27 School Supplies For College Every Student Needs (2023)

Go back to college prepared with this list of essential school supplies for college students.

Starting the college semester with the right school supplies can make all the difference in your college experience.

In today’s blog post, I will be sharing with you 27 essential school supplies for college students:

  1. Pencils
  2. Stapler and stapler remover
  3. Washi tape
  4. Whiteout
  5. Hole punch
  6. Sticky notes
  7. Pens
  8. Highlighters
  9. Planner
  10. Binder and tap dividers
  11. Sheet protectors
  12. Notecards/flashcards
  13. Notebooks
  14. Dry erase markers
  15. Printer (w/ paper and ink)
  1. Laptop
  2. Earphones/headphones
  3. Apple Watch/smartwatch
  4. Portable charger
  5. Backpack
  6. Reusable water bottle
  7. Travel coffee mug
  8. Pencil case
  9. Lap desk
  10. Cardholder
  11. Emergency kit
  12. Self-defense tool
A white desk with school supplies. The text overlay says, "college school supplies essentials."

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A bulk of your essential school supplies for college will be stationery. This includes everything from sticky notes, pens, pencils, white out, a hole punch, and more.

1. Pencils

If there’s one thing you cannot forget to bring to college it’s pencils. They’re so basic, but yet so essential for taking notes and filling in scantrons. And trust me, you do not want to be caught without a pencil on test day!

2. Stapler and stapler remover

Whether you are organizing your notes or turning in a paper, having a stapler on hand is a must. There are plenty of crazy professors out there who will deduct points off your assignment if you turn it in without it stapled, so always keep a stapler in your backpack and in your dorm for easy, stress-free due date days.

3. Washi tape

If you love adding some flare to your class notes, agenda, or notebooks then you need to pick up some washi tape on your back-to-school supplies shopping trip. You can also use washi tape to cover up your computer camera, seal a letter, or make subsections in your notebook.

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4. White out

Whether you are taking notes in class or planning out your week in your agenda, you’ll need some white out to correct your mistakes and pretty up your work.

5. Hole punch

If you are trying to organize your college binder on-the-go having a hole punch will make it easier to get your papers organized.

You can even get a flat three-hole punch that fits right into your binder.


6. Sticky notes

Sticky notes are a planner’s best friend.

They are so convenient and they make it easy to jot things down to attend to later.

You can use sticky notes to make to-do lists, small grocery lists, and jot down reminders to put in your planner later. They can also be quite aesthetically pleasing.

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7. Pens

A good stockpile of pens is essential for college.

In college, you will need pens for some tests you take.

Some professors only want free-response test questions to be answered in blue or black ink.

Pens are also great if you want to spice up your notes or color coordinate your paper planner.


8. Highlighters

It’s the honest truth: notes just look better with highlighter.

Highlighters can be a note-taking game changer.

They can help you organize your notes better and make them more aesthetically pleasing.

When I am studying I like making a color key to help me identify information easier when I am reviewing my notes.

For example, all vocabulary can be highlighted in yellow, people or places are highlighted in pink, formulas highlighted in green, and dates highlighted in blue.


9. Planner

Are you a paper or digital planner?

Personally, I like both, but I’m currently on a bullet journaling kick. If you are a paper planner type of person, you’ll definitely need a fresh, new planner for the new semester.

I have personally love using Lilly Pulitzer planners and a Moleskin dotted journals for bullet journaling. You might consider using your planner in conjunction with a study guide or a visit a service that can help you plan for certification exams. No matter what, organization and planning is your friend.

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10. Binder and tab dividers

Binders are literally the holy bible to your classes. It’s where you keep ALL THE THINGS related to your courses.

From your syllabi, tests, quizzes, and lecture notes, you probably can’t live without your binder.

Over time I have had a love/hate relationship with binders.

Sometimes it is really challenging to find a sturdy, yet stylish binder.

Check out my picks below for high-quality binders for college this semester! And don’t forget tab dividers too!


11. Sheet protectors

Do you use sheet protectors in your binders?

If you haven’t started, let me tell you, sheet protectors change the binder game.

