Back-to-school shopping season is here, which means it’s time to talk about college must-haves and essentials. 

Check buying college school supplies off your to-do list using this handy buying guide for students returning to the classroom or preparing for remote learning. College students’ needs vary, but this comprehensive list of college supplies provides a good base, no matter who you are or what you’re studying. We’ve thought of everything from wireless headphones to mechanical pencils so you can concentrate on selecting your courses and preparing for the term.

Pencils, pens & erasers

pencil case with supplies

Atlas –

Nowadays, almost everyone uses a laptop—especially if doing remote learning. Despite our heavy reliance on technology, we can’t overlook the classics. Regular pencils, mechanical pencils, pens, and a few good erasers will make note-taking fun and more effective. You’ll remember important information better if you physically write it out instead of typing them into a document.

If you’re a college freshman, your course load will likely contain a bunch of 101-style courses in a wide variety of subjects, which could mean you’ll be running from place to place without time to charge up your laptop. Good, old-fashioned pens and pencils are the perfect backup plan for taking notes.

Spiral notebooks & lined paper

school notebooks

mallmo –

What’s the point of ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils if you don’t have paper to write on? Buy at least one notebook per subject to stay organized. That way, when you decide to take notes by hand, you won’t have a calculus equation next to reading notes on Shakespeare.  

When buying notebooks or paper to put in binders, think about how you take notes and the kind of material you’ll need to write down. Lined paper may be great for writing sentences and bullet points, but math and science courses may perfect grid paper. Consider your handwriting, too; if you write in large print, pick up paper with wide lines and visa versa.

Index cards

index cards

pixelrobot –

Flashcards are a time-tested method for quickly driving important facts into your brain. Assorted colors let you color-code information, and color stimulates your brain. Don’t skip out on quantity. Flashcards work well when you put a little bit of information on each card instead of trying to cram a page worth of notes on one. 

Pay attention to size when buying cards. Smaller cards may be easy to carry around, but some professors allow you to bring formulas and other information into exams if the notecard doesn’t surpass a certain size. Check your syllabi and class notes ahead of time.       



Atlas –

Even with the accessibility of digital textbooks, there’s nothing like reading an actual book. Some of your professors might insist you do. 

Highlighters are the perfect study tools for marking up texts and organizing important information for your upcoming exams. Having a variety of colors lets you color-code information, mark important passages, and note important due dates on your syllabus.

Post-its & sticky notes

sticky notes

Karen Roach –

Yes, you have reminders on your smartphone, but there’s something to be said for tactile Post-it Notes. Keep your tasks top-of-mind without checking an app. Transform your college dorm room into a physical to-do list where you can categorize tasks and remove them once finished. 

Sticky notes are handy for situations where an app simply won’t do. You can leave a physical note on your door reminding you to take all the important things you need for class before heading out. Stickies make great bookmarks, too.

Pencil case

Green pencil case

Popova Olga –

You’re going to need somewhere to store your highlighters, pencils, pens, and more. Part of balancing a busy class and social calendar is staying organized. And, without a case that keeps everything in one place, you’ll lose time searching for a stray writing implement in your bookbag. This lets you focus on your work without wasting minutes of precious time looking for something with which to write.


open backpack with school supplies

prime1001 –

Since we’re on the topic of organization, let’s not forget the most important element of all: a backpack. Even if you plan to go completely digital, you’ll still need a way to carry around your tech. 

Plus, backpacks are fashion statements, and you can show your personal style off to your classmates with a bag that feels like you.



igishevamaria –

A planner is important for any busy person—college students included. Physically writing down your schedule and deadlines helps you commit events to memory. For this, tech kind of misses the mark.

A full planner helps you see all you’ve been able to achieve over time. If you pick one you like, it could be a nice keepsake from your college years.

Folders & binders


Jenifoto –

A collection of notebooks you love still demands a space to store important loose-leaf papers like hand-outs and assignments. You might want a hole punch, too, to make sure those papers don’t get lost. This keeps pages neat and legible, and you’ll never have to wonder where your work is when you’re running out to class. 

You can get subject-specific folders or dividers for a ring binder to keep things organized.

Stapler, paper clips & tape dispenser


Igor –

You never know where your assignments will take you, so it’s best to have some basic office supplies on hand. A stapler is handy for joining pages of an assignment you’re about to hand in, and if you happen to have one of those picky professors that prefer paper clips, be prepared by always having some on hand. 

Finally, tape will help you play interior decorator in your dorm room. Hang up pictures, tape up some posters, or seal boxes of stored goods.

Ruler & scissors

school stationery

photoguns –

Scissors come in handy for all aspects of dorm life (like opening up a packet of late-night ramen), and a ruler can help with any drawings or graphs.



MK studio –

A smartphone won’t cut it for math, science, business, economics, or accounting classes. It may not even cut it for splitting the bill between all of your friends at that restaurant off-campus you love. 

A calculator is a must. If you’re studying math or other scientific pursuits, be sure to invest in a scientific calculator with advanced functions.

Wite-Out & Krazy Glue

corrector brush

Vera Aksionava –

Nothing takes care of (written) mistakes quite like Wite-Out. A bottle of this will go a long way for last-minute edits to your notes and exams. 

For minor dorm room repairs and all-purpose use, consider keeping some Krazy Glue around, too. You won’t regret it.

USB flash drive

usb flash drive

splitov27 –

Don’t head off to college or start your remote learning without a flash drive. This is a very inexpensive way to ensure your documents are safe. Security is priceless. 

These days, you can get hundreds of gigabytes of storage. Plus, you can carry all of this information around on a keychain so that wherever you go, all your essential information goes.

Charging cables, wireless chargers, adapters & batteries

usb cable

tiero –

Adapters and cables are vital, whether you’re a college student or not. We recommend having a few so that you can keep them in different places for whenever you need them. A backup can’t hurt if your charging cables look a bit rough from constant use. 

Also, don’t start your semester without a stack of batteries. Grab AAs and AAAs to cover everything from your graphing calculator to your TV remote. You’re going to want both to function at all times.

Wireless earbuds or wireless headphones

wireless earbuds


Whether you’re squeezing in a pre-class run or speed walking to class, take your favorite playlist with you. Wireless headphones or earbuds are the perfect cordless way to connect up with the tunes that keep you moving and feeling motivated. Study tunes are vital to any successful assignment.

Water bottle 

Sustainable water bottle

Iryna –

One of our top recommendations for any college student? Stay hydrated. Whether you’re pulling all-nighters or enjoying the social offering, taking care of yourself should be number one. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with plenty of nutritious food and hydrating drinks will help you stay sharp and feel your best. When you own a water bottle that you love using, it will encourage you to fill it up before leaving your dorm room and help you meet your daily intake quotas.

Welcome back!

As you prepare for the new school year—in-person or remote—Gopuff is there to deliver just about any college essentials you need. This school supplies list isn’t comprehensive, but we’ve covered all the basics.Don’t forget that you can also pick up energy drinks, snacks, and over-the-counter medications to keep you feeling like your best self this semester.