College Supply List for Freshman Year (FREE PDF Checklist)

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Freshman college supply checklist – FREE cheat-sheet for back-to-school shopping!

The things you’ll need for class when you’re packing for college.

black notebook, pen, glasses, paperclips, and cup of pencils on white background

Do you have a college supply list, yet?

Chances are that you don’t have one, because unlike grade school –

Universities and community colleges don’t put out an official list of essentials that students should bring with them to class.

Which often leaves freshman year students wondering:

What school supplies do I need for college?

There are a lot of uncertainties in the transition from high school to college. It’s no surprise that there’s confusion surrounding this topic, as well.


In this post, my goal is to help clear up that confusion!

I’m going to lay out all class essentials you should get and even provide you with a printable freshman college supply list. Start your first semester of college with confidence by making sure you know what you need.


What Supplies Do I Need for College?

Starting college can seem like you’re beginning a whole new life.

If you’re experiencing some feelings of anxiety or doubt, don’t stress about it! That’s completely normal.

There are many common fears college freshman have, and not being adequately prepared is one of them.

As a current college student myself:

I know just how busy life can get leading up to the weeks before college begins. And, considering what school supplies you need to succeed can all too easily fall by the wayside.


You found this online post! Let that wave of mini relief wash over you, ’cause you now have one less thing to worry about.

I’ll talk about 17 must-have school supplies for college and offer some recommendations below.

School Supplies for College List

Here is a basic college supply list that will help kickoff your first day, the RIGHT way.

💡 TIP: The best “Back to School” sales on school supplies happen in May, June & July. Try to pick up these items then if you can!

1. Pencils and Erasers

Paper Mate Clearpoint Mechanical Pencils, HB #2 Lead (0.7mm), Assorted Barrel Colors, 4 Count View on Amazon

Pencils and erasers are number ONE on my college supply list because of the daily use you’ll get out of them.

While pens may be your preferred writing utensil, you’ll need at least one pencil for filling out scantrons.

Mechanical pencils, or regular pencils; it doesn’t really matter the exact type you choose so long as you are comfortable using it. If you go the mechanical pencil route, don’t forget to pick up some extra lead!

And, no doubt:

There’s always some erasing to be done. Mistakes are just a part of life.

2. Black/Blue and Red Ink Pens

Paper Mate InkJoy 300RT Retractable Ballpoint Pens, Medium Point, Black/Red/Blue Ink, 8 Pack (1945918) View on Amazon

These may seem like banal items, but red and black pens have come in clutch for me on more than one occasion!

From peer editing to writing notes, they have their uses.

At the college I’m attending, black ink pens are preferred by my professors for written assignments. This may vary by school, though.

While you can take notes on a laptop, studies have revealed that students who take notes by hand often retain more than those who type them. Something to keep in mind!

3. Highlighters or Mildliners

Zebra Pen Mildliner Double Ended Highlighter Set, Broad and Fine Point Tips, Assorted Ink Colors, 15-Pack View on Amazon

It’s no surprise that highlighters/mildliners are another item worth taking to college.

There will be lots of homework and reading – you’ll be glad you have these when it’s crunch time. I know I always am!

4. Binder/s or Accordion Folder/s

Forvencer Expanding File Folder, Letter Size, Cute Folders for Documents, 5 Pocket Folder Organizer with Labels, Filing Products Accordian Folder Paper Organizer Folder, Folders for School View on Amazon

Another thing I recommend having on a college supply list for freshman is:

Either a binder or an accordion folder. Both are a great way to keep track of and organize papers for class.

Some people like to have a binder or accordion folder for each class. And other people like to have just one.

It just depends on your own preferences. But I suggest getting less rather than more in the terms of quantity.

You can always buy more after the semester starts and it’s less clutter to keep around.

5. Notebooks

Mead Spiral Notebooks, 6 Pack, 1 Subject, College Ruled Paper, 7-1/2" x 10-1/2", 70 Sheets per Notebook, Color Will Vary (73065) View on Amazon

Notebooks are handy for taking notes, journaling, and brainstorming ideas.


