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Fresher’s Guide to packing for University

Photo credit: Nottingham Trent University/ Welcome Week - City Freshers' Fair/ Flickr

For all those first years heading off to university in the next few weeks, congratulations! Now is the time to spend hours browsing online stores for bedding that fits your colour scheme before you commence Ikea shopping trips. As a recent graduate, who experienced first-hand the “do’s and don’ts” of university life in halls, I have created a guide as to what to bring, broken down into categories so you can tailor it to the type of room you have been offered - ensuite, communal bathroom, catered or self-catered. This way, you will not make the mistakes I did.

Top tips:

  • Do not overpack – you do not need to bring your entire wardrobe. I did this and wore approximately 1/3 of them. I lived in comfy clothes during the day, and only touched my jeans and nicer clothes during events.
  • Do not rely on local supermarkets on move-in day to buy last-minute things and food – everyone else will have done the same, probably before you, and the stores will be stripped bare. Instead, buy basics, like bread, milk, tea and coffee which you will need for the first few days . Then, once everyone has settled, go on a shopping trip with your new flatmates or friends – it is an excellent bonding experience and helps you learn the fastest routes and bus timetables before lectures begin.
  • If you can, communicate with your flatmates in advance and organise who will bring what for your communal kitchen, even if you are in catered accommodation. That way, you won’t end up with eight kettles.

What to bring:


  • Small cutlery and crockery set – buy one as unique and cheap as possible, just in case someone tries to steal or break your things.
  • Wait to buy a kettle, toaster or microwave until you know more or have seen your flat which may have these items provided by the university or your flatmates.
  • Plastic containers– I often found it was more cost-effective, and easier on busy days, to buy food in bulk, make multiple portions and then divide and freeze it. If you meal prep like me, plastic containers will become your best friend. They are also more environmentally friendly and cheaper than cling film in the long term. Sets are available in different size boxes.
  • Tea towels – again, do not buy very expensive ones as these will become pretty disgusting very quickly if all your flatmates are using them too. I suggest buying a pack of four, changing them every week and then boiling them in anti-bac.
  • Kitchen scissors, a big and small sharp knife and oven gloves.
  • Bottle and can opener, peeler, cheese grater – all essentials for easy student meals. Plus, you’ll be the new favourite when you bring out your bottle opener and save the flat party!
  • Basic cooking essentials including a saucepan, frying pan, baking tray and chopping board for all cooking needs, even if you may end up eating pesto pasta five days a week.
  • Cookbooks – for when you have the urge to be Gordon Ramsey or have a flat dinner.
  • Bin bags, cling film, tin foil, washing-up liquid and sponge – do not be the one that leaves your rubbish, dirty utensils and crockery in the sink!


  • A multi-seasoned duvet – university rooms are renowned for being saunas, or igloos, so it is best to have a duvet that you can alter to make it as thick or thin as possible depending on the temperature of your room.
  • Non-white bedclothes – this way you can wash your bedding with your clothing without them being stained. This is the same with your towels; nothing stays white at university for long!
  • Mattress protector – it’s best not to think about the state of your duvet, the best option is to buy a very cheap protector which can go under your sheet. I also bought a mattress topper which went on top of the protector for extra comfort because accommodation beds can be quite uncomfortable.
  • Foldable laundry basket and drying rack – I got a cheap two-sectioned basket from Ikea which made it much easier to separate lights from darks when washing clothes. It was also easily foldable so I could carry it to the laundry room, which can often be quite a trek. Beware that a washing machine is hard to come by, so always be ready to collect your washing the minute it finishes or your clean clothes may be dumped on the floor. I also got a drying rack which could be folded away as the likelihood is your room won’t be large enough to store many big items without getting overcrowded.
  • A small safe box, preferably a coded one – this way, I could keep important documents like my passport and important documentation safely hidden away. A code safe also meant I did not have to worry about keeping track of a million different keys.
  • Personal items – photographs, plants (fake or alive), fairy lights (usually only battery ones are allowed), posters… things to make your room feel as homely as possible.
  • Alarm clock – you will not want to miss your contact hours, so this is a must!
  • Tea/ coffee station – cheap kettles are easy to come by, so having a small station in your room means you can have some any time you want. Some rooms have small fridges for you to store milk, some allow them, but others do not.
  • Hangers – rooms often do not come with them, so bring them with you! It is often easier to bring your clothes already on them so you can hang them straight up. If there is room, hanging organisers from Ikea are also really useful if you have limited storage space.


