Back-to-School Checklist: The Best Items to Get Now

Universal school supplies for every age

Each year, your kids’ teachers will provide you with a class list of the specific school supplies you’ll need to provide. While there’s nothing wrong with waiting to get those lists, it often means making a mad dash to get to a store or order online. And those lists don’t necessarily cover the supplies you’ll need for homework, studying, and keeping schoolwork organized at home. With that in mind, we’ve prepared back-to-school checklists from elementary to college with the best items you can get ahead of time.

You might also like:

Back-to-school binders

Binders are perhaps the most essential item for back-to-school, and there’s actually a lot that goes into choosing the right one! Of course, you will likely want to check the class list for specifics. However, it’s also important to know which binders can get you through on a budget and what to look for if you want your school binders to last. For that reason, instead of including regular school binders on these lists, we devoted an entire article to breaking down the best school binders for every age and level. You can also use our binder resource page to browse and compare styles as well as get ideas and inspiration for more ways to organize with binders.

Dividers always come in handy, why not go for glittery ones to add a bit of sparkle to your student’s day!

Elementary back-to-school checklist

Undoubtedly, elementary-aged kids classes mean a lot of sticky little hands. So it’s always a good idea to get on top of reducing germs as early as possible. With that in mind, our elementary back-to-school list focuses on durable kids’ school supplies that you can wipe down whenever “gunk happens.” In fact, we wrote an entire article about how to label school supplies so that you can still clean them.

Additionally, durable labels are fantastic for identifying school supplies so that they don’t get mixed up or lost. Moreover, sheet protectors are great for creating reusable worksheets you can write on with dry-erase markers. To demonstrate, simply slip any paper into a sheet protector to instantly make activity sheets, checklists, and schedules that are all reusable.

It’s also important to include school supplies that make back-to-school fun, for example, fun binders or glue sticks for crafting. Starting a new grade is a big deal anytime, but especially in elementary school, it’s a great idea to go the extra mile to make the new school year feel special.

Avery durable labels 41413 are shown applied to plastic pouches for school. Each label has a handwritten name on them.

1) Durable ID labels for kids gear

We love these 3-1/2″ x 1-1/4″ durable kids labels (41413) that you can write on. The colors are fun and can also be used to color-code school supplies.

Avery 40720 no-iron labels are shown applied to back-to-school checklist items including a backpack, shoes, and markers.

2) Versatile no-iron fabric labels

No-iron fabric labels for backpacks and clothing (40720) are indispensable for labeling school supplies for little kids.

Avery 75540 sheet protectors and Avery 24409 dry erase markers show how to make DIY reusable worksheets. A worksheet is placed in a sheet protector and then the dry erase markers are used to write on the sheet protector.

3) Supplies for reusable worksheets

These standard sheet protectors (Avery 75540) are inexpensive and pretty versatile. They’re perfect to combine with our 24409 dry erase marker pack, which comes in a classic combo of red, blue, green, and black.

A top-down image of three Avery binders with photographs of cute puppies on them.

4) Cute binders to motivate kids

Our Frenchie Puppy Binder (26836) is a fan favorite, but there are many more cool colors and designs to choose from as well.

An image showing pieces of construction paper folded and glued together to create triangles that are used for building and spatial play. In the center of the image is Avery 00171 Glue Stic.

5) Glue sticks for crafty school projects

Our favorite glue stick for back-to-school is the regular Glue Stic™ 2-pack (00171). There are also bigger packs, and different formulas to suit different needs.

Middle & junior high back-to-school checklist

Self-expression is important for kids, especially in those crucial middle school and junior high years. For this reason, our back-to-school checklist for tweens is all about mixing the basics with customization. For example, supplies in fun colors and personalized DIY sticker decals make it easy for kids to express themselves.

To begin with, school supplies don’t have to be boring. Your tween will love mixing and matching colorful dividers and Ultra Tabs® in a variety of colors and finishes. Next, consider helping your kids make custom stickers. They’re the perfect way for tweens to decorate their tablet, laptop, or school supplies. Not only are our DIY decal sheets safe for recommended surfaces, but they’re also easy to personalize. In fact, our top 10 sticker templates for making DIY decals are perfect for easily creating personalized stickers.

Finally, think about ways to help your tween stay organized at home. Create laminated, reusable chore lists and weekly calendars they can use to practice managing their own time and tasks. Colorful dry-erase markers allow them to color-code or doodle as needed.