I’m sure you figured you’d need these for college. However, it’s nice to have thoughts confirmed!

It depends on how much of a note taker you are, but it’s advisable to get one spiral notebook per class.

6. Loose Leaf Paper

Mead Loose Leaf Paper, Notebook Paper, College Ruled Filler Paper, Standard, 8 x 10.5, 200 Sheets (15326), White View on Amazon

This is an essential (and probably a no-brainer) for your college supply list because, like pencils, this gets used everyday!

Some instructors don’t like the edges that notebook paper leaves, which is why I suggest getting loose leaf in addition.

7. Paper and Binder Clips

【80pack】Binder Clips, Limque Paper Clips,Paper Clamps with Colored Cute Hollow Smiling Face,80 Pcs Assorted Size Clips, for Office,Teacher Gifts and Kitchen View on Amazon

Gotta be able to control all that loose leaf paper somehow, am I right?

I use these all the time to keep relevant papers together. Like homework I’ve started and the instructions for it.


Binder clips come in handy when it’s time to turn in a big project.

8. Folders

Mr. Pen- Plastic Folders with Pockets and Prong, 5 Pack, Muted Pastel Colors, Pocket Folders, Prongs, File Fasteners, 2 Folder, Folder Pockets, Two View on Amazon

Honestly, you get sooo many handouts in college. It can be overwhelming!

Keep track of it all by getting a couple of folders.

I recommend going with plastic folders, as paper ones easily rip if they get wet and plastic ones will last your whole college career.

Oh and:

Make sure you CLEARLY label on the front which class each is for. It’ll save you time when rifling through your backpack.

It’s even a good idea to color coordinate your notebooks, binder, and folders for each class.

9. Wite-Out

BIC Wite-Out Brand EZ Correct Correction Tape, 39.3 Feet, 2-Count Pack of white Correction Tape, Fast, Clean and Easy to Use Tear-Resistant Tape Office or School Supplies View on Amazon

Since we’re all not perfect and mistakes happen – it’s best to have some wite-out around when you’re in college.

It’s great to have for tests where you can only use a pen, or when you notice a spelling error right before you’re about to hand in an essay. It’s useful stuff!

💡 TIP: If you want to get it for FREE, watch for coupons in your local newspaper. They pop up around the time back to school sales do.

10. Sticky Notes

Mr. Pen- Sticky Notes, 3”x3”, 12 Pads, Morandi Colors Self-Stick Note Pads, Sticky Pads Sticky Notes Aesthetic, Colorful Sticky Notes, Bulk Sticky Notes View on Amazon

Next up on the school supplies for college list are sticky notes.

If you’re like me, you may be a little forgetful.

I use sticky notes as colorful little reminders. They are also a great way to take notes in your textbooks without actually writing in them.

Flag sticky notes are also useful for marking your place and important information you want to come back.

11. Small Stapler

COCOMK Stapler with Staples,Small Heavy Duty staplers for Desk (Pink) View on Amazon

We may being living in a digital era, but not all things are turned in digitally at college.

Some papers have to be submitted the old fashioned way, aka on actual paper. Having a mini stapler ready in my backpack has saved my butt more than a few times.

You can easily pick one up for cheap at The Dollar Store, Target, or Walmart.

12. Scotch Tape and Scissors

Magic Tape, 3 Rolls Tape with Tape Dispenser, Invisible Tape, Clear Tape, 1/2 x 450 Inches Tape Rolls + Scissors All Purpose View on Amazon

When you’re a college student, tape and scissors come in handy more often than you might imagine.

Which is why:

It’s a good idea to add a roll and a pair to your list of things to bring. You’ll be thanking yourself later when you need them!

13. Flash Drive

MOSDART 64GB Waterproof Metal USB 2.0 Flash Drive - Keychain Thumb Drive Memory Stick Jump Drive Data Storage for Computers - exFAT, Shockproof and Dustproof (Silver) View on Amazon

If it wasn’t obvious, much of college work is done digitally these days.


