What to take to university

Jemma Smith, Editor
April, 2019

If you're the first in your family to go to university preparing for the move can be difficult. How do you know which items you'll need and which to leave behind? To help we've put together a useful guide

University checklist

Jennifer Corless, student engagement manager at the University of Reading, recommends packing the following:

  • bed linen including sheets, duvet, blankets, pillows and pillowcases
  • towels
  • clothes for all seasons, plus smart wear
  • coat hangers
  • extension lead
  • socket adaptor (for international students)
  • personal items such as toiletries
  • kitchen items and some food to keep you going for the first week
  • stationary including pens, pencils, notepads and highlighters
  • PC/laptop and any cables and chargers
  • USB stick
  • notepads
  • mobile phone and charger
  • medicine
  • washing detergent and cleaning items
  • games and sports equipment
  • umbrella
  • a list of important numbers, in case you lose your mobile phone.

It's also important to bring the necessary documentation. 'New students should remember to bring two forms of photo ID (you'll need this to collect your campus card and when going out during freshers' week), any official documentation sent by the university, and any details of student finance arrangements. You'll also need a letter or document with your address on, as this might be needed to register with a local GP,' says Jennifer.

Anna Brennan, head of campus services at the University of Bedfordshire, suggests the following. 'When you're packing your belongings, make sure they're separated out into manageable chunks. Although there may be trolleys and lifts to make moving in easier, these may be busy and you may need to carry your possessions upstairs. It's also wise to bring a couple of helpers if you have to make lots of trips.'

‘If there are items that you've forgotten to pack it's not the end of the world. Most things can be bought from nearby shops, or collected from home at a later date,' adds Jennifer.

Home comforts and room practicalities

Most students spend the first year of their studies in some form of student accommodation. As you'll be spending time in your room resting and studying, you should make this space somewhere you feel at ease. 'Whether that's photos of family and friends, posters, or your favourite bedding and cushions, these items will help you to settle in,' advises Jennifer.

Other practical suggestions for your room include:

  • a desk fan
  • a desk lamp
  • a torch
  • music speakers
  • 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 friends round and get to know those you're staying with - especially during freshers' week. You may want to have a couple of spare mugs and some biscuits at the ready.

Kitchen equipment

'Most halls are kitted out with all the kitchen equipment you need. It may make sense to see what items are there when you arrive and share the cost of any extra items with your flatmates, instead of having six toasters,' says Anna.

Jennifer agrees and stresses that it's best to check what your accommodation provides before deciding what you'll need to take with you. 'For example, some halls kitchens at Reading have induction hobs that require induction pans instead or regular metal ones.'

'Some kitchen items like rice cookers or deep fat fryers are banned from halls, so again check with your accommodation office before bringing them along. Make sure that electrical items have been PAT tested, or that you can prove they are less than two years old,' adds Anna.

Some universities may also give you the opportunity to pre-order bedding and kitchen packs. These bundles can be in your room on arrival.

Space in your room and kitchen is likely to be at a premium, so weigh up each item and consider its value. In general, you'll need:

  • knives and chopping board
  • saucepans and a frying pan
  • baking tray
  • plates and bowls (microwavable ones are a good idea)
  • cutlery
  • glasses and mugs
  • corkscrew and bottle opener
  • tin opener
  • vegetable peeler
  • measuring jug
  • grater
  • cling film
  • tin foil
  • tea towels
  • recipe book.

If taking your own kitchen equipment Anna offers this top tip: 'make sure all your items are marked in case there are any disputes.'

Study essentials

Most rooms have a desk, but you'll need to bring your own stationery including:

  • pens, pencils and highlighters
  • lever arch files
  • A4 file paper
  • ruler
  • eraser
  • stapler
  • hole punch
  • diary/personal organiser
  • different sized notebooks
  • Post-it notes.

Electrical items

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 and online.

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.

What you won't need

'Most essential furniture, like a bed and desk, will be provided in halls, so you can save yourself a trip to IKEA,' explains Jennifer.

Aim to travel as light as possible. With most smartphones bursting with apps and organisational tools, items such as diary or calculator may not be necessary. You can also get away without:

  • 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.

Remember to treat these 'what to take' lists as a general guide, and use them to check off the things that are most relevant and applicable to you.

'Any pets (including fish) will unfortunately also need to be left at home,' says Jennifer.

Transporting your belongings

Parents, other family members and friends are usually the people who 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're taking. Student Storage Box, for example, charge £29.47 per box - based on three standard 37cm x 55cm x 38cm boxes (of up to 30kg).

Keeping your valuables safe

'Given that university is a social environment, it's important to be wary of your valuable or important possessions,' says Jennifer. 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
  • don't leave expensive items on view from the outside
  • keep your access cards safe and don't keep your address with them
  • take out necessary insurance for your possessions.

Your university accommodation may include the cost of basic insurance for your possessions. 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 belongings safe include:

  • keeping copies of contents insurance documents and warranties in a metal security file box
  • ensuring that 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.

'There are also fire safety guidelines available to students to avoid your belongings, and those of your new flatmates, being at risk of damage. This includes not leaving pans or the oven unattended when in use, not using candles and keeping doors closed to prevent fire spreading,' adds Jennifer.

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