Top 10 Essentials for a New School Year

school year

Which essentials do you need to kick off the new school year with a bang? Not much, but certain ones will help you walk into the New Year like you own it. Robyn gives you the low-down of the top 10 things you need in order to make it happen.

The beginning of the New Year brings about excitement and dread at the same time. Excitement for the ‘new year, new me’ clichés, and dread for that looming first day back at school. If you’re a newbie to a school or starting high school, it adds a whole other level of excitement and anxiety. As for the new matrics, it’s often pure excitement to finish school and finally venture out into the big world and start adulting.

I remember the hype in the first few weeks of every new school year. I was always excited about the new school accessories I obliged my parents to get for me. Some may hate this period, trying on new, boring clothes, choosing the same old stationery or just not bothering to do anything and using the same stuff from the year before. If you’re anything like me and love stocking up for the new school year, then read ahead for my top 10 essentials for a new school year.

African American saying "Okay, alright"

1. Stocked-Up Stationery

Let’s face it, there’s nothing better than purchasing unblemished new stationery and organising it perfectly into your good old trusty pencil bag (or a brand-spanking new one). I remember the slight twinge of jealousy every time someone got cute highlighters or fancy fine liners during the year. The beginning of the New Year was my opportunity to convince my parents that I absolutely needed the fine liners and highlighters to optimise studying.

Even though you might not REALLY need these things all the time, here are a few items you should get for yourself in order to avoid being that annoying desk-neighbour who always needs to borrow stationery (generally these are the most popular things to go missing during the year):

  • Erasers
  • Tipex (the person who held this prized possession was always the most popular during class)
  • Pencil sharpener 
  • Pritt
  • Stapler

If you have the basic pens, pencils, scissors, ruler and a few colour pens, plus the above, then you’re sorted for the school year. And don’t forget the labels! (I know, too much expectation there).

2. Preparation for the New Kid

With a new year comes the renewed hope that your class might FINALLY get a new kid.

For boys, you might be hoping that the new kid will be a pretty girl that could become your new crush.

Girls, you might want a new bestie to add to the crew. And if it’s a guy… well then all girls are probably hoping it’s a new drool-worthy male specimen to add to their daily gossip and gushing sessions. Guys tend to see other guys as a threat to their position in the sports team.

The new kid always undergoes an investigation which everyone performs on their own. They first observe them from a distance and then chat to them every now and then to assess which group they’d fit into and if he or she would fit into their own group. Whatever the new kid means to you, you need to prepare and make sure you make the best first impression to ensure a new friend or new high school romance.

Too Cool for School

3. Blazer Essentials

Reaching into your blazer pocket to retrieve your cell phone and finding it empty brings about a mini heart attack and results in you breaking out in a slight sweat while frantically feeling around in all of your pockets to find your beloved cell phone. Only to realise that you had quickly put it into your side pocket to avoid being caught by your teacher. That feeling is never fun but one we’ve all experienced. Besides your cell phone, there are definitely some other essentials everyone should keep in their blazer.

  • Lip balm – sharing this is never fun and not quite hygienic. Keep this on you at all times. If you’re like me, you’ll own about 20 a year because you keep losing them. For the rugby players, a good option is the trusted Blistex.
  • Tissues – you never know when something will tickle your hairs and bring about an explosion. Best be prepared.
  • Money – just in case you’re in dire need of a cold bottle of water or a brownie. 
  • A mini brush, especially in a windy city.
  • For the girls – I was never one to succumb to this trend but many had a mirror to check if they had something in their teeth or if the base was sweating down their faces.

Girl winking and pointing

4. Lunch Accessories

When I was in high school bringing lunch to school was an absolute no-no and frowned upon by the “cool crowd.” Lunch boxes were definitely not cool and neither was leftovers or a peanut butter sandwich.  That being said, I always took lunch; my stomach is more important than reputation. I think this mainly applied to girls since everyone wanted to be skinny and have everyone jealous of them. But let me tell you, lunch or a snack is extremely important. I was dying of hunger by 9am, I couldn’t imagine not eating. And health-wise, eating is important for productivity and concentration.

Make sure you pack non-liquidy foods or pack them in sealed containers. Air-tight containers are great for keeping your sandwiches and snacks fresh. If you’re taking yoghurt or the like on a hot day, take a small cooler bag (like those insulated ones from Woolies or Pick ‘n Pay).

In the summer with the intense heat, it’s always wise to take a reasonably sized bottle of water. Even a used coke bottle is fine, just make sure it has the BPA-free sign on it. Freeze it the night before and take it in a plastic bag to ensure throat-soothing freshness on a hot day.

