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The Ultimate Guide to Being a Paperless Student

As a student, the costs for books, notebooks, folders, binders, utensils, and more can add up to quite a bit. 

Not only that but having a handful of materials occupies so lot of space and creates unnecessary clutter. 

But what if I told you that by going paperless, you’ll be solving a lot of these problems?

In this blog post, I’ll be going over what it means to be a paperless student, why you should go paperless, what you need, and more.

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What does it mean to be a paperless student?

Study with iPad photo showing a Mindmap on the iPad

Going paperless as a student means cutting down the amount of paper you use and replacing it with digital technology, such as an iPad or your laptop.

It doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating all paper, as that may not be possible in certain scenarios.

However, for the most part, as a paperless student, you’ll be doing most of your tasks digitally.

So, why go paperless as a student?

1. You won’t have to lug around pounds of textbooks, notebooks, and other material

I weighed a textbook of mine the other day and was shocked to find out it weighed almost 6 pounds! And that was only one textbook out of multiple I had to carry.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to end the day with an ache-y and unhappy back.

Carrying that much weight in your backpack all day is not good for you.

I was pretty worried about the state of my back.

However, with the lighter load that comes along with going paperless, I felt like a free woman.

Like guys, do you know how liberating it is to only have to carry around your iPad and Laptop, and charger(s) as opposed to your allll your textbooks, your pencil case, laptop, folders, binders, and more?

AND since everything you need is in your digital devices, you don’t have to stress about remembering a certain notebook, textbook, etc., since everything is in one place. 

2. You’re literally saving thousands of dollars.

When you go paperless, you eliminate the need to buy physical textbooks, which cost way more than digital ones, notebooks, utensils, folders, binders, and more. 

I spent almost a thousand dollars a semester on books, but when I went digital, I easily shaved a few hundred bucks off. 

I can’t believe I used to think buying an iPad was too expensive. With the amount I was spending on paper textbooks and notebooks alone, I could’ve bought multiple iPads each semester.

3. You’re helping the environment

This is definitely an added benefit of going paperless.

Before, I would accumulate hundreds, maybe even thousands, pieces of paper that I would never get to use and just throw away.

I would continue to do this and unfortunately, go on to waste thousands and thousands of unnecessary sheets of paper.

Luckily, now, I have a device I intentionally and mindfully use, making sure that nothing goes to waste.

What do you need to go paperless?

Cornell Notes - Six Ways to Study with your iPad

To get straight to the point, the two things you’ll need for a seamless paperless student experience is an iPad and any laptop of your choice.

For digital planning, note-taking, annotating, and journaling specifically, I highly recommend you to get an iPad that is compatible with any model of the Apple pencil, whether it be the first or second generation.

I use the 12.9″ iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil 2, but any iPad compatible with the apple pencil works perfectly fine.

If you’re struggling with deciding what iPad to get, I wrote a blog post about the best iPads for note-taking and digital planning!

Yes, iPads are expensive, but they are a worthy investment if you’re a student and will serve you well after you’re done with school. (You’re also probably already spending more on paper textbooks and other school supplies.)

The Apple Pencil is also an amazing investment, as it’s essentially all the writing utensils in one handy device.

If you’re interested in learning more, I wrote a comprehensive blog post on 10 Reasons to get an iPad for School.

As for my laptop, I use a 13″ MacBook Pro, but honestly, there are no special requirements for a laptop — as long as it’s functional and within your budget.  

Recommended Applications 

These are some recommended applications for your paperless journey.

You might know some of these already, but I’ll throw out the applications that have helped me in going paperless as a student.

1. GoodNotes

A note-taking application for the iPad is essential. There are other note-taking applications, such as Notability and Xodo, but I personally prefer GoodNotes.

It’s a well-rounded application that allows you to take notes, annotate PDFs, plan, create flashcards, and so much more. 

It’s incredibly simple to use and it is the digital note-taking and digital planning standard

To read more about the different digital planning and note-taking app, read my blog post, Best iPad Digital Planning App for Beginners: A Comprehensive Guide.

2. Microsoft Office Suite or Google Drive

You most definitely heard of this already, but you’ll need a place to type essays, create excel sheets, presentations, etc.

If you’re a college student, you should be able to get the Microsoft Office Suite for free or at a discounted price.

However, I personally prefer using Google Drive, as it is also a cloud service, making it easy to access my files anywhere on any device. 

3. Kindle Application

I use the Kindle app on my iPad to read textbooks and sometimes books I personally want to read.

It’s an intuitive platform that’s easy to use.

Purchasing a book through Kindle is cheaper than buying a physical copy itself, and you can read it on multiple devices! 

