So you’re heading to university! If you’re straight out of college or high school, you’re probably heading towards the most significant change you’ve experienced in your life so far and are careering between nervous and excited on a minute-to-minute basis. If you’re a mature student, you might be wondering how on earth you are going to fit this study in when you already seem so busy all the time, and you’ll be thinking that things have probably moved on a step or two since you were last hitting the books.
Here is a quick guide to what can really come in handy to help you with your studies. Prices are correct at time of publish. If you’re really interested in some of the more expensive items but put off by the cost, think about buying it with a housemate and sharing it.
In my first year I had a notebook for each module I was taking, but this became a bit of hassle to make sure I had the right one and I never filled any of them with my small handwriting anyway. If you’re not planning on taking a laptop or tablet to lectures, buy one spiral bound, chunky notebook that last the year. Make sure it has good quality paper so your ink doesn’t bleed through.
Relying on there being a spare computer in the library is not much fun, and you’ll definitely want to be able to work from your room, in your pyjamas for most of the time. If you don’t already have a laptop, you will certainly be able to find a good deal in the run up to the start of term – the tech companies have cottoned on to students’ needs. At other times of the year you will definitely be able to find a good student discount on in high street shops. Don’t pay full price for a Microsoft Office package – get in touch with your university library and ask them if they offer a heavily discounted rate (I paid £12).
3. Extra computer screen
There’s nothing quite like working with multiple screens to make you feel like a total badass. But once you’ve started doing it, you’ll wonder how you ever coped with just one. Being able to look at two documents at the same time is a lifesaver when you’re writing an essay, especially if you are using the method in my soon to be published book! You can even turn a screen round 90 degrees so that it’s the same proportions as a piece of paper so you don’t have to scroll around as much. Don’t fall into the trap of having social media on hand to distract you though! Not when there’s a deadline looming anyway.
If you’re keen on this but it seems like an expensive thing to splash out on, remember that you don’t need it to be large or flashy, and second hand is a great option here as long as it has the right sockets to connect it to your laptop or desktop.
4. Digital Highlighter
I did my MA part-time while I had a full-time job. This is without question the best thing that I bought. I honestly don’t know how I would have got all the work done and kept my sanity without it! A digital highlighter allows you to scan text from a book and instantly convert it into editable text in Microsoft Word. You can gather notes in an absolute fraction of the time compared to manually typing them up and I can assure you that you don’t even need to be sober while you’re doing it. This might seem expensive, but I promise you, it’s worth missing out on a couple of nights out for.
It’s a dangerous world for anyone who loves stationery. Go wild if you must, but if you couldn’t care less about organising anything, do consider some page markers. When you go to the library to gather research for an essay, you’re going to come out with a bag for life full of books that you need to extract the relevant information from. You’ll need to go through the contents and index to find out what pages you actually need to read, because you certainly won’t have time to read each book cover to cover! Mark each section that you need to read with a little post it. Easy.
6. A pencil
As you read through your books you need to mark the sentences that you want to use later. Don’t be that prat who does it with a biro.
7. A printer
An entry-level printer will see you though your course and will save you paying through the nose for printing in the library and having to leave your house to do so. Avoid any last minute ink panics by always buying a replacement cartridge as soon as you put the new one in. You can also bulk buy very cheap compatible cartridges for any printer from sites like Cartridge People.
8. PDF annotation app
If you have an iPad then iAnnotatePDF is a fantastic tool that makes reading and pulling information from PDFs really easy. And believe me, you are going to be reading PDFs by the dozen. You can highlight relevant sections and then email them to yourself in one easy step. It also works seamlessly with a range of clouds. Doing this on your tablet rather than at a laptop is great because you can sit nice and comfortably on the sofa or even use your time on public transport efficiently to get ahead with your assignments.
9. Blue light-blocking glasses
All that time staring at a screen is going to make your eyes tired, dry and itchy. The blue light also interferes with your circadian rhythms, which stops you getting to sleep. A pair of blue light blocking glasses will reduce headaches and make you look like you know what you’re doing!
10. Lumbar support
The desk chair in my first year halls was a very sturdy but uncomfortable thing. It had a bit of built in padding, but by Christmas, it was totally squished flat. Once I moved out into a private rental I literally had a dining chair in my room. Be kind to yourself and buy some extra support for your back if the chair you have is not up to much. Your 40-year-old self will thank you!
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