Essential Uni checklist – 2023 Edition


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So, your baby is off to Uni? How did that even happen? It’s only ten minutes since they started school, isn’t it?

We have 3 boys and two of them are through and out the other side having graduated.

Toby, our youngest is on a placement year this year so we have no uni dash to do but I have been updating this post since 2017 so I thought I’d carry on!

First things first before you trek off to Dunelm or the big Tescos or wherever you are planning on going, check around online for student discounts, make a dentist appointment, and ring the doctor to make sure their immunisations are up to date particularly their meningitis jabs.

I must admit, last time, the shopping all felt a bit last minute. Not that that mattered really- as long as you have a car full of stuff for moving in day, it doesn’t matter if you bought it the month before, or the day before.

I thought that I’d write you a list of essentials for a first year student, off to Freshers and to stay in Halls. It won’t have everything on it, as clothes are fairly obvious. Just remember the season will change while they are there and if they are travelling home under their own steam at some point, a coat is vital even if it’s boiling on moving day and or they wouldn’t be seen dead in one any other time. One of ours found this out the hard way after shivering on the station platform for an hour in the rain and dark after missing his connection at Woking.

Consider what to take the clothes in? A suitcase? A big squishy bag like the huge ones you by for a few quid in markets? Will you be taking the suitcase home? Will your son or daughter be travelling back home for visits on a train? Dragging a massive suitcase across the country on a train isn’t any fun, so if they are planning on popping home, I’d leave them with a carry on size suitcase and a back pack.
Take the huge suitcase home with you, or ditch the holiday suitcase altogether and just use squishy storage bags. The car will probably be quite loaded and suitcases don’t squish very well.

Don’t splash out on posh stuff. Most of it won’t make it through till Year 2 anyway! If it comes back home, think of it as a bonus (or as a load of toxic kit that needs to be approached with caution and fumigated)
Some Halls will often supply stuff like kettles and toasters and a microwave, so definitely check that with the uni.
Some supply a desk lamp, pin board, waste paper basket and, if your son or daughter is in a room with an ensuite, they might supply a loo brush too. So it’s always worth going back to the info to see just what’s included.
Once they have secured a room, they can find the flatmates.  The chat might be fairly quiet to start with but in the days leading up to moving in it’s handy for the kids to all be able to contact each other.
In our case previously,  they’d sort of discussed what they were all bringing, between them. (I had visions of 6 kettles and 6 toasters arriving like a badly planned wedding list) But they decided between them to have a kitty and all go to Morrisons and buy that sort of stuff between them. We bought a £5 kettle in Tesco and took it with us mainly so I could make an emergency cuppa when we got there – necessities.
Most flats in halls need a couple of kettles and toasters for the 6/8 or more flat mates.

So I will start with the room. This one was what we referred to as The Hobbit Room. It was TINY . There was a bright orange street lamp right outside that flickered and kept Jake awake, So I bought a square of blackout fabric and cut it to the exact size of the window,  & some velcro – the stuff you can get that’s half stick (stuck that to the window frame) and half sew, that I sewed to the blackout fabric. Sorted. He was then able to velcro himself a pitch black room and a good night’s sleep. (Or could happily sleep all day. Students, you know) 
Check the size of the bed (Sounds obvious but we inadvertently booked a ‘basic’ room for Jake – which was code for a RIDICULOUSLY small bed – not even a single, poor chap, he’s 6ft3! See pic
Mattress toppers are a bit of a plan – you don’t need to necessarily bring it with you on moving day, but if the mattress isn’t very nice/comfy, you can always order one online and have it delivered it to their address (the ‘deliver to a different address’ option) We did this for Toby after he realised he could ‘feel every spring’ and it revolutionised his bed.


Check around online for any student discounts or starter packs – I had a quick look and found this Dunelm deal  

The deal runs from 1st Aug to 8th Oct but search around to see who’s offering what.

