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What to take to university

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Stuffing a year’s worth of pants, pans and knick-knacks into a rucksack isn’t just impossible – it’s unnecessary! When it comes to what to take to university, strategy and streamlining are key.

Don’t think of it as packing for a whole year. Instead, list the things you wear or use on a daily or weekly basis and go from there. We’ve pared it down to the most useful items students can bring but check for yourself what’s included with your accommodation before you start.

A male student in University-managed accommodation

Top uni essentials

Make the first few days easy on you:

  • Paperwork: ID and extra passport photos, confirmation letters for your course, accommodation and funding, insurance documents, and details about prescriptions, vaccinations or medical history
  • Mobile phone and – if you don’t want to use uni computers – a tablet or laptop. Printers are bulky and don’t always save money, so don’t feel like you need your own
  • Extension leads and chargers for any gadgets you’re bringing (you’ll be able to pick up batteries locally or online)
  • Ethernet cable: usually faster than wifi, but check if you’ve got wired access
  • Headphones and/or ear plugs
  • A bit of cash to keep you going
  • A spare toilet roll for emergencies, spills or clearing up
  • A pack of cards, bottle of wine or pack of biccies can all help you get to know your new neighbours! 


For the kitchen

Think multi-purpose rather than niche gadgets:

  • Tupperware boxes for storing leftovers or keeping your grub secure in a shared fridge
  • Plate, bowl, mug, tumbler and wineglass
  • Small set of cutlery
  • Bottle opener and corkscrew
  • Chopping board and a good, sharp knife (with practice can replace a peeler, garlic crusher etc.)
  • Scissors, can opener, wooden spoon, spatula and grater
  • Baking tray, casserole dish and oven gloves
  • Washing up liquid and sponge
  • Tin foil, cling film and clothes pegs (cheap way to secure rice and pasta bags after opening)
  • A wok (or frying pan) and a saucepan with a lid
  • Colander or sieve
  • Measuring cups – look for the kind that can measure both liquids and dry foods

A male student playing the guitar in University-managed accommodation

For the bedroom

Check what’s included in your rent, along with the size of the room and your bed before buying:

  • Pillowcase, bed sheet and duvet cover (plus a spare set). If you can afford it, consider a mattress protector and topper, too.
  • Family photos and personal mementos. You’ll be able to get knick-knacks, rugs and posters there, so only pack them if they’ll take the edge off homesickness (and you’ve got room in your luggage).
  • Coat hangers, clothes horse and laundry bag
  • Night clothes, dressing gown and slippers (or flip flops for shared toilet or bathroom!)
  • Shoes and clothes – but be selective. Plenty of socks and undies will get you further between laundry days, but don’t pack absolutely everything you own! Pack for the time of year – ie, a winter coat, gloves and a scarf for term one.
  • Don’t forget: interview clothes, work wear, sports kit, a posh outfit and a fancy dress ensemble

6 things you DON’T need to pack for uni

  • It’s worth stocking up on tinned and long-life goodies, along with fresh food and bulk-buy savings – but do it after you’ve arrived. Drop your luggage off, then do a big shop!
  • It’s easy to get stationery (especially bulky folders and files) in the local shops. Keep a pen to hand for tackling paperwork, along with a pad (or your phone) to keep notes and to-do lists, then aim to fill up on free stationery at the Freshers’ Fayre.
  • Books. Waiting until you get to university means cheaper prices, more choice, and lighter luggage.
  • Pack prescription and essential items, but go easy on over the counter medicines. You won’t need more than a couple of basics to see you through the first week (plasters and painkillers).
  • Check what’s included in the rent before shopping for pans and kitchen gadgets – and if you’re flat sharing, see if you can spread the cost for communal gear.
  • TV, DVDs and games consoles. With downloads and a decent tablet, phone or laptop (which you’ll probably have anyway) it’s easy to get by without bulkier gear.

Remember that much of what you’ll need can easily be sourced locally or online (or from your next trip home), so only bring it with you if it saves you time, money or stress. Start with essentials or irreplaceable items first and the rest will fall into place.

Published: 7 June 2022