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 computer (it’ll need to last)
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 even just to keeping up with events on campus, 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. An option to consider should you wish to save money, however, is to get a Chromebook. These are essentially laptops that use Google’s Chrome OS software rather than Windows or Mac, and are considerably cheaper than most laptops. They do have a number of limitations, however, so remember to do your homework before buying one. Also, don’t forget to get a good quality laptop bag to carry it around.
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 an awful 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. Thoroughly reading a ‘what to take to university’ guide will count for nothing if all your new stuff gets stolen or damaged. It should also go without saying that you should shop around for the best deal before you buy.
A basic first-aid kit
Living at university, you will find yourself mixing with a huge variety of people on a daily basis and trying out new things you’ve never done before. As a result you might find yourself with bumps, scrapes or the occasional cold. Now obviously, if you’ve even moderately 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. All you’ll want to do is just make sure you have some very basic over-the-counter medical supplies on hand like painkillers, plasters, and various cold and flu remedies such as Lemsip or Alka-Seltzer. Additional things like sun cream (you’re more likely to use it if you’ve already got it), nasal spray and anti-histamines (even if you’ve never had allergies before) will go a long way to improving your quality of life. You won’t exactly be performing open heart surgery, but you’ll be glad you stocked up the morning after a rough night out. Also, if arachnophobic, a spider-catcher can save you an awkward conversation with a neighbour should you find one in your room.
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 important (you’ll be amazed how many people don’t bring them) and a thermos flask will serve you well in those 9am lectures. It’s also worth considering a Tupperware box, so any food you make can be easily stored for later if you get the quantities wrong. Clingfilm and kitchen foil is very useful, so get a lot. You can use Clingfilm to cover up any unwanted food for later, and kitchen foil can be used on baking trays to help save you on washing up. 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, although a full-blown apron takes things a bit far.
Most of this stuff you should (hopefully) have already. Basic things like toothbrushes and hairdryers need no introduction, but another thing to consider would be an anti-slip bath mat. Many university en-suites will have showers in wet-rooms rather than cubicles, and so floors can get very slippery when showering. A bath mat goes some way to alleviating this. Spare towels are also essential; you never know when you might need to clean up an emergency spillage. Things like bleach can be a lifesaver should you find yourself with a blocked drain, but make sure you know how to use it safely. Removable wall hooks are incredibly useful for hanging up towels if your university bathroom doesn’t have a rail, as well as for hanging up coats and hats (again, you’ll be amazed how many people simply throw their stuff on the floor). Collapsible laundry baskets, one for clothes and one for bedsheets, 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.
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. This is as far as you’ll really want to go, turning up with a hot-glue gun and a drill will only really serve to get you strange looks from your flatmates.
Most halls of residence will have your bedroom door open out into a corridor or flat, and most bedroom doors will be heavy fire doors that won’t stay open of their own accord. Having a door stop so you can keep your door propped open while you’re in your room can, strange as it sounds, be a nice way to socialise with people as well as keeping your room cool during the summer. Door-stops are cheap-as-chips too, so if you decide not to use them you won’t be losing out on much.
But remember any safety instructions:
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.
Optional extra: wireless headphones
These can a fantastic thing to have when living in halls. A decent set of Bluetooth headphones will work with the vast majority of phones, tablets and laptops, and will provide far more comfort and sound quality than regular earphones. The fact that they’re wireless means that you can wear them while moving about your room, and it helps keep your desk free of wires and cables, as well as keeping your room quiet for the benefit of your neighbours.
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. Ink and paper costs can mount up quickly if you find yourself printing off 10 pages worth of pub quizzes every week, and larger printers can also be very noisy and have a lot of superfluous features that you’ll rarely, if ever, actually use. While it is useful to be able to print stuff in your room, most modern universities will have good printing facilities, and many allow you to print straight from your laptop from home, saving you having to carry it to the library and back. Printers can also be very large, especially if they have inbuilt scanners, and will take up a lot of desk space in a small dorm room.
Dorm rooms will often have aerial sockets for plugging in a TV, and many students choose to make use of them. 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). Also, much like printers, TVs can take up a lot of space in a small room and can be a pain to have to move in and out when you leave university.
Whilst it can certainly seem appealing to bring your Xbox One, PS4 or Wii U along to university with you, there are a few things to consider first. If you want to use a console, 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. Living in halls with a large group of people your own age is very different to living at home, your friends are far closer to you and there’s a whole campus or even city’s worth of stuff to entertain you, so long afternoons spent sitting in your room playing Halo might not be such a big part of your life. Also, as with TVs and printers, consoles and their games/accessories/cables can take up a lot of space in your room.
Most university accommodation will come with a basic set of appliances, including a toaster and kettle. However 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. As a result if you choose to fill the kitchen up with shiny new kettles and toasters, at your own expense, don’t be surprised if they wear out a lot more quickly than you imagine because they’re effectively being used by an entire dorm of people. Also, most universities will replace worn out appliances if you ask them, so you won’t find yourself without a kettle if the one they gave you breaks. 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. If possible, you should try to bring clothing you are unlikely to wear next term home with you when you return for the holidays, and bring back more seasonal attire. It’s always good to keep a warm coat with you just in case, but try to be ruthless and make as much space as you can.
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. Sports equipment can take up a lot of space, and be awkward to store (you can’t put a football in a desk drawer). What’s more, if you change your mind you can easily bring it up later, you’ll likely be visiting home over Christmas.
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, whilst still having the luxury of a car to help you get it all back to your dorm.