Three School Supplies You Actually Need in University

Remember the school supply lists you got in Elementary school?

These things.

When I was a kid, we got a painstakingly detailed school supply list from approximately 1978 sent home with us each year, with instructions to purchase every single thing on it. This was an exercise in futility, of course, because by the end of each year the only school supply I'd be using was a chewed-up pencil stub I'd rescued off the hallway floor. Nevertheless, we had to make a big show of gathering up the items from the backs of closets and the front shelves of department stores. After all, if you showed up with a 4" binder instead of a 3.5" binder, you might as well have brought a skinned gopher carcass to school. The other students would gather around you with a documentary camera, playing soft Sarah MacLachlan music in the background as they pleaded for viewers to please donate, so that this unfortunate child could finally get some proper school supplies.

Can you believe these kids have to make do with the 24-pack of pencil crayons when the rest of their classmates got the 48-pack?

When, as a semi-adult, I got a job at an office supply store, I realized that parents absolutely do not fuck around with those lists. If the list says that students need 237 mL of Elmer's white glue, then by God, their children will have 237 mL of Elmer's white glue, and none other. Apparently, having the wrong brand of scissors could irrevocably derail their seven year old's path to an Ivy League education. Purchasing the correct number of pens in the correct colours is the only thing that will make the difference between Junior growing up to be a Nobel Laureate and Junior prostituting his body for heroin under the local bridge. No responsible parent could take that kind of chance.

"I'd like to thank the Academy, and the jar of rubber cement I was inexplicably forced to purchase in the third grade."

But when you get to university, school supply lists end. It's the most important part of your entire education, and you're expected to go into it blind. I mean, do university students need glue sticks? Or markers? What about protractors? No, of course they don't; you're ridiculous for even asking. There are a few unexpected things that will come in handy, though. If you're destined for post-secondary, remember to pick up:


There's no way to say this that doesn't sound weird: sometimes, you're going to bleed at school.

To minimize this, avoid taking classes with Dr. Acula.

Things happen. You'll get papercuts. You'll nick yourself on the sharp edge of a can. You'll have a little accident in the lab and get bitten as you try to wrestle your ungodly creation into a cage. It's unavoidable, really. But from Elementary to High school, getting wounded at school meant asking the teacher for a bandaid, or at worst, going down to the school infirmary to get patched up. At university, you're out of luck. The university health centre is going to have a three-hour line, filled with cases ranging from migraines, to depression, to students desperately trying to stem the bleeding from the stumps of their misplaced limbs. No good. And you may not always have time to sprint across the multi-acre campus for medical supplies before you need to be somewhere. What are you supposed to do?

Spongebob will make it all better.

If you don't have time to get a band-aid, you're going to have to just suck it up and go to class, leaving large smears of blood on your notes and assignments that will score you a one-way ticket to a meeting with your professor, to discuss whether or not you're going home at the end of each day to live in a torture dungeon. Carrying around a little box of band-aids is a lot less hassle. Even if you're not the type of person who enjoys sticking your hand into an electric can opener for fun, your peer group is nearly old enough to drink now, and you can bet that someone you know is going to need one, very soon.

A Stapler

At the beginning of every semester, when you're looking over your fresh syllabi and taking the shrink wrap off your new textbooks, you will make yourself a promise. This term, you are going to print off all the class notes and completed assignments well in advance. Every day, you're going to stroll casually into class, confident in the knowledge that everything you need is printed off on crisp, clean paper, ready to contribute to your education.

This will last for approximately two weeks.

The textbook debt, however, will last a lifetime.

After that, you'll revert to doing what the rest of us do; jot down half-assed notes on the back of a used piece of notebook paper, and procrastinate on your assignments so badly that you find yourself in the library just hours before every deadline, frantically typing away on a library computer and hoping that you'll manage to have something half-coherent written down by the time you're forced to slam the "print" button and sprint off to class. Then you'll arrive at class - with seconds to spare, of course - and come face-to-face with a huge pile of your classmates' neat, stapled papers, sitting in a pile. And you'll look down at the handful of crumpled, loose pages in your hand, and you'll realize the problem. 

You have no way of attaching them together.

Not unless you figure out how to fold them into an origami swan in the next two minutes.

Your professors are willing to dock you marks for looking funny, so throwing a handful of loose pages at them is definitely not going to fly. So what are you supposed to do? Fold the corners together? Bite them together? Punch a hole in the corner and string them together with a thread you pulled out of your sweater? You might think you're the clever type who would staple things together at the library before leaving, but don't be so smug - library staplers are always, always, always broken, empty or jammed. No, what you really need is this bad boy.

Check out the slick German engineering on this model.

Mini staplers are tiny, easy to stash in your bag and immeasurably valuable. Each one only holds a handful of staplers, but they usually come with a tiny box of approximately 4,000 staples, giving you plenty of extras to share with the throngs of unprepared classmates who will eventually ask to borrow this little paper-fastening wonder. And the good news is, when you inevitably slam your bag to the ground in a fit of school-related angst and shatter your stapler into tiny, stabby pieces, it'll only cost you a dollar or two to replace it.

A Large, Hardcover Binder

Think about the desks you had in high school.

Check out that expanse of wooden luxury.

In high school, you had ample room to spread out your notes, books, pens, erasers, highlighters, waterbottle, snacks, and a small shrine to the Dark Goddess of your choosing, you edgy little scamp. If you were lucky, you had a basket for storage under your seat, and a veritable rolling field of storage space under your desk for your backpack. Now look at what you get in university: 

Your entire post-secondary education will take place here.

University desks are roughly the side of a napkin, and if they're the type of desk that folds down when not in use, they have about as much stability as the average napkin, too. These desks are so old, their original students were taught to hide under them in the event of an air raid, and they've got a little bit of graffiti on them for every single year they've been in use. They're not adjustable in any way, forcing you to suck in your gut to meet the Depression-era body standards they were designed for, and crossing one leg up onto your opposite knee to create a better writing surface is not an option, because the seats are so close together, you'll kick four people trying to get into that position. There's only one thing for it.

 Justin Bieber design optional, but recommended.

Binders are great for collecting the crunched remains of the seven months' worth of paper you'll end up blindly cramming in there, but they also work as makeshift desks in classrooms that haven't smartened up and installed adult-sized desks yet. Simply balance on your lap, prop up paper, and go. The university gets to avoid having a fresh layer of carvings added to its property, and you get to avoid a lifetime of painful carpal tunnel syndrome that would inevitably result from trying to write full pages of notes on a desk the size of a postcard. Really, everyone wins.

So good luck buying these school supplies for your first year, new students. You're going to need them.

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