What to pack for university: the essential freshers checklist

From virtual freshers week to Covid-secure halls, students have a lot to adjust to. Let us make the prep for move-in day a little bit easier

What to pack for university: the essential freshers checklist
Some freshers pack too much, while others forget the essentials: this university checklist saves you from both

Packing for university can feel overwhelming at the best of times, but this year’s freshers are bound to feel a bit of added anxiety. 

With pre-uni nerves and social distancing at the back of your mind, the last thing to worry about is forgetting to pack (or buy) something essential. No one wants to be left in limbo without cups or sheets whilst adjusting to new surroundings.

The good news? Beyond masks and hand sanitiser, you won't need to pack anything out of the ordinary. As long as you have the essentials covered (all of which are detailed in our handy guide, below), you can top up on supplies throughout the year.

Let's start with what you won't need. 

What should you not bring to uni?

Whilst most student halls provide little more than a kettle and toaster, you don’t need to bring everything you own. 

TVs are cumbersome and relatively anti-social. Most students use their laptops for binge-watching Netflix. Similarly, while your car may have been handy at home, parking at most universities is scarce. They’re better left at home as you're much more likely to walk or use public transport to get around. Not having to pay for parking is a plus, too. 

Next on the list - books. If you’re an avid reader, you’re better off filling a Kindle up than transporting a large collection of books to a small student room. You can always stock up at the library when you arrive.

Remember, you’re not moving to the moon - you can always buy a toothbrush or body wash if you forget to pack a few small things. The essential freshers' checklist, below, has you covered otherwise:

1. Bedding

MADE Essentials Bedding Set

Though your student accommodation probably comes with the bones of a bed, it won't be all that comfortable without sheets, pillows, pillowcases and a duvet. You'll want to feel well-rested, so splurge on a bedding set or two (having more than one set on hand will limit the stress on washing day). To get started, check out Made and Next’s range of bedding. They both offer high-quality, affordable sets with plenty of designs to choose from, so you can pick a look to suit your style. 

We also recommend M&S’ Bounceback duvets (£22.50 for a single duvet, M&S), which almost acts like a cushion for the body – perfect for duvet day study sessions. The 13.5 tog is perfect for keeping warm through autumn and winter, too, though the duvet itself doesn’t feel too heavy. The range’s pillows are also bouncy and great value for money (£6 each, M&S). 

It’s worth grabbing a quality mattress protector, too (£11.75, Amazon). 

Once you’ve selected your bedding, opt for a home accessory – something fun to spruce up your room, like a rug, poster, or a cosy blanket. Small, personal touches are the best way to make a new bedroom feel like a home.

2. Towels

John Lewis & Partners Zig Zag Towels

John Lewis makes beautiful hand, face, and bath towels in a range of fun prints and colours (£5-£20, John Lewis). They are especially useful for keeping track of your personal items in busy laundry rooms. Grab two of each and you’ll be sorted.

Other high street favourites also sell a lovely range of styles and sizes (starting at £8, Next), but you'll find more choice online than in-store. 

3. Tech

The HP Pavilion x360 laptop is great for students on the go

A new laptop is bound to be your biggest expense, but the investment will pay off. A quality laptop makes university life much more manageable and, given the inevitable increase of virtual classes, it’s worth paying a bit more if it's guaranteed to perform well for longer. 

The HP Pavilion x360 two-in-one laptop is a great choice. It boasts an Intel® Core™ i5 processor (strong enough for video editing), 256 GB SSD, and a 360-degree hinge which can transform the lightweight laptop into a tablet or TV screen. With almost nine hours of battery life, you can even work all day without needing to recharge. 

There are plenty of great students laptops on the market, but the feature-packed x360 is a wonderful choice for creative students – it's also currently reduced by £70 (£699, Currys ).

In addition to obvious tech items like your mobile phone, there are other gadgets you might want to consider adding to your freshers' checklist. Extension cables (£10.49, Currys) always come in handy – halls never seem to have enough plug sockets. 

Noise-cancelling headphones are especially handy for avoiding distractions while you study. You can get a pair of BEATS Studio 3 (wireless Bluetooth noise-canceling) headphones on clearance at the moment, with up to £100 off (£199, Currys).