  • Speaking of clothes, consider every temperature as one day it might be sweltering in your accommodation, and the next like the Arctic or Amazon rainforest. Lecture theatres are also notoriously warm, so wear layers that you can strip off and put on accordingly.
  • Fancy dress – anything you own, bring it with you. There will be a pub crawl or theme night for every topic under the sun.
  • Bring plenty of comfy clothes – for days when you are working in the library or revising for an exam, you will not want to be uncomfortable. Trust me when I say people might start by making an effort for their lectures, but within three weeks everyone will be turning up in sweatpants, hoodies and unbrushed hair.
  • Also pack some nice clothes, for evenings out or any job or internship interviews you may end up doing.


Items may differ depending on whether you are in communal or ensuite accommodation. Often, communal bathrooms are cleaned for you, once, maybe twice a week, while in an ensuite it is your responsibility, so it is worth buying some basic cleaning supplies.

  • Dressing gown/Robe – so you can go to and from the communal shower easily. This is also just a nice thing to have for quiet evenings and also, god forbid, if the fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night.
  • Flip flops – especially for communal showers as the floor is wet nearly 24/7 with flatmates waking up and going to bed at different times. Cheap, hard-soled slippers are also a must for the trips to the common room or kitchen, again because of the floor.
  • Washbag so you can easily go to your communal shower.
  • Toilet roll – whether communal or ensuite, it is best to always have some spare in case you find yourself short.


You never know when you will be asked to provide documentation, so it is best to have a paper and digital copy of all important documents. This includes:

  • Student Finance
  • Driving licence
  • National insurance
  • NHS documentation, including vaccination history, especially if you plan to use the University’s GP’s. Always have your NHS number handy. This will save you from having to wait for hours at a walk-in centre.
  • Room insurance if you feel that is necessary


  • Extension leads, with multiple ports – there are often never enough plugs for all your electronics.
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Batteries and chargers
  • Hairdryer, straighteners and curlers where necessary
  • Memory stick and hard drive to back up your work – do not be that person that loses your assessments the day before they are due.
  • Games console – if you can, games like Mario Kart are a great bonding experience.
  • Printer – but not straight away. Weigh up the cost of university printing, which can often be very expensive, especially for coloured sheets, against buying a small one for yourself.
  • Headphones – to block out that one person in the library that insists on projecting their phone call in the quiet study area.


Most work these days is done fully electronically, including submission of assessments. However, it is still worth bringing a few basic things, particularly if you prefer handwriting notes.

  • Notebook, pens and pencils
  • Student planner – to keep track of all those deadlines. I colour-coded each module so I could always see what needed to be done.
  • Calculator – especially for those STEM students!
  • Blu Tack and drawing pins – useful for decorating your room. Beware of damage to the walls when you move out, so be careful with Blu Tack and command strips when removing them.
  • Textbooks – always check to see if they are available for borrow through the library or second-hand amazon. Never buy them too early, or all of them at once, as you never know which ones will be the most useful.
  • Simple folder – for those lecturers that still insist on printing everything, despite universities pushing for paperless!
  • Post-its – useful for notes and also for cross-room communication.


  • Suitcase or weekend bag for home visits or weekends away
  • Comfortable bag to carry your stuff around in for lectures and library visits.
  • Cards and drinking games – we love a game night!
  • Snacks – will make you extremely popular for that first night.
  • Small first aid kit and sewing kit
  • Umbrella – useful to keep in your bag for moments when you are caught in an unexpected shower.
  • Doorstop – very important during those first few days and weeks to help you make friends.
  • Tote bags and shopping bags to make the weekly shop as easy as possible.
  • All medical prescriptions, vitamins etc. that you need for several weeks, so that you have time to join the local GP.

What not to bring:

  • An iron - trust me, you won’t touch it. The likelihood is you will walk into a lecture theatre full of un-ironed t-shirts as no one has the time, energy or inclination to do it.
  • A level textbooks and notes – there is a big difference between what you have learned before and university study, with much greater depth. The material provided in your lectures, university textbooks and extra reading should be enough.
  • Candles – impromptu room inspections are often a thing at university, so therefore it is better to be safe than sorry and avoid bringing candles and incense. Stick to reed diffusers to remove that student smell. It also means you do not have to worry about forgetting to blow it out and burn down your student block!
  • Your car – especially in the first year. Focus on using local transport, particularly if your university offers a discount or complimentary bus pass. If you then discover that you still need it, then it may be worth bringing it later down the line, but often getting parking permits at university are expensive and hard to come by, and parking restrictions are often in place on the roads around it.

This may seem like a lot of stuff, but hopefully, it will last your whole degree. Living away from home like this is a great learning experience – it is not that different to life at home, except that you will not have a parent around to iron your clothes or buy you toothpaste; this is all on you now! Also, do not worry if you forget things – as I learnt, you can adapt and get things once you have arrived. But remember, you are not moving to Mars! Your family can bring anything you leave behind when they visit. Most importantly, enjoy yourself! My three years have flown by, so cherish it while you can. 

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