Armed with your school supply list, you head off to Target (or open up an Amazon tab on your laptop) feeling prepared and optimistic—until you realize there are so many choices out there for everything. Different colors, different features, different material, different sizes. The overwhelm is very real.
To help make your back-to-school shopping a little less stressful, we've rounded up some of the best supplies and essentials below, from our favorite backpack to the best laptop for students to the number one coffee maker for your dorm room.
1. Backpack: L.L. Bean Quad Pack
So you have all your supplies—but now you need somewhere to put them. Our favorite back-to-school backpack is the L.L. Bean Quad Pack. Thanks to its comfortable padding and tons of pockets and pouches, it's fashionable and functional.
2. Pens: Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens
I never understood people who had a "favorite pen"—until I got my first pack of Paper Mate InkJoy Gel Pens. And with over 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, I'm clearly not alone in my love for these colorful pens. They write smoother than any other pen I've ever used and don't dry out quickly.
3. Highlighters: Sharpie Liquid Highlighters
Sharpie makes more than just some of the best permanent markers—they also make some of the best highlighters. And these liquid ones are the most popular, with over 1,200 Amazon reviews praising them for their vivid colors, long-lasting ink, and the fact that they don't smear or bleed through.
4. Pencils: BIC Xtra-Sparkle Mechanical Pencils
Goodbye cheap pencils that break easily and have erasers that, well, don't even erase. These colorful mechanical pencils from BIC—dubbed the number one selling mechanical pencil out there—are refillable so they can be used all school year and don't smudge easily. Customers also say they're very comfortable to hold and write with.
5. Glue: Elmer's All Purpose School Glue Sticks
There are few things worse than pulling out your glue stick—only to find it's completely dried up after just a few uses. These washable glue sticks from Elmer's (which are number one in glue sticks and in art glues on Amazon) will help you avoid that struggle. With over 2,000 reviews, happy users like that they're easy for kids to use and have good adhesion.
6. Sticky Notes: Post-it Pop-up Notes
There are tons of sticky notes out there, in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. But for everyday use, you can't go wrong with the classic Pop-up Notes from Post-It. Named "America's number one favorite sticky note," people praise these Post-Its for being able to stick to almost anything and for being the perfect size (three inches square).
7. Binder: Case-It Mighty Zipper Binder
Take it from the 2,000-plus people on Amazon who are in love with this binder: It's worth the price. With sturdy rings and a firm backing, it's incredibly heavy-duty and has extra-large capacity so you can store more papers and supplies inside. Customers also appreciate that it zips closed to keep everything neatly inside when you're toting it from class to class.
8. Planner: BooQool 2019-2020 Academic Planner
Homework assignments, tests, extracurriculars... the school year gets busy fast. Stay organized with this customizable planner from BooQool (it has a clear pocket cover so you can change up the design whenever you want). Its 1,000-plus reviewers say it has more than enough space for listing all your to-dos and holds up well to daily wear and tear.
9. Notebook: Mead Spiral Notebook
A lot of school supply lists look like this: one binder, one backpack, one laptop, 12398743 spiral notebooks. For the best value, stock up with these ones from Mead, which are highly-rated (and very popular) on Amazon. They come in a variety of colors so you can use one color per subject and users like how durable and sturdy they are.
10. Folder: Avery Two-Pocket Folders
The number one binder pocket on Amazon, these Avery folders received high marks for being great quality and even better value (you can get 25 for under $10!). They're also durable and won't rip easily and have ample space for storing looseleaf papers.
11. Lunchbox: Rubbermaid LunchPak
If you pack lunch for your kids every day, they'll need a lunchbox that lasts—and that will actually keep their food cold. Our experts tried all different lunchboxes and coolers and found that the Rubbermaid LunchPak was the best for students. It has a freezable gel lining so you can stick the whole thing right in the freezer and parents love that it's durable and easy to clean.
Tech and Electronics
12. Laptop: Asus Chromebook Flip
When you're hunting for a school laptop, you want to look for the sweet spot that's a computer with all the features you need but without the outrageous cost. That's what you'll get with the Chromebook Flip, which our experts voted the best laptop for students. It's lightweight, has good speed and decent storage, and, the best part, it's under $500.
13. Tablet for Kids: Amazon Fire 8 Kids Edition
Here at Reviewed, we tested some of the most popular tablets on the market to find the best one for students. It turned out to be the Amazon Fire 8 Kids Edition because it's sturdy, portable, and has great image and audio quality. Bonus: It's easy to set up parental controls, too.
14. Wireless Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
There's a reason people are obsessed with Bose (and why they're our number one wireless headphones of 2019)—they're all around great quality. Whether you want to listen to Spotify on the way to school or block out any outside noise while you're studying, this pair has the active noise-cancellation that Bose is known for and is light and comfortable enough to wear for a few hours at a time.
15. Calculator: Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator
There are some things the calculator app on your phone just can't handle (like graphing advanced algebraic equations). And for that—or if your school doesn't allow phones in class—you'll want the TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator, which has nearly 4,000 glowing reviews on Amazon. The number one new calculator for 2019, it has all the functions students need and comes highly recommended by teachers.
P.S.: If you don't need the graphing function, you can also opt for the much less expensive (but still great quality) TI-30XS Scientific Calculator for under $20.
Dorm Room Essentials
16. Single-Serve Coffee Maker: Nespresso VertuoPlus
Move over, Keurig—after hours of testing single-serve coffee makers, our experts chose the Nespresso VertuoPlus as the clear winner. (One Amazon reviewer even called it "a Keurig on steroids!") Not only does it brew a great cup of coffee but it's super compact, making it ideal for dorm rooms.
17. Comforter: Linenspa All-Season Down Comforter
Comfort is key when it comes to your dorm room, especially your bed. And this quilted comforter from Linenspa will provide just that. Chosen as our best value comforter of 2019, it has over 6,000 positive Amazon reviews touting its warmth and stain-resistant surface. Tip: Check your specific dorm's bed size before you click buy—most require a Twin XL comforter rather than a regular Twin.
18. Pillow: Xtreme Comforts Memory Foam Pillow
For the best sleep in your new bed, snag one of these memory foam pillows which is our top-rated bed pillow. That's because it's adjustable (so you can make your pillow firmer or cushier depending on your preference) and provides the perfect balance of support and softness.
19. Bath Towel: Fieldcrest Spa Solid Bath Towel
You may have to settle for sharing a bathroom in your dorm but that doesn't mean you should settle for less-than-amazing towels. These plush towels from Fieldcrest were chosen as the best bath towels of the year by our experts thanks to their perfect size and ability to soak up water better than most other towels.
20. Storage Bin: Sterilite Ultra Storage Box
When you live in a small dorm room, storage space is limited. Make the most of every inch by using under-the-bed bins, like these from Sterilite, which our testers found to be the best of their kind. With a 66-quart capacity, they're incredibly roomy yet slide under your bed easily (thanks, wheels!) and can be neatly stacked.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.