The Ultimate Back to School Guide 2023

The summer is winding down and it's almost time to go back to school. For students, this can be an exciting time as they get to see their friends again and learn new things.

But for parents and teachers, the back-to-school season can be a little stressful. There's so much to do to get ready for the new school year!

To help you get ready for back to school, we've put together the ultimate guide. This guide covers everything from supplies you'll need, to how to prepare for the first day of school.

What Supplies Do I Need For School?

One of the first things you'll need to do when getting ready for back to school is to gather all of the necessary supplies. Every year, most teachers will send out a list of required and recommended supplies for their students. Be sure to check this list carefully and get everything that you need before the first day of school as well as make a few additions to make life easier.

Here are some general supplies that every student will need:

  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Paper
  • Notebooks
  • Binders
  • Calculator
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Highlighters
  • Sticky notes (for labelling notes and tracking revision topics)

If you’re just starting your GCSEs or A-Levels, remember to check if there are any additional items that you previously didn’t need. For example, starting GCSE Maths may require you to have a more advanced, scientific calculator. Some other items you may need are:

  • A laptop (or a Tablet computer with a stylus)
  • External hard drive
  • Printer
  • Speciality paper (eg. graph paper)
  • Plastic document protector sleeves
  • Scientific calculator
  • Art supplies
  • Lab equipment
  • A present for the teacher!

If you're unsure about what supplies you need, talk to your teacher or another student who has already been through the grade that you're going into. They'll be able to give you some helpful advice. After another year of tougher grading on results days, we suggest looking into hiring an online tutor to help keep your learning on track and motivate you to perfect your study skills and exam technique. You can find your perfect tutor using Sherpa's 'Find a Tutor' page.

Heading to uni? Check out "Going to Uni: The Complete Checklist" for everything you need to thrive in your first year away from home.

What Do I Need To Do Beforehand?

1. Get your Sleep Schedule Back On Track

Over the summer, most students start to head to bed later and get up later. This is fine, when you have no commitments, but it can be really hard to get your sleep schedule back to the early rises when summer ends!

Research suggests it’s only possible to move your ‘sleep schedule’ earlier around 1 hour per day, but it’s more realistic to try to move your sleep schedule by about 20-30 minutes each day.

If you’ve got accustomed to waking up at 11am but you need to get up at 7am for school, you’ll need to shift your wake-up time and sleep time about 20-30 minutes earlier each day.

That means it can take up to around 2 weeks to shift your sleep schedule back, ready for school! 

Try to stay away from your phone for at least an hour before you sleep since the blue-light tricks your body into suppressing sleep hormones, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep - particularly when you’re already trying to sleep earlier than usual.

It’s recommended that teenagers get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night.

2. Pack Your Bag and Try on Your Uniform Before

If you’re past year 8, you and your parents are all too familiar with that feeling.

Try to pack your bag for your first day back at least a week before. If you find you’re missing anything, you have plenty of time to head to the shops to pick it up before you’re back at school.

Whilst you’re at it, try on your school uniform to make sure everything from last year still fits, and to make sure you have any uniform you need for the next year. Again, you’ve not got the right clothes, you have plenty of time to get that sorted before you go back.

3. Know Where Your Classes Are & Check Your Schedule

Whilst it’s not always possible to know where your classrooms are ahead of time, make sure to have a skim over your schedule to find out how many classes you have and where before you go back.

Jot down the names of any classrooms that are on your schedule that you don’t know where they are. This way, when you get a chance to ask a friend or a teacher, you can find out roughly where you need to go when your classes are starting.

4. Refresh your Memory Of Last Year

If you’ve been following the advice we gave in ‘How to Keep Your Brain Active Over Summer’, you’ll have partially replaced your TikTok addiction with a bit of daily revision over the summer.

If you haven’t had a chance, it’s not too late to do a quick bit of catch-up before you head back.

Try to put aside 30 minutes to an hour each day before you go back to look over the curriculum for each of your subjects. Try to see where this year’s content builds on last year’s content, and refresh your memory on that. For example, if you’re moving onto A-Level Maths, refresh your memory on AS-Level content such as differentiation to ensure you have the basics mastered before starting on the harder content.

Knowing what’s coming up and what you can work on before the teacher announces it in class can give you a huge confidence boost to help you feel more aware of what you need to know for the year.

Take a Positive Mindset

Look Forward, Not Backward

Firstly, let's put the past in the past. Previous school years might have had their own share of challenges and mistakes, but remember, these experiences are not failures but stepping stones to improvement. Treat each new academic year as a fresh start, an opportunity to explore, grow, and learn new things.

Embrace Challenges

Secondly, adopt a 'growth mindset'. In essence, this means viewing challenges as opportunities for growth rather than hurdles to your success. Instead of saying "I can't do this," try saying "I can't do this yet." This simple shift in thinking can create a huge change in how you perceive and approach your tasks. It makes the learning process not only a quest for grades but also an enriching journey towards knowledge and personal development.

Set Realistic Goals

Thirdly, set achievable and realistic goals for yourself. These can relate to your studies, personal growth, or even extracurricular activities. Goal setting gives you a clear vision of what you want to achieve, making you more focused and motivated. Remember to celebrate every small victory along the way, it’s not only about reaching the finish line but also about enjoying the journey.

Need some more mental health tips on preparing for going back to school? Check out "Back to School Tips from a Psychologist" for some advice from a professional therapist.

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James Gurnett

10th August

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