What Do I Need to Buy Before Uni? Snag These Grad School Necessities Now!

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Before I started my PhD, I thought, ‘what do I need to buy before uni?’ I basically had NO IDEA what I would need. I mean, I’d only even found out about my funding a few weeks before, didn’t have my final supervision team set, and had no idea what to expect. If you’re in the same boat, don’t worry, I’m here to help! I’ve compiled a list of my top 7 grad school necessities, so you’ll be well prepared for your first day!

This article is all about what you need to buy before uni, in particular, if you’re doing a graduate degree (though it applies for undergrads as well!). I’ll go through my top 7 grad school necessities and give you my best recommendations for each.

Affiliate disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I'll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read my full disclosure here.

So let’s get in to my answer to the question, ‘what do I need to buy before uni?’

1. Laptop

Editorial credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock.

Obviously, you need a decent laptop before going to uni or grad school. I, personally, have been very happy with my 13″ MacBook Pro. It’s what basically what everyone else in my programme used their equipment budget for. 

The specs I’d recommend really depend on your field. If you’re in computer science and will be doing some heavy-duty computational processing, I’d recommend going for the highest power model you can afford.

Getting a refurbished model is also a good option if the newest one is outside of your budget.

If you have an equipment budget, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing this until you actually start uni, though. Usually, you’ll have to buy directly through your university’s supplier.

Now, I know people love to have the Apple vs. PC debate. Unfortunately, I've had a MacBook for so long now I'm not sure I could provide a good alternative option as I'm not super familiar with what's out there these days.

2. Noise cancelling headphones

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I’m a little bit obsessed with noise cancelling headphones. And I do think they are a necessity for uni, even though they’re an investment. I’ve done a whole post on my recommendations for noise cancelling headphones here, but, basically, I think they’re essential for studying, writing, commuting, and travelling.

These are the ones I have (and love!):

Here's a slightly more affordable option:

🛒 Buy on Amazon U.S.
Buy on Amazon UK

Note: I haven't used these ones personally, but they get very good reviews, so I've included them here. Plus, I highly trust the Sony noise cancelling products in general.

And, an even cheaper option:

🛒 Buy on Amazon U.S.
Buy on Amazon UK

3. Laptop case

A weird number of people I know just seem to put their laptops in their backpack without a second thought without a case or sleeve. This just seems like a terrible idea to me, especially when there are so many cute cases out there.

I have one like this:

4. Notebooks

Okay, so I know everyone takes notes on their computers these days, but honestly, I still recommend using good old pen and paper. The fact of the matter is, writing things down really does help you retain them and not being on your laptop during lectures does help you stay focused.

Now, the first week will probably be mostly orientation and admin activities, but there’ll be lots of key info you’ll need to write down. I’d recommend getting at least one good notebook for admin notes, meeting, lecture, and research notes.

Basically every year of uni, I’ve bought this set of notebooks:

If you’re looking for a prettier option, I LOVE any Papier notebooks:

Moon & Stars Notebook

🛒 Buy from the U.S.
🛒 Buy from the UK

Patchwork Notebook

🛒 Buy from the U.S.
🛒 Buy from the UK

Demi Notebook

🛒 Buy from the U.S.
🛒 Buy from the UK

Pot Yer Tits Away Luv Notebook (supports breast cancer charities)

🛒 Buy from the U.S.
🛒 Buy from the UK

Patina Galaxy Notebook

🛒 Buy from the U.S.
🛒 Buy from the UK

5. Planner

Now, it’s up to you if you want to plan things on paper or on your phone. I, personally, do both. I do my weekly plans on a calendar like this FREE printable one I've created:

I put any meetings, presentations, lectures, etc. in my iPhone calendar, as well as in the notes section of my paper weekly planner.

If you'd rather buy one (or don't have a printer!), check out this one:

For more information, check out this article on how I plan my weeks.

6. Folder

So, the first week of uni, you’re bound to get TONNES of handouts with super important information on them. It’s super useful to have a folder or binder to keep track of them all.

Also, if you’re like me and prefer to read things on paper, you’ll likely end up with lots of printed articles over the course of your studies.

I think these binders are particularly cute.

Pair it with these tabs, which also have folder pockets, and you’ll be good to go!

🛒 Buy from Amazon U.S.
🛒 Buy from Amazon UK

7. Hole punch

Now, if you’re using a binder, you’re naturally going to need a hole punch. I, personally like these ones:

So, that's it! That's all I feel you absolutely NEED to buy for grad school. What’re your grad school necessities? What did you buy for uni? Let me know in the comments below.

Check out these articles for more uni advice.

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