16 things to buy for back to school now before they sell out
Make sure you nab these school supplies early.
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Like it or not, back-to-school season is approaching quickly. Although we’re not entirely sure what school will look like this upcoming fall, students will need school supplies whether they spend the school year remote or in the classroom. While specific items vary depending on grade and area, there are some essentials that every student needs—and these things are sure to sell out.
In the age of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen everything from hand sanitizer to Nintendo Switches sell out online, and school supplies will likely be no different. This means it’s probably a good idea to get ahead of your back-to-school shopping now. Below you’ll find school supplies for students of all ages that we have a feeling will start selling out soon.
1. A whiteboard that works for your schedule
Whether you’re virtually learning or heading into the classroom, it’s important to keep track of all the due dates of your big assignments. That’s where this handy whiteboard calendar comes in. It’s dry erase, meaning you can constantly make changes to your schedule, and it comes with boards for both monthly and weekly planning, Plus, it includes markers and has over 3,000 positive reviews to back up its functionality.
2. A backpack to hold all your school gear
Even if you’re not going into the classroom this year, a new backpack can make things feel a little more normal, as it gives students a place to store all their school supplies. When we tested backpacks, we found that the L. L. Bean Quad Pack was the best one for students because of the room for storage inside and its comfortable straps. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors to suit your personal style. For a more casual bag, we recommend the Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack, which is very trendy and comes in a wide color assortment.
- Get the Quad Pack at L.L.Bean for $64.99
- Get the Fjallraven Kanken Laptop 15" Backpack at Amazon for $119.95
3. An affordable laptop that’s great for students
With more virtual learning in the cards for the future, it might be time to think about upgrading your laptop for schoolwork. We recommend the Asus Chromebook Flip, which we named the best laptop for students. It doubles as a tablet (hence the flip) and performs school related tasks well, like surfing the web and checking email. If you want to avoid the back-to-school rush, it’s best to get one now.
4. The best tablet for students
Even if you have a laptop, a tablet is a great secondary device to have on hand, as it is a great digital note-taking device. For younger kids, we recommend the Amazon Fire 8 Kids Edition because it's sturdy, portable, and has great image and audio quality, as well as parental control. High school and college students will prefer the Apple iPad, as it’s the best tablet we’ve ever tested and has amazing features like a long battery life, gorgeous high-resolution display, and access to the largest library of apps, media, and more.
5. A cooler to carry your lunch in
For students heading into school, a lunch box is an essential item if you’ll be transporting food to and from home. We tested the most popular lunch coolers and are big fans of this one from Coleman. While testing, we found that it maintained temperatures below 40°F for more than six hours sans an ice pack, meaning it will keep lunch safe during the school day. Not going back to the classroom? Prepping lunch in advance and storing in a cooler can help create a sense of normalcy while learning at home.
6. A planner to track all the assignments
Back in elementary and middle school, I was always given a planner (adorned with a cute logo of our school mascot—a lion) where I would eagerly write down all my assignments. It felt good crossing each one off as they were completed. A planner is still essential for keeping students on track, especially during these hectic times. With over 5,000 reviews on Amazon, the Daily Panda Planner is an excellent choice. It comes not dated and has daily, weekly, and monthly sections designed to help with prioritization and reflection.
7. Colorful gel pens for note taking
Gel pens not only glide across the page, making it easier to scribble down notes, but they’re also available in a ton of colors, which is good for marking off different sections and important details. With over 12,000 reviews and a 4.8-star rating on Amazon, the c are clearly a fan favorite and reviewers say they dry quickly—a.k.a. no smudging.
8. Highly rated mechanical pencils
While pens are my preferred tool for writing, pencils are essential for school work, specifically tests and homework you find yourself erasing a bunch—like math. Reviewers are big fans of these No.2 sparkly ones from BIC, stating that the lead is sturdy and that they come with a quality eraser.
9. Sticky notes for more note taking
Sticky notes are great for jotting down quick reminders and flagging pages of textbooks. For everyday use, reviewers love the classic Post-It Notes, which have been dubbed "America's No. 1 favorite sticky note." People praise these sticky notes for sticking to almost anything, being the perfect size, and coming in a variety of bright colors.
10. Spiral notebooks for every subject
You can never have too many spiral notebooks, in my opinion. Back in my school days, I would color coordinate each folder, notebook, and binder to a specific subject, which is why this 6-pack of single subject notebooks from Mead is perfect. Not only are they affordable, but they come highly rated on Amazon.
11. Noise-canceling headphones to zone into work
Whether you’re watching your virtual class on Zoom or working on a major assignment, noise-canceling headphones are essential for blocking out the world around you and not disturbing others with your teacher’s lecture. The Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Wireless Kids Headphones are ideal for children as they’re volume limiting for developing eardrums. This is why they’re our favorite headphones for kids. Kids 13 and older might prefer the Sony WH-1000XM3s, which are the best noise-canceling headphones we’ve ever tested or our favorite pair of true wireless headphones, the coveted Apple AirPods.
- Get the PuroQuiet Kids Headphones at Puro Sound Labs for $99.99
- Get the Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WH1000XM3 at Amazon for $278
- Get the Apple AirPods at Amazon for $134
12. A laptop tray that makes it easy to work from home
Back in high school, I was never a “desk sitter” at home. I preferred to complete my homework from the comfort of my bed (which I still prefer doing as an adult while working from home). Other bed and couch workers out there might prefer a laptop desk to make working easier and prevent your heated laptop from burning your legs. This one from TaoTronics has more than 2,000 reviews and a 4.7-star rating, with reviewers praising its tilting feature and that it can easily be folded for storage.
13. A thick, durable binder
A padded binder is always a better option compared to those plastic ones that always break on you halfway through the school year. That won’t be a problem with the Case-it Mighty Zip Binder. It has a ton of storage, five section tabs for multiple subjects, and sturdy rings and a firm backing. Plus, there’s even pockets for pens, calculators, and other miscellaneous school items.
14. Four-pocket folders to hold miscellaneous papers
Assignments, tests, handouts—you get a lot of random papers in school. To avoid misplacing things, tuck your papers into these Five Star 4 Pocket Folders, which have more than 700 reviews on Amazon. Reviewers love how durable they are (enough to last the school year) and that the four pockets allow them to organize important pages up front.
15. Glue sticks for various craft projects
For younger kids especially, glue sticks will be very important during the upcoming school year. Whether they’re working on a project for class or passing the time with an arts and crafts project at home, you should always be sure to have these on hand. Elmer’s glue sticks are a long-time favorite for being washable, and this 30-pack will ensure you don’t run out of glue sticks when one dries out.
16. Wide-ruled paper for note-taking
Like spiral notebooks, having some wide-ruled notebook paper on hand for note-taking and other assignments is always important—especially for those of us who like organizing these sheets in a 3-ring binder. Compared to college-ruled notebook paper, the larger gaps between lines makes it easier for those of us with larger handwriting to take down notes. Reviewers on Amazon like this pack from Mead, which has more than 1,000 positive reviews stating that it's thin enough to not take up too much space in a binder, yet quality enough that it doesn't tear.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.