University checklist: what to take to start the year in style

Desk with laptop and printer
Maggie Westhead,-Digital Editor

Time to prepare for that first term at uni? Our guide, packed with expert tips, will help…

Leaving home and starting university is a huge step for everyone in the family – an exhilarating yet sometimes anxious time for students and parents alike. We’ve asked a range of experts how best to embrace the transition and make it as seamless as possible, so you can start planning the packing list and everyone can get set for an exciting new era.

Make it cosy

The challenge with student accommodation is how to make it look personal without decorating or hanging pictures. ‘A way around this is to perch a few framed prints in various sizes on a desk, sideboard or chest of drawers,’ says interiors stylist Rory Robertson. ‘Students shouldn’t feel like they need to go out and buy loads – it’s all about using the budget they have wisely. Think about the things they really need to make a comfortable space and spend more on them. They might want to focus on really decent bedding so they can get a good night’s sleep. This washable coverless duvet is excellent value and an easy way to add a splash of colour to a room. It’s also worth investing in a good desk lamp.’

Back to basics

Leaving home and starting university will mean cooking, washing and managing life 24/7 without parental help. There will be certain practical things for the home students will need to get them started, but don’t feel you have to buy absolutely everything.

‘I got my daughter to go through our kitchen drawers and cupboards and take anything we had spares of, such as a colander, cutlery or bowls,’ says mum-of-three Debra Melbourne, whose daughter Jamila started university last year. ‘Remember, it’s likely that other students in the halls will have tin openers, corkscrews and saucepans, so you don’t have to take all of those things. Think about all the practical items they have at home and take for granted, like a small sewing kit, a first aid kit or plastic food containers for the freezer so they can batch-cook.’ 

Asus laptop

The right tech

It’s amazing how a few items of technology can make life easier at university. Perhaps they’ll need to upgrade their laptop – if so, check out our handy student laptop buying guide here. Some students we spoke to said they found having a lightweight tablet was also handy for taking to lectures. A compact printer, now more affordable and better quality than ever before, is also a helpful addition. Finally, a reliable phone is the way to ensure they call and message home regularly. If you’re stocking up on gadgets, it’s always worth using the tech set-up service in stores, which will ensure you leave the shop with everything charged up and ready to use – ask in your local store for details.

Stylish storage

Clever storage is the key to utilising space wisely. ‘Students will need to make the most of the space they are given,’ says Molly Leese, Partner & Buying Assistant, Utility Shop. ‘Vacuum-pack bags are a great idea to save space by storing winter jackets or larger items like spare bedding or duvets. Neatfreak hanging organisers, non-slip hangers and storage bags also help save space in wardrobes. It’s also a good idea to get a laundry basket that can fit into a small space when not in use, like this one.’ Finally, always check fire regulations in halls and other student accommodation – read the handbooks and make sure you’re not buying things that aren’t allowed.

Health and wellbeing

University is a great time for students to follow their passions and try new hobbies and sports. ‘I’d encourage students to take part in university life by joining clubs and signing up to activities and initiatives,’ says clinical psychologist Dr Laura Villa. ‘This will help them meet new people and establish a network of support, which will be very valuable in the long run – even if it means coming out of their comfort zone.’ Whether it’s chess, yoga, fencing or football, taking up an activity is a great way to socialise. 

University bedroom

Home comforts

‘Starting university is a developmental milestone for the whole family,’ says Dr Laura Villa. ‘It defines the entrance into adulthood and is charged with expectation. Leaving the family nest, students suddenly need to function as independent adults. Parents have to adapt to the role change – effectively having to let go and take a step back.’

In other words, it’s a huge transition for the whole family. Acknowledge this and take time to plan the move, visiting the campus with your child beforehand if you can. Taking few familiar comforts such as cherished photos or a favourite quilt is a good idea.

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