5. Hygiene Stock Up

This area is a part where no one should skimp. Hygiene is of utmost importance, as no one wants to sit in class and try and concentrate through the assaulting smell of sweaty bodies. It’s a smell that no one enjoys and being the culprit can be humiliating.

  • Make sure you put on an adequate amount of deodorant in the morning.
  • Keep a spare deodorant with you in your school bag that you can quickly reapply when you feel the heat rising in your pits. A little bit of fragrance doesn’t hurt either. But also don’t fumigate the entire classroom with the latest Axe or Pink Happiness.
  • Make sure to use sun-lotion in the summer to avoid sunburn and awkward sock tans.
  • Keep some hydrating lip-balm with you, there is a lip balm available that has an SPF value to avoid cracking lips.

Ariana Grande blowing a kiss

6. Library Card

This concept may be unknown to you or something your parents reminisce about. But in actual fact, they DO still exist. What is this I speak of? The library. Why would you need it? For book reports, research and a quiet place to zone in and study for a few hours.

Throughout high school, you’ll need to submit book reports. Books are crazy expensive, and those who do own books don’t like lending them since they are sacred and people really don’t respect books most of the time. As easy as it would be to simply copy your friend’s book report, it would be highly beneficial to find a good book from the library. And you never know, you might just enjoy it.

For projects and research, libraries are also really good. Instead of searching through Google and trying various keywords, you can go to the library and hunt down your subject easily. This is especially useful for History.

7. Wrapping Paper

One of my favourite parts of a new school year is a fresh start to your workbooks. I loved picking out wrapping paper for each subject and wrapping my workbooks perfectly, finishing them off in clear adhesive plastic to give it that clean, shiny finish. And also promising myself that THIS would be the year that I write perfectly and keep it neat.

For a cheaper option that still looks nice, use plain brown paper. Put cool writing on it or cut out pictures from a magazine to make it look nice and creative.

For a more eco-friendly manner of protecting and decorating your books, use the plastic covers that your books slide into and you’ll just need one piece of cello tape to keep them attached. These can easily be removed and reused for years in a row.

A word of advice from SuzelleDIY:

8. Bobby Pins (especially for the Ladies)

The general rule at South African schools is that boys must have short hair, no fringe or hair touching their ears or collar, and girls must have their hair tied up at all times. Unless you have a short enough bob and short hair. Unfortunately, we ladies with long hair have it slightly worse off.

The first thing we struggle with (that most girls can relate to) is BOBBY PINS. We find these tiny, useful objects running out on a regular basis. No matter how many you buy at a time, within a few months they’re all lost and you find yourself having one good old trusty one that you somehow use to reign in all your hair. Keep a few of these (and hair elastics) handy in your blazer or pencil bag for the moments when they somehow fall out of your hair.

Another unfortunate event – periods, the lady in the red dress, monthlies.  Whatever your preferred term is, you get it if you’re a female. To avoid an awkward situation or a mess, keep pads or tampons on you at ALL TIMES. Even if your monthlies is as loyal as the sun, you never know when a friend or classmate might get an unexpected visitor. Keep these in your blazer with the zip or even in a pencil bag to look inconspicuous when necessary (not that there is a real reason to be ashamed of them!). In case of a slight mishap, know where you can get spare clothes or have some PE clothes with you just in case. It can happen to the best of us.

9. Sport Must-Haves

Most high schoolers partake in some or other extracurricular activity. The most popular of these is sport. You’re probably itching to get out onto the sports fields again and get active after this long summer break. In light of the weather conditions in SA, there are a few staple necessities.

  1. Sun block/lotion. In summer this is a must to protect your skin and other sensitive body parts. You’ll be thankful later in life.
  2. Water bottle. Running around even when it’s cold makes you thirsty and in summer it’s a necessity to drink water between fitness exercises.
  3. A headband. This counts for males with long hair too. There’s nothing worse than sweat dripping into your eyes.
  4. Sports uniform. While practices are usually in any sports clothes, matches and events require a sport uniform. Make sure you know where to get it or find out if the school has a second-hand shop so that you aren’t left with hardly any time and no stock available.

Sports team walking in a row

 10. Good attitude and Mentality

A new start to anything deserves a positive attitude and mentality. Be sure to prepare yourself for a New Year and new start to the workload. Every year brings its own challenges and you’ll need to keep a positive outlook to overcome challenges and to keep yourself motivated when you’d rather lounge around the pool or stay in bed and vegetate with some series. Here is an article that could really help you with your high school experience.