A top-down image of an open binder on a teal blue desk. The binder is surrounded by back-to-school supplies. Inside the binder are colorful Avery 11989 pocket dividers.

2) Colorful dividers for middle school subjects

We love these durable two-tone plastic dividers (11989) for the colors, because the plastic lasts longer, and because the pockets are convenient.

A top-down shot of index tabs for a back-to-school checklist. Avery 74147 Ultra Tabs are shown with a variety of other Ultra Tabs, highlighters and an open bullet journal.

3) Ultra Tabs for indexing

There are so many eye-catching colors and styles of Ultra Tabs to choose from, but we really love the holographic jewel-tone Ultra Tabs (74147). They’re perfect for studying or journaling.

Avery 73601 laminating sheets and 24481 dry erase markers are shown used together to demonstrate making a DIY dry erase chore chart for tweens and teens.

4) Advanced color-coding and organizing

Self-laminating sheets like Avery 73601 and colorful, pen-style dry-erase markers (24481) are perfect for giving tweens a little more responsibility with chore charts and calendars they can manage themselves.

High school back-to-school checklist

Much like middle school and junior high students, high school students also need school supplies they can personalize. However, the reasons are somewhat different. Personalized school supplies are not only for self-expression. They also support more sophisticated projects and study schedules.

First and foremost, academic planners are a necessity for high school students to hone time-management skills that they will need in college and beyond. Furthermore, highlighters and index tabs facilitate more sophisticated studying, note-taking, and color coding. Not to mention the fact that tougher subjects, college prep, and everything else high school kids are taking on means organization is more important than ever. Durable plastic dividers are ideal for single-subject binders with complex units and assignments.

Of course, that’s not to say there’s no room for fun on your back-to-school checklist. For example, DIY decals work for high school students too. In fact, our Surface Safe® printable decal sticker sheets remove cleanly from metal and painted metal without leaving any residue. This makes them perfect for decorating lockers. In contrast, ultrafine-point permanent markers are perfect for decorating personal items like binders or sneakers while also being useful for school projects.

An open Avery academic planner (29874) is shown as an important item for a high school back-to-school checklist. The planner has dated tabs from July to June and is filled in with school planning notes.

1) Academic planners for time management

Avery dated planner (29874) covers July to June to follow the school year. Extra pages and a free sticker sheet make it a great value for high school planners.

An open textbook is shown with a yellow Avery Hi-Liter and Avery 74767 neon Ultra Tabs.

2) Coordinating highlighters and index tabs

High school classes are just more complicated. Our fluorescent Hi-Liter® pack (24063) and neon Ultra Tabs (74767) make it easy to color code school materials.

An Avery school binder is shown open on a wooden desk surrounded by a school supplies for math class. Inside the binder are Avery 11200 plastic big-tab dividers.

3) Durable plastic dividers

We love these 5-tab durable plastic dividers (11200) for organizing single-subject binders for high school classes.

Avery 9231 markers are shown on a table being used for drawing diagrams for school.

4) Colorful ultra-fine markers

Our colorful permanent marker pack (9231) features an ultra-fine tip that makes them useful for doodling or school projects.

Cute sushi decals made with Avery 61512 decal sheets are shown inside a metal locker.

5) DIY locker decals

Print this design on Avery 61512 decal sticker sheets for laser or inkjet printers. Or finish customizing, then choose “Let Us Print for You” to order custom-printed Surface Safe decals.

More resources for parents

Is something missing from your back-to-school checklist? Check out more articles just for parents. Or follow us on Pinterest for A+ back-to-school ideas and share your projects for the new school year on Instagram with #averyproducts.

Author: JoJo Mrgich

JoAnn (JoJo) Mrgich is a copywriter and SEO content writer who began her copywriting career in 2011. A musical theater major at the time, JoJo began writing blog articles, product descriptions, and other online content for a dancewear brand. Since then, she has gone on to write in a variety of fields, from essential oils and natural beauty to fashion and swimwear, finally landing at Avery, which she affectionately calls her "forever home." At Avery, JoJo writes content for the Avery blog, covering everything from organization to party planning, as well as contributing to other online content for She is also a technical and content writer for Avery Industrial, where she writes in-depth articles that span a wide variety of topics, from safety compliance to 5S lean practices. In her personal life, JoJo is a big fan of fantasy and science-fiction works such as Lord of the Rings and Star Trek (especially the original series). She also loves going to Disneyland and runs a non-profit social organization of 600 members that brings fans of "nerd culture" together for meet-ups and events in Southern California.