The Best School Supplies for High School & Middle School

Wondering which back to school supplies to get for tweens and teens? Whether you need school supplies for high school or school supplies for middle school, I’ve got you covered!

Back when my kids were in elementary school, we’d be given a list of what to buy for school.

But once we got to middle school, we were on our own to figure out what to bring. If your tween or teen is starting a new middle school or high school, it can be pretty stressful to figure out what to buy. I know those of you looking for sixth-grade school supplies and ninth-grade school supplies are the most stressed out!

Never fear! I’m here to make it easy. Don’t forget to print out my free school supplies checklist! I’ve got a middle school supplies shopping list and a high school supplies shopping list to make your life easier.

Nourishing Tweens is a participant in several affiliate programs, advertising programs that provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com and other websites. I only recommend things that I truly like and would use myself. If you click through my links and make a purchase, there is no additional charge to you

Pens and pencils

Mechanical pencils are the favorite for most tweens and teens, and it’s been the only kind of pencil our family has bought for a while. My daughter’s favorite is the Bic Velocity, which I also really like because they are comfortable to hold:

My son likes this type of Bic Mechanical pencil. He says the erasers work well, and he especially likes the ones with gray erasers. I like them too. Both of these types of pencils are #2, which the kids will need:

And while you are price comparing, don’t get the Papermate mechanical pencils. I’ve made the mistake of buying those when they were on sale. They break easily and squeak when you write. According to my son, they’re “gross.”

A good basic eraser is helpful.

Paper Mate Flair pens have been a favorite of my daughter and her friends for years.

The black Flair pens are great for doing outlines for drawings. My kids were also told to bring black Sharpies for art class.

Bic Velocity pens are a good choice for basic school assignments. They write smoothly and it’s handy to click them open or closed without having to keep track of a cap.

Having a red pen for self-correcting or editing is helpful. Here is the kind my son prefers, the Pilot G2:

Paper Mate Ink Joy gel pens are good for those who like gel pens. They come in typical black and blue, or you can get lots of colors:

Highlighters are a must-have for middle school and high school. Both of my kids had teachers in middle school that required them to highlight things in multiple colors. And lots of kids like to use highlighters for studying or for annotating books (their own books, of course, not books that belong to the school or library).

A pencil case to corral it all is very helpful. They come in tons of cute styles. Here are a couple my daughter likes:

Some kids prefer the style that fits into a binder, like these:

school supplies for high school and middle school
Be ready for high school and middle school with the right school supplies
Photo by Anastasiya Gepp

Paper, Notebooks, Binders, and Folders

Your middle school and high school student will definitely need some binder paper. The kind that has reinforced holes is the best because it’s less likely to rip. Get the college ruled paper rather than wide ruled for tweens and teens. Five Star and Mead are both good brands.

Depending on the grade level, your student might also need some graph paper. Some math and science teachers prefer for them to use graph paper.

And don’t forget the binder! I would suggest a 1 1/2″ or 2″ binder for school. It needs to be big enough to hold everything, but not so big that it won’t fit in their backpack. Avery is a great brand for binders. They are durable. Some kids like to get the kind with a clear cover so they can customize it.

Get some dividers to divide the subject sections in their binder. I like these Avery write-on dividers that come in pretty colors, or you can get them in white:

Dividers with pockets can also be really handy:

Your kids will also need some notebooks. The Five Star brand is really good. Five Star notebooks are pretty rugged and can last all year. Consider whether to get the single subject or multiple subject style- multiple subject means that there are several sections with dividers. They come in lots of colors.

They will also need some folders. The Five Star folders are good quality, just like the notebooks.

Back to school supplies for middle school and high school


When kids are young, cute backpacks with pretty colors or fun designs are common. For middle school and high school, kids are more interested in their backpacks being practical. They need to be rugged to lug all that stuff around and last all year. Most middle schoolers seem to be motivated to fit in, not stand out.

Jansport is one of the most popular backpack brands that you see tons of teens using. I would recommend getting the kind with a leather bottom so that it lasts longer.

