Emily’s Declassified College Survival Guide

Emily’s Declassified College Survival Guide

We’ve all seen “Must Haves for Back-to-School” lists that insist we need the same materials to be successful in school, but we’re all different and we all prepare differently, so we need to decide  what is going to work for us individually. Here is a list of supplies, among other things, you may find helpful throughout the academic year:

Binder, paper and dividers

Personally, I fell into the trap of color coded notebooks every year of high school. I would get everything all set up and then forget about certain notebooks, so I’d end up taking notes for one class in three different notebooks. It wasn’t until halfway through my sophomore year of college that I realized there was a better way: a single binder for all my notes. Just color code the dividers and then sort the note pages out later.


I cannot study in silence. Plus, let’s face it, you can never truly escape the noise on campus. In my opinion, movie soundtracks, video game soundtracks or music in a foreign language are great to listen to while getting work done. Also, use headphones. It’s more polite and helps you focus on the work at hand.

Planners and or calendars

Planners and calendars are perfect for keeping yourself on track and making sure you know when assignments are due. I also keep a “mega schedule” of all my classes on my dorm room wall so my roommate knows when and where I have classes.

Drive and perseverance

Don’t expect the supplies to do all the work for you. Keep at it and hold yourself accountable. No one said college was easy and the hard truth about studying is that you can’t be lazy about it. There is no magical way to transfer knowledge straight from a professor or book to our brains, although that would be extremely nice and helpful. It may also help if you try and make studying fun—it doesn’t have to be dull. And speaking of fun….


Hands down, the most important one of all. Find a way to reward yourself for a job well done. Whether that be a gummy bear for reading a paragraph, an episode of Doctor Who for finishing a canvas quiz or buying the next Lunar Chronicles for getting an A on that big paper. Whatever it is, make sure to keep yourself happy and healthy. So, I guess that means scratch the gummy bears.

If you start these habits now, and there is always time to start, it will make the rest of your semester run 1,000 percent* smoother. And don’t be afraid to try different study habits. If something on this list doesn’t work for you, no problem, find something that does. You don’t have to use all these tips together. Maybe you’re organized enough to keep track of all your notebooks all year (I bow to your crazy wizardry), or maybe you like listening to musicals while working. All that matters is that you find something that works for you, and stick with it. Most importantly, just try to have as much fun with it as you can.

*Not a mathematical fact, more of an emotional fact.