Moving to university is exciting but with so much to organise the fear of leaving something behind is very real. In this guide we break down what to take to university and what to leave at home
Writing a list often helps you to organise your thoughts so creating a checklist of what to take to university is a smart move. If you don't know where to start try writing down everything you use on a daily basis over the course of a week - you'll be surprised to find that this is a good method of identifying the mundane items you probably wouldn't have given a second thought.
While it's important to prioritise functional items don't forget to include 'comfort' belongings or those that remind you of home.
Sarah Sweeney, head of student support and wellbeing at Lancaster University, says 'our accommodation is fully furnished but you will need to bring some personal items. Bedding (make sure you get the right size, many single beds are now longer than average), towels, cookware/cutlery, electricals, clothes for the climate, first aid supplies, toiletries, a laundry basket and cleaning products.'
To give you a head start put theses items on your list:
- bed linen, including sheets, duvet, blankets, pillows and pillowcases
- coat hangers
- extension lead
- socket adaptor (for international students)
- kitchen items and some food to keep you going for the first week
- stationery, including pens, pencils, notepads and highlighters
- PC/laptop and any cables and chargers
- USB stick
- mobile phone and charger
- washing detergent and cleaning items
- games and sports equipment
- a list of important numbers, in case you lose your mobile phone.
You'll also need to remember to take the correct documentation with you. What you'll need depends on your university and their registration procedures (so check beforehand) but as a general rule make sure you take:
- your university acceptance letter
- accommodation paperwork
- student finance documents
- valid ID (passport or driving licence)
- passport photographs
- document/letter with your address on to register with a GP
- copies of prescriptions you'll need.
'Remember that the more you pack, the more you have to make room for,' advises Sarah. 'Pack only what you need and build up any 'extras' as you go along. If you can, coordinate with your flatmates beforehand. This can save you essential packing space and money.'
Also bear in mind that forgetting certain things isn't the end of the world. Most items can be bought from nearby shops, or collected from home at a later date.
Home comforts and room practicalities
Most students spend the first year of their studies in student accommodation. You'll spend a fair amount of time in your room resting and studying so it's important to ensure this space is somewhere you feel at ease. Decorate with photos of family and friends, posters, or your favourite bedding and cushions. Feel free to bring along sentimental possessions but bear in mind that your student room may be smaller than your bedroom at home. Take a look on your university's website to out how much space you'll have.
Most accommodation provides a bed, desk, wardrobe and chair so avoid packing unnecessary items. Practical suggestions for your room include:
- additional storage boxes (wardrobes are usually on the small side)
- a desk lamp and fan
- small TV (you’ll need a TV licence)
- music speakers, games console
- drawing pins for putting up photos or posters.
Your room may be the place to get some respite from the hustle and bustle of university life, but it's also good to invite flatmates round and get to know who you're living with - especially during freshers' week. Think about packing a board game or pack of cards - these can be excellent ice-breakers. You may also want to have a couple of spare mugs and some biscuits at the ready.
Most halls are kitted out with all the kitchen equipment you need so check what items are there when you arrive and share the cost of any extra items with your flatmates, instead of having six toasters.
Check the rules of your accommodation, as some halls ban items such as rice cookers or deep fat fryers. Make sure that electrical items have been PAT tested, or that you can prove they're less than two years old.
Some universities may also give you the opportunity to pre-order bedding and kitchen packs. These bundles are usually in your room on arrival.
Space in your kitchen is likely to be at a premium, so weigh up each item and consider its value. In general, you'll need:
- plates, bowls (microwavable ones are a good idea) and cutlery
- glasses and mugs
- cooking knives and a chopping board
- saucepans and a frying pan
- baking tray
- corkscrew and bottle opener
- tin opener
- utensils such as a vegetable peeler, grater, ladle, spatula
- measuring jug
- cling film
- tin foil
- tea towels
- dish cloth
- bin bags
- student recipe book.
If taking your own kitchen equipment, make sure all your items are marked in case there are any disputes over ownership.
You'll need to bring your own stationery, including:
- pens, pencils and highlighters
- lever arch files
- A4 file paper
- hole punch
- diary/personal organiser
- different sized notebooks
- Post-it notes.
