What to take to university

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
August, 2016

Be prepared for student life, by taking things to get you through the first year and beyond. Our guide to the packing essentials is a good place to begin…

You'll need to decide what belongings you're going to take with you - and what to leave behind. These deliberations can be made much harder if you're the first in your family to go to university and you've got nobody to turn to for advice.

We've spoken to two experts about this potentially tough task, and also asked for some advice on the security measures you can take to look after yourself and your possessions.

University checklist

Beth Lloyd, marketing and communications assistant for the University of Leicester's Residential and Commercial Services (RACS), recommends packing the following:

  • sheets, pillows, duvet and cover - remember to check the size of your bed;
  • toiletries;
  • everyday clothes for all seasons, plus smart wear;
  • nightwear - pyjamas and slippers;
  • sports kit/swimwear;
  • shoes and trainers;
  • hat, scarf and gloves;
  • winter coat and a waterproof jacket;
  • plenty of clothes hangers;
  • cleaning items;
  • blankets and towels;
  • a surge-protected extension lead;
  • medicine;
  • a purse/wallet;
  • a watch;
  • laundry items - washing powder, drying rack and possibly a basket;
  • food for the first couple of days;
  • your passport and driving license;
  • university course and accommodation documents;
  • bank debit card and details of your student loan.

Whatever you're thinking of taking, 'it's important not to panic about packing,' says Beth. 'Remember that as long as you bring the essentials, you can always buy any extras that you feel you need once you get settled in.'

Home comforts and room practicalities

As you'll be spending many hours in your room resting and studying, you should make this space somewhere you feel at ease. Therefore, home comforts such as cuddly toys, cushions and photos shouldn’t be overlooked, says Beth - as they can really make the room your own.

Other practical suggestions for your room include:

  • a desk fan;
  • a desk lamp;
  • a torch;
  • a diffuser, to keep your room smelling nice;
  • an alarm clock, if you can't rely on your mobile phone's alarm.

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. So you may want to have a couple of spare mugs and some biscuits at the ready.

Kitchen equipment

Whether you're in halls of residence or a student flat, you'll find that shared living has many advantages. If you've already made student accommodation arrangements, Beth stresses that before you do anything else, 'you should check what equipment is already provided in your room and kitchen'. This is because, as Beth points out, some kitchens may already be fully kitted out with kettles and microwaves.

Even if no equipment is provided for students in halls, some universities, such as Leicester, may give you the opportunity to pre-order bedding (from £24.99) and kitchen packs (£39.99). The latter bundle can be in your room on arrival and includes:

  • a cutlery set;
  • plates;
  • a bowl;
  • a mug;
  • a chopping board;
  • knives;
  • scissors;
  • serving spoons;
  • a tin opener;
  • a corkscrew.

Space in your room and kitchen is likely to be at a premium, so it's advisable to weigh up each item and consider its value. For instance, you might consider money-saving devices like sandwich toasters to be a good investment and worth taking. Things that would go into the necessity bracket would include kitchen utensils (if they aren't already provided).

Studying essentials

While your room will be the place to relax and sleep, it's also where you'll expect to get at least some of your course work done. Most rooms will 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.

Although it's easy to get carried away buying stationery, there'll be lots of options both on and off campus to get the things you need. Just get enough for the first term, so you don't overdo it.

Electrical items

Having your own laptop can really 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 movies - possibly subscribing to an online streaming service such as Netflix.

To ensure your work online is more reliable and less likely to be interrupted by a poor Wi-Fi signal you should 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

It's advisable to travel as light as possible, as space is likely to be limited. And as mentioned above, some of the things you'll need for your room and kitchen may already be provided by your university.

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 store 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 just use them to check off the things that are most relevant and applicable to you.

Transporting your belongings

Parents, other family members and friends are the people most likely to help move your stuff to university. If the distances involved are not too far, you may be able to get everything into one or two cars with the only costs being the petrol.

However, there are student baggage shipping services available that, for a fee, will deliver your belongings to your student accommodation in time for when you arrive. You'll then only need to worry about getting there yourself. The price for this removal service may be based on the number of boxes you're taking, with Student Storage Box, for example, charging £29.47 per box - based on three standard 37cm x 55cm x 38cm boxes (of up to 30kg).

Keeping your valuables safe

Your university accommodation may include the cost of basic insurance for your possessions, however Alison Maguire, money advice and support office manager at Swansea University, advises students to check their level of cover.

'If you do happen to own some high-end gear or equipment, it might be worth considering getting some additional cover,' she adds. With many leading insurers offering student contents insurance (from around £60 per year), you can ensure that your most valuable items are covered as part of the policy.

Other tips from Alison on protecting your belongings 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.