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60+ Back-to-School Supplies Every Student Needs

You’ll need a lot more than three-ring binders and pencils to kick off the school year right—and lucky for you, it’s all right here on this list!

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The ultimate back-to-school checklist

It’s that time of year again! The kids are heading back to the classroom, which means you’ll need to stock up on back-to-school supplies. Whether your child, teen or college-goer is learning in person, online or a combination of the two, items like affordable laptops and laptop backpacks, in addition to regular backpacks and other learning essentials, are necessary to stay ahead of the curve.

Sure, some of the items on your list, like masks and hand sanitizers, are expected at this point, but several tech items and even college dorm room essentials are key back-to-school supplies to add to your list this year. But here’s a bit of excellent news: You won’t have to spend a fortune on them, because many of the featured products and brands below are running major back-to-school sales right now. Plus, you can have all of them delivered right to your doorstep. Spend your newfound free time enjoying the last few days of summer and these relatable (and hilarious) back-to-school memes.

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Pens, pencils and writing materials

While many schools will likely continue to provide basic learning supplies, you may want to supplement your children’s stash if you’d like them to benefit from specialty gear or you don’t want them to share potentially germy items. “I require all my students to have the basic supplies like binders, clearly labeled folders, pencils and erasers,” says Levin, a veteran elementary school teacher with a focus on Montessori-style learning. “This helps them produce quality work in an organized, independent manner. I also have them purchase basic art supplies like markers, pastels and colored pencils. This way, they can embellish their work with artistic detail and creativity.”

Here are the basic writing supplies you’ll need to get your kids through their in-person classes—and for any remote-learning stretches at home:

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Art supplies

As Levin mentioned above, now is the time to be a little bit extra with the markers, colored pencils, glitter glue and all the fun art-project supplies kids need to let their creative flags really fly. Giving students an outlet and something to feel excited about is half the battle when it comes to getting them back into the school spirit. Whether they use these colorful back-to-school supplies in the classroom, at home or a hybrid of both, kids will be excited about finishing their projects, expressing their feelings and moving ahead. Plus, they can use them on these Halloween crafts soon enough!

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“Purchasing school backpacks sturdy enough to carry laptops, various USB cords and notebooks will help your child transport their school gear with comfort,” says Levin. “Also, a trendy backpack is a fashion statement these days, so you’ll earn brownie points with your child.”

Timeless backpacks also double as easy-to-tote carry-on bags for traveling, and they can last several years, so they’re worth picking carefully and spending a little more on. Look for easy-to-clean materials like those used by Fjällräven; Vinylon F., the brand’s signature material, is a dirt-resistant, water-resistant fabric that wipes clean instantly. Most high-quality nylon options will work nicely too. Choosing easily identifiable colors and prints is also essential, as it helps students spot their own bags quickly. Other considerations should be whether your kids need lots of built-in compartments, heavy-duty shoulder straps and room for lunch boxes and water bottles. For smaller bodies, Levin suggests considering a rolling bag.

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Tech gear

Nowadays, tech is essential for in-person and at-home learning. “Good-quality equipment is what enables teachers and students to optimize every moment we have together for learning, instead of troubleshooting technical issues,” says Levin. “I view tech gear as my students’ own personal classrooms.”

In addition to a laptop or tablet (if your school doesn’t supply one), you’ll need headphones, laptop and Chromebook covers and cases, carrying bags, chargers, graphing calculators, blue light glasses and portable keyboards to convert those much-loved tablets into makeshift remote-learning centers. Some items, like scanners, won’t be necessary for every age group, but they’ll come in handy for teens and college students. Pro tip: All these items make terrific tech gifts, and many of them will be on sale now, so stock up early for the holidays!

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Personal-care essentials

Though COVID-safety essentials are pretty commonplace these days, it’s also essential to stock up on personal-care items to keep students of all ages as germ-free as possible. In addition to the usual stain removers and cleaning products, take this back-to-school season as a reason to refresh your student’s reusable face mask collection. And throw a few stress-relief wonders in while you’re at it, like an essential oil diffuser and kid-friendly bath bombs.

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Notebooks and organizers

Helping your student stay organized wherever they are will let them keep track of their thoughts and assignments and better focus on the business of learning. That’s why you’ll need back-to-school supplies like binders, tab dividers, desk caddies, trays and pencil holders.

Levin suggests ordering name labels for those always-misplaced items like sweatshirts, headphones, winter coats and backpacks. You can create your own design with your child’s name from Minted and even coordinate with their favorite colors. Keep the color theme going with notebooks and planners, but buy folders in a variety of colors to separate subjects. While you’re committed to starting the school year right with the best back-to-school supplies, you’ll probably want to brush up on these kids’ closet ideas too, because tidy rooms help get them (and you) out the door faster in the morning.

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Lunch boxes and water bottles

Make after-school cleanup as easy as possible by opting for washable lunch materials and meal organizers. Levin suggests, “Buy a lunchbox for your child that is as mess-free and easy to clean as possible. Think bento-style lunch boxes and well-insulated materials.”

If you really want to stand out from the crowd, send your big kid with a smart water bottle like the HidrateSpark, which glows to remind students to hydrate and tracks their water intake. Mom will get an A+ for that one!

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College dorm essentials

Shopping for college dorm essentials is a different ballgame, and it’s 100% normal to feel a bit intimated by it all. Aside from the back-to-school supplies mentioned above, college students also need essentials like top-notch bedding, organizing solutions and, most important of all, an easy-to-use coffee maker. We scoured the best dorm essentials on the internet to set them up for success, from mattress toppers to water filter pitchers and genius organizers.

Additional reporting by Bryce Gruber.

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Madi Koetting
As Associate Shopping Editor, Madi is an expert at helping Reader's Digest readers find everyday household products to level up their life. She covers everything from Instagram-famous products to the internet’s best deals and discounts. When she’s not deep in a story, you can find her honing her at-home mixology skills and scouring TikTok for the next trendy product.