Think about whether you need one that can fit a laptop. At the high schools in our area, all of the teens are required to bring a computer back and forth to school every day. If that’s the case for your student, they’ll need a backpack with a laptop compartment so that it will be protected.

Another thing that most kids want is a water bottle. If they bring a water bottle to school every day, they will need a backpack with a water bottle holder on the side.

This Jansport model fits the bill. My daughter has one like this. It has a laptop compartment and water bottle pocket, and has a rugged leather bottom. It also comes in a bunch of colors:

My son has a SwissGear backpack. He likes how nondescript it looks. It has lasted him for years. SwissGear has plenty of both laptop and regular designs.

Hurley makes some stylish backpacks for teens and tweens. If you go directly to the Hurley website, you can get 15% off your first order.

O’Neill is another brand that makes fashionable backpacks with leather bottoms.

Lunch bag and water bottle

For lunch bags, I suggest you get something insulated and easy to clean. Here are a couple of choices:

This neoprene style is nice because it’s crushable, so you can squish it into a crowded backpack:

O’Neill makes this trendy style, which is also crushable:

Hydroflask has been the water bottle to have for years now. We have several of these in our family, and they have been great. They keep your water cold for a long time. They are “required” as a middle school girl – ok, not required, but necessary to fit in as a middle school girl here. In high school they are still popular, and boys have them, too.

If you buy a Hydroflask, don’t forget to get a flip top lid for it. I also would recommend a Flex boot, which is the rubber piece that goes on the bottom to protect it from dents. Make sure that you get all three parts – the bottle itself, the lid, and the flex boot – in the same size.

If you aren’t a slave to trends, I also would highly recommend the Thermos brand. That’s what I use myself, and I love how long my water stays cold. Thermos is about half the cost of a Hydroflask.

Art Supplies

Is your student taking an art class this year? Even if they aren’t, it’s likely that they’ll need some art supplies. For middle school, it is common to need basic art supplies for the history and English classes. My kids needed colored pencils and the sharpies that I already mentioned.

According to my mother-in-law, who is an artist, Prismacolor makes the best colored pencils, so that would be great to have if your student is an artist.

If you want less expensive colored pencils, then I’d recommend Crayola colored pencils. But don’t just choose the cheapest colored pencils you can find- I’ve done that and regretted it. Some just plain don’t work. They’re hard to use and the colors aren’t true.

An excellent eraser is very helpful when you are drawing. This one is the best:

And a basic pencil sharpener is a good idea, too. My kids like to take ones like these to school with them:

If you can fit it into your budget, an automatic pencil sharpener can make your life easier:

If your student is taking an art class, they will probably also need some drawing paper. This is the type of drawing paper my mother-in-law (the artist) recommends:

More school supplies

Here are some other items that your student will need. Some of these school supplies can stay at home because your teen or tween will only need them for homework. First of all, your student will need a stapler:

And a ruler for math and art, and possibly a protractor as well. Make sure the ruler has both inches and centimeters:

Scissors are another item your student will need, and likely they will also need a three-hole punch. Fiskars scissors work very well and last a long time. Now that your student is bigger, I would get the regular size, not a student size.

Index cards are a necessity for most students. They can use them for studying for tests and for projects. They’re especially helpful for kids who are taking foreign language classes. Keep in mind they come in lined or unlined and are available in white or colors. Many kids like the colored style because it makes them easier to sort for different purposes.

Sticky notes are super handy to have. Many high schoolers are learning to annotate their books, so they will also need some of the mini sticky notes or flags to help them do that.

Tech school supplies

As your teen gets to high school, you’ll find they need a calculator for math class. Texas Instruments makes some of the best calculators. Most math teachers won’t allow kids to use their phones for math (and I would guess phones don’t have the special functions needed for advanced math, anyway).

The TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus are some of the most recommended models. You can check with your school’s math department to see if they have any recommendations. I’d also double check that the calculator you pick is one of the approved models for the SAT, since your student will most likely be taking the SAT eventually.

It’s become very popular for middle school and high school students to bring laptops to school. In our district we are very lucky – the district supplies them for all students. But if you’re not so lucky, you need to buy one for your student.