Having your own laptop will make your work and study much easier, as shared library resources are often oversubscribed. This is an investment that will keep your learning mobile, meaning you can work wherever you go. It can also remove the need to take a TV, as you can use it to watch your favourite shows online.
Check what rules are in place surrounding electrical items. Standard items like hair dryers, printers, games consoles are fine but others like electric blankets and heaters may be deemed a fire risk.
To ensure your connection to the internet is more reliable, consider buying an Ethernet cable. This connects your laptop to a modem or router to provide a solid internet link.
A portable hard drive is also great for backing up your work - and they don't take up much room in your bag.
Make sure you pack all the chargers you need (a spare one for your phone will come in handy when you misplace the original) and remember to bring a few memory sticks. You won’t regret bring along an extension cable either.
What you won't need
A trip to IKEA won't be necessary, as most essential furniture will be provided in halls.
'Finding out what you don't need first is really helpful as it saves you bringing a lot of extra items that soon add up to take up a lot of space,' explains Sarah. 'Once you know what you don't need, it will become much easier to figure out what you need to prioritise.
'At Lancaster we have the 'Don't ditch it, Donate it' scheme where previous students donate items they no longer need for others to use.'
With this in mind aim to travel as light as possible. With most smartphones bursting with apps and organisational tools, items such as a diary or calculator may not be needed. You can also get away without:
- kitchen equipment such as a fridge, freezer and kettle
- a printer - if you need one it's likely you'll be able to use those in your university department or library
- a car - as parking spaces may be limited, and this is a cost you can usually do without
- large suitcases - these are hard to keep and boxes work better for storing your stuff
- your old study books - reading lists will be handed out at the start of term
- pets - most student accommodation forbid pets (even goldfish) of any kind, so you'll need to leave them at home.
Remember to treat these 'what to take' lists as a general guide, and use them to check off the things most relevant and applicable to you.
Transporting your belongings
When packing your belongings, make sure they're separated out into manageable chunks. Although there may be trolleys and lifts to make moving in easier, they’re often busy and you might have to carry your possessions upstairs. It's also wise to bring a couple of helpers.
Parents, other family members and friends are usually the people who will help you to move. However, there are student baggage shipping services available that, for a fee, will deliver your belongings to your student accommodation in time for your arrival. The price for this removal service may be based on the number of boxes you'll be taking. Student Storage Box, for example, charge £29.47 per box - based on three standard boxes (of up to 30kg).
When moving to university check to see if you need to book an arrival slot. Also check how many people can help you move in. Some universities put a limit on the number of people you can bring with you.
Keeping your valuables safe
When you first move to university you'll be focusing on all the positive aspects of the change, such as making new friends, exploring new places and gaining new experiences. However, you need to be mindful about the safety of your belongings, especially if you're living in shared accommodation.
Security tips include:
- avoid leaving your room unlocked, even for a short time
- don't allow people you don't know into your room, and don't leave them unaccompanied
- never leave windows open when you're out
- if your room faces a public area, keep your curtains closed when out
- don't leave expensive items on view - put them away in a drawer or cupboard
- keep your access cards safe, don't lend them to anyone else and don't keep your address with them
- take out necessary insurance for your possessions - for this, you can use a price comparison site such as Comparethemarket.com.
Your university accommodation may include the cost of basic insurance for your belongings. However, if this is the case and you have some hi-tech or expensive equipment you'll need to check the level of cover provided.
Other steps you can take to keep your things safe include:
- keeping copies of contents insurance documents and warranties in a metal security file box
- ensuring you know who to contact if something goes wrong - for instance, student support and residential services are there to help with university-based issues. Your accommodation wardens will be able to offer guidance on matters relating to your residence, such as any problems you might have with your flatmates, or be available to provide pastoral care should you feel homesick
- storing a list of contact numbers separate to your phone - for example, family, friends, your bank or card provider, mobile phone network, and your university's student support service - so if you lose the electronic list, you can still get in touch.
Find out more
- Take a look at our top 10 things to do before starting university.
- Discover ways to save money as a student.