Required Reading
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Arielle Shternfeld / Senior Staff Photographer

There is no place better than NYC to up your stationery game: From minimalistic Japanese favorite MUJI, to CW Pencil Enterprise, a store dedicated entirely to pencils, the Big Apple has everything you need to get your stationery groove on. Upgrade from that huge pencil case filled with BIC Cristals and Dixon Ticonderogas you collected from first period with these stationery picks.

An overview of the essentials

- 2 pens

- 2 mechanical pencils

- 1 eraser

- 1 highlighter

- Some notebooks/folders/a binder

- Mini stapler


Muji Gel-Ink Ballpoint Pen, 0.5mm or 0.35mm

This minimalistic, smooth, and relatively affordable pen just might be the official pen of Columbia: You’ll see them everywhere. To get your own, visit one of the MUJI stores around the city, because the experience alone is worth the $5.50 subway fare—trust us.

Pentel EnerGel Deluxe RTX Retractable Liquid Gel Pen, 0.5mm

If you don’t want to make the trip to Midtown just for pens, this smooth and sleek writer, which comes with an especially fast-drying ink, is available right at the Columbia Bookstore in the basement of Lerner Hall, and across the street at Ivy League Stationers.

Uni-Ball Jetstream RT Ballpoint, 0.7mm or 1.0mm

If you prefer ballpoints over gel pens and thicker tips over thinner ones, opt for this upgrade from Uni. Due to its low-viscosity ink, the Jetstream requires minimal pressure, leading to effortless writing. Its especially quick-drying ink—which makes it the perfect pen for lefties—is just another added bonus.

Pilot FriXion Pens

Prefer the look of pens but the erasability of pencils? Consider exploring the Pilot FriXion line, which features a special heat-sensitive ink which can be completely removed by the friXion created by the hard rubber eraser at the back of the pen. Just one thing to beware, however: Because of the ink’s heat-reacting properties, your notes can disappear on especially hot days and reappear, erased sections and all, if left in extreme cold (or the freezer) for too long.


rOtring 600, 0.5mm

If you really want to up your mechanical pencil game, check out this marvel of German Bauhaus design on Amazon. Made entirely of metal, this iconic writing utensil is sure to last for your entire Columbia journey—and turn some heads in the process.

Uni Alpha-Gel Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil, 0.5mm

If you’re prone to getting hand cramps and looking for a pencil to complete those killer in-class essays with, look no further. Featuring a soft gel grip and patented lead rotation mechanism, the Alpha-Gel Kuru Toga will keep both your hand and your pencil tip sharp during your three-hour Lit Hum final.

Pentel Twist-Erase III, 0.5mm or 0.7mm

If you’re prone to making mistakes but don’t want to carry around a bulky eraser, the Pentel Twist-Erase III was made just for you. With a long-lasting (and replaceable) twist-up eraser and soft foam grip, the twist-erase is the perfect pencil to take to lecture.

Note: While we only included mechanical pencils in this list because we believe that they are the most hassle-free during lectures, if you’re a true stationery aficionado, be sure to visit CW Pencil Enterprise—a boutique dedicated entirely to woodcase pencils—on the Lower East Side.


Pentel Hi-polymer Block Eraser

A good pencil needs a good eraser, and this classic, ubiquitous at stationery stores, features the best combination of erasability and affordability that we’ve found.


Zebra Mildliner

With a rainbow of unique pastel colors, and both a chisel and bullet tip, this highlighter from Zebra, which can be found at both Kinokuniya New York—a Japanese bookstore in Midtown—and online, is sure to fulfill all your highlighting needs.

Pilot FriXion Erasable Highlighters

Like the FriXion pens, these FriXion highlighters also erase cleanly—a godsend when it’s 2 a.m. and you accidentally highlight an entire page of the Iliad.


MUJI Plantation Paper Note B5 5 Pack

MUJI really is the best one-stop stationery shop, and these notebook sets, which feature five notebooks, each containing 30 sheets of thick cream-colored paper are part of the reason why. Lightweight and minimalistic, these notebooks will allow you to prance around MoHi without being weighed down.

Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Smart Notebook

If you’re a sustainability junkie trying to cut down your paper waste or simply want to keep digital backups of your notes, consider picking up a Rocketbook. With Pilot FriXion pens and the included microfiber cloth, this notebook’s 36 pages can be infinitely reused. Through the icons at the bottom of each page, your notes can also be blasted to a variety of locations such as Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, iCloud, and email.


Since sometimes you’ll be given handouts during discussion sessions or will have to carry around your readings on the go, keeping a folder or two in your bag is crucial during the class day. Though we don’t have any specific folder recommendations, we suggest buying a stack of manila file folders such as these when you get to campus, so that you can keep your papers relatively organized without being constrained by the pockets of traditional folders.


(Mini) Stapler

From binding that fresh-off-the-press paper before handing it in to stapling your many readings, a mini stapler, along the lines of these, will come in clutch in more situations than you can imagine.


If you have a graphing calculator from high school, make sure to keep it and bring it to Columbia! Depending on your course load, you might have to also pick up a scientific calculator; however, we suggest holding off on buying it until you come to Columbia and formalize your schedule.

Staff writer Michelle Zhuang can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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