What’s In My Backpack?

This post is especially for all of you recent-admits to the University. Congratulations on your admittance!! I hope you know you should view your acceptance into U of I not just as a point of pride or a validation of your hard work throughout high school years, but also as a key to open a door full of possible opportunities! I know that sounds incredibly cheesy and cliché, but Illinois students are some of the best and brightest in the nation!

Looking back just one year ago, I see myself as a second-semester high school senior, wanting to find out as much about college life as possible. One of my most pressing questions was what I’d have to carry around every day to all my classes. Now this varies from person to person and major to major. Depending on the content of your course load, you might not even have to carry a backpack around! For me, my major makes me carry around a lot of stuff! Also, my refusal to throw anything away actually makes my backpack heavier than it actually is or supposed to be. However, one thing is certain – I never carry as much stuff as I did in high school, so don’t worry about carrying around all of your textbooks every day.

Backpack tips:

  • Look for a backpack with strong straps and durable zippers. I have a history of wearing-out backpacks months, sometimes even years, before they can safely be retired. I broke the secondary zipper of the backpack I carried around throughout first semester and had to deal with unplanned, embarrassing situations of walking hurriedly to class while frantically trying to zip my backpack closed. These were the times where I felt like people could point to me as if playing “spot the freshman.” (Don’t worry, it’s never happened…I think.)
  • I’d definitely recommend purchasing a backpack with a specific laptop compartment. One thing that everyone learns in college almost instantaneously is how valuable their laptop is ; my Dad oftentimes refers to my laptop as my “lifeline” in college, and he’s right! Every single class I have taken so far at U of I requires some form of online communication, through submitting projects and homework on course-specific websites. I carry my laptop around campus all the time, and having the laptop compartment of my backpack helps me feel better about its safety.
  • Try to find a backpack that is as waterproof as possible. The weather around here is beyond the use of the word “unpredictable”. For example, yesterday was February 18th, and it was sunny and in the upper forties in the morning, and pouring almost freezing rain by the end of the afternoon. You definitely don’t want any of your valuables soaking wet.

My backpack is a basic Swiss Army backpack, a very common sight around campus. So common, in fact, that it was accidentally switched with another student’s backpack at the beginning of the year in my dorm’s dining hall. From time to time, I will identify it with ribbons or pins, but for now it’s just plain.

A breakdown of my day-to-day essentials:

  • First Pocket:
    • FOOD – My hours on campus stem from 9 am to 5 pm, and sometimes I study later in one of the numerous campus libraries. Needless to say, I don’t want to be spending money buying food off of one of the Green Street eateries every day! I always have some sort of snack bars with me to munch on for more brainpower.
    • My carry-all wristlet– Your University ID card (i-Card) is always a must carry. For example, if you live in University Housing, you need to scan your i-Card to eat at the dining halls, and for some campus buildings, you need to scan your i-Card to enter. I’ve invested in a small carry-all wallet that I can store my essential cards and attach my room keys onto and keep it with me at all times.
    • Hand Sanitizer – Being pre-med, it’s natural for me to consider the amount of germs crawling on every single doorknob I touch on campus, right? Maybe not, but it’s one of my New Years’ Resolutions to stay free from the common cold, and hand sanitizer is perfect for on-the-go cleanliness.
  • Main Pocket:
    • My main binder – This semester, I’ve invested in a Five-Star binder that is refillable, allowing me to carry around just the essential papers I need to every class, and emptying the binder out at the end of the week for storage.
    • Pens – This one is a no-brainer. Invest in pens that make writing fun because you will be thanking yourself later when one of your classes becomes extremely dull extremely quickly. Whatever works, motivation-wise, right?
    • iClicker – In huge lecture halls, professors love employing the use of iClickers. They are small electronic devises that allow you to digitally submit answers to multiple-choice questions  professors ask during class. Even though I don’t need this daily, I carry it around in my backpack to avoid forgetting it. For more information about the iClicker, check out Evan’s post.
    • My iBook – The iBook is the University of Illinois’s Student Planner, and also my second life-line. I write down everything, and will probably be doing a post on my obsessive organizational techniques in the future.
  • Last Pocket:
    • Laptop – UIUC is pretty evenly split between Macs and PCs. I use a HP Pavilion m6 because I’m more of a PC than a Mac, but regardless of the type of laptop you invest in, you will be using it on a day-to-day basis in college.

Remember, trial-and-error is the best way to figure out what works for you when you get to campus. 🙂


Please note that comments close after 90 days.


February 20, 2013, 12:46 pm

LOL In 1981 this was a very different list! But the sturdy backpack was just as important then.



February 28, 2013, 10:49 pm

I strongly agree with the backpack tips. We always wanted things that are highly standard in quality and every time we travel or especially going to school we want our things will be pack accordingly and orderly.Backpacks are students’ best friends.It is important to have a nice backpack in college, not only to save money on replacing it every year, but also to help your health; cheap backpacks don’t properly distribute even weight on your back. It may not be the prettiest backpack in the story, but in the long run you’ll be glad you chose quality over aesthetics.
I’m a fan of good quality backpacks yet affordable in price. I am also visiting sites, you can check this one: http://www.highsierraluggage.org/



March 4, 2013, 5:40 am

For students interested in game design :
1. laptop – high end
2. laptop + PC
which should be a better option ?



March 8, 2013, 11:37 am

Hi Sum,

I’m not really familiar with gaming technologies, but my advice to you is to not invest in a PC, as they are bulky and can be quite annoying in a dorm room.

Good luck!