If you hate your papers getting wrinkled or wet in a downpour while walking to class, sheet protectors are going to be your next best friend.

I have used tab dividers since I was in high school and let me tell you, every teacher or professor I have had has always been impressed with how organized and neat my binders are.



12. Notecards/flashcards

One of the best methods for studying are flashcards.

They are portable, lightweight, and can be a valuable study tool for classes with a lot of vocabulary or concepts.

If you don’t want to lug around physical note cards, you can also check out Quizlet, which will let you create digital flashcards.

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13. Notebooks

Who doesn’t love an aesthetic notebook? I personally love having a notebook for each of my courses (color coordinated too of course).


14. Dry erase markers

Many group study rooms in college have whiteboards for students to work out problems out as a group.

However, usually, all the dry erase markers are dead or weak.

I highly recommend carrying your own set of dry erase markers just in case!




15. Printer, ink, and printer paper

Most college libraries and buildings will provide you access to a printer.

However, most printers on your campus will make you spend a little bit of money to print. At my university, it cost 10 cents per page! Which is not too bad, but it does add up over time.

I would suggest investing in your own printing materials to save time and money.

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16. Laptop

Are you a Mac or PC girl?

Personally, I cannot live without my MacBook Pro. A laptop is essential in college. Like the biggest essential of them all. I don’t know how I would have survived college without my laptop.

Some good computer applications/software/accessories to help get you through college:



17. Earphones or headphones

Whether you are walking to class, going to the on-campus gym, or studying in the library, a good pair of earphones of headphones is another classic essential for college.

I used to religiously use my PowerBeats3, but they broke after constant use for two years and I have switched to the Elecder wireless earbuds.

And wow what an upgrade! These earphones are way more budget-friendly than PowerBeats or AirPods.

However, I have found that occasionally the left earbud will not charge, so sometimes I’m walking around campus with just the right earbud in.

The Elecder wireless earbuds work very similarly to the Apple AirPods (you can tap the sides to turn the volume up and down, use them to make phone calls, etc.), except they have a loop that goes around your ear, which is great for working out.

I love personally listening to lo-fi beats while studying. I can’t concentrate if I am listening to songs with lyrics!


18. Apple watch or a smart watch

A smart watch can be a game changer in college.

You can configure your smartwatch to complement your busy college schedule from working out at the gym to studying for your next big test!

I personally have and use on the daily an Apple Watch Series 4 in the 40mm size. You can get the bigger size if you need a bigger screen though!

My favorite Apple Watch app is the built-in exercise app, which helps me monitor my daily steps and calories burned throughout the day.

The Apple Watch can also be a great motivator for you to get up and get moving with the “close your rings” notifications.



19. Portable charger

Have you ever been out and about only to have your phone tragically die on you and NO ONE within miles has a phone charger?!

Ok, that’s a little overdramatic, but seriously a dead phone is never good. Especially if you are at a football game or having a night out with the girls.

A portable phone charger is going to be your phone’s lifeline *literally* as a busy on-the-go college student. Just don’t forget the charging cord too.



Organization and miscellaneous

20. Backpack

Remember when you were in elementary school and the most exciting thing to do before school started was to pick out your backpack for the school year?

I LOVED the feeling of finding the perfect backpack for school.

In college finding the perfect functional backpack is essential because you’ll be hauling it all around campus from class to class, to the dining hall, to the library, and back to your apartment or dorm room for the day.

Personally, I am a North Face backpack lover (I still use my Borealis backpack from my freshman year of college), but there are more affordable and stylish options too!


21. Reusable water bottle

Ever heard of the saying, “hydrate or die-drate?”

I love that saying because it’s so true, but also pretty dark at the same time.

College students are usually fueling their bodies with coffee or energy drinks. While those drinks provide that temporary energy boost, they are not exactly what our bodies are looking for.

Our bodies need water. Like a ton of it.

One of the best ways to get more water in your day is to simply carry around a reusable water bottle.

That way you don’t have to go to a vending machine and hash out a $1.25 for a plastic water bottle every single time. Plus, if you are carrying your own water bottle there is no excuse for you not to take a sip from it every once and while!