Duvet 10.5 tog
2 x pillows
Bed linen – duvet cover, pillow cases and a sheet.
They’ll need two sets. (One on the bed until Christmas, and one in the cupboard to be left in the cupboard…apparently. Groan)
A big squishy cushion or two, to tart up the bed  these are fab   Jake thought a cushion was a ridiculous idea, but he used it all the time, mainly to prop himself up whilst playing Ps2 games on his TV…
TV – even if you don’t take one, they still need to buy a licence to watch stuff on their laptop unless they don’t watch live TV. It’s such a swizz – all of them in one flat needing a licence yet when they move out of halls they only need one between them in a house. Rules may have changed so either way I’d investigate or at least have it on your radar.

Fleece throw – depends on when the Halls put the heating on of course, but might be handy.
We took Jake’s rug from his room at home as the floor was laminate. It made it lovely and cosy but it’s not vital. Would be good to cover up a gross carpet though)

A desk/bedside lamp. (some unis provide them so check)

EXTENSION LEAD – so handy.
A bin – Recommend plastic one as it doubles up as handy receptacle after a heavy night out. BLEURGHHH

Pop up laundry bin – vital! just a cheap one from Primark will do.
Laundry basket.. debatable and depends on space.

very teeny but clean, ensuite in Cranbourne Hall of Residence, Bournemouth

Bath mat x2 (ensuite rooms)
Hanging soap caddy thing

Loo rolls

Loo brush but check as sometimes they are supplied
Towels – 2 bath sheets and 2 hand towels
Soap, shampoo, toiletries to start them off (hairdyer, tongs etc etc)
Non ensuite rooms – flip flops/sliders  for the shower
Some rooms have wardrobes, some have underbed storage – if you know there will be a wardrobe, I’d really recommend a wardrobe caddy like this for all the folded stuff as it stores loads and frees up valuable space.
Don’t forget coat hangers.
They may not have anywhere to dry their bath towels so I’d definitely recommend an over the door hook.
If there’s a radiator, an over radiator airer is an idea.
The big, collapsible airier we bought, came back home, unopened. Yet it was the item that I had read was the most vital item. So I’ll leave that with you to decide!

The older two also reported that the laundry (drying) was really expensive in halls, and a bit of a faff –  so I bought THIS excellent drying pod . I wish I had thought of it for Jake when he was living in what we called The Crap Flat in his final year, which was so damp and had nowhere to dry clothes and everything was musty. It would have been fab, and was definitely cheaper in the long run,  than using the tumble driers in the halls.

Fairy lights would be a must on my list, but the boys weren’t having any of it haha!

Basic cleaning supplies like bleach and shower cleaner and a cloth or two.  You might as well bring stuff like that as it’s unlikely to be on their list of priorities when they are doing their own shopping.

Don’t forget a door stop! All the doors are fire doors and shut if they aren’t wedged open, and on moving in day (& beyond) it’s MUCH more sociable to have open doors in the flat, or at least the option.

Dorchester Halls at Bournemouth


Kitchen -remember this stuff doesn’t have to be posh or new
2 mugs
2 plates large and small
2 bowls
2 glasses
Big and a small frying pans – check whether they’ll need them to be induction or not, if in doubt get induction ones as they work on everything.
Big and small saucepans – as above re induction
Cheese grater
Pyrex jug (can be used for lots of things, prepping eggs for omelettes etc)
Selection of cutlery
Cheap wooden utensils, sieve, tongs, scissors, a couple of sharp knives, cork screw, peeler, masher, egg flip.
Oven tray for chips etc
Tea towels, washing up liquid and cloths, oven mitt.
A lasagne dish for two, so they can have the other half of whatever they cook in it, the next day. Remember you can’t microwave enamel

A couple of Tupperware type boxes

Kitchen roll and bin bags

Chopping board

Other Bits –

Blender for smoothies and sandwich toaster

In the unlikely event that your child wanted to iron something, irons and ironing boards are not often supplied. And in the unlikely event that bothers your child, maybe a clothes steamer is a good option. We take this one on holiday with us and it is BRILL but I guess its fair to say, it’s very unlikely to be on the list of must haves. (It’s blooming good though)

Cook Book  – I bought THIS ONE.  Jake really rated it as the recipes were really easy and required no special equipment such as scales. All the measurements are in ‘mugs’.  I marked a few recipes and left silly comments on the pages, before he left, so when he flicked through, it would make him smile. Also, more likely to try a recipe!

