Professional Bags for Graduate School: 2022 edition

I have never met a purse, or tote, or backpack I didn’t like, so when people ask me “what kind of bag should I carry as a grad student?” I tend to have Opinions. Picking the right bag in grad school can also feel a little stressful: you carry a lot of books and snacks. You don’t want to be mistaken for a student (I remember so distinctly wondering if grad students wear backpacks??). And you need a bag that is high quality enough to survive multiple years of wear and tear but still affordable. Here are some options if you’re looking for a teaching or school bag this year!

Best all around tote

Ok, so the tote that I have 1) owned the longest and 2) STILL use post-grad school daily is this tote. It’s classy, it has short handles and a crossbody strap, and it has a zipper, which is great when traveling. It’s pricey, to be sure, but it ages really nicely (especially with a yearly application of leather conditioner). It also fits my 13″ laptop and has 2 open side pockets (for pens and keys) and one zipper compartment.

If you’re like Rebecca you can’t be serious about that price point know there are many available on Poshmark secondhand, or the fabric option is more affordable!

Backpack option

I remember being so concerned about carrying a backpack in grad school–would it make me look too much like the students I was teaching? I have found that 1) if you are dressed somewhat professionally the backpack doesn’t matter so much and 2) a backpack with leather or faux leather details is kind of an elevated option for when you want to carry a ton of stuff to campus. I bought this backpack the first week of my MA program and it is still in great shape (meaning it survived 6 years of grad school and beyond!).

The laptop sleeve is a nice touch. Comes in a ton of colors and is easy to find on sale!


Ok, there’s also a chance that you decide to go to grad school somewhere where it rains, constantly, or you face blizzard conditions (ask me about my life in Montana lol). For this reason, there are actually ! waterproof backpacks and I wish I had thought of this when I lived somewhere rainier. I have a friend who has carried one for years in Seattle.

Can I wear something more fun?

Hah, I know, all my choices so far have been black and brown. I do love a bag that goes with anything, but asked my friends what patterned or colorful options they have enjoyed over the years. I do think a bright colored tote can go with just about everything if you simply decide it does!

This camo tote would be a fun contrast to most outfits–I have an original LL Bean tote and they’re incredibly sturdy for work and travel. And this budget pick comes in multiple colors and gets great reviews.

Happy shopping! And check out my reel of what was in my grad school bag here.

This post contains affiliate links that may generate commission for the author.

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