The page you are visiting was formerly part of the Which? University website, but is now being provided by The Uni Guide — part of The Student Room. For more information please click here.

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more

What to take to university: parents' essential checklist for first-year students

What does your child need to take to university? Here’s a checklist of freshers' essentials the next time you're browsing the shops online...

Whether it's a new laptop for studying or a new bike for scooting around town, you’ll want something that’s fit for purpose and will still be intact after three years.

If you’re no whizz with computers, printer specifications or the latest bike brands, don’t worry – we’ve thought about what you need to consider when buying these key student essentials, with a long-term money-saving perspective in mind.

Plus, we point you to some of the best products for 2019. The good news: the best purchase isn’t always the most expensive one.

Here’s our ‘what to take to university’ checklist, with factors to look for before heading to the checkout.

What to take to university: parents checklist


Every student will need to use a computer for their course. A laptop can help them transition seamlessly from working at home, making notes in lectures and group work, and it avoids relying on a computer being available on campus. 

The laptop your child needs will depend on what they’re studying. For instance, multimedia and production students as well as the gamers out there  will need some decent processing power for handling large files and the like. 

Those using their laptop purely for research and writing essays won’t need the additional muscle under the bonnet, so you can scale back on cost.

Before buying, it’s worth checking if your child’s university loans laptops for certain subjects – music, for example.

What to look for: A battery life that’ll get through a whole day’s lectures without fighting for a plug socket, a weight less than 1.5kg if they take it to campus, and the appropriate performance for their needs.

Watch now: How to boost your student budget



There should be low-cost printing facilities on campus (library, IT rooms), but it can be handy to have a printer at home during busy periods like coursework deadlines, especially in their second and third year when they live off-campus. 

Printing at home can help avoid the queues of panic at the communal printer, which, inevitably, will have run out of paper 10 minutes before hand-in.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to pay a lot for a reliable printer that's cheap to run.

Do check though if your child’s housemates have one, as sharing between four or even eight is still more practical. In fact, it’s a good reason for them find their housemates online before arriving in freshers' week (so they can work out what appliances and devices everyone is bringing).

What to look for: Whether it's monochrome or colour, inkjet or laser, includes a scanner or is wireless. There are many variables to consider depending on what is required. 

What students forked out for: common course costs

Electric bike

OK, stick with us on this one...

Is your child going to be at university in the likes of Bristol or Sheffield? An electric bike will help them navigate the hilly terrain between campus, home and the pub in a less sweaty manner compared with its manual counterpart.

At first glance an e-bike might appear closer to a luxury than an essential, but it could ultimately save money if it proved to be a regular alternative to running a car or buying a bus pass. Also, your child doesn’t have to worry about looking for parking or a bus not showing up on time.

An e-bike could even open up a couple of part-time job opportunities, such as bicycle courier. 

Watch now: Why use an Ebike?

Make sure they have somewhere to store it. Not all accommodation allows or has room for bikes, electric or otherwise something worth checking when touring different halls on an open day. In fact, here are some further lessons your child will learn about halls once they move in.

What to look for: Mileage, ability to tackle incline (not all do!), and how smooth and easy a ride it is.

Reusable coffee cup

Pre-lecture lattes are a must for those early morning seminars, but a spilled, lukewarm coffee can really grind your gears first thing in the morning.

A decent reusable coffee cup will not only help keep your child’s flat white warm, cosy and contained, but also save them from a few pennies' worth of surcharge on disposable cups. 

Even better, the savings will add up if they opt for a coffee rustled up at home instead of that ritual pre-9am visit to the university café. 

Reusable cups are everywhere these days, including from chain coffee shops and supermarkets, in plenty of different styles and designs so they feel personalised. 

There’s no limit on choice, but not all are created equally.

What to look for: The best reusable coffee cup will keep that Americano warm and spill-free, and also be built to last and easy to clean. 


Your child’s suitcase will take them to university, home for the holidays and back again, and maybe even away on some impromptu summer adventures. So, it pays to choose one that lasts. It’ll get plenty of wear and can also double up as storage if they draw the short straw with room choice.

Shop at the right time of year and you might even be able to grab a bargain in the sales.

What to look for: There are pros and cons of soft and hard luggage, but either way expandable compartments and trolley handles are things to look for. Hit the high street and take it for a spin, first. 



No commute is quite complete without them, but headphones may also be necessary for studies too, such as video-editing in communal areas.

Headphones are also handy for drowning out noise, whether they’re trying to concentrate on studying, or watching Game of Thrones in the small hours without keeping housemates up.

Buying a less durable pair of headphones can lead to replacing them every few months or even sooner, so it does pay to do some research. After all, there’s nothing worse than the steady decline of sound on one side of your headphones.

What to look for: Sound quality, comfort and durability are key. Other considerations might include noise cancellation, allowing them to listen at lower volumes as they’re not competing with external noise.

What's next on the to-do list?

What else does your child need to take to uni? Here are 10 things your fledgling fresher will need to pack.

Our student finance advice will get you on top of money matters in no time.

Watch now: How to save money at university

Search The Uni Guide

Find further advice or search for information on a course or university