There are a lot of things that you have to prepare for when you head into your first year of university. You are entering a world which is completely unknown to you, a place vastly different to what you have become familiar with over the last 6 years. In preparation, you are told of all the new responsibilities you will have, what to expect when sitting in a lecture as opposed to a classroom, what the difference between a tutorial and a workshop is. But one thing the you’re never really told is…what kind of stationery do I need?

It may not seem that important but what kind of stationery you use is a determining factor in how you take down notes, organise your work and manage your time; all very important things, you might agree.

When I went on the first of my bi-annual trip to Officeworks last year, I realised I didn’t know what to buy. There were things on my timetable that I hadn’t an idea of what kind of things I would need for them; did I need a different book for tutorials and workshops? Did I need to print out lecture notes and, if so, what would I put them in? Do I separate all of my units or should I put them in one folder? Do I need a workbook for every unit?

Luckily I had my sister with me who was fresh out of university (and had also done Pharmacy, the same course I was starting) so she knew exactly what to expect and what I would need. So last year I used the setup she recommended to me, but this year I am trying a new setup and seeing how that works out for me. Here are my findings:



For first year I had a different coloured plastic pocket folder for each unit. I liked to print out my lecture notes so that I could highlight and add my own notes on the side as the lecture was going on.  Consequently, I accumulated a lot of loose paper so I found that have a plastic pocket folder was essential. I marked the corner of my notes with the colour of the folder I had given for that unit. I also had a clear, smaller folder where I kept the lecture notes that I would need for the week, which is what I bought to all of my lectures. For taking notes, I used an A4 notepad where I could easily remove pages and add them to the relevant unit’s folder.


-       Notes are separated and organised

-       Colour code makes it easier to distinguish which notes are for which units

-       Weekly notes folder easy and convenient to carry around

-       One A4 notepad can be used for all units


-       A lot of separate folders, can be hard to manage

-       Have to remember to change out weekly notes

-       Have to bring multiple folders for days with tutes/workshops for different units


This year I opted for a simpler option of one big folder for all of my units. It was still a plastic pocket folder and there were dividers to separate the notes of each unit. Instead of a notepad, I had loose leaf clip ins where I could write down additional notes that were also in the folder. I still colour-coded the notes via coloured stickers that I stuck on the corner of the page.


-       Everything all in one place – convenient

-       All past notes with you to refer to if need be in current lectures

-       Colour code makes it easier to distinguish which notes are for which units


-       Carrying one big folder around can be very exhausting and hard on your back

-       I quickly realised there was no way to fit all notes for all units in one folder – I went back to having one small weekly folder (however, depending on your course and the amount of notes you make/print out, this option may still work for you!)



For first year I had one 4-subject workbook for all units. The workbook had dividers and there was a sleeve for loose leaf papers on each one. I also had one B5 book that I filled in with summaries of the topics of each unit of the semester in preparation for end of sem exams.


-       Convenient, one book to bring to all tutes

-       One all encompassing summary book to refer to for exam study


-       Can be tiring carrying one big book around?

-       Could get disorganised having all work and summaries in one book


This year I am trying out one small B5 book for each unit. I am planning to divide each book into two – one half for tutorial work and the other half for summaries.


-       Each unit’s work separated and organised

-       Summaries and tute work for each unit are filed together


-       Can be a lot of books to manage (keep in mind that you don’t get a locker unless you purchase one, so you have to remember to bring the correct books to each day)



Planners are super important for time management and keeping track of all of your assignments. Last year I used a planner that had a normal calendar of the week on one side and a blank notes page on the other. I wrote important due dates on the calendar side and wrote down a checklist of tasks I wanted to finish through the week on the other side.


-       Tasks clearly set out in a checklist

-       Important reminders and due dates are listed along with smaller tasks


-       May be hard to keep up and manage (I stopped writing down the checklist 2 weeks in…but if you’re able to keep it up this is a good option for you)


This year I opted for a simpler planner which just listed the date and provided a few lines underneath where I’d write due dates and important reminders. I high-lighted the reminders with the colour I had given the unit.


-       Not too much effort to maintain

-       Colour-coded makes it easy to identify which tasks are for which units


-       Can get cluttered

-       Tasks not clearly set out 

Pencil Case

Not having a locker means you have to carry everything around with you. This has made me simplify the contents of my pencil case to a few essentials:

-       A lot of blue and black pens

-       Red pens

-       A couple of pacers (and refills)

-       Selection of highlighters

-       Small ruler

-       Eraser

Keep in mind that these are only a few options that I tried out that worked (or didn’t work) for my particular course and my workload. Of course, if you were doing a different degree, say an Animation degree, you would need more specialised stationery, like a sketchbook. Try out new things and personalise your stationery setup to suit you and your course!


Written by Anna :>