Essential Back to School Items for a Successful Year

Anna Naumovychreviewed byNataliia Afonina / more about Editorial Process9 min
Created: Aug 31, 2023Last updated: Mar 7, 2024

As summer draws to a close, the excitement of a new school year begins. A crucial part of preparing for a successful academic year is ensuring you have all the necessary supplies. So, it's time for back-to-school shopping! Picking out fresh notebooks, cool binders and cute pencils is a fun annual tradition.

Whether you're a kindergartener embarking on your first educational adventure, a college student pursuing higher learning, or a parent helping your child gear up for school, the right school supplies are essential for organization, productivity, and achievement. In this article, we'll guide you through the must-have items for different school levels and learning styles, ensuring you start the year on the right foot.

Kindergarten Supplies

For our littlest learners, kindergarten supplies are all about fostering creativity and exploration. Focus on stationery that encourages young minds to dive into hands-on activities that promote learning through play:

  • Crayons
  • Safety (blunt-tipped) scissors
  • Washable markers
  • Colored pencils
  • Pencil bag
  • Glue sticks
  • Blank paper
  • Folders
  • Backpack
  • A bright lunchbox and change of clothes for accidents should also be packed.

Elementary School Supplies

Elementary students require a more comprehensive set of supplies to navigate various subjects. Handy supplies include:

  • Notebooks
  • Folders
  • Pencils 
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Erasers
  • Pencil case
  • Ruler
  • Crayons
  • Markers/highlighters
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Construction paper
  • Plastic folders
  • Subject dividers
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer.

As technology becomes integrated into education, a USB drive might also come in handy. Consider personalized supplies like a lunchbox and water bottle to make school time enjoyable.

Middle School & High School Supplies List

Middle and high school students face increasing academic demands. A planner becomes crucial to managing multiple subjects and assignments efficiently. In addition to the basics, they may need supplies for advanced math and science courses:

  • Binders
  • Subject dividers
  • Notebooks
  • Folder for each class
  • Planner/Personal calendar
  • Pens and pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Calculator
  • USB drive
  • Backpack
  • Post-it Notes
  • White-out
  • Locker organizers
  • Stapler
  • Scissors.

College Supplies

College brings its own set of challenges. Laptops, notebooks, noise-canceling headphones, and comfortable backpacks are essential for a successful college experience. Depending on your major, specialized supplies like art materials or lab equipment might be necessary. Check with each teacher for class-specific requirements to be fully prepared. Don't forget a wall calendar to keep track of deadlines and events. 

For college success, must-have basics include:

  • Laptop
  • Wireless printer
  • Ink cartridges
  • Computer paper
  • Backpack
  • Planner
  • Notebooks for each class
  • Pens, pencils, highlighters
  • Sticky notes
  • Plastic folders
  • Portable charger
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • White-Out
  • Water bottle.

Supplies for Your Dorm Space

Living away from home for the first time at college is an adventure! Make your dorm feel more like home with these handy supplies:

  • Mattress cover 
  • Mattress pad 
  • Pillows
  • Twin XL sheet sets
  • Twin XL comforter
  • Bed risers 
  • Full-length mirror 
  • Plastic storage bins 
  • Shelving
  • Closet organizer/shoe rack
  • Trash can 
  • Desk or floor lamp 
  • Extension cords 
  • Alarm clock.

Keep your dorm space fresh with:

  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Laundry bag 
  • Swiffer
  • Trash bags
  • Air freshener
  • Detergent 
  • Fabric softener 
  • Stain remover
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Mop
  • Cleaning cloths or sponges
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Window cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • Disposable gloves
  • Lint roller
  • Shoe rack or organizer
  • Closet dehumidifier.

For dorm living convenience, also stock up on supplies like:

  • Towels
  • Shower caddy
  • Flip-flops or shower shoes
  • Hangers 
  • Duct tape 
  • Adhesive hooks 
  • Batteries
  • Eye mask.

Must-have appliances will make routines easier:

  • Mini fridge
  • Microwave 
  • Coffeemaker 
  • Toaster or toaster oven
  • Electric kettle
  • Handheld vacuum/Mini vacuum for crumbs
  • Hot plate or electric skillet
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Blender or smoothie maker
  • Rice cooker
  • Travel mug
  • Resealable sandwich bags 
  • Headphones
  • Earplugs
  • Fan
  • Space heater 
  • Air purifier.

