What to take to university | Top Universities

What to take to university

By Laura Tucker

Updated August 21, 2023 Updated August 21, 2023

If you’re going to university for the first time this September, you’re probably going to spend the few weeks leading up to your departure frantically trying to decide what to take to university with you.

Depending on whether or not you’re a light packer, it can be easy to spend too much money when thinking about what to take to university, especially if you want to ensure you’re prepared for anything. But, remember, university life isn’t much different to normal life back at home – except that at university you won’t have a parent around to iron your favorite t-shirt or buy you toothpaste.

Below is our comprehensive university checklist, covering all the things that any university student could possibly need… plus a few extras. Essentials are listed first and optional things second. Take a good look at the whole checklist and tick each item off while you pack.

University checklist: Important documents

  • Passport (or other ID)
  • Driver’s license (if you have one)
  • All official university correspondence, including acceptance letter
  • All student loan correspondence (to keep track of when your loan is due, and so you can follow up if necessary)
  • Details of accommodation and contract
  • Bank account details and recent bank correspondence
  • Bank card
  • National insurance card/details
  • Student discount cards (e.g. 16-25 Railcard, NUS card)
  • Insurance documents (for international students, who may be required to take out health insurance)

Note: Keep all these things either in your wallet (ID, bank card etc.) or in a safe place within your room. If you keep all your documents together, you’ll always know where to look.

University checklist: Electricals

  • Laptop or desktop computer
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Extension cable/s (more handy than you might imagine)
  • USB memory stick (for backing up important assignments)
  • Desktop printer (with ink and printer paper)
  • iPod or MP3 player
  • Headphones
  • Games console (yes, we’re in the “optional” category now!)
  • A small TV
  • Camera
  • Speakers

Note: With electrical items, be careful to bring only what you know you’ll use. For instance, having your own printer can be handy, but most university libraries will provide student printing services. For items such as games consoles and televisions, ensure your reasoning for bringing them is well justified – you don’t really want to be spending too much time alone in your room, do you? Why not see if you can survive the first term without all those home comforts before making up your mind.

If your electrical products are worth more than you can afford to lose, you should consider taking out insurance before going to university. Sometimes student housing is covered by external contents insurance already, but never assume this.

University checklist: Stationery

  • Pens and pencils
  • A4 lined notepad(s)
  • A4 binder(s)
  • Highlighters
  • Post-it notes
  • Calendar/diary
  • Paper clips
  • Stapler
  • Sticky tape
  • Course readers and other study books

Note: Don’t be tempted to splash out on overly expensive stationery when you decide what to take to university. You’ll be getting through paper and pens like a mouse through cheese, so stick to a limited budget!

University checklist: Kitchenware

  • Cutlery (tea spoons, tablespoons, knives and forks – enough for yourself)
  • Crockery (plates, bowls and mugs – enough for yourself)
  • Other utensils (e.g. chopping board and sharp knife, wooden spoon, spatula, cheese grater, potato masher, colander, bottle opener, tin opener)
  • Saucepan and frying pan
  • Scissors (do not attempt to double up as toenail clippers)
  • Baking tray
  • Oven gloves
  • Tupperware container(s)
  • Washing up liquid and sponge
  • Recipe book
  • Snacks (going to university without biscuits is like going to Barbados without a sunhat)

Note: Often, if living in halls or other shared private accommodation, you will already be provided with a kettle and a toaster, as well as some cutlery and crockery. If in doubt about what you can cross off your university checklist, contact your university’s residential services for more details on what will be provided.

University checklist: Bedroom

  • Mattress protector
  • Duvet and pillows (opt for a higher tog duvet – e.g. 13.5/15 tog – you’ll thank me for the tip on those long winter nights)
  • Duvet cover and pillow covers
  • Blankets
  • Laundry bin (doesn’t have to be wicker, a large and strong plastic bag will do!)
  • Clothes hangers
  • Alarm clock (as a backup for the day when you inevitably drop your phone down the toilet)
  • Desk lamp
  • Ear plugs

Note: Most halls of residences will provide students with standard single-size beds in their first year, but check with your university’s residential services before buying any bedding. Also, the more blankets you have, the better. I don’t remember much about my first year of university, but I do remember it being very, very cold.

University checklist: Clothing

  • Casual clothes (t-shirts, jumpers, trousers)
  • Underwear (pants, socks, bras)
  • Dressing gown and slippers
  • Winter coat and jacket
  • Gloves, hat and scarf
  • Shoes (trainers, smart shoes, casual shoes)
  • Smart office outfit (for possible part-time job interviews)
  • Sportswear/swimwear
  • Fancy dress

University checklist: Bathroom

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Wash bag (especially useful if you’re sharing a bathroom which is a short walk away from your bedroom)
  • Soap
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shower gel
  • Deodorant
  • Razor/ shaving foam
  • Towel (x2)
  • Hand towel
  • Wash cloth
  • Hair brush
  • Toilet roll
  • Tampons/sanitary towels

University checklist: Healthcare

  • Any personal medications and prescriptions
  • Basic first aid kit (e.g. pain relief tablets, plasters, cold and flu medication, allergy tablets, antibacterial lotion or spray)
  • Details of current GP and doctor’s surgery
  • Glasses and prescription
  • Multivitamins
  • Birth control pills and/or condoms

Note: All new university students should register with a local doctor’s surgery early on in university life. This will save you having to wait for hours at a drop-in center filling out forms on the day that you’re actually ill.

University checklist: Miscellaneous

  • Sturdy bag (capable of carrying stacks of books)
  • Photographs of friends and family
  • Small sewing kit
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Books for personal reading
  • Films/TV series boxsets
  • Board/card games (e.g. Monopoly, Hungry Hippos or a pack of cards)
  • Hair dryer/ hair straighteners etc.
  • Bike (plus helmet and a strong lock)

If you are still unsure of what to take to university and whether you need to buy anything beforehand, consider going to university with just a very light load. This will make certain you don’t buy anything useless – after all, it will be just as easy to buy what you need once you’re settled in, either on your own or as a group with your new fellow flatmates.

Image credits: Chris Bianchi; JimBobArt

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This article was originally published in September 2014 . It was last updated in August 2023

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