Your Essential Back-To-School Supplies List For High School and Middle School


Back-to-school shopping can be stressful no matter how many times you’ve done it. The school will often send out a list of mandatory supplies for elementary school students to help parents and their kids figure out what they need before the school year starts. But as kids get older there seems to be less guidance about what your child needs for the impending school year, even though they’ll often arrive on the first day of middle school or high school and have teacher’s asking why they didn’t pick up X item or get X brand of a specific scientific calculator.

We’ve decided to at least try and diffuse some of that back-to-school shopping anxiety by curating lists for both middle school and high school kids. These lists are obviously not exhaustive, nor are the items included on the list mandatory, but will probably serve best as a guide for what you should budget for.

Middle School back-to-school list:

  • backpack/sidebag and gym bag (especially if your child is involved in sports)
  • USB drive and backup drive (trust me, once you’ve had one of your projects magically erased, you’ll always backup your work)
  • lock for locker
  • agenda/calendar (unless supplied by the school)
  • pencils/mechanical pencils (if getting mechanical, be sure to get refills of led)
  • pens and highlighters for studying/notes
  • binder (either one big one for all subjects, or multiple smaller ones)
  • looseleaf
  • pencil case and lunch box
  • Notebooks (e.g. Hilroy 80 page Notebooks for studying/taking notes)
  • eraser
  • whiteout
  • folders for holding handouts

High School back-to-school list:

  • laptop (unless you have a desktop/shared laptop at home)
  • scientific calculator or graphing calculator* (your child may only need this if they are taking more advanced math/physics classes)
  • backpack/sidebag and gym bag
  • USB drive and backup drive
  • lock for locker
  • pencils/mechanical pencils (if getting mechanical, be sure to get refills of led)
  • pens and highlighters for studying/notes
  • binder (either one big one for all subjects, or multiple smaller ones)
  • looseleaf
  • pencil case and lunch box
  • locker organizer
  • Notebooks (e.g. Hilroy 80 page Notebooks for studying/taking notes)
  • eraser
  • whiteout
  • folders for holding handouts
  • project/essay/report laminated folders (e.g. Staples Clear Front Report Folder)

This should cover most of the basics that you’d need for your back-to-school supplies shopping. Most other items that you would need a teacher would specify ahead of time so that you could have time to go out and pick it up before classes begin.

As for back-to-school shopping, as kids get older they may like to exercise more agency in what they get for the new school year, especially if they’re in high school and have a part-time job that allows them to buy more, if not all, of their own clothes. This list is again more of a loose idea of what you can pick up to be prepared for the year ahead, but I’d suggest that before you go out shopping with your kids you do a purge of their closet where you lay all of their clothes out and sort them into three piles: things they still wear, things they’ve grown out of, and things they no longer wear anymore.

This will give you a clear idea of what their wardrobes are lacking in and what they’ve got too much of, which should also allow you to customize this suggested back-to-school shopping list to your child’s specific needs.

Back-to-school clothing checklist:

  • pants 2-5 (jeans, cords, khakis, etc.)
  • workout clothing/sports wear 2-3 (e.g. sweatpants, running shorts, leggings, etc.)
  • dress pants/skirts, at least one for either boys or girls
  • casual dresses/skirts (if your daughter likes them)
  • hoodies/sweaters, for the cooler days 2-5
  • casual tees and blouses (4-5) and long-sleeve tees/button ups (3)
  • 1 pair of casual sneakers, 1 pair of formal shoes, and (if needed) 1 pair of sneakers for sports
  • rainboots and winter boots (plus fleece liner, if needed)
  • winter coat (if coat from last year doesn’t fit)
  • fall coat/fleece (if coat from last year doesn’t fit)
  • winter accessories (e.g. mittens, hat, scarf, gloves)
  • socks and underwear (between 10-14)
  • hair accessories (e.g. headband for sports, barrettes, hair elastics, etc.)
  • nail polish (if wanted)
  • face wash
  • deodorant/anti-perperant
  • hand sanitizer
  • gum (if wanted)

Happy back-to-school shopping!


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