By Katie Moosbrugger

Ok, it’s been a loooong time since I’ve been in school, and wow have things changed! So in an effort to find out what’s cool in school these days (even my kids don’t know because they are only five and two), I did some research online and headed out to Target (everything there is considered cool, right?) to do all my shopping and chatted it up with some students who happened to be shopping there as well. Despite the fact that every county publishes lists of essential school supplies (you can find these lists online for Forsyth, Guilford and Randolph school districts), below are some other items that I think make the grade!


Big Bags

My first eye-opener with back-to-school shopping is that backpacks are definitely not considered cool for girls in high school. Big bags are all the rage, and I’m talking about the cute oversized totes we moms like to carry around! Target has a great selection (the above photo is one example) for very affordable prices. And the rising high school junior I talked to took me right to a super cute animal print canvas tote ($12.99) that she says is a typical bag you’d see in the halls of her school. Some girls, however, go for real designer bags. Regardless of what brand you choose, it has to be big enough to hold binders, calculators, pens, highlighters, make-up and other accessories. Be sure to pick ones with the reinforced gromets where the strap meets the bag so you can be sure it will hold all the weight.

Pencil Pouches

Another must have (mainly for girls) but for girls of all ages are cute pencil pouches. Target has a great selection and the pouches I picked up were each under $2. And while Target’s selection might be better suited for girls in elementary school, just about any clutch would work for teens. A useful trend in pencil cases is the three-tiered version to organize and store pencils, pens, paper clips, erasers and any other items. Other stores that carry cute and useful pencil pouches include Barnes and Noble, and if you search online for “tiered pencil cases” you can find a variety in Disney themes too.

Recycled Notebooks

Notebooks and three-ring binders are a no-brainer, but have you ever considered recycled notebooks? (Recycled pencil bags and totes are popular too!). Target carries a nice selection of 3-ring binders and other notebooks in a variety of designs. You will know they are recycled because it will have the “greenroom” sticker on the notebook. The one-inch binder I picked up was only $5.99.

I also picked up a super cute notebook (not recycled, however) that has the “periodic text message table” on its cover! I love it. It shows all the different text abbreviations and what they stand for. These include “BFF” for “Best Friend Forever,” or “B15” for “Back in Five,” or “POS” for “Parents Over Shoulder.” And here’s one all mothers should take note of: “BTWITIAILWU” for “By the Way I Think I Am In Love With You.” Ok – I need to devote a whole day’s blog to decoding these abbreviations!

Book and Locker Designs

Target also carries a great assortment of book covers in all colors, designs and sizes. Gone are the days of covering your text books in brown paper bags; these covers are too cute to pass up and just a few bucks.

Kids not only like to spruce up their book covers, but their lockers too. I never knew there was a whole line of products devoted to locker decorations. Magnets are a hit in this category, and Target also carries magnetic wall paper and accessories (like mirrors) for minimal price too.


Also, did you know that #2 pencils are not cool anymore? Yep, a student at Target told me that fact as well. Mechancial pencils (the kind where you can click the top of the pencil to advance the lead) are now all the rage. Why? I have no idea, but they can be fashionable! Again, you can find this kind of supply super cheap at Target. A pack of five mechanical pencils in a variety of colors retails for $2.

USB Flash Drives

Now here is an item I definitely never shopped for when I was going back-to-school: USB Flash Drives. Apparentely they are required for high school students, but luckily they are less than $5 at Target (which is good because I can see them getting lost easily) and these also come in a variety of colors. These are an important purchase too because you don’t want to have to drive your student back and forth between computers (one at school, one at home, one at a friend’s house) to download documents. Flash (or thumb) drives let you store all your information onto these little gadgets.

Electronic Label Makers

Another gadget that is a smart purchase is an electronic label maker. (Moms can also borrow them for labeling items around the house too!) Electronic label makers make it easy for students to stay organized by labeling notebook dividers, binders, and paper notes. You can even print in different colors and fonts for more organization. I found a Dymo Personal Label Maker at Target for just $17.90. (You also need to purchase replacement tape).


Finally, if your child needs a pad lock for his/her locker, you might want to check out Wordlock. These locks uses letters instead of numbers, and allows your children to select their own four or five letter password. This is helpful for kids who might forget random number codes, and they look so much cooler (see picture above) than the typical turn-style locks you are used to seeing. Target sells them for $9.79, and you can also find them at Kmart and Sears.


(A word of note: all high schoolers are responsible for purchasing TI-83+, 84+ and Nspire Graphing calculators. These retail for about $100 at Target, but the rising junior who was so nice in helping me find a trendy tote bag says a lot of students find these same calculators at half price at pawn shops. Just a tip I thought I’d throw out there).

I am sure there are a million other supplies on the market worth mentioning. If you have any other suggestions, please add them below!