13 Must-Have Items for the Start of School

6 minute read

By Jordana Weiss

If this is your first year of high school or college — or you have a child making the transition — this may be a nerve-wracking experience. Fortunately, you can do things to make sure you’re ready. Start a search today to find school must-haves.

With this in mind, we’ve assembled a list of the best back-to-school supplies that will help your child get through the school year! Let’s get into the details and explore school must-haves that can make this an amazing year.

1. A great planner

Having the intention to do homework every day and get ahead in school work whenever possible is great, but those goals need to be scheduled in order to actually be achievable. Buying a daily or weekly planner will help you build a sensible schedule and actually stick to it. There are so many options out there for planners — you can choose between pocket and desk size, with a million different layouts. Make sure to browse in person, rather than online, so you can experience the full layout. Moleskine makes great planners that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

2. A Posture-Saving Backpack

If you’re going to be carrying a computer, textbooks, a pencil case, and innumerable other things around on a regular basis, you’re going to need a sturdy, supportive backpack. Don’t be tempted by the crossbody and messenger bags that are always advertised in time for back-to-school — well the bags are pretty, they will ruin your posture if you carry them constantly. The L.L. Bean Quad Pack has been recommended for most college students, but would also serve a high-schooler well. Whichever backpack you pick, make sure the bag is well-built and roomy, with comfortable, padded straps.

3. A new supply of stationery

For some people, the fondest memories they have of elementary and secondary school involve freshly sharpened pencils, the smell of a brand-new ream of paper, and the feeling of putting a new pen to paper for the first time. If you’re a stationery fan, you probably already have personal favorites, but if you’re looking for recommendations for pens and binders that will last through the year, an online search can help. Before you dismiss handwriting completely, keep in mind that a recent study of 300 college students determined that the students who hand-wrote their lecture notes were much better equipped to answer questions on the material than their classmates who typed their notes.

4. A functional laptop

Although it’s still important to learn how to take notes by hand, the reality is that most high school and college students will need a computer to complete most of their assignments. If you don’t already have a laptop, this handy flowchart will help you determine the best model for your needs. Don’t get sucked into the MacBook monopoly — there are plenty of budget laptops and mini notebooks out there today that can satisfy the needs of most students.

5. Noise-cancelling headphones

One skill that you’ll develop as a high school student and perfect as a college student is the ability to study anywhere, at any time of the day. One product that can really help with this is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Depending on the amount you’re willing to spend, you can buy the most popular Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II for around $300, or choose the budget option of the AudioTechnica ATH-ANC7b model which retails for around $100. You can also opt for an in-ear model, but they generally don’t cancel as much noise as the larger, over-ear pairs do.

6. Command hooks

Whether you’re living in a dorm, redoing your room at home, or moving into your own rental, chances are there aren’t many modifications you can make to the place without incurring the wrath of your parents, school, or landlord. If you’re looking to personalize your space and make it much more functional, Command hooks can be easily applied to any wall, and peeled off when no longer in use with no damage to your walls. Hang up pictures from home, add a hook for your towel, or you can even buy Command-style display ledges for books and other knick-knacks.

7. A small kettle

Most dorms don’t allow hot plates, microwaves, or any other kind of cooking apparatus. Instead, most students use their kettle to help them cook a variety of instant noodles which they subsist on until graduation. There are tons of different models to choose from, but you should generally be looking for one on the smaller side, so it doesn’t take up too much space. From there, you can upgrade your coffee making by purchasing a small French press, which you can use to make excellent coffee without having to buy a bulky coffee maker.

8. Portable Bluetooth speaker

One way to make sure that you’ve got tunes whenever you go is to purchase a Bluetooth speaker. There are some excellent models like the UE Roll 2 that provide enough sound to fill a room and are portable enough to be carried along to a party or picnic. It’s not always a great idea to have super-powered speakers blasting in your dorm room, but this model provides just the right amount of audio power in a small, easily portable size. Plus, the Bluetooth functionality ensures you’ll never have to fiddle with annoying cables again.

9. A Printer

While every school has a printing center where you can get your work printed and ready to turn in, having a cheap printer at home is going to save you not only money in the long run but plenty of time as well. High school and college print centers are always full of stressed-out students struggling to print off their work before an imminent deadline and are full of machines that are generally in the process of overheating or dying completely. If you purchase your own printer, you’ll be able to print assignments from the comfort of your home. There are several models out there that are worth a look, generally ranging in price from $80 to $200.

10. Cozy slippers

Although dorm rooms can be cozy, one thing that’s always true is that the floors are usually freezing cold and are often the last thing that gets cleaned. A pair of slippers that can transition to outerwear for those early morning classes is an absolute necessity for the first few years of college. The classic L.L. Bean Wicked Good Moccasin has been enjoyed by generations of Americans and even has a rubber sole to allow for outdoor wear. Made with shearling wool and memory foam, these slippers are as comfortable as it gets.

11. Disinfectant wipes

With schoolwork, extracurricular activities, homework, and all of the other pursuits that take up the time of a young student, it’s easy to forget to clean. If you’re struggling to keep even the smallest dorm room hospitable, downsize your cleaning routine by purchasing a container of disinfectant wipes, which can be used to clean almost every surface in your room. All you need is a wipe — there’s no messing around with spray bottles or rags.

12. An office chair

If you’re going to be spending the majority of your day studying, reading notes, and writing papers, you need a desk and a sturdy chair. Most dorm rooms provide a desk, but students may be responsible for bringing their own chair. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can drop over $1,000 on a model with a 12-year warranty, or go for the budget option that’s closer to $180.

13. A first-day outfit

If you’re heading into a new challenge, meeting new people, and exploring a whole new school, you want to be dressed for success. This doesn’t necessarily mean dropping hundreds of dollars on a whole new wardrobe. All you need for the first day of school is an outfit that makes you feel powerful, confident, and ready for the challenges that lie ahead. Plus, you’ll want to leave space in your wardrobe for cute finds from your shopping expeditions with new friends, spirit wear, and other clothes that you’ll buy as your style grows and evolves.

Jordana Weiss