Being away from home means keeping your own supply of toiletries. Essential self-care items to pack include:

  • Toothpaste 
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Face cleanser
  • Moisturizer
  • Body wash 
  • Shampoo 
  • Conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Razor
  • Shaving cream
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Hairbrush or comb
  • Hair styling products
  • Nail clippers
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Contact lens solution (if applicable)
  • Prescription medications (if applicable)
  • First aid kit (band-aids, antiseptic, pain relievers).


Selecting the Perfect School Items

Before you dive into the back-to-school shopping frenzy, take time to strategize your supply run. With smart preparation, you can procure only the essentials without overspending.

  • Start by taking inventory of leftovers from last year. Upcycle lightly used binders, notebooks, pens, and more. Recycling saves money and teaches kids eco-responsibility.
  • Make an itemized list of needs for each class. Reference teacher school supply list and model lists online. An organized plan prevents duplicate purchases.
  • Opt for durable over trendy. A flashy unicorn binder won't make math equations easier. Invest in quality basics built to last through the school year and beyond.
  • Buy in bulk or split costs with other parents to score quantity discounts. Seek out online ordering deals and store incentives. And remember—a budget keeps spending on track.
  • Shop sales and use coupons when possible to maximize savings on essentials. Sign up for store loyalty programs.
  • Involve kids in choosing items to get them excited about using their new gear. But make final purchasing decisions.
  • Consider buying some surplus supplies now for replenishing later when things run low.
  • Shop at discount stores like WalmartTarget, and office supply stores for lower prices on basics.
  • Buy previous year's styles and models when applicable for bigger bargains.
  • Scout out school supply donation programs if finances are tight. Many organizations help equip kids.
  • Search online sites like Facebook Marketplace for lightly used supplies at reduced costs.
  • Prioritize essentials first, then add supplementary items if the budget allows. Stick to needs over wants.
  • Set spending limits for each child's supplies to allocate funds fairly.
  • Take inventory throughout the year and restock needed items in smaller quantities. Shop seasonal sales.
  • Teach organization systems to reduce supply waste. Use checklists and planners to limit lost items.
  • Encourage your child to put their name on reusable supplies to avoid mix-ups.
  • At the end of each term or school year, assess what held up well to guide future buying.

With strategic preparation, you can arm your student for success without breaking the bank. Approach school shopping as a chance to impart wise consumer values. Selecting the perfect supplies takes planning, patience, and a bit of creativity.

Store or Internet: Where to Buy School Supplies?

When it comes to securing your school supplies, the options are endless—both in physical stores and on digital shelves. While physical stores grant you the power of tactile inspection, online shopping takes the reins with its convenience and expansive variety. Consider a combination of both for the best shopping experience.

As you weigh your choices, remember that many retailers now present enticing deals for those who opt for online orders coupled with in-store pickups. If this thrifty option is available in stores near you, seize the opportunity to maximize your savings and efficiency.

Choosing School Supplies Based on Your Learning Style

Choosing supplies that complement your child's individual learning style can also optimize school success.

Tailoring school supplies to your learning style can enhance your educational experience. Visual learners can benefit from whiteboards and markers for diagramming concepts. Auditory learners might use voice-to-text software, while kinesthetic learners could find fidget toys helpful. Read-write learners can benefit from a digital note-taking device.

The Best School Supplies for Visual Learners

Visual learners retain information best through images, graphics, and spatial organization. Useful supplies include:

  • Colored pens in an array of hues for color-coding notes, making subjects stand out
  • Highlighters in yellow, pink, green, or orange to emphasize key text
  • Sticky notes in different shapes and sizes to flag important pages
  • Coloring supplies like markers, colored pencils, and gel pens to add visual interest to notes
  • Graph paper with a spatial matrix to organize charts, diagrams, and visual thinking
  • Poster boards for displaying graphic organizers and visual models
  • Charts and diagrams like idea maps, flow charts, and illustrated diagrams to represent concepts
  • Sketchbooks for drawing out ideas and turning visuals into memorable study tools
  • Decorative tape and stickers to customize folders, notebooks, and textbooks
  • Whiteboards and dry-erase markers for mapping out concepts
  • Flashcards with visual stimuli to reinforce memorization.

The Best School Supplies for Auditory Learners

Auditory learners thrive when leveraging hearing and speaking to absorb information. Helpful tools include:

  • Audio recorder for recording lectures and re-listening to reinforce lessons
  • Noise-canceling headphones to eliminate distractions and focus on audio input
  • Educational podcast subscriptions for learning by listening
  • Read-aloud learning apps that vocalize textbooks and study guides
  • Foreign language audio lessons to pick up pronunciation and vocabulary
  • Speech-to-text apps to dictate notes, papers, and flashcards.

