Packing for university: items you do and do not need

Eight things you should bring to university... and seven things you probably shouldn't

September 2 2016
 Packing for university

Over the next few weeks, thousands of fresh-faced young people will take to planes, trains and automobiles to embark on a new life at university. The aim of this guide is to inform you about things that you’ll find useful at university that you may not have considered, and things you’ve considered bringing to university that aren’t all that useful.

What you’ll need

A good laptop 

This is probably the most obvious and easy thing on this list to recommend. Universities offer a vast range of services online, from checking exam results to accessing reading materials and event details, so having a computer is essential. Given the likelihood that you’ll be travelling between lectures, working on group projects, working in the library or even just getting out of the house, having something you can carry around with you is paramount. It’s also true, however, that laptops are expensive, and there are a huge range to choose from that could probably take up a guide all on their own.


This is one of the most boring, grown-up, and totally necessary things on this list. Halls of residence will generally be very safe, but peace of mind costs very little (certainly a lot less than you might have just paid for that laptop). Contents insurance for students is inexpensive compared to what you could lose should something go wrong, so finding a solid plan is extremely important. Make sure you shop around for the best deal before you buy.

A basic first-aid kit

Make sure you have some over-the-counter medical supplies on hand like painkillers, plasters, and various cold and flu remedies. Additional things like sun cream, nasal spray and anti-histamines (even if you’ve never had allergies before) will be useful too.

Now obviously, if you’ve hurt yourself you should seek advice from medical staff, most universities have them on campus. Similarly, you shouldn’t take medications without reading the directions first and being aware of any possible side-effects. 

Kitchen supplies

Pots and pans of various sizes can be had for very little, as well as a cheap set of plates and cutlery (make sure to get something distinctive to keep track of what’s yours). It’s also worth getting multiple plates, bowls and glasses so you don’t have to borrow anyone else’s should one of yours break. Things like can-openers and corkscrews are useful too.

It’s also worth considering a Tupperware box, so any food you make can be easily stored for later. Clingfilm and kitchen foil is very useful, so get a lot. A pair of scissors will also be very useful for everything from cutting up pizza to cutting up toasted sandwiches. A measuring jug and/or some cheap electronic scales make the prospect of following a recipe for the first time a lot less daunting, and a sharp serrated knife with a blade cover is needed for cutting up tough meat and vegetables. Oven gloves and kitchen towels will also prove themselves useful.

Bathroom supplies

Basic things like toothbrushes and hairdryers need no introduction, but another thing to consider would be an anti-slip bath mat. Towels, bleach and bathroom cleaner are also essential. Removable wall hooks are useful for hanging up towels if your university bathroom doesn’t have a rail, as well as for hanging up coats and hats. Collapsible laundry baskets are a necessity also, and it’s best to get ones with a handle if you’re going to have to carry them to a communal laundrette.

Bedding and room decoration

Make sure you bring a comfortable duvet and pillows and bedding that will help personalise your room. On top of this, make sure you bring photos, posters and little trinkets to help your room feel a little more like home. 

General fix-it items

Many universities won’t allow bluetac to be used on painted walls, and will provide a corkboard in your room in order to give you wall space. It’s for this reason that you should remember to bring along pins in order to secure stuff onto it. Whitetac is also a good idea, it won’t leave a mark on walls and will give you more space to play with if you want to personalise your room. Sellotape and a small screwdriver will be useful, as well as a torch in the event of a power cut.

Adapters and extension chords

How much you’ll need these can vary depending on your accommodation, but they’re a handy thing to have nonetheless. Electronics can start to pile up once you move in. What may start off as a laptop and a phone charger can easily wind up becoming a table lamp, a hairdryer, a printer, a TV, a desk fan and speakers. A good surge-protected adapter can quickly become a necessity if you don’t want to start plugging and unplugging things every five minutes, and an extension cord proves useful when trying to keep your electronics spread out across your room.

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Things you don’t need when you start university

Nothing on this list should necessarily be kept away from university, but all of them are things that you can quite happily leave at home, at least at first.


The problem with printers is that they don’t just cost you money to buy, they cost you money to maintain. Cheap printers will often be sold with more expensive ink cartridges, so what seems like a bargain at first can really sting as time goes by. In addition, not everyone brings a printer to university, and when people find out you have one it can often lead to knocks on the door every few days for someone who wants a worksheet printed without going to the library. While it is useful to be able to print stuff in your room, most universities will have good printing facilities.


Having a TV in your room does have a number of drawbacks however, the main one being the cost. A large TV can set you back several hundred pounds and is bulky to transport. While small TVs can now be relatively cheap, their small screen size means that you won’t have a much better time watching TV on them than if you just chose to watch TV online through your laptop screen (both of which require a TV license). 

Games consoles

While it can seem appealing to bring your console with you to university there are a few things to consider first. You’ll have to bring along a monitor or TV to play it on which can cost a great deal if you don’t have one you can bring already, and along with the console itself adds another large, expensive, delicate thing to have to bring with you. You’ll also probably be paying for a subscription to play games online, and you also may not get as much use out of it as you think.

Kitchen appliances

Most university accommodation will come with a basic set of appliances, including a toaster and kettle but it can be tempting to bring along your own appliances, such as a coffee machine or grill. The issue with this is that at university you will have communal kitchens, meaning that you are not the only person that will be using them. Universities will also often require that appliances be tested before they are allowed to be used, in order to lessen the risk of fire, so you may have to jump through hoops just to be able to use it.

All the clothes you own

Clothing can be a difficult one to get right at university. You’ll want to pack enough to vary your look and reasonably cover all weathers, but not so much that you have no space left in your room. Space is a premium in a university dorm, and so keeping four thick winter coats in your wardrobe in June is a bad idea. 

Sports equipment

Clearly, if you intend to play sports or join a club then you’ll need to bring this along. Otherwise it’s best just to leave this stuff at home if you don’t intend to use it. 

Lots of food

Food is going to be readily available wherever your university is, so resist the temptation to bring much, if any, with you on your first day. Your best bet is to move your stuff in and then, assuming your parents have driven you, head out to a local supermarket or wherever’s most appropriate and buy your food there. This will allow you to get more familiar with the local food outlets and their prices, while still having the luxury of a car to help you get it all back to your dorm.

Read more: Five tips to make the most of your university experience

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