The Ultimate Back-to-School Supplies List for High Schoolers

Must have back-to-school supplies for the best. year. Ever.

9 min read
Cx Blog: DD-BTS-HS-Lead

The start of a new school year can bring with it a lot of feels — from excitement to nerves. Pro tip (from somebody who has been through a lot of school): having all your supplies prepared helps you feel more confident on that first day and beyond. Here’s a back-to-school high school supply list with the must-haves for an awesome beginning. Get the right stuff out of the way so you can focus on new classes, new friends, and new opportunities.

Pick out a snazzy planner.

“A planner is key and super crucial,” says Miami-based licensed occupational therapist Yana Musheyev. “It helps reduce stress and anxiety by providing a sense of structure and control over your day.” High school students have more classes, more autonomy, and more to keep track of, and a planner is your friend in managing both the nitty gritty and the big picture.

“Lots of students love using bullet journals and decorating them,” says Roberta Martinez Fotter, a high school librarian based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A bullet journal takes a to-do list to the next level, visually organizing what you have and haven’t done. You can create your own, or Staples has bullet journal kits for getting started. She recommends “lots of pens, gel pens, and fancy pens,” to make this extra fun. There’s no reason planning can’t reflect your unique style.

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Get organized.

In high school, you’re really stepping up your own responsibility over your work. More and more is up to you, including developing methods of organizing materials for each course that work for you. Many teachers require their students to keep notebooks that are used only for that class. However, some students like having a binder with separate sections, or even a digital checklist to keep track of assignments and due dates for each class.

“My favorite product is to use an accordion file,” Musheyev says. U Brand makes them with cheerful decorations. “A binder or folders can become very messy for students who struggle with organization. Having everything in one place can make a huge difference and can make it easier for them to manage their workload.” Don’t be afraid to use trial and error to figure out what works for you. We all have different brains.

Nurture your creativity.

Veronique Contrino, an art teacher at Hillsborough High School in New Jersey, says that although most art supplies are provided at school, sketch books are a must for art class and beyond, in case the creative urge strikes when you’re not in the art room. “Any blank page spiral or hardcover sketchbook will do — there’s such a variety of prices,” she says. The Canson Universal, available from Staples, is a worthwhile investment for a serious artist, and Elmer’s is a solid value pick. Micron drawing pens and graphite pencils are ideal for sketching, graphic design, shading, and writing.

Make sure to have “the basics like glue sticks, scissors, and colored pencils for projects,” says Fotter. Colorful construction paper and scotch tape are also great to have on hand, and Fotter recommends stocking up on “Sharpies, especially the fat ones,” for making labels and presentations.

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Get your tech ready.

Everything from iPads and laptops to smartphones and editing programs are an integral part of the classroom these days. In the digital age, the right tech is as essential on any high school supply list as the right notebook. Schools often supply a laptop or a tablet, but it’s up to you to pick quality headphones. Whether you’re trying to block out sound for a focused study session or unwind with tunes after a long day, having excellent headphones will come in handy for the whole school year and beyond. Look for a winning mix of volume-limiting control, noise-cancellation, and comfort. Other nice-to-haves include a portable charger for your phone or laptop and a case to keep everything protected.

Set yourself up for success. 

A study session is less stressful when you’ve got all the right supplies. Fotter suggests using “sticky notes for annotations in novels” to keep track of important passages; they’re also great for textbooks, so you can easily flip back to crucial info. Index cards, both ruled and unruled, are perfect for making flash cards and taking research notes. Highlighters are great tools for marking big themes and important passages; Musheyev recommends getting them in a whole bunch of colors.

Keep everything fresh with a stellar backpack. 

All these shiny new school supplies for high school demand a great backpack. Consider that you’re going to be hauling this around five days a week, so choose something that brings you joy. The best ones are equal parts cute, comfy, and practical. “Choose a backpack that distributes weight evenly across the back and has adjustable straps to ensure a proper fit,” says Musheyev. Sleek and minimalist or colorful and fun? That’s up to you.

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 Nonnegotiable: you’ll want a backpack that can handle getting thrown around without falling apart before midterms. Lightweight options or even a backpack on wheels are ergonomically wise, as you’ll have plenty of stuff to tote around. Other things to look for are water resistance to keep everything safe in all weather, a laptop sleeve, and plenty of pockets for all these supplies you’ll be carrying. There are lots of fancy bells and whistles, like side mesh water bottle holders, organizational pockets, and charging ports. Choose what feels important to you, which brings us to… 

Learn about what you love and need. 

High school is all about learning. Everything is a work in progress, and that’s exactly how it should be. You’re figuring out what comes naturally to you and what requires more hard work — what you love and what you can live without. Maybe your bestie is all about her bullet journal, and you prefer to keep track of everything in your calendar app. That’s awesome — the best school supplies for high school are the ones you actually use and love. If you don’t snag that glittery pen or that accordion folder and you find yourself really wanting it in October…well, that’s what allowance or your job is for. Don’t worry about perfection. 

Your High School Supply List

Here’s an overview of what we recommend adding to your high school supplies list: 

  • Planner

  • Binders

  • Notebooks

  • Pens

  • No. 2 pencils

  • Colored pencils

  • Accordion file

  • Sketch books

  • Micron drawing pens and graphite pencils for artists

  • Glue sticks

  • Scissors

  • Sharpies

  • Headphones

  • Sticky notes

  • Index cards

  • Hand sanitizers

  • Tissues

  • Backpack

  • Water bottle

  • Lunchbox

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Staples