They might prefer a recipe App  – highly recommend the Tasty App – download it and have a look, it’s brilliant and how my older two learnt to cook.

Stationary – A4 printer paper, all the pens, folders, whatever you need for the course
Plastic / laminated /waterproof (beer proof)  playing cards.
Sewing kit
First aid kit – especially for Freshers to combat Freshers Flu
A container full of emergency items – i.e. – £xx in cash, condoms, paracetamol, blue tack, safety pins, scissors, cellotape,  lip salve, cool and soothe migraine strips, savlon, blister plasters, phone numbers on a piece of paper, spare phone charger/ battery power pack, batteries, torch, pen knife, fold up shopping bag/s, needle and cotton. At worst it’ll all come back unopened but the boys found it handy.

We bought a few extra bits, cleaning stuff wise – the room will probably be spotless, but if its not, you can have a quick whizz round.

We also took a heap of stuff like pasta and rice and some sauces – of course you can get it all there, but the roads are gridlocked on moving in day, and shopping for supplies might be very difficult, especially as your son or daughter will most probably not want you to hang around, so a loaf of bread and some peanut butter or something might be an idea. Pizza for that first supper in halls… Milk and teabags  (so you can have a cuppa for the road before you leave)  Basically some stuff to start them off. Most Halls are pretty near a corner shop or a decent supermarket so it really is just to see them through until they find their feet.

Alcohol. Much as you might need a gin, it’s not for you.

You’ll probably need tissues for all the crying in the car on the way home, though. I needed loads. Gav didn’t… He thinks he’s so funny. Rolls eyes.

So, there we have it – hopefully I have started you off! Wherever your child is off to, remember, there will be shops! (But also remember the shops and roads around the halls on actual moving in day could be gridlock)

I will say, that of course it’s weird and empty when they leave, but they do keep coming back 🙂 The holidays are surprisingly often and long. So any empty nesters out there, please try not to fret. I think that as long as they are happy all is good. Settling in may take a bit of time and that is hard for us at home because if they are unhappy…well,  the saying is ‘you are only as happy as your unhappiest child’ and that is difficult when there are miles between you!

Depending on how your son or daughter feels, I also recommend the LIFE 360 app. It’s like Find My Friends I guess, or the snapchat map. We all have it and it is 100% NOT so I can stalk everyone. It is 100% so if I awoke in the night worrying, I could check their location and see that they were (or at least their phones were) in say, halls, or wherever. The locations soon became comfortingly familiar. It made me much less anxious. Especially when they were travelling home as their little blue dot was live and we were able to see where they were on the journey home without having to constantly message them to ask how the journey was going. Equally, they could see our location and know everyone was where they should be. We all find it hugely useful and not weird. But other kids might feel they are being tracked and I get that. Ours found it useful as it also meant any one of us could see the location of their phone if they were to lose it somewhere!

It might not be for everyone but it worked for us and helped me as their Mum, feel less anxious. (I think they humoured me haha) Make sure they have enough storage on their phone to run it. I haven’t found it drains the battery.

I must admit, while they were away I would walk past their tidy bedrooms and empty washing baskets and do a little skip haha! Equally, the wonderful excitement when they came home after a long stint was off the chart!!

Good luck to yours if they are starting, Freshers week is a baptism of fire (not for them, for us haha – the sitting at home desperately hoping they are enjoying themselves, finding their feet and making friends!)

One thing our young people are really good at is adapting! Good luck to all! Hopefully this has helped with some ideas for you!

I just sent a message to the kids on Snapchat asking what their top ‘thing’ would be for starting Freshers week. Unanimous incoming messages… MONEY.  So there we have it

Since writing this the first time, there has been some EXCELLENT tips added in the comments so do take a look.

As ever, thank you for stopping by! If you’d like to join our very supportive FaceBook group, Here is the link  

Sam graduating Loughborough
Jake graduating Bournemouth

ps… 2 down 1 to go – it goes in a flash




35 Thoughts on Essential Uni checklist – 2023 Edition
    Jo Kedgley
    21 Aug 2017

    Great post! I remember it like yesterday leaving George at Brighton uni! 3 years and he has now graduated! Time flies!
    He really made good use of a set of plastic drawers for extra storage in his bathroom or room. An extension lead was invaluable too as plug sockets never seem to be in the right place.
    Once he moved into a shared house a heated airer was a godsend too.
    The occasional surprise home delivery from the supermarket from us was always welcome., especially with a crate of beer included!
    Lots of multi vitamins & vit c to keep them cold free.
    Hope these tips help.
    I totally agree with the tissues for us mums…. I cried for 2 weeks until I gave myself a talking too and said ‘he’s gone to Brighton, not Afghanistan!’