4. Kitchenware

Argos Home 50 Piece Non Stick Kitchen Starter Set

While uni probably isn’t the right time to invest in Le Creuset, you will want to stock your kitchen with the basics. You’re fending for yourself with everything, bar a kettle and toaster, so will want to stock up on crockery and cutlery. Investing in a starter set (like this 50-piece non-stick kitchen kit) is a great choice. It includes everything from bottle openers to measuring jugs, as well as all your basic cutlery, pans and baking trays (£50, Argos). 

High-quality mugs, like the gorgeous porcelain mugs from Kinto (£22, Selfridges), are worth splashing a little cash on. You will use said mug multiple times a day, whether it’s for a quick cup of tea or barista-style coffees on the weekends. A good mug always makes it feel like a treat. 

A toastie maker will win you friends, because warm cheese cures all. A good piece of kit can create multiple ‘gourmet’ toasties in minutes. The classic George Foreman grill can’t be beaten here. Not only is it the king of toastie-making, it can fast-grill proteins and veggies with little effort and clean-up (£50.39, Amazon).

(Like the idea of batch-cooking or grilling meals to eat later in the week? You’ll probably want to steal a few of your mum’s Tupperware containers.)

5. Stationery

The High Performance Planner comes in multiple colourways

If you typically don't use stationery to plan and track your goals, it may not be at the top of your university checklist, but it's not to be overlooked. 

To avoid becoming overwhelmed from a new demanding schedule, opt for smart stationery like the High Performance Planner to keep you on track from day one. It breaks big projects into smaller tasks, focusing on daily, weekly and monthly strategies, encouraging both productivity and a positive mindset. Your iPhone calendar simply can’t compete (£16, Amazon). 

For everyday note-taking, reusable notebooks are a great option. As a modern solution to paper waste, most work with dry-erase markers, so you can wipe pages clean when you’re done with them. Most have complimentary apps which help you digitise notes for easy filing (£32.99, Amazon).  

6. Cleaning products

Ultimate Home Cleaning Kit

Uni might mark the first time you’ve had to take care of all your cleaning needs yourself. This starter kit (£23, Amazon) has everything you need to get into a cleaning routine; stain remover spray, surface polish, window cleaner, toilet cleaner gel, Cillit Bang for grease and limescale, and even a few toilet blocks. You’ll want to add your preferred laundry detergent of choice, but you can stock up on everyday essentials like soap and washing up liquid almost anywhere.

Your laundry basket will act as both a transportation device on washing day and a great place to hide mess when people come over. This Live Simple laundry basket is stylish, practical, sturdy and eco-friendly (£14.99, Amazon).

To dry things properly (without shrinking them in an ancient machine you can’t control), you’ll also want a clothes horse. Opt for one that stores away small, like this concertina airer from Amazon Basics (£23.89, Amazon).

7. Accessories 

Targus Newport Drawstring Backpack for Laptops

To carry your laptop, books, and all the junk your heart desires, you’ll need something a bit more substantial than you might carry around on a normal day.

We recommend a bag with a designated laptop sleeve, like this Targus Newport drawstring backpack. It's not only hard-wearing and practical, but also nice enough to carry around with pride.

Padded adjustable shoulder straps and a top handle can’t be overlooked, either. These features add comfort and convenience for day-to-day commuting (£57.50, John Lewis).

For a designer option, the Sandqvist Hege backpack ticks all the same boxes with luxe leather and organic cotton finishes (£219, John Lewis). 

You’ll want to pack your trainers, whether you’re a ‘trainer person’ or not, as comfort tends to take priority over fashion after a few weeks. You should also add a good pair of pyjamas to the list. If they can pass as clothes (like the tops from Uniqlo’s fun PJ sets, £29.90) on a shop run, even better. 

Last but not least, don't forget hangers. You're going to need them. 

8. Face masks and hand sanitiser

Face masks and hand sanitisers are going to be imperative for students this year, as social events are suspected to be socially distanced, at best, and virtual, at worst. It’s better to stock up before you go, so view our guide to the best reusable face masks and best hand sanitisers.

What's your top packing advice for university freshers? Tell us in the comments below