The Best School Supplies for Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners excel when utilizing hands-on activities, simulations, and models. Beneficial supplies include:

  • Craft supplies like pipe cleaners, wikki stix, modeling clay for creating 3D concept models
  • Building toys like Lego, Magna-Tiles, or robotics kits to reinforce STEM learning
  • Play dough for molding vocabulary words, historical figures, and math concepts
  • Fidget tools like stress balls, bendable figurines, and spinners to channel restless energy
  • Lab supplies like goggles, gloves, slides, and litmus paper for hands-on experimentation
  • Sports equipment like balls, rackets, and bats to energize PE theory concepts

The Best School Supplies for Read-Write Learners

Read-write learners comprehend material best through reading and writing tasks. Useful items include:

  • Notebooks for taking robust notes, journaling, and creative writing
  • E-reader loaded with textbooks, novels, and read-aloud books
  • Flashcards and index cards for vocabulary, quiz prep, and memory retention
  • Post-it notes to annotate texts and flag key passages
  • Highlighters and colored pens for color-coding notes and texts
  • Dictionaries, thesauruses, and grammar guides as reference tools
  • Bookstand to optimize reading and note-taking
  • Writing practice workbooks for reinforcing literacy skills
The Best School Supplies

Smart Back-to-School Savings: Reuse and Reign Supreme

Before you stock up on shiny new gear, rummage around for hidden back-to-school treasures. Like a scavenger hunt, you may uncover binders, rulers, notebooks, lunchboxes, and more still ready for action despite fighting last year's academic challenges. Some supplies like pencils, backpacks, electronics, and unopened items can be reused from year to year. Give gently used warriors a reprieve from the trash and a second chance to make the grade. This practice not only saves money but also promotes sustainability—a double-win strategy!

However, bid farewell to any supplies destined for the "Island of Misfit Tools," and consider replacing heavily worn items such as pencils, paper, and markers for maximum effectiveness.

Here's your cheat sheet on making last year's items shine once again:

  • Rulers
  • 3 Ring Binders
  • Erasers
  • Backpacks
  • Scissors
  • Colored pencils
  • Supply boxes
  • Notebook/Filler paper
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Notebook dividers
  • Pocket folder
  • Lunch Boxes
  • USB Drives
  • Headphones
  • Calculators.

Revamp your school supply game with these money-saving tips that'll leave your wallet and the planet smiling.

Let Promova Help You Learn 

As you gear up for the new school year, remember that education goes beyond just the classroom. Explore Promova's comprehensive language learning platform. Whether you're interested in Business EnglishTravel EnglishIntensive English Course, or English for Interview, we offer a range of options. 

Study a diverse array of other languages like SpanishGermanFrenchItalianChineseKorean, and Arabic among others to broaden your horizons.

Join group English lessons, engage with online English tutors, or participate in free English speaking clubs to enhance your language skills. And there's more! With our user-friendly Android and iPhone app, learning languages is now effortless, fitting seamlessly into your daily routine.

As you embrace the new school year, let Promova's language courses become an integral part of your educational journey, opening doors to new cultures and exciting opportunities. Whatever grade you or your student is entering, Promova wishes them an amazing school year full of growth. Remember, education opens so many doors, and we're here to help you walk through them!


Preparing for the new academic year goes beyond obtaining a list of back to school supplies. It's about setting the tone for a year of growth, discovery, and achievement. By carefully selecting the right supplies based on your educational level and learning style, you're laying the foundation for success. Remember, Promova's language learning platform can enrich your academic experience and provide valuable skills for the future. Embrace this back-to-school season with enthusiasm, curiosity, and a well-stocked backpack!


What supplies does an elementary school student need?

Elementary school students need basics like notebooks, folders, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, rulers, pencil cases, sharpeners, and highlighters to stay organized.

What should a high school student have for school?

High schoolers need supplies for multiple classes like binders, dividers, notebooks, folders, planners, pens, pencils, calculators, and highlighters. Flash drives and backpacks are useful too.

What do college students need for school?

College students should have laptops, backpacks, planners, notebooks, writing supplies, chargers, water bottles, and any specialized items for specific classes.

What school stuff should I buy first?

Start by purchasing versatile basics like notebooks, binders, pens, pencils, backpacks, and organizational items like folders, dividers, and planners. Then buy supplementary items.

How do I choose school supplies for my child?

Involve your child in picking fun, high-quality basics in colors or patterns they like. Choosing items tailored to their learning style - like visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinesthetic - can also help them thrive.


Odi FarroSep 14th, 2023
This article came just in time! I always get lost in the wide range of school supplies, but this list was a real lifesaver. Very grateful for the recommendations!