Posted by: idm04 | 2010/08/29

What to bring to school – First Year

(tl;dr at the bottom)

What to bring to school in first year Sciences at UBC.

This post was written due to popular demand!

Something to write on.

Writing notes is pretty important!  It helps you to stay focused on the topic and not daydream or fall asleep too.  Instructors don’t always post slides that they use, nor write down everything that they say, so how else would you get your notes?

I usually bring looseleaf paper that I put into my clipboard.  Other people may prefer to use notebooks.

Since I use the Cornell note taking style, I usually pre-fold all my looseleaf paper and draw a line on the back for margins.  If you don’t know what Cornell note style is, then ignore this LOOK IT UP (and potentially start using it).

Something to put your paper in/on.

Such as a clipboard.  UBC sells clipboards, and frankly so do a lot of other places.  The Science Undergraduate Society (SUS), Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), and Sauder also give out free clipboards near the beginning of the school year (sometimes).

Instead of having clipboards and looseleaf, some students prefer to bring notepads/notebooks.  I suppose it might be easier to organize your notes in a notepad and you wouldn’t have the risk of messing up the order of your notes and stuff like that.  However, sucks to be you if you lose your entire notepad/notebook.

Having a clipboard or a notepad is a much better alternative to lugging around multiple binders.

The desks in UBC classrooms are pretty tiny and therefore cramped.  You’ll get about a square foot of space as your desk for many of your classes.  That’s not a lot at all.  Wesbrook and Woodward have the smallest desks.

So since I’m using a clipboard and looseleaf, what I usually do is that after each day, I come home and I sort all my notes from each course into their respective binders that I keep at home.  I don’t need to carry these binders to school with me, although I can carry one of them to study on the day of a midterm or something.

EDIT: I don’t do the above anymore, because I’ve gotten too lazy to organize my notes everyday into a binder at home; plus, I want my notes to be more accessible.  Instead, I’ve been putting all my course materials (notes/handouts/assignments) for each course into a large (butterfly) paper clip, like so:


I then put all my clips of notes (one for each course) into a transparent file folder like the one above (I’ve cut the top of the file folder about 3 cm so the clip will fit), with the clips staggered so they don’t overlap.  After a clip of notes becomes “too big”, I leave the first half of the notes at home and keep the other half with me.  Another advantage to this over binders is that you don’t have to hole punch handouts.

Something to write with.

Really? Yes.  Pretty self-explanatory.  Bring a pen or a few.  I’ve lost well over 20 pens since coming to UBC :(  Bring some pencils too if you want, but you probably won’t be using them on a regular basis (maybe for certain exams).

For exams, professors/TAs generally do not ‘re-mark’ written work (assignments/quizzes/exams) that has been written in pencil in case you changed your answer after you got back the test.  So they usually advise writing in pen for midterms and stuff.  Black or blue is recommended for legibility…


Yeah, so how about textbooks?  I definitely need to bring those, right?

NO.  Generally, you will not need to bring textbooks to class.  Carrying around 2 or 3 heavy textbooks everyday to school is a pain anyway.  If you wanna do some reading on the bus, then sure.  But you probably won’t be using them in class.  There’s not much point coming to class with a textbook when you can easily read it at home by yourself.  There are some exceptions though.  Some professors will ask you to bring the textbook to class because maybe there are pictures to refer to or you can write notes in the textbook (e.g. CHEM 121) or there are problems to do during class at the back of the chapter in the textbook.  Obviously, a novel for language classes like English would be expected to be brought to discussions and maybe even lectures.  Anyway, just listen to what your professor says about it.  Chances are that you won’t need to bring your textbook though.

See Buying Textbooks.

Something to compute with?

Should I bring a laptop? Yeah, sure if you want.  You will probably almost never need to though, and most people get distracted by Facebook and the like anyway.  Sometimes the professor will ban laptop use in class.  Most people do not bring a laptop to class and instead write their notes on paper.

If you want to buy a laptop for the sake of taking notes, tablet functions (ie. touchscreen) are useful for drawing things out! However, it’s NOT necessary. I pretty much did not use a laptop throughout my (Science) degree at UBC.

But won’t I not be able to copy down what the professor is saying fast enough if I don’t have a laptop?

Most of the time, at least in first year Sciences, the professor will write down all the important stuff on the overhead or something and so both the professor and the students write it together and hence you should be able to keep up with the writing.  If the professor only lectures/talks without writing anything, then perhaps a laptop would be nice if you really wanted to copy down everything he/she says.  A recording device would be a useful alternative to a laptop.  But basically, laptops and other devices are not necessary at all.  The only times that I brought my laptop to school in first year was when I wanted to do work at school in the library. Even then, there are library computers.

One thing to definitely bring is a SHARP calculator.  It’s called the SHARP EL-510R.  They sell them at the UBC Bookstore for like 5 or 10 bucks.  This calculator is currently one of the only calculators allowed on exams in UBC Sciences.  The SHARP EL-510R is pretty easy to find in the Bookstore.  Anyway, one or more of your professors will mention this calculator in class at some point before midterms start, so you don’t really have to worry about getting it now.

Anything else?

Your course schedule would be pretty useful for the first week or so…   A map is pretty useful too for the first two days or so.  If you go to your course schedule/timetable in the SSC, you’ll find blue text under your course name which you can click.  This will lead you to a map with a red arrow pointing to the building in which that class is located.

A map is also available at the back of THE DISTILLATION, which is the Science student agenda that your Orientation Leader will give you on Imagine Day.

It’s a good idea to visit all your classes at least once before actual classes start so that you won’t need to frantically find your classes and then risk being late.

Food is nice if you’re staying during lunch time.  Or bring money to buy stuff.  A  water bottle is nice too, and there’s free filtered water (down to 0.2 microns I think) on the main floor of the Student Union Building (SUB) and some other places.  There isn’t a set time for lunch at UBC – lunch is whenever you want it, that is, if you want it at all.  Sometimes, timetable problems will ‘force’ you to have classes during regular lunchtime, in which case you could just eat in class.  Technically you’re not allowed but many instructors do not mind as long as you don’t make a mess.

An i-clicker is generally essential at UBC.  An i-clicker is just a tool you use to answer the professor’s multiple choice questions in-class.  It’s like the audience voting on the show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” 

Make sure you register your iClicker on Connect asap, although if you register later on in the term, all your previous votes will be associated with your student number anyway.

Update: Another thing that I always bring is an agenda or planner.  You will have many midterm dates and assignment dates and whatever, and it’s very important to keep track of what is due and when so that you can prioritize your studying/homeworking.  Exams are generally not in the same building in which you have your classes, so it is important to know where you are going for the exam.  Science students can get a copy of The Distillation either from their Orientation Leader on Imagine Day or from the Science Information Centre (colloquially known as Science Advising).  Unfortunately, it is supposed to be only offered to first years.

Update 2: Umbrella and boots are nice unless you like wet hair and wet socks.  UBC tends to “flood” occasionally.

Update 3: The Compass card and UBC card are pretty important… you need to show your UBC card for exams and technically UBC security can ask you to identify yourself (never happens to most people)




Lined paper + clipboard or notebook
Laptop (only if you want to)
NOT your textbooks generally speaking
Pens, pencil/eraser
Calculator (SHARP EL-510-R preferred)
Course schedule
Campus map
Water bottle
Lunch or lunch money
Planner/Agenda (The Distillation)
Compass card
UBC card
Robe and wizard hat





  1. Danke! ^^

    • Bitte! ^^

  2. Thanks! this helps so much!

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