      21 Aug 2017

      OOHHH YES! extension lead is genius!!! And the vitamins! Thankyou ! And LOL! yes, Brighton not the front line! haha! Thankyou lovely! xxx

    21 Aug 2017

    Love this!!!!
    We added ear plugs and eye mask( didn’t think of the blackout blind Velcro thingy!!!!
    I also popped in some voucher cards- that you get in supermarkets for Nandos , pizza express etc- very handy if you’re short of money and/or wanting to take someone out for a meal!!!
    Being girls we also had fairy lights and photo “bunting”- amazing how they make a room “homely”

      21 Aug 2017

      gutted about lack of bunting and fairy lights! Vouchers are a fab idea! thanks Courtney !

      18 Aug 2021

      This was a very useful read. Ella (your Ivy waitress 😜) is off to Manchester Uni in September and you’ve helped me add to our ever growing list!!!

        Sally Hurman
        19 Aug 2021

        oh wow!! wish her all the best from us! xx

    21 Aug 2017

    This soooo bloody brilliant and just what I needed to calm my pounding heart! I was thinking about a double size duvet on a single bed. Blackout blind sounds like a plan. I’m trying really hard to not buy matching/co-ordinating bedding & curtains. Thats just tooo pinteresty, right? Thank you so much for this … you know I’ve been waiting for it. Best wishes & good luck to your sons.

      21 Aug 2017

      Double duvet on a single bed – check! Jake took his double, for that ridiculous bed, but it worked out ok, and was very cosy! I really wanted to change his curtains or at least add the blackout fabric, but there was a really peculiar curtain track, so that was how come I ended up with the velcro idea! I sewed strips of velcro at various points on to the fabric too, so he could ‘peel’ it back if he wanted to, without taking the whole thing off. I am sending them both off with their existing bedding and I am going to buy some nice stuff for their rooms for when they come home. Stop me buying fairy lights.(they’ll disown me lol!)

    22 Aug 2017

    Super list, Sally. This may be more variable depending on subject but my daughter did English Literature and found taking her own printer for her room really useful and saved having to go over to the library every time she needed to print off sheets of essays and notes etc and especially useful near deadlines .

      22 Aug 2017

      That’s a really good idea ! Thankyou

    22 Aug 2017

    Just re read and see you’ve got that Sally

    22 Aug 2017

    Have just read this to the two girls at work who are going off to uni! One is very organised and clued up but I think I’ve just put the fear of God in the other one!X

      22 Aug 2017


    23 Aug 2017

    Thank you so much for this! My son is going to uni in a couple of weeks & it’s a minefield sorting everything out, changing course, finance etc!! There’s a few things on your list I hadn’t even thought of!! I’ve ordered the cookbook already!! Trying to be brave but can’t imagine how I’ll feel on the journey home, will definitely need those tissues!

      24 Aug 2017

      Hi Marianne, the cook book is so good ! I hope it all goes ok for your son – tissues for the train. check. It’s so exciting for them, but so alien for us!! wahhhh! xxx

    1 Sep 2017

    A very helpful list, thank you! I’m just about to set off on a trip to Matalan with my youngest daughter, who’s leaving for uni next week and have just written out your list! My eldest daughter is also going into her final year of uni and I had forgotten how much stuff they need! I love the contrasting photos of you and your husband when your son left! I will definitely be like you! Can’t believe my youngest is flying the nest. What will I do with no children at home? Xx

      2 Sep 2017

      Crumbs it’s going to be a quiet house ! Waahhhh! Mind you, it’ll be a tidy one ! Xxx

    26 Aug 2020

    This is fab and spot on! Just a tip Wilko have 25% off all kitchen stuff at the moment which made a huge difference kitting out my son. Also some Tupperware is handy too x

      Sally Hurman
      26 Aug 2020

      Oh yes great idea! Rather than breakfast bowls with plates as lids balanced over last night’s pasta in the fridge.