I love my CamelBak and Hydroflask water bottles! I have a 600ml (20.2 oz) insulated CamelBak reusable water bottle, which is lightweight for everyday use and I have a 40 oz Hydroflask for at-home use since it is so dang heavy!


22. Travel coffee mug

Although we just discussed the importance of water, coffee (or tea) is just as needed to function as water.

I know I personally cannot function in the morning without my cup of coffee with creamer.

When you are on-the-go or had a late start to your morning a good travel coffee mug is a must.

Just throw your travel coffee mug on your Keurig, brew your coffee, add your milk or creamer of choice, put the lid on, and you are all set to conquer the day!


23. Pencil case

I’m one of those types of people who just throw things into my purse or into my backpack if I do not have a place to put them.

However, it is frustrating digging through the entire contents of my bag to find a single pencil. If you’re like me, a pencil case is your best friend for organizing your writing utensils.

Nowadays there are pencil cases with extra pockets, so you can separate your pencils from your pens while also storing your mechanical pencil lead, extra erasers, and even your mini stapler.

Bonus tip: If you’re on a tight budget or frugal, you can use a small to medium size makeup/cosmetic bag as a pencil case. Plus the lining in a makeup/cosmetic bag is easy to clean too!


24. Lap desk

If you love doing school work in bed or on the couch (basically anywhere but a desk) a lap desk is a must.

A lap desk can stop your laptop from overheating and provide health benefits too.

Some lap desks can even be positioned to the Harmon distance (my vision therapist side is coming out), which has been shown to be better for your eyes and improve your posture.



25. Card holder

In college you’re going to need your student ID for everything.

From buying school supplies, scanning into the dining hall, to getting into your student apartment complex, your student ID is your way around campus.

Wallets can be quite clunky and sometimes get lost in the hustle and bustle of throwing everything into your backpack at the end of class.

A good card holder that attaches to your keychain or phone can help you keep your student ID, driver’s license, and credit/debit card in one easy place to access.


26. Emergency kit

College is unpredictable.

You never know when your alarm will decide it doesn’t want to go off one morning and you are scrambling to get out the door, the power goes out in your dorm room, you break a nail on the way to class, or you get a paper cut while writing notes in class.

An emergency kit is essential in college. It will prepare you for whatever college life throws your way.

If you want to DIY your own emergency kit I would recommend the following items:

  • Bandaids
  • Advil/Tylenol/Ibuprofen
  • Flashlight
  • Nail file and nail clipper set
  • Makeup wipes or baby wipes
  • Pen/pencil and small notepad
  • Scissors
  • Allergy medication
  • Extra copy of ID, insurance cards, and roadside assistance membership card
  • 2 Packets of Liquid IV or Drip Drop Hydration
  • 2 small water bottles
  • Breath mints
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Dry shampoo
  • Contact case & solution
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Mini sewing kit
  • USB wall charger and cable for your phone

The best part about creating your own DIY emergency kit is that you can tailor it to your lifestyle and your favorite products. Most products can easily be found in the travel section of your favorite grocery store or superstore like Target or Walmart.


27. Self defense tool

College campuses tend to be safe, but on occasion, bad things do happen.

If you are walking at night by yourself or are going out with friends, it is not a bad idea to have a self-defense tool that you know how to use if needed.

Most self defense tools are portable, can be clipped to your keychain, and are discrete. You can also look into taking a self defense course on your college campus if you want to be extra prepared.

I know at the university I attended, you could call the campus police and they would escort you to your car from wherever you were if you felt unsafe.

You can also lookup mobile apps that alert the police or contact a friend and sends them your location if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.

It is also always a good thing to refresh yourself on basic safety measures you can take while at college.


Concluding thoughts on school supplies for back to college

There is a lot of preparation that goes into college.

From creating the perfect college schedule, getting your financial aid in order, decorating your dorm, and to buying the right school supplies.

This semester, I want you to feel prepared for college, and anything this semester throws your way.

I hope this list of 27 essential school supplies for college helps you make the best purchasing decisions for this upcoming semester.

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Thanks for reading about school supplies for college students!

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