Back to School List for College Students

This is not your typical back to school list for college students; it includes things you haven’t thought of, and it’ll make shopping super easy.

School starts soon, I’m a teacher and MSW student, and I just started this New Beginnings blog – and the timing is perfect for writing this back to school list for college students! Ease the pain of going back to school by being prepared and getting organized (see how much of a teacher I am?).

I’m actually a former teacher – I taught grade 8 Language Arts at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa. I’m a current Master’s of Social Work student at UBC (the University of British Columbia) – I’m just starting my second year.

Yesterday at Superstore, I saw barrels and bins of school supplies – but most of them were for elementary school students (eg, crayons, pencil crayons, glue, pencils, etc). What about college students – where are their barrels and bins?

That’s why I’m brainstorming this list for college students going back to school – we’re lost when we go shopping for school supplies in store! It’s much easier and more convenient to get your list and shop online.

Back to School List for College Students

If I miss something, please comment below. I included a quick list of school supplies for college students at the end of this post. But first, I describe what I think is more essential.

Laptops, iPads, smart phones, Kindles, o my!

In the Best University Apps for iPads, I describe my experience with online textbooks, iPads, iPhones, and my Galaxy Samsung Player.

When I started my MSW last September, I bought a Samsung Galaxy Tablet because I didn’t want to spend money on an Apple iPad. Now that I have an iPhone (I just got it a month ago), I wish I would’ve spent the extra money on the iPad. My Galaxy Tablet works great, but the iPhone is so much smoother and easier. I suspect the iPad is better, just based on my Tablet/iPhone experience.

That said, however…do you need more than a laptop for university? A laptop should be on any back to school list for college students, but I’m not sure if a Kindle, smart phone, or even an iPad or Galaxy is necessary. It really depends on what classes you’re taking. Dell Inspiron 15.6-Inch Laptop is the most popular laptop on Amazon right now – and it’s also fairly inexpensive.

My Samsung Galaxy Tablet was invaluable for reading journal articles on the bus and even in class. It saved me from having to print articles – printer toner is so expensive! I’m inclined to encourage college students to buy a Tablet (or iPad, if they can afford it), but I don’t think it’s vital for school.

What technology you need for college depends on your major. If you don’t know where you’re headed yet, read How to Choose a College Major.

Clothes for college

I don’t like shopping – unless it’s for school or office supplies. My sister once gave me a $50 gift card for Office Depot, and I loved it! But I also enjoy shopping for clothes for school! There’s something about buying clothes for school that ramps me up, probably because I love school.

Every September is a chance to start fresh – it’s a new beginning. What do you want this college year to be like? What’s your intention – who do you want to be? Your appearance is part of your college experience, and I encourage you to share your personality and lifestyle with your clothes. I’ve never been a fashionista – and I don’t think this isn’t about trends or fashion. I didn’t plan to put clothes at the top of my back to school list for college students, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how important appearance is.

My favorite place to shop for clothes is a thrift store, but I’ve also shopped online. It’s so convenient and cheap – check out the college clothes and accessories on Amazon.


Maybe textbooks should be at the top of this back to school list for college students! I remember standing in line for hours, buying university textbooks. Now, I get my textbook list early and I order my texts online, from Amazon. I buy used textbooks – they’re much cheaper on Amazon than in any university or college bookstore. I save literally hundreds of dollars on books when I buy used from Amazon or other online used textbook source.
Health matters

I have ulcerative colitis, and it flares when I’m stressed. The last thing I want to do when it flares because I’m stressed at school is go to the doctor, get a prescription for more medication, stand in line at the pharmacy, and then try to get back into remission.

If you’re on prescription medications, stock up on your medicine new — before you need it. This is an essential item on any back to school list for college students.

Exercise DVDs

yoga college studentsEvery good back to school list for college students should include exercise! I’m not a big fan of going to the gym to work out, and I walk my dogs three or four times a day. But yoga and Pilates are my favorite ways to reduce stress and stay fit for the rigors of study. My favorite yoga DVD is Kathryn Budig’s Aim True Yoga. I also highly recommend spending time with dogs and cats, to de-stress.

Quick Back to School List for College Students

  • Science-related tools (eg, calculators, chemistry lab supplies, etc)
  •  Binders, notebooks, legal pads
  • Pens, pencils, highlighters
  • Sturdy backpack
  • Travel mug

What college students need to go back to school depends on what they’re taking and what year they’re in. The only thing I’ll be buying to go back to school in September is my textbooks – and that’ll be from Amazon because it’s cheaper and faster. But, if you’re living on your own for the first time, you may need a lot more than textbooks. If you need help with this, please let me know – I’d be happy to write an article for you.

What have I missed? Comments welcome below!

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