    Deborah leach
    26 Aug 2020

    Thanks sally
    That is so helpful thought I was organised ,nope now need a trip to Matalan
    Last child off and she is excited however I’m dreading it my other x2 got jobs and did not really come back 😢

      Sally Hurman
      26 Aug 2020

      Ohcrumbs !! That’s not allowed! I hope they aren’t too far away! wahhhhh

    Sian Daniel
    26 Aug 2020

    My littles are nowhere near that stage but as a graduate I can remember really appreciating the big bag of £1 coins (for the washing machine) and 20p coins for the tumble dryer. Having the right change was a bit of a pain and you had to think ahead.

      Sally Hurman
      26 Aug 2020

      good point – we were astounded that a wash and tumble dry cost £8 !!

    Milly Chester
    26 Aug 2020

    Thank you for this. Lots to buy and think about. Only one parent allowed to help them move in this year, which will be hard.

      Sally Hurman
      26 Aug 2020

      Oh crumbs that is hard! Especially if it’s quite a trek – good luck xxxx

      26 Aug 2021

      Hi Milly, they told us that last year but on the day you kind of had different days and time slots so everyone wasn’t there at once so they let us both go back and forth.

    Helen Squire
    3 Sep 2020

    Lots of useful info thank you, my eldest also going to Bournemouth uni AND staying in Cranbourne, (leaves in a couple of weeks) hes not at all organised and info on whats actually in the room/flat is rubbish, so your blog was especially useful. It’s been a strange year and not sure how he/I feel!
    As someone else commented only 1 other person allowed in building to help unload and unpack and parking for 20 minutes only.

    Does he need a tv licence? I cant seem to find that out anywhere.
    I have bought, before I read this, a collapsible airer as had also been told it was an essential item!

    18 Aug 2021

    Such a comprehensive list – thank you! My eldest is off to Durham in September and I had not thought of the TV licence – I was going to send him with a blow up bed & sleeping bag in case any of his mates from home want to visit in him for a weekend or he can take it to visit them at their universities. Do they do that?

      Sally Hurman
      19 Aug 2021

      that is a really good idea !

    20 Aug 2021

    Well, thank you so much for this post. My eldest is off to Exeter in a few weeks and we’ve not been allowed to organise anything before results day and accommodation finding out which was today! I’m not looking forward to her going but know she’s off on an exciting journey-she’s only just turned 18 too 😬
    So now we can start planning with this blog post as a guide-thanks again x

    26 Aug 2021

    I’ve had 3 at Uni and all now graduated- sadly son’s graduation was an online affair and he’s yet to find a job for his BSc geography and environmental science degree
    However I’ve now got all 3 of them living back at home as eldest daughter can’t get back to her English teacher job in China ( been home nearly 2 years now after an extended holiday became VERY extended ( thanks corona!)… she’s an expert on online teacher/training now though- transferable skills and all that!
    Middle daughter has a job in fashion which is meant to be in Bali but is currently in her bedroom at home
    I’d suggest giving students all your old kitchen utensils/ stuff and treating yourself to new stuff!

    26 Aug 2021

    A screwdriver or little set of tools. Mostly for parents as we suddenly found the IKEA mirror and pan handles needed screwing in place 🙄 Great list though and to those doing it this year – enjoy – it’s actually quite fun.

    26 Aug 2021

    I’ve got another year to go but this is brilliant, thank you!! Fairy lights will be all over her room – the street lamp will be the least of her worries 😂🤪
    Good luck to Toby – and you!! Xx

    Louise Bethel
    17 Sep 2021

    Omg thank you so much for this! Just left son number one at Swansea uni and your list made it a breeze! Tears yes, but my god that door stop came in handy!! Thank you!

    10 Aug 2022

    Highly recommend taking photos of the room when you arrive. They tried to charge me for rust on the underside of the mattress from their awful bed! My partner was charged for make-up on his curtains despite him protesting he didn’t wear any 🤣
    I had a flat mate who was useless with money so her parents would send supermarket vouchers instead of giving her money which I always thought was a great idea!

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