What to take to university

Jemma Smith, Editor
March, 2018

Moving away from home to attend university is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. To make things a little easier we've put together a guide to packing, so you have one less thing to worry about

You'll need to decide what belongings you're going to take with you - and what to leave behind. These deliberations can be hard 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 the 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

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, 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
  • mobile phone 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 along the necessary documentation. 'New students should remember to bring 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,' 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.'

'It's worth remembering that packing shouldn't be overly stressful, and there isn't one method that will suit everyone. 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 many hours 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
  • a diffuser, to keep your room smelling nice
  • an alarm clock, if you can't rely on your mobile phone's alarm
  • 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

Whether you're in halls of residence or a student flat, you'll find that shared living has many advantages. '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 check with your student accommodation office before bringing such items. Make sure that electrical items have been PAT tested, or that you can prove they are less than two years old,' adds Anna.

Even if no equipment is provided for students in halls, some universities may 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 it's advisable to 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

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 coursework done. 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.

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.

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

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 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 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

'Given that university is a social environment and you may invite your new friends into your room, it is 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 are 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.

Speaking of insurance, your university accommodation may include the cost of basic insurance for your possessions. However, if this is the case and you have some high tech or expensive equipment you'll need to check the level of cover provided.

Other tips which will help 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 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 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 cooking unattended, not using candles and keeping doors closed to prevent fire spreading,' adds Jennifer.

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