Books and pencils for school

Top 24 College School Supplies You’ll Need to Go Back to Campus

Even the brightest students need more than their laptops to stay on top. Here’s a list of the ultimate school supplies list for college kids in the 2020s.

November 26, 2021

At college, homework and studying take on a whole new meaning than they did in high school. However, with some preparation and planning, you'll be off to a fantastic start.

What college students need the most is, in fact, organization. To be organized means keeping a schedule and a routine that allows you to meet deadlines with plenty of time to study, and let’s not forget a bit of time for fun and self-care. Additionally, it’s the ability to find all of your stuff when you need it – because who wants to spend 20 minutes of a study session flipping through pages and pages of class notes trying to track down one piece of information?

Organization comes more easily to some than others, but with the right tools, anyone can put themselves in order. Remember, even the brightest students need more than their laptops to help them stay on top, so we’ve put together the ultimate school supplies list for college to help you get ready.

The top 24 college school supplies


These are the college supply must-haves that you’ll be super glad you brought to campus with you.

1. Backpack


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You likely own one already, but you want to make sure it can haul all your textbooks, binders, laptop, and supplies around campus comfortably.

2. Binder


While you may be thinking most everything is digital these days, college involves quite a lot of paper. So you’ll need somewhere to keep it organized. Whether you’re a fan of big multi-subject binders with dividers or having a different one for each class, the size and color options are vast.

3. Paper


Taking notes on paper is beneficial, as you’re more likely to memorize the material than if you were typing. It could also come in handy when doing homework or drafting essays.

4. Highlighters


With all those papers and notes in your binder, you’re going to want certain items to stand out. Using highlighters in multiple colors will help you find and add emphasis to your class notes, as well as help dates stand out in your planner. You may even want to experiment with color-coding.

5. Pencil case


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A pencil case will help you locate all your pens, pencils, highlighters, and other small supplies quickly and easily, without fishing for them in your backpack. What’s more, you’ll avoid a mess of ink in your bag or getting poked in the hand.

To keep with you

This college supply list is all of the things you’ll want to make sure are packed in your bag each day. Not only will you feel prepared – you actually will be.

6. Day planner


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A day planner is one of the top essentials to bring to college. Not only does writing items down by hand instead of on your computer help you remember them, but you can also quickly check a paper planner free of distractions and the temptation of checking your socials.

7. Pens


It’s common to rely on your smartphone for jotting down significant phone numbers, dates, notes, and other items to remember. However, a pen will always come in handy, especially if your phone is out of battery or you need to jot something in your planner.

8. Flash drive


Keeping a flash drive in your pencil case will make slideshow presentations and transferring large files to and from your classmates a breeze. They’re an excellent backup when file sizes are too large for email without uploading to cloud software.

9. Sticky notes


For a convenient place to write ideas or reminders down, grab a sticky note. Pro tip: instead of cramming it in your pocket, stick it on your day planner or binder until you get home or to class, where you can put it in its respective place.

10. Water bottle


Sometimes your schedule may be packed with back-to-back classes, which means not seeing your dorm for an extended time. Stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle with you. If you plan on storing it in your bag, be sure to go for one that’s leakproof with minimal condensation.

For your studying time

Studying time is when all your organization is going to pay off. While these back-to-school essentials may not be what improves your grades directly, being able to find your notes will certainly help.

11. Sticky flags


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If you want to quickly and conveniently reference a page in a textbook or binder, these are the right tools. They come in a variety of colors so that you can color code. If you’re someone who prefers not to mark up your textbooks, be sure to grab plenty.

12. Stapler


When you want to make sure your notes or assignments stay together and all in order, a stapler is more permanent than paper clips.

13. Paper clips and binder clips


Paper clips are great for keeping your notes and assignments together, with the ability to take them apart. In a pinch, they’re perfect bookmarks. Binder clips also come in handy for keeping thick documents like your thesis together and holding pages open in textbooks.

14. Index cards


Index cards are helpful for presentations but also make great study cards. Quiz yourself or ask a roommate or friend to quiz you with the notes you make on these.

15. Hole punch


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Not all of your professors are going to give out documents pre-punched. Equipped with your hole punch, organizing them into your binder is a cinch.

For entertainment

16. Deck of cards


If you and your classmates need a break from your study group, pull out a deck of cards and play a quick round of your favorite game.

17. Crossword puzzles


For those awkward breaks between classes, challenge yourself to a crossword puzzle instead of mindlessly scrolling social media.

18. Bluetooth speaker


Stream music from your phone to a Bluetooth speaker during an impromptu game of frisbee between classes or study sessions with friends.

19. Pencil crayons


Even if you’re not an artist, it can be fun and even calming to sit and color. If you’re someone who needs something to do while you listen to long lectures, it’s far more polite than sticking your face in your phone.


These items are things that may not be top of mind when you ask what school supplies you need for college, but they’ll be convenient to own.

20. Printer


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Most schools offer communal printers in their libraries, but if you want to print conveniently from your dorm, a small printer can be a timesaver.

21. Bulletin board


A bulletin board is a wonderful place for your class schedule and a catch-all for sticky notes and important bits of paper.

22. Wall calendar


A wall calendar will keep you on your toes and is a distraction-free way to plan your schedule.

23. Washi tape


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This tape is similar to masking tape and comes off without leaving a sticky residue. Since it comes in various colors and patterns, it’s a creative way to customize your notes, books, binders, and other items in your dorm without a mess.

24. Wall art

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To make your dorm feel more like your own space, go ahead and decorate your room with family photos, paintings, posters, tapestries, wall decals, and other types of decor. Let your personality come out and play.

Have fun

While college is hard work, you’ll be ahead of the game if you can stay organized. Just remember to schedule some time for fun and self-care so you can keep energized.

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