When you receive your textbooks, stick in some post-it notes with some motivational words on it randomly throughout the book, especially with science and maths. You’ll discover them throughout the year and it’ll make you smile and might boost your motivation slightly. It may sound lame but even if you just laugh at your silliness, it’s still a smile. Maybe even do it with a group of friends for each other. I did it once and it worked. I did laugh at my silliness more than anything, but it worked.

High school can be some of the best years of your life. You have some responsibility but it’s pretty much still a carefree time and you just need to worry about your school marks. But it’s also a vital time, if you look at the bigger picture. The effort you put in and the results you achieve can determine whether you get into the university you want or the course you’ve been dreaming of; it can determine whether you get a bursary or not. This means you should put in as much effort as you can and work as hard as you can without burning out.

This doesn’t mean stressing yourself into a frenzy. If you work consistently hard throughout the year, exams and tests won’t be as bad. You’ll still need to study but you won’t have the added stress and cramming sessions. Even though working hard is important, be sure to be balanced and have some fun on the weekends and in the holidays.

Positive mental attitude

5 Things you Shouldn’t Worry About

1. Following the latest uniform trend

Oh my, do I know this too well. The pressure to look great and have a short dress was real, or still is real to you if this is a trend at your school. If your dress was too long, you were labelled a nerd. As much as I understand the need to fit in, you don’t need a tiny dress to do that. You can have your dress at a normal length and still fit in. I promise you that 2 years out of school you won’t be remembered as the girl whose dress was too long or whose socks were too short or whose collar wasn’t turned up. You’ll be remembered for other attributes, the parts of your personality or talents that people will remember.

2. Old school coolness. Be the new cool.

Every single school has the “cool” groups. The jocks and too-perfect girls. The people that males and females alike look upon with admiration and slight jealousy. The need to be accepted and to fit in is huge and being rejected causes major self-esteem issues. High schoolers can be nasty and they only realise everyone’s human AFTER school. Finding a group to fit into is old-school. Not every school has every group with one you could belong to. Rather than adjusting to a group, stay real to yourself. Try to interact with various groups. Befriend everyone. If that isn’t you, find people you like and be yourself around them. Either way, don’t let the fads determine who people see you as. Just be you, whether you’re nerdy, sporty or a nomad.

Nikki Minaj with the words "Yeah I know"

3. Difficult School Work

Everyone warns you about this. Especially as you reach Grade 11, 12 and university. Unbeknownst to them, they’re actually freaking you out more, making the stress levels rise to new levels. Take it from me, it really isn’t worth getting worked up over. Yes, the work will be more difficult and the load will get slightly more. But it’s to be expected that it will get more difficult. If it didn’t, you’d never learn anything new. You’ll still have a social life and time to take part in sports. It’ll also teach you responsibility as you’ll need to juggle your time better. So ignore the warnings, think of the bigger picture and smile. You have the ability and capacity to own this school year.

4. Tuckshop money

Ahhh. The beloved tuck shop. The busiest place during break. As soon as the bell rings, people storm off to avoid the queues of tuckshop to be able to eat before break ends. And somehow, the same people ALWAYS have money for tuckshop. This tuckshop craze really isn’t that great and you really shouldn’t worry about missing out on anything. The food is jam-packed with useless calories and it can only benefit your health to avoid tuckshop foods. Many schools are starting to integrate healthy eating and foods, but it’s still best to pack your own lunches and save that money for new clothes or going out with friends.

New clothes and friends

5. Name brands

If you attend a school which enforces uniforms, you’ll understand the pressures of a casual, or civvy day. This is the day people whip out their best and favourite outfits to flaunt to the school. Some even go shopping especially for this. As long as you look and feel good, the name brand is really not important. For example, I hardly ever venture into Cotton On because other places offer the same fashions and quality for a much smaller price. So if you simply can’t afford to shop at the fashionable places, don’t stress, there are places out there for you and no one is going to grab your shirt and read the inside label.

And there you have it, kids.

School is actually simpler than it seems. Sure, the pressure will ALWAYS be there and the need to fit in will always be strong. But there’s a way around it and the effects of high school are short-term. Do what makes you happy. And be prepared! When you’re prepared and mentally ready, you can face any challenge that comes your way just as well as Jackie Chan! From stationery to your attitude, prepare, prepare, prepare!

If you’re still having some worries about high school, read this for some extra tips and encouragement.

EduConnect 2Cents

High school can be a great experience. Be sure to embrace every moment and to prepare yourself as best as you can for any situation that can come your way. Preparation doesn’t have to be a schlep! Go stationery shopping with friends and cover your books together while exchanging embarrassing stories and encouraging one another. Nothing beats going into the new school year with great friends who will have your back in school.

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