We are at the end of July, which means that the new school year is around the corner! It’s wild to think that four years ago I started my MA at Boston College and that I’m nearly two years out from finishing my degree. I am now done with school, most likely forever, which is wild to think about. But I know that there are a lot of you heading back to school this fall, whether it’s the beginning of your degree or the middle, so I’m sharing the products that I loved while a student, and the products that I wish I had when I was in grad school.
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What I Loved in Grad School
Stabilo Point 88 Fineliner Pens – As a planner and writing nerd, I’m very particular about pens. I started using Stabilo during my first semester of grad school and didn’t look back! They write so smoothly, and they come in so many different colors. I became that girl who take pretty notes, which I really enjoyed. I took notes when doing my readings (both in the books and in a notebook) and during class and, even when my handwriting wasn’t beautiful, my notes.
Stabilo BOSS highlighters – While these are great, what drew me to them wasn’t that they are by Stabilo but their shape. Their rectangular shape was a welcome relief to my arthritic fingers! I really recommend them to all grad students because, as a college or grad student, you read a LOT. I was reading hundreds of pages a week, and these highlighters’ shape really made all that highlighting easier. You can get them in “typical” highlighter colors or in pastels.
KT tape – Okay, this is very specific to arthritis patients who are grad students, but I know that there are them out there! The KT tape website says, “KT Tape is an elastic sports tape designed to relieve pain while supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments” (x). Taping correctly “provides support to muscles by improving the muscle’s ability to contract, even when it is weak, and helps the muscle to not over-extend or over-contract” (x). The KT tape website has instructions on how to use it. So why is it in this post? I have arthritis in the knuckles that connect my fingers to my hands, and there are braces for those joints. So I use tape!
Multi-subject notebooks – Back to the sole-school items! For all 5 semesters of grad school, I used multi-subject notebooks. Now, this won’t work for all types of grad schools because different programs work differently. But I only had 2 classes a semester, so I had 3-subject notebooks. This was helpful because I didn’t have to worry about bringing the wrong notebook to class. (Maybe other people don’t stress about this, but I’m very Type-A.) I used the unused section for research notes.
Post-It flags – I think these are necessary for any student who reads books! So, as far as I’m aware, all of them. Use these to note the chapter you read before class, specific passages you want to use for a paper, etc.
Over-ear headphones – I had never been into over-ear headphones before grad school. But then I needed to focus, to block out distractions, and it was harder than in undergrad. I have Skullcandy headphones, which are closest to these.
What I Wish I Had for All of Grad School
A proper backpack – I started out grad school with a classic Longchamp tote. It’s cute, and it held a lot, but a) it started bothering my shoulder and b) I ended up carrying at least one book in my arms in addition to filling my tote. In the second half of my degree, I got a backpack and it was a much better decision. Even if you don’t have arthritis, it’s much better for your spine and shoulders to have the weight of your bag evenly distributed than on all the weight on one shoulder.
(I was actually talking to my chiropractor this past week and he reminded me that there was a span of a few months when my left shoulder was a serious problem in grad school. While it bothers me a little now, it’s only the same amount as the rest of my joints that don’t stand out.)
A planner with lots of space – While I had my Erin Condren Life Planner for most of my grad school time, I started with a Lilly Pulitzer one. Those are pretty, but it didn’t have enough space for my daily to-dos, appointments, work schedule, and my grad school homework. I ended up writing my homework on a Post-It note and putting it in my planner. While it worked, I felt like, what’s the point of having a planner if I’m going to use a Post-It? So I got a Life Planner and haven’t looked back!Whether you're starting grad school or returning, you should get some of these items suggested by a grad student grad. Click To Tweet
A portable cell phone charger – I don’t know if this is the case at most schools, but at mine, 95% of my classes were 2.5 hours long. This meant that, because I took public transportation to school, I would be out of the house for 5+ hours. While I obviously wouldn’t be on my phone during class, I would during my commute. This plus the fact that my classes were all in the afternoon or evening meant that, generally, I would need to charge my phone at some point during my trek to and from class, and I couldn’t guarantee that there would be an available outlet in my classroom so I could plug my phone in. I got this portable Jackery charger and it is now a stable in my life. It charges your phone so fast and you don’t need to rely on an outlet! It charges iPhones 6, 7, 8, XR, X, and XS. I don’t know exactly which non-iPhone phones it charges, but I do know that people in my life who don’t have iPhones have used it.
A portable fan – Okay, so this might be a bit of a niche suggestion, but if you walk take public transportation to your school or classes, you might want to get a portable fan, even if you don’t have POTS. (I developed POTS while in grad school.) Even if public transportation has AC, it can break down or not work as well as it’s supposed to. I have this mini handheld battery-powered fan and absolutely love it.
What are/were your grad school essentials?
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