13 Essential School Supplies for College

Please note: This article was written and published several years ago and may no longer be accurate.
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If you’re one of the over 20 million students heading to college this fall, it’s time to prepare for the coming semester—first, by purchasing school supplies! If you’re looking for inspiration and advice on what to buy for the upcoming semester, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are the 13 academic supply items that are absolutely essential for your college classes—be sure to pack them up and bring them along when you move in!

1. A Planner

Every college student knows the importance of having a planner. Not only does it keep you on track with homework, but, if you use it right, it can hold your whole life together.

I use the Day Designer planner, because I love how each weekly layout is set-up, with room for appointments on one side and a to-do list on the other. It’s cute, functional, and (best of all) super cheap!

You can also try the new Ultimate Student Planner from ClassTracker, which I highly recommend! Learn more about this innovative planner here.

Picking out a planner can be tricky, so be sure to explore a little before buying so you know you get one that works for you and your lifestyle.

2. A Notebook for Each Class

Instead of carrying bulky binders around campus, I like to carry sturdy notebooks with pocket folders attached. That way, I can keep the class syllabus and any other handouts I receive right by all my notes, and I don’t have to worry about remembering to bring a notebook and a folder to class each day. Consolidating them saves space and keeps me stress-free (for the most part).

3. Several Pencils

I hate the permanence of writing with pen, but I equally despise the thick, faded writing that comes from standard pencils! To solve this problem, I prefer to use mechanical pencils. You can make all the mistakes you want, but still get sharp writing in your notebooks!

4. Colorful Pens

I like to color-code everything—from class notes to appointments in my planner—so having a nice pack of colorful pens is super important to me. My favorite are PaperMate’s Profile pens, because they write smooth, seem to last FOREVER, and never bleed through the page. I bought a pack before my freshman year and I’m still using them as a junior! They’re definitely a sound investment.

Get a bunch of high quality, colorful pens here.

5. Colorful Highlighters

My color-coding doesn’t stop with pens: I love highlighters, too! If you don’t have time to switch pens during notes, or you want to go back and study something later, highlighting is your best friend. I prefer the thinner ones from Sharpie, because I like to write on thin-lined (college-ruled) paper, but as long as it doesn’t bleed through the paper, any highlighter should do!

6. Paper Clips & Binder Clips

I don’t know how many times I’ve been thankful to have these around—or wished that I had them when I needed them. I use them to organize my planner and (of course) to hold papers together when I’m without stapler. (I’ve even used a paper clip to save myself from a major wardrobe malfunction!)

I prefer to use the rubberized paper clips, because they don’t fold up the papers as much and they don’t hurt my fingers when I’m digging around for stuff in my pencil bag. They come in a bunch of colors!

7. A Pencil Bag

I use my backpack for more than just school, and I don’t want to be finding pencils in my bag when I’m out and about with friends—so to solve that problem, I like to keep my pencils, pens, highlighters, and paper clips all together in a pencil bag. That way, I can slip my school supplies in and out of my bag without an issue—and I don’t accidentally stab myself with a pencil reaching into my bag!

8. Post-It Notes

I live by post-it notes, and you will in college too. They can be used for a variety of things, from organization to simply little reminders. It’s always nice to have a couple packs of these around in case something comes up!

9. A Laptop

My university provides all students with a MacBook, included in our tuition cost, but that’s not the case at all schools. Success in college mandates a computer of some sort, and it needs to be up-to-date and fast enough for you to run any programs your school requires. Now is a great time to get a new computer, so whether you’re a Windows or a Mac kind of person, make sure you grab a laptop before you head to campus this fall! (Most stores offer student discounts on this kind of thing too—so be sure you ask!)

10. Your Textbooks

I’ve been in college for a while now, and if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that textbook prices go up as the summer goes on. The closer you get to the start of the semester, the more you’re going to have to pay for textbooks—so buy them now before they get even more expensive!

Your school should have some method of showing you what textbooks you need, but if not, you can always try emailing your future professors! (It might be a good idea to email them anyway, because you’ll form a good relationship with them from the start, and you may or may not actually need the books—only your professor will know!)

Get FREE two-day shipping on tons of items (like textbooks) with this FREE 6-month trial of Amazon Prime — no obligation to buy!

11. A Printer (with Paper and Ink!)

If your university is anything like mine, they will charge you every time you need to print something—and you’ll be printing a lot! From term papers to essay tests, you’ll need to print a lot of things over the next four years. Consider purchasing a printer for your room, suite, or quad, and splitting the cost with your roommates to save even more money.

I use the DeskJet 3755 printer from HP. It’s small enough to fit anywhere in a dorm, includes a scanner (for when your friends need a copy of that math worksheet), and costs less than $65. It’s a total steal for a college student!

12. A Stapler (and Staples)

Your school’s printer probably will staple your papers—for a price—and if your professors demand a stapled essay, you’ll be out a more money. Pick up one of these before you head to school to save some money—even if it’s just one of the cheap, mini ones at the dollar store!

13. A Backpack

Finally, you’ll need something to carry all your essentials around campus with! You can buy backpacks anywhere, and prices vary dramatically depending on what you want—so take the time to find one that’s right for you.

Personally, I love Vera Bradley’s backpacks. They’re built to last, super cute, and totally timeless! Cute new backpacks are always being added to the Vera Bradley site, so shop there for the latest and greatest!

Heading to college is a super exciting time, but don’t let all the excitement distract you from academics! When you head to the store to pick up new dorm room decor, be sure you pick up these essential school supplies to ensure your success for years to come.

Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite brand? Let me know in the comments below so I can try them out!

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Hey there! I'm Michelle—but my friends call me Shelly. I'm a freelance writer and editor who blogs about life, work, and the world around us. Thanks for stopping by!

16 thoughts on “13 Essential School Supplies for College

  1. Under the textbook (10), I had the unfortunate pleasure of two different universities and the text book comment is so true. Even with electronic books the prices are astronomically, but sometimes I knew the next course and talk to the students to bargain on their textbook. It works!


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