Five things to take to university - and one to avoid

  • Published
Image source, Getty Images

Students up and down the UK are cramming things into suitcases as they prepare to start an exciting new life at university.

But while it is important to make a good impression, does every person on your floor really need to bring their own kettle?

Here are some tips on what to take instead - and something that it is best to leave behind.

1. Things that remind you of home

Going to university is one of the few times in life when you can have a completely fresh start if you want to, with new friends and different interests.

So it is understandable that you may want to get as far away from your old life as possible.

But it is also a big change, so having a few familiar things around you can actually help ease the transition and cheer you up if you are having a hard day.

Image source, Getty Images

"Make sure to bring lots of comfy bedding and PJs! Winter is coming and it's a great way to combat homesickness by being as cosy as possible in your university accommodation," says Chloe Field, from the National Union of Students.

"It's also helpful to have lots of things to remind you of home, such as pictures or things from your room."

2. Energy-savers

Image source, Getty Images

As we head into winter, there is the rising cost of living to consider.

Students in accommodation with bills included in the rent can check their contracts for any clauses that might allow the landlord to charge more during the tenancy.

Those who pay bills separately should benefit from the cap on gas and electricity bills - but these are still going to be pricier this year.

Tom Allingham, from website Save the Student, recommends keeping down the cost of central heating by investing in a heated blanket.

"You can buy one for around £20 and it'll keep you nice and toasty, all the while costing less to run than a radiator. So much so that you should make your money back and more over the course of a winter," he says.

Standby savers, or smart plugs, can help cut back on electricity use, he adds.

"These energy-saving plugs safely cut the power to all associated devices when the main one goes into standby mode - like the speakers, games console and anything else connected to your TV."

There are plenty of free budgeting tools online, including one run by Save the Student, as well as app-based banks which give you a summary of your spending, he says.

3. A doorstop

Image source, Getty Images

This is an old chestnut, but keeping your door open can help to make you look approachable.

"Simple as it may sound, bringing a doorstop could make it much easier to make friends in the first few days of uni," says Tom.

"If your door is always closed, especially while you're unpacking, there's less chance of people popping their heads in to say 'hi'. Keep the door open and suddenly people don't have to knock or guess if you're home."

Just make sure it is not a fire door, as these cannot function properly if they are propped open.

4. A bright lamp

Better lighting is a great quick fix for a soulless dorm room, interior designer Shelley Matthews, of SA1 Interiors, says.

"Most likely your space is small and maybe even a bit dark, possibly due to small windows and dim lighting. So the first thing to aim for is lighter and brighter.

"Just having more light in the room instantly improves and takes away the dullness from any decor."

Image source, Getty Images

She also suggests co-ordinating the things you take with you to decorate your room to "create a calmer space".

"Pick a style or theme or colour scheme and stick to it," she says.

Another tip is to bring rugs, cushions and blankets with different textures, which will give out "warmth and cosy vibes".

Finally, bringing brightly coloured throws and cushions for communal areas could help cover up dreary furniture - with the permission of your housemates, of course.

5. A houseplant

Image source, Getty Images

It may sound like just another thing to look after, but the inexpensive, portable potted plant is definitely on trend at the moment.

Not only can plants inject a bit of personality into a rented space, they offer a mood boost too.

"Getting close to nature by owning a houseplant can be helpful," says Stephen Buckley, of mental health charity Mind, which runs a student mental health hub.

"Completing a small achievable task like watering your plants also creates a feeling of accomplishment that can improve mood and wellbeing."

He also suggests bringing a journal or notepad with you, to help you take notice of how you feel by writing down your thoughts and feelings, which can be helpful if you are a bit down, as well as spending time outdoors.

And one thing not to take:

Kitchen gadgets

Alex Harvey, founder of website The Student Food Project, previously told the BBC that it is best to keep things simple in the kitchen.

"On the gadget side of things, the less fancy, funky stuff you can take the better," he says.

"If you bring things like a whisk or a rolling pin or food processor, they will usually go in the cupboard and won't be seen until exams are done next year."

If a recipe does call for these things down the line, well, it is a chance to get creative.

"You can roll things out using an empty wine bottle, and you can achieve basically the same thing with a fork that you can with a whisk - and for the majority of student recipes you aren't going to need those things."

If you find yourself struggling when you head off to uni, help and support is available via the BBC Action Line.

This article was originally published on 14 September 2021 and has been updated.