I'm a recent graduate – here are 6 things I wish I brought to uni, and 6 things I wish I left at home

Take that doorstop out of your basket right now, trust me...

Bedroom with hanging photos, vines, and lights with decorative items on shelf
(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

As the start of the autumn semester is fast approaching (can you believe it's only a couple of weeks from now?!), there's one thing for sure: the uni essentials shopping countdown has begun. And it's going fast.

Irrespective of how much you try to plan with a stacked university checklist, there are always going to be some things that you'd only ever know if you lived through the uni experience firsthand in the most recent years.

In my opinion, a lot of these uni essentials lists floating around the internet don't often reflect the nitty gritty of uni life. So, allow me, Ideal Home's resident recent graduate, to let you in on the things I seriously regret bringing to uni, and the things I wish I had brought with me, in retrospect.

Pink armchair with laptop on top

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

6 things I wish I brought to university

When you're checking out the best places to buy uni essentials, it can be easy to stray away from your list and assume that your child will need everything within an arm's reach 'just in case', but believe me when I say you're probably overcompensating.

As someone who just graduated last year, here are 6 things I absolutely wish I had brought with me to uni from the get-go, as well as things I honestly wish I had just left at home.

1. A small toolkit and first-aid essentials

I've put this as a top priority because these are the kind of things your child never has to think about because they're just always stored somewhere in your home, ready at hand.

However, when Freshers Flu inevitably hits, there's no worse feeling than not having the right medicine or cough drop remedies stored for ease in a cabinet, or needing a screwdriver or batteries to hand and not being able to go to Dad's trusty old storage drawer.

Send your kid off with these essentials they otherwise tend to overlook while living at home. They'll be grateful you did.

2. Easy to carry laundry basket & laundry pods

First-year living in student halls will more or less always mean a communal washing machine and tumble dryer – and there's nothing worse than struggling to carry a heavy hamper as well as a huge bottle of detergent back and forth.

Make sure you add an easy-to-carry hamper to your kid's uni essentials list, and instead of a huge bottle of detergent, opt for the small laundry pods they just have to chuck into the washer.

3. Laptop stand

While a whole intricate computer setup is certainly not necessary, a laptop stand is something I wish I had brought with me from the get-go of my uni experience. Seeing as a laptop is essential, your child will likely be looking down at a computer screen for hours a day.

Once I switched to using a laptop stand in my final year at uni, working for long hours to meet deadlines was instantly more comfortable and I had only wished I added this to my uni desk setup sooner.

If you want to get fancy, you could even consider kitting your kid out with a lightweight, wireless keyword and mouse too.

4. Small, handheld vacuum

Although uni students are admittedly not known for their spotless rooms, believe me when I say that we would be motivated to clean more if it's easy and hassle-free. Once I had gotten a cordless vacuum, (to be honest, it was more of a smaller handheld vacuum given my lack of storage space) it helped me stay on top of keeping my uni room in shape.

5. Hanging/multi-functional uni room decorations

I'm team 'decorate your uni room' as much as the next person (I mean, I put together a whole uni room essentials list), however, I do wish I was more strategic with it at the beginning.

If you're decorating your uni room, I would recommend opting for things that hang on walls such as fairy lights, artificial vines (like these ones from Urban Outfitters), posters, and photographs. If you have a notice board in your room (as most student hall rooms do), take advantage of that.

Although it's nice to have a couple of things on your desk, unless they also carry a purpose for storage, I'd keep the purely decorative knick-knacks to just a handful of your favourites. This is because uni rooms can get small, and you'll need all the desk space you can get.

So, make use of your vertical space where you can and get creative that way!

6. A coffee machine

This might not be as applicable if your child is living in catered accommodation or on-campus student halls, but might be one to consider when they live out for their second and third year.

A coffee machine is something I honestly wish I had brought to uni sooner with me, considering the amount of caffeine I consume on a day-to-day basis. If I had just bought one at the time, I could've saved so many daily '£3.50' trips grabbing an iced latte.

6 things I wish I had left at home

Let me tell you now that you absolutely don't need to buy your kid a doorstop to keep their door open during Freshers Week, nor do they need a whole family-sized dinnerware set for just one person (and the occasional guest). But, let me get into what not to bring to uni...

1. Aspirational items/things for hobbies

Stack of books, candles, decorative items on shelf

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

I know that uni feels like a whole new opportunity to start fresh and implement new habits, however, your child might be underestimating just how much free time they'll have.

My rule of thumb is, if you're not already partaking in this habit or hobby regularly (e.g. reading, yoga, crocheting, painting, etc), then leave it at home. Encourage your kid to get a feel for their uni schedule first, and if they then want to partake in these hobbies, then you can bring it to your next visit.

Otherwise, these things will just be cluttering up their already tiny dorm room.

2. Excessive amounts of school supplies

Journal and books with pen on desk

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

As I've already mentioned a couple of times, a laptop or tablet is more than likely going to be your kid's go-to essential for lectures and seminars. Therefore, buying an excessive amount of notebooks, folders, and pens they may never use will not only take up space but waste your money.

In terms of physical books, I recommend only buying an academic diary and maybe one or two small notebooks to keep on hand.

Only buy what's necessary for the time being, and should they end up needing more, they can always buy more later on.

3. Aspirational kitchen appliances

Kitchen with tiled spashback, sink, cupboard

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

Similarly to the aspirational items mentioned earlier, the same goes for kitchen appliances. If your kid's not already making smoothies regularly, who's to say they'll start at uni?

I brought a blender and food processor with me to university, to only have them sit in my kitchen cabinets because I only used a kettle and toaster, which were already provided in my shared kitchen.

Of course, there are the go-to kitchen appliances that are sure to be winners like sandwich toasters and air fryers (make sure you check whether you can bring an air fryer to uni first), but it's all dependent on the person.

4. Printer

Home office with white desk, upholstered desk chair, laptop and printer

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Hardy)

Honestly, I have no idea who started the idea that students should bring their own printers to uni, because it's just not true, and it's way more hassle than it's worth. Universities are often stacked with resources and facilities available for students to use for a small fee (sometimes they're even free).

So, do yourself a favour and skip on the printer investment. Your kid will live, trust me.

5. Too many knick-knacks

Desk with table lamp, books, pen holder

(Image credit: Pooky)

As I mentioned earlier, while it might be a nice thought to want to bring absolutely everything significant from your child's life and core memories, believe me when I say that there just won't be enough space to keep everything. If anything, they'll probably just make their lives a lot harder by limiting their space.

Keep their knick-knacks and reminders of home, friends, and family to a minimum that they can manage. This is why I'm all for decorating vertically and using wall space with pictures to decorate their uni room.

6. Off-season clothes and shoes

Mirror leaning against wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Seeing as space is a premium in these small bedrooms in student halls, encourage your kid to only pack clothes they're actively reaching for and wearing on a weekly basis. Not the 'I might wear this' clothing pieces that will only collect dust in their drawers.

Let's face it, the UK is cold, and since the first semester of university typically spans from September to December, there's no use for your child to pack all their lovely, summer clothing.

If they plan on spending the holidays back at home anyway, they can always switch out their clothes and shoes for the upcoming seasons. And after all, I'm sure you'll be itching for them to return home and visit.

Happy uni shopping!

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.