This week, I started my first week of classes as a college student. And dear Lord, how different that was. I experienced WiFi in classrooms (some of them at least) and as a result, Facebooking during class, professors who weren’t afraid to say what they thought, and the first appearance of the mythical TA.
Last week, Lifehacker welcomed us back to school - with a combination of some of our posts and some of theirs. Lifehacker asked its commenters what’s in their backpacks and as cool as some of the responses were (I’d want to be researching for a Ph.D in Botswana!), they just weren’t relevant to most of us university students. I also find some things to be “pocket items” – their presence is a given, and I keep them in my pocket (girls might use a purse) instead – those include a cell phone, a wallet, a Moleskine notebook, and my iTouch.
After the jump below, I’ve got a list of what is absolutely required in every college backpack.
  • Laptop

This is just a given. Even if you take notes on a notebook (might I suggest Luke’s awesome DIY notebook), the computer is a staple. If you’re not using it in class to access your course’s online site or to take notes, it’s nice to have around campus to keep you connected to the world – during a Starbucks break or a trip to the library.

  • Books

Number one rule I’ve learned this week: textbooks are not necessary in class. Mostly. But some materials are necessary – lab notebooks or a small paperback book. Even if it’s not a necessary book for class, some light reading is nice to have for those moments where a laptop would be too much.

  • Computer Charger

Just in case. You never know when you’re battery is going to run out (I survived on less than 5% during a lecture the other night) and when an outlet is going to open up, either in a lecture hall or a nearby public location like the library or food court.

  • USB Cords

If you’re an iPod touch user or an iPhone user, USB cords are nice to have for charging purposes. They also sync notes you’ve just taken from your computer to your mobile device.

  • Binder with Paper

As much as I’m a technophile, computers can’t solve everything. If the professor wants you to work something out and you don’t have paper, you’re SOL. Always good to keep just in case.

  • Notebook

Yet again, I’m supporting Luke’s awesome DIY notebook. But any notebook is good for when a computer just can’t serve – and it keeps your notes organized. You just have to pop up the notebook, find your notes, and study. It has you avoid using loose pieces of paper.

  • Folders

You never know when you’re going to get handouts in class (though paper syllabi are on their way out…), but it’s nice to keep a folder around for that. Not to mention the campus organizations who are going to flyer and table and pass out coupons and other goodies.

  • Chapstick

Especially in colder climates, chap stick is nice to keep on deck so you can save yourself some annoyance and pain. It’s easily accessible, and doesn’t take up much space.

  • Sunglasses

The Florida sun is brutal. I like to keep these in my backpack, and wear them on campus not to be a hipster, but because they’re genuinely needed.

  • Umbrella

The Florida sun is brutal, but the Florida weather gods are also quite bipolar. It can be brutal sunshine at 12PM and raining heavily by 12:30. Rain isn’t a unique phenomenon to the Sunshine State (heh) though, so bring your umbrella along as well.

  • Transportation Lock

If you walk, skip this one. If you ride a bus, skip it too. If you’re a bike rider, keep your lock in your backpack when you’re riding – peace of mind. If you’re a driver, keep your keys in a designated place in your backpack, so you can get in and out of your car without having to fumble for them.

  • Pencil Pouch

This might be cheating – because the pencil pouch (though it’s so high school) carries so many things. I keep my graphing calculator in there, pens, pencils, erasers, colored pencils, Sharpies, and highlighters in there. You never know when you can use what you’ve got in there – pens and pencils mostly obviously, but colored pencils, highlighters, and Sharpies can come in handy for studying.

  • Campus Newspaper

I’m a big fan of my campus newspaper – the Independent Florida Alligator – the largest daily in the nation, and a source of great information. Worth it as true “light reading” – between where a laptop, iPad or Kindle would be too much and texting your friend is too little.