By Leanne Goodall

So your study days are fast approaching and you’re raring to go. You need that all important trip to the shops to stock up on stationery – lots of stationery that comes in all kinds of lovely colours and looks all shiny and new and fresh, right?

I’ve been there. When I first started, I bought tonnes of stationery. My mother-in-law bought me more and my husband bought even more than that. If I had all the pretty stationery in the world then I would be ready to conquer this study thing…plus it looked pretty and I liked it.

Sadly, there are still several stationery items which I just haven’t used. I’m OK with this because they still look pretty and make my desk a nicer place to sit but it’s got me thinking about exactly what is really useful to buy and what we don’t actually need. Of course, this is subjective and everyone’s needs are different but I can give you an insight into what works for me and what I would suggest are the essential stationery items.


Yes these are great! Keep them in your shopping basket because there is always call for a good post-it note. I have them in several colours and sizes and I do use them all. Sometimes it’s just to scribble reminders down and stick them on the front of my books. Sometimes I use them to note down quotes which I later use in my essays. Sometimes they are simply bookmarks to remind me where I am and sometimes I get distracted and use them to write shopping lists. Either way, they’re useful. I particularly recommend the very thin tiny ones. I use those to mark lots of different things within the books then it’s really easy to find them when I need them again later.


Of course you need pens. You might be planning to do everything on a computer but I haven’t found any student who doesn’t use the simple pen and paper method yet. Get plenty of pens, maybe a few in different colours too. I personally like to use different colours (or even sparkly pens) to just make it look more interesting when I’m writing my organised version of notes. If it’s nicer to look at then I’m more likely to use it again! Highlighters are exactly as expected. I use them a lot but maybe I only needed one or two packs… not every pack I found.


You WILL need these. I go through a lot of A4 notepads but then I do seem to write more notes than many. I probably use two full A4 pads for my main notes plus a couple of smaller notebooks and all my post-its and printed out sheets for each module.

If I’m honest then these are the only things that I use all of the time. I can get by without any other stationery items but the odd item does creep in from time to time (a stapler, for example). So if you’re off to stock up in the near future, I hope I’ve given you some useful information. Let us know if you have any other ‘must-have’ items!

Leanne is half way through a BA (Hons) in History with the Open University and enjoys writing as a freelancer as well as on her blog. Find out more here. You can catch up on all of Leanne’s excellent contributions on STOU here.

Where does stationery figure in your Open University planning? Which essential items can you never do without? Please LIKE/SHARE/TWEET or leave a comment below. This social currency helps us to grow and improve the value we are able to provide for OU students 🙂


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