What (not) to take to uni, with Jack Edwards

This article was last updated on 04/09/20

You've got your textbooks, you've got your lucky socks but... do you really need all 30 items from your knitwear collection?!

We know it’s tempting to take everything with you when you move away from home to start uni for the first time, but, trust us: you’ll be happier if you pack smart and travel light. For the things you know you’ll definitely need, like bedding, towels and kitchen equipment, it’s a good idea to find out in advance if any of these things are provided by your accommodation and pack accordingly. But what about those little luxuries and home comforts you’re not sure whether you can do without?

Jack's advice

To help you make your decisions, we asked student vlogger Jack Edwards what he was glad he took… and what he wished he hadn’t. And we gathered some words of wisdom from others who’ve been there and learned the hard way what (not) to take to uni!

“University bars and clubs are notoriously a bit grim,” says Jack Edwards. “They’re almost always inexplicably sticky and white trainers last approximately 35 seconds. I’d highly, highly recommend bringing an old, tatty pair of shoes you don’t mind getting ruined, trodden on, or absorbed in a mosh pit. If you don’t have a pair you’re willing to sacrifice, I’d recommend buying a cheap pair from a charity shop!”

In terms of what you don’t need to bring, Jack is emphatic: candles! “To me, buying a candle felt like a very mature, adult thing to do,” he says. “However, almost every university accommodation provider bans candles because of the fire hazard, and mine ended up spending the whole year back in its box.”

Tips from The Student Room forums

Here's what some current students had to say...

In terms of the best thing I brought, I certainly knew what I used the most often – a baking tray. Those chicken nuggets and fish fingers won't cook themselves!

The best things I brought with me were a colander (lots of pasta was being drained), a door stop and a desk lamp (for late night studying). The worst things were: My iron & ironing board (not only was this provided, but I didn’t use it once!)

The dos and don'ts from Unibuddy ambassadors

This is what Unibuddy ambassadors, John and Jenny, say were the most and least useful things they took with them when they started uni:

Most useful

John's faves...

  • Folders: I was given quite a few documents in lectures and found it useful to keep all my work from different modules together .
  • Pizza wheel: As you slowly learn to cook, you will find yourselves buying more pizza than you might think.

Jenny's faves...

  • Reusable water bottle/ coffee cup: It helps you keep hydrated (which is so important) and stops you spending lots of money on drinks through the term. Also reduces excess plastic, which is great for the environment!
  • Bus pass: Get one early, as when you are travelling around your new home/city it makes much more financial sense to get a pass that will last you a year as opposed to single fares every day.
  • Fancy dress: There is definitely lots of use for fancy dress items and costumes in those first few weeks of terms as there are lots of themed evenings and events.
  • A good-sized bag: Perfect to carry books from the library. This is something that is often overlooked until you're leaving the library with more books than you can hold!
  • A lanyard/ wallet: Your student ID will often become a lifeline when you're at university, especially if it is your flat key or library card, so make sure you have an easy way to keep it on your person, to avoid losing it!
  • Spare cables for your laptop or phone: It's one of those things that you don't think about until they break. They can also be hard to come by (depending on the model you use) and having your laptop out of action when you have an assignment due can be really inconvenient.

Least useful

John's regrets...

  • Set of bowls and plates: Everyone in my flat brought a 10-piece plate set and we ended up with over 60 plates and bowls for six people. Everyone always used their favourite plate or bowl anyway so they ended up just taking up space in the cupboards before they were eventually removed when we moved out.
  • ALL the stationery: This might be different for STEM subjects, but, as a philosophy student, I made all my notes on my laptop and only ever used a couple of pens to make notes and mindmaps. I rarely touched any of the brand-new stationery I had purchased for myself!

Jenny's regrets...

  • Printer: With most universities becoming more focussed on being environmentally-friendly, it is more likely that any key documents will be emailed to you, and luckily most submissions/hand-ins are electronic. If you did need to print anything, most universities have printers you can use in their libraries or study spaces, so it is an expense you just don’t need!
  • All your books before you start: It is great to be prepared but it is hard to know exactly what books you'll need until you actually meet your tutors and start your courses. Sometimes books/articles will be provided as online resources too, but you won't know this until you actually begin your classes.

Of course, everyone's experience is very different so don't take these tips as gospel, but hopefully they've given you some pause for thought as you tackle The Epic Pack...! What you bring or don't bring this year will also be affected by Coronavirus restrictions and guidance. Find out your accommodation's policies around sharing facilities and follow their guidance on what you need to bring to stay safe.

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