Back to School Checklist

girl shopping

It’s that time of year again! As your kids’ summer break comes to a close, they are likely filled with anticipation and excitement for the upcoming school year. Well, at least we hope so!

Preparing your children for a successful academic year can feel like a daunting task, with so many things to keep track of. To help you out, we’ve categorized the essential supplies based on different grade levels. Take a look through the lists and find the one that matches your children’s grade. Remember to double-check with teachers and schools for any specific restrictions or additional requests they may have.

However, there’s more to consider beyond the usual school supplies. The back-to-school season presents an opportunity to hit the refresh button and get your and your kids’ lives organized. So, before we dive into the comprehensive list of academic supplies, let’s first address some must-haves and nice-to-haves as you prepare for the new school year.

School Paperwork

This is a big one that’s an extremely gratifying checkmark on the ol’ to-do, mostly because it hangs over your head. Set aside an hour or two and get it done ASAP.


Seeing clearly is pretty high up on the academic must-haves list. Late summer is the perfect time to go see the eye doctor, upgrade prescriptions, and get some new pairs.

Doctor’s Appointments

Do your kids have medication that they need to leave with the school nurse? You’re going to need to get the doctor to sign off on these and prescribe with as many refills as you can get — things are about to get really busy for your kids, so you want to minimize unnecessary appointments.

Over-The-Counter Meds

Allergies. Colds. Flus. It’s all coming. Stock up and nip those early signs of illness in the bud!

Shoes and School Clothes

Kids growing too fast? Their shoe soles looking a little worse for the wear? Got autumn athletics to look forward to? Just want to upgrade their wardrobe a bit? Now’s the time.


It’s easy to forget when the kids need a haircut. They’ve got a surplus of time before school starts, so now’s a good time.

Checklists & Schedules

Things are about to change. Write out a weekly schedule, complete with wake times, out-the-door times, pick-up times, after-school activities. Your schedule will soon become second nature, but for now, play it safe. Document everything and post it prominently for all to see.

Scope Things Out

If it’s a new school, take your kids on a tour. Drive by, get out and walk around. Try to find their homeroom class so they at least know where to go in the melee of the morning. More than just strategic, getting familiar with the school building (and maybe meeting a teacher or two) will help settle some of those back-to-school butterflies.

On to the list of essentials!


  • Pencil box 
  • Crayons 
  • Colored pencils 
  • Washable markers 
  • No. 2 pencils 
  • Pencil sharpener 
  • Erasers 
  • Glue sticks 
  • Blunt-tipped scissors 
  • Plastic folders
  • Assorted construction paper 
  • Wide-ruled notebook or pad 
  • Tissues 
  • Backpack — aim for waterproof! 
  • Lunchbox or bag 
  • Reusable water bottle 

Elementary School: Grades 1-3 

The list for Grades 1-3 stays essentially the same. All of the above stays on your list, but you should add a few advanced tools of the trade: 

  • Ballpoint pens 
  • Ruler 
  • Index cards 

Elementary School: Grades 4-5 

For Grades 4-5, things are getting more sophisticated. You’ll want to pick up a sturdier backpack as books get heavier and more plentiful. 

  • Pencil bag/pouch 
  • Blue or black ballpoint pens 
  • No. 2 pencils 
  • Pencil sharpener 
  • Highlighters 
  • Erasers 
  • Three-ring binder 
  • Three-hole-punch 
  • Loose-leaf paper or spiral notebooks 
  • Subject dividers 
  • Index cards 
  • Plastic folders 
  • Ruler 
  • Scissors 
  • Calculator 
  • Personal Organizer/Calendar 
  • Backpack 
  • Lunchbox or bag 
  • Reusable water bottle 

Middle School & High School 

The Middle School and High School supplies list looks a lot like the list for Grades 4-5. You’ll notice that your kids no longer need crayons or markers, but they will need a few more advanced tools to be totally prepared. 

  • Graph paper 
  • Post-Its 
  • White-Out 
  • Protractor 
  • Graphing calculator 
  • Combination lock 
  • Gym bag

And by this point in your kids’ lives, it’s probably a good idea to consult with them. They’ve probably worked up a preference for certain supplies over others. For example, multi-subject spiral notebooks versus binders with subject dividers.

But perhaps most importantly, use the rest of the summer to enjoy some fun with your kids. Take a day trip, host a barbecue for them and their friends, go hiking or camping, visit out-of-town family, hit a museum or two — do all the things that their soon-to-be packed schedules won’t allow when they go back to school.

If you or your children are preparing for college or considering higher education, Alliance Direct Benefits offers abundant resources. These include the Alliance Scholarship Program to help Alliance member families meet the costs associated with college, the Career Education Grant Program for members interested in a technical vocation, and the Alliance College Guide, an online resource helping students and their parents with information about preparing and applying for college.

For more information, check out the Alliance Direct Benefits plans today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (Monday – Friday, 7am-5:30pm Central Time). The Alliance is a not-for-profit corporation that uses its group buying power to provide businesses, individuals and families with affordable access to health, travel and education benefits.