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Back to School Shopping:
What are the Essentials?

Flora M. Brown, Ph.D.
Copyright 2005
All rights reserved

It was always with great anticipation and excitement that I went shopping for back to school supplies and clothes as a child and later as a parent. When you shop for back to school items for college, there are some important considerations that will affect your college success.

Comfortable clothes will allow you to concentrate in lectures and feel confident when socializing with your friends on campus. Although my youngest daughter has doubts, you CAN find cute clothes that are also comfortable. If you’ve ever suffered all day with a skirt or pants that were too tight or a short skirt that was questionable before you left home but as the day unfolds, reveals more than just your bad taste, then you know what I mean. One young lady walked into my class last semester wearing a skirt that was so short that the whole class and I held our breath until she safely navigated herself into her seat without revealing her full cheeks. Or what about the young lady who just had to have those five inch tall wedge sandals, but after an hour was carrying them as she walked barefoot across campus.


It’s much easier to be comfortable and fashionable than it once was since loose fitting and casual styles rule the day. But be careful guys--having your baggy pants drop to your ankles as you stride across campus may bring a big laugh from onlookers and will probably be embarrassing to you. You would also do well to buy moderately-priced clothes that are washable rather than dry-clean-only since you’ll be sitting in all types of places, sometimes on the grass or damp benches. Even in the summer, it’s a good idea to bring a sweater or light jacket to class since air conditioning can be very cold even when it’s blistering outside. My classroom, for example, seems to have only two temperatures: too cold or too hot. Those young ladies shivering in their halter tops will testify that when you’re uncomfortable or your clothes are demanding your attention, you cannot focus on college.

A three-ring notebook is still one of the most important school supplies. College teachers often distribute numerous handouts offering additional information on your subject. You need a safe place for your notes and an accessible storage for your graded papers and returned tests. Every semester there are always a few of my students who try to stuff all of their work into Peechee folders or spiral notebooks, only to get frustrated when they can’t find what they need at the time they need it. The students at the top of the grade curve seem to be the ones who keep their materials organized. A three-ring notebook (about 2” ) for each class is invaluable and will stave off much frustration and lost time frantically searching for things.

Basic black and blue ink pens are critical for writing your notes and assignments. Although many college teachers only accept typewritten or computer-generated assignments these days, you will most likely do your tests in class. The milky and colored pens are popular now, but avoid them on academic papers because they are difficult for your teacher to see and read. Since many tests are given on Scantrons--the bubble fill-in paper--you will also need a supply of soft lead pencils, the No. 2, since the scoring machine can’t read ink. For changing your answers you’ll need an abrasive eraser since the one at the top of your pencil doesn’t usually do the job. The Scantron scoring machine will pick up poorly erased marks as an attempt to answer two questions and will mark it wrong. Many teachers won’t allow you to fix this after the tests are returned.

Three-ring notebook paper is one of the least expensive supplies, so buy your own. Nothing is as maddening for a teacher as hearing a wave of whispers “Could I borrow a piece of paper?” make its way across the classroom as students ply supplies from their classmates.
If you can afford a cell phone and pager, you can definitely afford a few packs of paper.

Speaking of cell phones--turn it off when you enter the classroom! If you’re expecting a call that’s so urgent, why are you in class? Some teachers have been driven to all sorts of tactics to combat the constant cell phone ringing that goes on in some classes including confiscating the phone with full support from college policies.

The variety of school/office supplies has expanded over the years to include wonderful conveniences. The calculator, computer, computerized dictionary, Palm Pilot, scanner/readers, liquid paper dryline are exciting tools, but the basics are still affordable, available and offer the greatest promise for college success.





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Flora Brown Associates
446 S. Anaheim Hills Rd., #167
Anaheim Hills, CA 92807
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