Many families choose to get a Chromebook for their student. They are less expensive because they have less functionality, which actually can be a good thing because it can mean less distractions while they are at school or doing their homework. If you have a nice gaming computer or Macbook I wouldn’t suggest letting your student take it to school – too easy to break or lose, and too tempting for bad guys.

And to go with the laptop, you’re going to need a printer. Tweens and teens nowadays have many things that need to be printed out at home. It’s also really helpful if there is a copy feature. We have an Epson Ecotank Printer and I love it! It works great and we spend so much less on ink than we used to.

Another tech item that your high school student will likely need are some headphones. AirPods are tiny and can connect both to their phone and their laptop. Students use their computers in school a lot. I remember last year my daughter had videos she had to watch for homework that her math teacher made. If she missed a day of school, she would sometimes end up watching the videos during access period (like study hall). For moments like that, headphones are a necessity.

Also, for students who have special needs and have a 504 plan or IEP, it is common that they can be allowed to use their headphones to listen to music during class, as long as it’s not instructional time. This is an acceptable plan for students with anxiety and other issues. If your student has anxiety, some noise cancelling airpods can really help.

If your teen just needs headphones for at-home use, then you can get the style with bigger ear coverings. Noise-cancelling might still be a good idea, especially if they have younger siblings. Beats is an excellent brand. My daughter loves hers.

These are a less-expensive brand, and they have good reviews:

Planner for high school or middle school

Middle school and high school is the time of life when you need to get a handle on organization and responsibility. Teens and tweens need to have an academic planner to help them be productive and organized.

I sell printable planners on Etsy. You can print them out and put them in a binder, folder, or Happy Planner, or you can have them bound at an office store. Printable planners are fun because you can DIY them and rearrange them however you please! If you need some advice on how to go about doing so, read my article about everything you need for printable planners.

I make several different styles of student planners. There’s the Simply Productive Planner, which comes in several colors:

I have a pretty sunflower style academic planner, a Dark Academia Goth Planner, and a more minimalist academic planner.

If you are on my newsletter list, you get a coupon code to get a deal on my planners. When you download my school supplies shopping list, you can choose to join my community. If you do, you’ll be sent an email with the discount code for my Etsy shop! Win-win!

I’ll be adding more planners to my Etsy shop soon, so comment below if you have some ideas or suggestions for what I should make next.

You can also buy planners on Amazon, such as these:

To find out more about academic planners and why students need them, read my article about study planners.

Middle School and High School Supplies for Other Classes

If your student is taking a foreign language class, they will find it useful to have a language dictionary. It can probably be left at home and used to help with homework. Here are a couple of popular examples:

Keep in mind that if your teen wants to bring the dictionary to school, you might want to get a pocket-sized version.

School supplies for high school and middle school

Is your student taking PE this year? If so, they need supplies for a PE locker. Our middle school has kids supply their own combination lock for PE. You’ll need to find out what the procedure is for your school. This is the kind we used and they worked really well:

Don’t forget all the other necessities for PE. It’s a great idea to have an extra pair of running shoes to keep in the locker so that they don’t have to wear running shoes to school every day.

Your teen or tween will also need basic toiletries for the locker, like deodorant, a hairbrush, and that sort of thing. I’ve put all that on your school supplies shopping list – don’t forget to print it out!

If your school supplies kids with lockers besides the PE lockers, your teens might also want some locker accessories. You can get a shelf to make the space more useful, and some teens like to get mirrors and other items.

I hope you’ve found my tips and ideas helpful! I really do think these are the best school supplies for middle school and high school. If you haven’t already, click to download my free school supplies shopping list!

Don’t forget to pin my article so that you can easily find my suggestions while you are out shopping. Have a great school year!

Here are some more articles you might find helpful:

Tween and Teen Style 2022

Daily Printable Planner for Tweens and Teens

Teens Can Get Better Grades with a Student Planner

How Do I Know if My Tween or Teen Has Anxiety?

How to Help Tweens Be Less Negative

Printable school supplies checklists for high school and middle school
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