong mind, especially when you’re carrying half your room around in a backpack!


Check College Confidential for all of my college-related articles.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

More on Campus Life

See all

Campus Safety: Awareness and Preparedness for Emergency Situations

College campuses are places of learning, growth, and community where students can pursue their academic dreams, make lifelong fri…


Moving Across the Country for College: Going from the West Coast to an East Coast College

I was born in the Bay Area of California and lived there my whole life. As a senior in high school I committed to Lehigh, and eve…


The College Renter's Guide: Why Renters Insurance Matters in Campus Housing

College is an exciting journey filled with new experiences, newfound independence, and, often, shared housing arrangements. As yo…

Insights on Northeastern University: Applying, Greek Life, and Adjusting to College Life
Day in the Life of a Case Western Student

Day in the Life of a Case Western Student

When looking at colleges, I was obsessed with finding out what the typical day was like for a student at that university. I would…

Get a student loan that goes beyond tuition.

Ascent offers cosigned and non-cosigned student loans with exclusive benefits that set students up for success.

Explore Now!
Find Your Scholarship

Want to find money for school that doesn’t need to be paid back? Access insights and advice on how to search and apply for scholarships!

Search for Scholarship