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1 Sep 2021

Seven must-have products students need to buy before heading to university

Use our essential freshers' checklist to save money and find out what every student should pack, and the items that canbe left behind
Packing car for university

With the first term of uni starting in just a few weeks, thousands of students will be eagerly preparing for the big move.

But as lots of universities continue to offer a blend of online and face-to-face learning, the typical uni essentials might look a little different this year.

Besides the obvious - laptop, headphones, and some Best Buy pizza - you might also want to consider items that will make learning from home as easy and comfortable as possible, without taking up too much space or costing too much money.

So, whether it's you or your child heading off to university this month, keep scrolling to find out what every student should pack, and the items that canbe left behind.

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1. Laptop

Student using laptop in halls

First on the list, and probably the most essential, is a computer. Not only will it be handy for streaming films and video-calling family, but you'll also need it for assignments and accessing lectures from home.

Most students opt for a laptop; they're easy to carry around and don't take up too much space. Choose one that has good battery life, fast wi-fi and doesn't weigh too much. A decent webcam will also be helpful for interactive online seminars.

Don't overspend on a laptop that's too powerful for your needs though. Between £250 and £400 should be enough if you're only going to be researching and creating Word documents, but to buy a laptop capable of editing photos and videos without too much lag, you'll need to spend upwards of £500.

However, if you plan to work from home most of the time and you're on a tight budget, a desktop computer might be a better option.

Desktops are the cheaper of the two, especially if you already have a computer monitor, keyboard and mouse. And while you will be limited to working from your room, you'll get more specifications for your money. Desktops typically have a faster processor, more RAM and storage, and extra ports.

For more buying advice and recommendations, see our round-up of the best laptops for students. Alternatively, see our best desktop PCs and all-in-one computers.

2. Kitchen utensils

Student living isn't usually synonymous with fine dining, but cooking basic meals at home will be vital for those late-night study sessions and will hopefully help save money, too.

But you don't need to pack every gadget going. Stand mixers and coffee machines will just create clutter in a shared kitchen, while most halls will provide a kettle and toaster.

When making your list, think about the basics, such as:

Or, make the most of the space you have by opting for multi-use appliances such as slow cookers, blenders or toastie makers.

3. Headphones

With more lectures and meetings being held online, a quality headset with a built-in microphone has never been more important.

The audio quality of many laptops' built-in microphones and speakers often isn't particularly good. But a headset with a built-in microphone should make your voice clearer and reduce the risk of echoey chats.

In-ear headphones are light and compact which is useful if you plan to carry them around campus all day. But if you'll be using them for long periods of time, over-ear headphones typically provide the best sound quality and comfort.

Lots of over-ear headphones also have active noise cancelling - great for blocking out distractions from loud flatmates or other students in study halls. You'll need to spend a little more for this feature though, it can often add £100 or so to the price of your headphones.

Our lab experts reveal the top pairs on the market - see our best on-ear and over-ear headphones guide.

4. Printer

There should be low-cost printer facilities on campus, but when deadlines approach it can be handy - and more affordable - to print at home. Plus, it'll save you queuing behind other students rushing to print out their 10,000-word dissertations.

But choosing which type is best for you will all depend on what you'll be printing, how much room you have and your budget.

If you're short on space and your course requires you to print quality colour prints you should opt for an inkjet printer -they're quiet and compact and you can buy a new one for less than £50. In fact, some of our Best Buy printers start at just £40.

However, if you've got a bigger budget, more space and your course requires you to print lots of black text, opt for a laser printer instead.

You can spend around £150 for a quality laser printer, but while the upfront costs might be higher, printing costs are lower, which should save you money in the long run.

You can also cut costs by switching from branded ink to third-party ink. Our printer ink investigation found that if you were to replace all your ink cartridges three times a year, switching to third-party inks could save you up to £289.44 annually.

See our guide to the best cheap ink cartridges and where to buy them.

5. Bedding

Squeezed in-between studying and socialising, getting a good night's sleep is a necessity.

A bed and mattress will already be provided, but you'll need to bring pillows and a duvet. You might also want to consider a mattress topper for extra comfort.

If you're on a budget, microfibre pillows, duvets and toppers are normally the cheapest option. Plus, they are machine washable, and you can opt for hypoallergenic if you suffer from allergies.

However, they will need to be replaced every few years so if you'd prefer to spend more and invest in bedding that will last longer or offer more support, choose memory foam instead.

See the pillow, duvet and mattress topper brands customers rated the best.

6. Student bank account

Student using the ATM

For lots of students, this will be the first time they've had to really manage their money so choosing the best student account should be a priority.

Not only do you want a generous, 0% overdraft that lasts you the length of your course - you'll also want to make sure you get a deal that gives you the best perks suited to you.

For example, Santander offers a free four-year railcard which is worth around £90 but it doesn't offer the largest interest-free overdraft and you'll need to pay in £500 per term.

While NatWest offers one of the largest overdrafts for first-year students, but the freebies, such as its four-year National Express Coachcard (for a third off coach travel), aren't as valuable.

Head to our guide to compare all the best student bank accounts and for help on how to apply.

7. Cleaning products

Uni students washing up in halls

Most halls will have a weekly cleaner for the communal areas, but you'll be expected to keep your accommodation tidy in the meantime.

You'll need basics such as dishcloths, washing up liquid and kitchen spray. But vacuum cleaners and dishwashers will be provided.

And don't forget you'll also have to take care of your dirty washing.

Coin or card operated washing machines will be available in the halls, but students must supply their own detergent.

See our round- up of the best laundry detergent. Or head to our guide to washing symbols so you don't ruin all your new clothes in the first wash.

Things you don't need to take to uni

While it's tempting to overpack for university, remember you won't have much space to work with. Uni halls can be quite cramped so you really need to think about what you're actually going to use.

There are also plenty of items that are already included with your accommodation. We've listed some of the products you probably won't need, below. But you can also check with the housing office or uni website to find out exactly what will be provided.

  • Kettle
  • Toaster
  • Desk and chair
  • Bed and mattress
  • TV
  • Large kitchen appliances
  • Candles
  • DVDs and books
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Iron

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