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Back to basics: A supply list for high school

Keep our school supply checklist handy to make your shopping as easy as A, B, C.

By GreatSchools Staff

What’s the smart way to shop for school supplies? Eliminate the guesswork by getting a list from your child’s teacher ahead of time or waiting until school starts to find out what’s actually required. The teacher may recommend specific brands, sizes, or quantities, but even if the list isn’t available, you can still take advantage of back-to-school sales (many states offer “tax-free days” during this season) by sticking to the basics recommended below. And remember, you can’t go wrong with tools that help kids get — and stay — organized.

The basics

No. 2 pencils

Mechanical pencils

Colored pencils

A pencil sharpener (hand-held with a top to collect shavings)

A large pink eraser

Ballpoint pens (Get a few red-ink ones too, because some teachers have students do peer editing.)


Spiral-bound or composition notebooks

Loose-leaf notebook paper (Teachers can be picky about paper — most ask that students use the college-ruled variety.)

A ruler with English and metric measurements

Organizational helpers

Several three-ring binders (Some teachers require that a binder be used exclusively for their class.)

A three-hole punch (a regular one or one that fits in a three-ring binder)

A pencil case that fits in a binder

Binder dividers (The kinds with pockets are good for loose papers.)

Pocket folders

Folders that fit in binders

A calendar or planner for scheduling or recording assignments

A sturdy, supportive backpack (Some schools do not permit rolling backpacks because of space considerations, so check with your school before considering this option.)

Two combination locks (If the school lockers do not have built-in locks, your child might need one for the hallway and one for the gym.)

Study aids

Index cards, ruled and unruled (These are great for making flash cards.)


A calculator (Check with the math or science teacher first before investing in an expensive one. Graphing calculators, for example, are required in many high school math classes. Teachers advise parents not to buy a calculator with more functions than students will use.)

Comments from readers

"Thank you so much.this is so useful and helped me alot "
"I never really thought about putting a protracter on my list I figured that I do need it and now I don't have to go back to the shops to bye if "
"Thanks for the suggestions, but i think my 9th grader will need a whole lot more than that; knowing that my 10th grader suffered from not enough materials, due to following these suggestions.. "
"nice! "
"i am goin to be a freshman soon n i am very smart n i was suppose to be in 10th grade because i started school late and i wanted to know if there was any way that i could skip 9th grade i am very smart only at math though "
"If you are a returning high school student. Just get what you know for sure you used the year before and will use again. Then get the things that are required for new classes that you didn't need last year. Thats what I do and it works out great. If you are not a returning student, the supply list lies. Get the basics and then get what is on the sylabus that you don't have after the first day. Getting a carabiner clip to go on your stainless steel water bottle (if it doesn't have one already) is a great thing to have for quickly clipping it onto your backpack. Post it notes and tabs are also great to have! "
"u forgot to put new clothes on that list kids tebds to grow over breaks "
"I like this because it does not only concerns on the school supplies but also the right one to use, i totally appreciate why you recommend a stainless steel water bottle for safety. this has been the first website i have seen concerning health though the topic isn't about it. This is so good!!!!! :) Disclaimer: i wasn't paid for this comment.. i am just a high school student looking or searching for list in the internet for school supplies and so i got here and read this item! totally awesome!!!"
"this is a very helpful article. now i can shop with ease and avoid wasting money on items that are not required. "
"great but do we need ALL of this??"
"Great list and extremely helpful for the back-to-school rush!"
"Great List to give us some guidance while shopping"
"Some good advice, wish my parents would have used it"
"Great list"
"Nice list!"
"looks like a great site"
"My baby is a freshman...ugh,high school!"
"I always preferred using spiral notebooks with attatched pockets, but I suppose that's just a personal preference. Blank index cards are a must for any student, especially ones studying a foreign language."
"We have two less in school this year, so donations were accumulated and brought to schools instead:) "
"I'm going into grade 11, and I don't need ALL of this stuff. But the ones I do need are definitely in there! :) Good job! "
"great list thank you"
"Nice list, my school doesn't provide any supply lists so this is just as good. Although, binders usually break so I'll go with folders instead. "
"Very helpful list, I have a lot to get my kids!"
"Love the list, sometimes our children do not have complete lists."
"Very helpful, gosh kids sure need a lot of supplies!"
"Good list for back to school checking!"
"Good article and alot of help!! "
"Under 'nice to have,' another item could include something to carry all your stationary/pencils in. "
"Great help for these hectic back to school days!"
"This list was very helpful, Thank you!"
"Thanks for the list. It sure helps me out a lot."
"Good list-I am a teacher and this is pretty inclusive!"
"Good basic checklist. I might add 'wallet or secure holder' for driver's license, school id, and parking permit."
"Great article. Believe it or not some schools in our area do not 'post' supply list. "
"helpful but too much on list"
"Very helpful. Love the study aids section!"
"The high school I'm going to doesn't provide a school supplies list, so I'm going to use this one because It seems pretty good ^^ Thanks~!!"