Other Recommended Accessories

External Hard-drive

An external hard-drive will help you store things while keeping your computer space clean and running fast.

It’s also good to have a backup of your files someplace in case anything happens. 

I use the Seagate 2TB Hard Drive and found it to be very useful, but people I know also love the Western Digital 2TB Hard Drive and LaCie 2TB Hard drive

USB Flash Drive

If you’re looking to carry files in a more casual and transportable way, USB files are another great option. Especially if you’re sharing files, dropping it off to print things, etc. 

I USB sticker I use is the Samsung Bar Plus USB flash drive. There are different storage options for your needs.

It’s a great flash drive and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking for something sturdy, reliable, and fast.

I love that it’s waterproof, shock proof, magnet proof, and temperature proof, as I’m naturally pretty clumsy.

Battery pack

The iPad battery life is great, but if you’re really worried about it running out on you, I recommend you to get a portable battery pack that allows you to charge your iPad when the battery is low.

I understand that there won’t be outlets everywhere, so that’s why having a battery pack is super convenient. 

I recommend Anker’s Portable Charger! This is the one my partner and I use and we’ve been loving it so far.

The new iPad charger uses a C charger and unfortunately not the iPhone USB one. But luckily, the Anker battery back as a port for that!

How being a Paperless Student Works

So you heard about what you need, what you can do, but let’s get into the nitty-gritty of being a paperless student.

These are the tasks I do as a student that previously required me to use paper.

1. Readings

For almost all my classes, there are required readings and textbooks.

Now that I’m paperless, I’ll purchase the e-book version whenever possible.

However, to be fully transparent, there were times where I had to use paper. I took a medieval art history class where the textbook was available in only paper. 

Fortunately, there is an ebook version available most of the time.

For me, I like doing my reading on my iPad with the Kindle app. However, you can also read it on a kindle or even just your laptop, which I sometimes did. 

2. Note-taking

paperless student ultimate guide goodnotes

Folks, there’s no way around it — note-taking is a huge component to being a student, whether if you’re in high school, university, or graduate school. 

Most people have one notebook for each subject, or maybe a binder with tabs in it.

I personally prefer using a tabbed notebook. It’s also a bonus if the tabs are hyperlinked, meaning that if I tap on the tap, it’ll instantly take me to that notebook section. 

I use a 12-tab digital notebook with folders you can find in our shop.

There are 36 note page templates — it’s designed for the top student and is great for those in STEM, the liberal arts, social sciences, and more.

The digital notebook is available in grey and pink.

3. Using flashcards

I remember making hundreds of flashcards, using it for a week or two, and then throwing it away once the exam was over.

Thinking back, it was a big waste of paper, but using flashcards truly helped me memorize concepts and information.

Luckily, now, you can create flashcards digitally and still reap the same benefits. 

You can use Quizlet, which is an application/website that allows you to create digital flashcards.

4. Using Sticky Notes and Stickers in my notes/planner/journal

I was a big fan of paper sticky notes to help remind me to do certain tasks. It helped me highlight key points and served as reminders.

You might think that you can’t use paper sticky notes and stickers now that you’re a paperless student.

But luckily, there is a digital alternative!

Let me introduce you to digital stickers and sticky notes if you haven’t heard about them before.

I love using digital sticky notes and stickers in my notes, planners, and journals to drill things down and to make certain things really stand out.

I designed minimalist sticky notes in 5 colors with 6 cute designs! I use these in my notes, digital planners, journals, and anywhere I could really.

5. Digital Planning 

Some of you may know this, but I love planners and was an avid paper planner not too long ago.

However, it was hard to justify spending $50 on a paper planner that only got to use once.

When I heard about digital planning, I knew it was something I had to try.

And I’m so glad that I did. It’s honestly one of the best things I did for my productivity and using a digital planner helps me live an intentional life.

Level up your Paperless Student game

To excel as a top student, paperless or not, you need to stay on top of all your assignments, exams, projects, and more.

As someone who is paperless, the best way to do this is to use an efficient and effective digital planner.

I use an Academic Weekly Digital Planner for my academic needs.

It’s a weekly academic digital planner for top students, currently available in both grey and pink!

This planner will help you efficiently plan out your weeks so you can excel as a student and ultimately, in your life.

There are pages to create a study plan, track your assignments, projects, and more. Your planner is like your coach — it will keep you on track, as well as look after your wellness and goals. 

If you’re ready to go paperless and take your academics to the next level, I strongly urge you to take action today.


More Paperless Student Resources and Blog posts:

13 Ways to use your iPad for School and Studying (Study Apps/Resources Included)

9 Useful iPad Note-taking Tips That’ll Bring Your Notes To the Next Level

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