What you actually need before the semester begins

Salman Al-Mutawa

Four subjects means you need four notebooks right? Wrong. But you must have all four textbooks… right? Nope. As a freshman, your only experience of a learning institution is school. And as you progress one may assume that higher education requires similar accessories as high school education to fully prepare yourself before you begin. This is not true. If you do follow your nave high school urges you will end up wasting money.

I myself wasted almost 400 dollars in my first semester on materials that I simply did not need. That money could’ve been spent into something more useful…like buying a red onesie on Amazon Prime.

Let’s cut to the chase, when starting out as a freshman you will have four classes. Go to your nearest bookstore and buy one “5 Subject Notebook”. That’s right, just one. Most of your classes will require you to do your classwork or homework on a computer, meaning that your notebook will be used solely for notes. Of all your classes, the only ones you need to have a heavy amount of notes for are mathematics and the hard sciences with the exception of physics (there is no point in writing physics notes because statistically speaking you are most likely going to end up with a curved D anyway).

In addition to your one “5 Subject Notebook”, you should get a four-color pen that has a mechanical pencil. My favorite is the Zebra brand. Not only does this pen make your notes prettier than your friend Denise’s, but it also helps in organizing different note types and ideas that you write down during a lecture. Next make sure you buy one TI calculator. These could be expensive, but they are well worth the investment. I personally own the TI-84, the same one I used in high school. They currently go for an average of $90 dollars apiece.

TI calculators will make your life 10 times easier, especially if you are going to take any of the following course types:

* Calculus

* Probability and Statistics

* Finance and Accounting

Full disclosure, TI’s will not help in physics courses. University physics courses generally have more letters than they do numbers.

As for textbooks, wait two weeks before buying or renting any textbook. First search if you can find them online for free or if a friend has a soft copy. Waiting two weeks reveals the professor’s teaching style. Most professors never use the textbook, even when they say that you must get one. Some use the textbook minimally, maybe once or twice a semester. In that case, just ask Denise to send you pictures of the pages you need to look at. Yes Denise, you just spent $200 dollars on a textbook you didn’t really need and will probably never use again.

However, if the professor does use the textbook heavily- like most calculus professors- then you should get the textbook. Your cheapest option is to rent, share, or borrow it from someone. Ask your professor if the edition of the book matters. Sometimes professors only use the textbook for the lessons, not the classwork, in that case you can probably find an older edition textbook for free online.

Finally, most of you are used to printed textbooks and find a hard time focusing if a book is on screen. Try to get over this habit as quickly as possible. As you progress in your college years, your subjects will become increasingly specialized, which means one printed textbook could cost around $300, as opposed to a rented $90 online version or a free PDF.

Salman Al-Mutawa
[email protected]

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