When it’s time to print or present in class, you can use a portable flash drive to take your work with you.

Make sure to have one on your freshman college supply list. Many students forget to bring one!

14. Calculator

Casio FX-991ES Plus Scientific Calculator Fx 991 Es - New & Sealed ship to world wide View on Amazon

Will you be taking any math classes? Or other classes that use math?

If so, you’ll want to add a calculator to your college supply list.

Sure you have one on your phone, but phones aren’t really allowed out during testing.


I advise checking with your instructor before purchasing one, though – some prefer a certain brand. You might even be able to score a calculator off a graduating student for cheap.

15. Academic Planner

Class Tracker Ultimate Dated College Planner, 2023-2024 Planner with Daily, Monthly, and Weekly Pages for Students (Cream, Ocean Blue & Seafoam) View on Amazon

A top priority on a college supply list for freshman should be a planner. Maybe you used one in high school, or maybe you didn’t.

Either way:

I HIGHLY recommend getting an academic planner to use at college. There’s so much going on and so much to keep track.

Personally, it’s way too much for me to keep track of without help.

That’s where a planner comes in – I use it to keep track of my class schedule, important due dates for assignments, upcoming test dates, my work schedule, personal appointments, and more.

Honestly, it’s a real lifesaver and it makes my life feel so much more put together. I can’t suggest one enough!

NOTE: These last two items on my college supply checklist are the most expensive buys…
But – to me, they’re the most worth it. Because they’ll (hopefully) last throughout your whole college experience. I recommend going for quality when shopping for these things.

16. Backpack

adidas Women's VFA 4 Backpack, Wonder Taupe Beige, One Size View on Amazon

Yes, you still need a backpack!

Especially if your campus is large, and all your classes are consecutive. There are no lockers, and there is no time to stop at your car to get your books.

If you’re going to be toting around a laptop with you, make sure to choose a backpack that’s equipped to carry one.


That last thing you want to happen is for your laptop to get damaged – a replacement is far from cheap!

Laptop backpacks have a specific padded sleeve for extra security and many are water resistant, as well for extra safety.

17. Laptop

Acer Spin 5 Convertible Laptop, 13.5" 2K 2256 x 1504 IPS Touch, 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7, 16GB LPDDR4X, 512GB NVMe SSD, Wi-Fi 6, Backlit KB, FPR, Rechargeable Active Stylus, SP513-54N-74V2 View on Amazon

You will basically LIVE on your laptop as a college student.

From researching assignments, writing papers, and communicating with instructors, a laptop is a must in this day and age!


Before you buy a laptop, make sure the one you pick can run all the programs required for your college.

This is the laptop I personally use, it’s been great and has met all my needs. I love how it doubles as a tablet!

💡 TIP: Look for “open box” deals to possibly score a lower price when you’re shopping around.

As a recap, here’s a list of what supplies you should pick up for college:
❑ Pencils and erasers
❑ Black/blue and red ink pens
❑ Binder/s or accordion folder/s
❑ Notebooks
❑ Loose leaf paper
❑ Paper clips and binder clips
❑ Folders
❑ Wite-out
❑ Sticky notes
❑ Small stapler
❑ Scotch tape and scissors
❑ Flash drive
❑ Calculator
Planner (for students)
❑ Backpack
❑ Laptop

→  Click to save the college school supply list PDF to your device.


Final thoughts on what school supplies you need for college…

Hopefully this post answered your question of – what supplies do I need for college? – as far as day to day class items.

The college supply list should  come in handy during your preparation phase for freshman year. You can even even print it out to save for later!

I just know that the things on this checklist have been my main go-tos so far in my college career.


If you’re looking to cut down on school supply expenses, here are some places to look for FREE ones.


College Supply List PDF – get it for free!

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Did I miss any essentials on this school supplies for college list? Let me know in a comment down below!


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College Supply List for Freshman | FREE PDF Checklist

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One Comment

  1. Back to school shopping for any age is just too cute. I remember going College shopping with my parents and than after than I was left to shop and becoming independent on my own.