What to take to uni: The essential items every student needs

29 Jul 2020
By Unite Students, Staff writer at The Common Room

Google ‘what to take to university’. Did you find all the enormous lists? There’s no way you could need or buy all that stuff. It’d cost you a fortune, and you’d need a lorry to get it to uni.

In our experience, less is more.

In fact, travelling light is going to save you a whole lot of hassle on check-in day. Our teams aren’t able to physically help you move this year because of social distancing. This means that you, and the one person you’re allowed to bring with you to help, will have to carry everything yourself.

If you’re making lots of trips to and from your car, you may have to queue to re-enter your building because of social distancing measures. As part of these measures, you'll also need to wear a face mask while you're in any shared areas in our buildings.

Oh, and don't forget, booking slots are mandatory this year, so you'll need to tell us when you plan to arrive on check-in day!

Anyway, onto what you really want… the packing list. Aside from the really obvious things like bedding, clothes and your laptop, we think there are just 15 things every student absolutely must have.

1) Stock pot

A stock pot is a massive saucepan with a handle on either side. They’re perfect for making one-pot dinners, like a jambalaya or stew. They’re also ideal for cooking a big batch of something and freezing it for later - exactly what you want to be doing at university.

Read more: 52 Easy one-pot recipes at the BBC Good Food website

2) Casserole dish

If you’re not using your stock pot, it’ll be because you’re making a pasta bake - the undisputed champion of student dinners. You’ll need a large ovenproof casserole dish, plus ideas for making it a bit more interesting than just pasta and cheese.

Read more: 34 Pasta bake recipes at the BBC Good Food website

3) Tupperware

Stock pots and casserole dishes are for making big, family dinners. The point of doing that at uni is threefold. It lets you:

  1. save money by turning one set of ingredients into four or five meals
  2. cut down the time and effort you have to spend cooking (and washing up)
  3. fill up your freezer with food so you’ll always have something to eat

Go for the medium to large sizes, and get the glass ones if you can find them cheap enough.

4) Running shoes

Whether you’re on the way to lectures, the library, or town, you’ll spend a lot of time on your feet as a student. The gym, a good jog, or a long walk are also great for relieving stress. So pack some running trainers - your feet will thank you.

5) Headphones

The universal sign for ‘Don’t speak to me’. When you need some alone time, you reach for the Beats*. But headphones are also good at transmitting sound to your ears - whether that’s relaxing music or concentration-boosting white noise.

Read more: 45 Easy ways to relax in your room

*Other headphone brands are available.

6) LED candles

Relaxation and down-time are vital at university, when so much of your time is taken up with deep thinking. And when you want to unwind, the ‘big’ light just won’t do. Get some LED candles (real candles aren’t allowed in student accommodation) and bask in the warm, soft glow.

7) Water bottle

There’s a good reason we’re constantly being told to drink more water. Dehydration makes us tired and sloppy - two things you don’t want to be as a student. Get yourself a reusable water bottle and, if it’s plastic, make sure it’s BPA-free.

Read more: Hydration: Are you drinking enough water?

8) Reusable coffee cup

Need a coffee before you can function? A daily flat white will cost a staggering amount of money over an academic year, and all those single-use cups are terrible for the environment. Get a nice cup, buy some instant, make your own, save money, heal the world.

9) Backpack

Hollywood movies are full of college students clutching books and binders as they skip across campus. Back in the UK, we’ve got that rain. Invest in a backpack now and do your books - and back - a favour. You’ll use it every day, so get a good one.

10) Dressing gown

Shared living means there’s a real possibility of seeing a flatmate on your late night dash to the toilet/fridge. Take a dressing gown so you can leave your room with dignity. Also, few things in life are more comforting when you’re not feeling great.

11) Ear plugs

Yep, another fact of shared living: different schedules. Some people are night owls, others cherish their 8.5 hours’ sleep. Some people are sitting down to work while others are getting ready to go out. One solution is foam ear plugs. But please use carefully.

12) Laundry bag with handles

Those fancy wooden and wicker laundry baskets might look nice, but at uni you’ll want something more practical. You’ll want something that doubles up as a laundry carrier, so you can easily get your things to and from the laundry room.

13) A good multi-surface cleaner

Okay, bear with me on this one. It might not be the most exciting item on the list, but coming armed with a good cleaning spray is going to do you the world of favours. 

It saves you money and it’s versatile, as you can use it everywhere - the bathroom, the kitchen or even your desk. Plus, it’ll help you keep the place clean and reduce the risks of any bugs spreading between flatmates.

14) Face mask

If you saw someone walking along the street wearing a face mask 12 months ago, you’d be forgiven for doing a double take. It just wasn’t a common sight.

Fast forward to present day, and it’s become the new normal, with the government advising people to wear masks in shops and on public transport. Don’t forget to bring one with you on check-in day too.

15) Reusable bags

Pack some reusable bags and do the planet a favour. You’ll probably be making a trip to the supermarket every week - avoid the harmful plastic and take your own bag along.

No doubt, there’s also going to come a time when you haven’t got enough room in your backpack for all of your books and study snacks. The trusty reusable bag will come to your rescue then too.

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Staff writer at The Common Room