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What’s the smart way to shop for supplies for high school? 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 basic supplies for high school

No. 2 pencils

Mechanical pencils

Colored pencils

Pencil sharpener (manual with a top to collect shavings)

Large pink eraser

Ballpoint pens (Get a couple with red, green, or purple ink, 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.)

Ruler with English and metric measurements

Organizational helpers

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

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

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

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.)


Calculator or mobile phone with calculator. Check with the math teacher first before investing in an expensive calculator. Graphing calculators, for example, are required in some middle and high school math classes. Teachers advise parents not to buy a calculator with more functions than your students will use. Also check with the teacher to determine the policy on mobile phones that have calculators, and determine whether your child will use it responsibly.

Craft materials

Drawing paper

Construction paper

Glue sticks

Four-ounce bottle of white glue

Scotch tape

Stapler (Best is a mini stapler, which is easily portable, for last minute stapling emergencies!)


Water-based markers

Home computer supplies

Printer paper

Ink cartridges

Nice-to-have supplies for high school

Stainless steel water bottle (Avoid plastic bottles that contain bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, birth defects and cancer.)

Posterboard for visual aid presentations

Flashdrive for powerpoint presentations

Locker organizer (and other accessories)

See the list of supplies for middle school and what to take to college, too.