BOSTON (MainStreet) -- Back-to-school shopping is a chore no matter what school students attend, but at the nation's top prep schools it's as much about the culture as it is about computers or clothes.
The burden of back-to-school shopping in the U.S. is increasing slightly this year; market research company IBISWorld predicts a 2.6% uptick in sales, to $20 billion. Spending on school supplies alone is expected to jump 4.4%, to $3.6 billion, while demand for electronics such as computers, e-readers and other gadgets is slated to grow 3.9%, to nearly $5.2 billion.
That backpack is only half full, however, as clothing and shoe sales have inched up only 1.5% and 1.1%, respectively. Clothing still makes up the largest chunk of the back-to-school budget at $7.6 billion, or $137 per student, but sales have remained lukewarm since the recession as discretionary spending dives and consumer confidence collapses to a 30-year low. The National Retail Federation even suggests that despite an overall uptick in back-to-school shopping, the average spending per student in grades K-12 will decline from $606 last year to $604 this year.
While these fluctuations affect prep school students just as much the rest of the nation's student body, the consistency of the prep school packing list and the restrictions on what boarded students can and cannot have in their rooms create structure that can shape a family's back-to-school shopping routine through the end of college.
A few of the nation's top prep schools were kind enough to share their packing lists and offer insight into how the nation's elite students prepare for the year. Though significantly larger than lists offered by some of their public-school peers, the prep school lists generally eschew high-end toys and big-ticket clothing for items and rules that shape young students for the length of their stay: