Back to School Shopping List: Supplies for Freshmen Students

When I was little, I used to get so excited when I saw those back to school shopping displays come up in stores or on TV commercials (of course, since it was the 90’s/early 2000’s it was more often “Back 2 School”). It meant finding the coolest folders and pencil cases for the upcoming year. As I got older, that feeling of excitement stuck with me–though with a few groans, I’ll admit.

After high school graduation, incoming freshman might not give quite as much thought to school supply shopping as they do dorm shopping–but even as a college student you’re going to want to swing through a supply store and pick up some essentials.

Here is a school shopping list for freshman college students:

Supplies For Class

An essential back to school supply is pencils.

Flickr user David Nicholas

Pencils / Mechanical Pencils

Yes some of us still use this archaic form of writing. There are lots of benefits to writing down notes with pencils: being able to erase mistakes, the ability to sketch out a design. Just make sure you buy a sharpener or additional lead.

Pens (various colors)

For a smoother, quicker, bolder note-taking experience, go with pens. Science also says that using various colors to write down notes will improve your memory. Can’t argue with science!

Highlighters (various colors)

When studying, highlighters are a saving grace. For the most part you can mark up your text books like crazy even if you plan on selling it back–odds are the next student who orders a used book will thank you for the highlighting.

Pencil Case

Rather than digging for pencils or pens at the bottom of your bag, keep all your school supplies in one neat place.

Note Cards

These are a college must-have. They are perfect for creating flash-cards to memorize facts, dates, vocabulary, or people. If you really want to step it up and study on the go, punch a hole through the cards and feed a clip-ring through.


Not everything is electronic, even nowadays. Most teachers will hand out physical copies of the syllabus, class project assignments, or hand back your printed papers with their feedback written on them–keep all these loose-leaf materials in one folder dedicated to the class. Organization is key.


A common back to school supply students get is notebooks.

Flickr user Ruth

While some students prefer taking notes on their laptops, science has prove that taking notes by hand is better for memorization and understanding the material. Therefore, you’ll need a notebook per class–or you could get one of the multi-subject notebooks and keep up to three classes in one.


Some classes will require three-ringed binders to keep class materials in. Most of the time they will come pre-punched, but if not you might want to invest in a three-hole punch as well.


Perfect for keeping papers together, these are a classic must-have for keeping things organized. Nice and simple.


Mistakes happen, and if you notice a small typo or error just before handing in a paper or research project, you’re going to want some whiteout handy for a quick fix. It’s available in liquid or tape form.

Planner / Agenda

Most students, when shopping for back to school supplies, get backpacks to carry their other things.

Flickr user Taylor Bennett

College can get busy, keep it all organized in a handy-dandy planner. As soon as you’re given an assignment or paper, you can jot down the due date in your agenda and get a head start on it. With this tool, you’ll never miss a deadline again!


You might have a residual one from high school, but you’re going to want to make sure you have a comfy backpack. Odds are you’ll be hauling material from one end of campus to the other–sometimes in 15 minutes or less–so having a backpack that distributes weight evenly and doesn’t hurt your shoulders or back is necessary.

Supplies for Your Room


We’ll start off with an optional supply. Most colleges will have printers readily available, and give students an allotted amount of printed pages per semester. However, if you plan to do a lot of printing (I’m looking at you, fellow English majors), or don’t want to bother hiking out to a computer lab, it might be worth it to invest in a printer of your own.

Sticky Tack / Poster Strips

There are many ways to hang up posters around your room, but these are easy classics, and available just about anywhere.


Scissors are a must-have back to school supply.

Flickr user Rich Bowen

Good for school and good for tasks around the room. Scissors are a must-have: whether you’re snipping the tag off a new shirt or cutting up definitions and gluing them to note cards.

Duct Tape

An excellent tool for any occasion. Repairing a split flip-flop? Duct tape. Fixing a hole in your backpack? Duct tape. Have a rip in a folder? Duct tape. Want to shut your roommate up? Duct tape.

Binder Clips

Sometimes a paperclip just isn’t enough. For bigger clipping-jobs, go with a binder-clip–they come in multiple sizes, too, so there’s always one up for the task of keeping a lot of papers together.


Tears happen. Whether in your notebooks, a text, or poster–use clear scotch tape to fix up those rips.


Don't wait till you can't find a stapler, pick one up as a back to school supply!

Flickr user -tarat-

Have a research paper to hand-in? Bam, staple it and it’s ready to go–nice and neat. Get one for your dorm desk and a mini hand-held one for your backpack. If there are any stapling emergencies, you’ll be prepared, and your classmates will thank you.


If you have to bring in a PowerPoint presentation or some pictures to show the class, a flash-drive is one way to do it. Or if you need to transfer a lot of files to a different computer. Or hand off notes to a friend. There are a lot of reasons to keep a flash-drive handy. Though email always works too.

Dry-Erase Board / Cork-Board

Mount one of these above your desk and keep your schedules in check. You can use magnets or thumb-tacks to keep tickets or coupons in a noticeable place, or hang up fun pictures.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!

Allison Wignall

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