Prepping your kid for uni? Don't forget these 5 must-have university essentials

I’m a recent graduate, and these are the ultimate uni essentials I recommend no student starts without

White room with bed cushions and plush toys, window
(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

First of all, congratulations! Being a parent of an 18-year-old scrambling around during exam season is not easy – but you all made it through, and it paid off in the end. As the time of move-in day is fast approaching, it's safe to say that your little ones are officially not so little anymore and are more than likely rearing to start the next chapter of their life: university. Albeit perhaps a little nervously.

It can be overwhelming to memorise a long list of uni essentials to send your child off with, so I (Ideal Home's resident fresh graduate) am here to help you curate a university packing list that's as succinct (but equally comprehensive) as possible.

White room with bed cushions and plush toys, window

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

Uni essentials – 5 things every student needs to add to their university packing list

1. Bedding essentials – duvet, pillows, mattress protector

The first of the uni essentials: bedding. Even though your child may not plan to do much sleeping during Fresher's Week, eventually it's going to catch up with them (believe me as I'm speaking from experience).

Bedrooms in halls of residence definitely aren't known for the best mattresses and hotel-style king-size beds, so having all their typical home comforts to hand, like their favourite duvet and pillows, will help to create a home away from home. For myself, these were at the top of the list for uni room essentials.

Bed with cushions and plush toys spread on top

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

Making the bed should be the first task on moving day as you help them unpack to occupy their first-year uni rooms, and if there's one thing I'll definitely clue you up on, it's that bringing a mattress protector is a must – trust me. It's also helpful to have an extra blanket or throw, especially for those extra chilly nights.

And if that student hall's mattress has really seen better days, then a new mattress topper will add a layer of comfort that they're bound to thank you for. Without actually thanking you, obviously.

If your child is keen on a refresh for their uni room and wants to buy new bedding sets, my go-to stores are Primark, George Home, and good old Marks & Spencer.

2. Kitchen essentials – cookware and utensils

There's always someone that thinks a bowl and spoon will get them through three years of university, but I'm pretty certain you won't be one to put your child through the horror of that.

As with bedding essentials, department stores often offer affordable kitchen starter packs for those moving out for the first time. Make sure it includes a decent frying pan, saucepans, baking tray, chopping board, sharp knife, colander, spatula, wooden spoon, bottle opener, and cheese grater.

Mind you, these won't turn your child into Jamie Oliver overnight, but it's a good place to start.

3. Bathroom essentials – towels, toothbrush, shampoo

Whether your child has got the luxury of an en-suite bathroom or is doing up the true university experience of a communal, shared bathroom – make sure they're stocked up on their essentials.

Send them off with some fresh new bath towels, a dressing gown, and all their shower essentials. My pro tip, if they're in a shared bathroom, is to buy them a portable shower caddy that they can take to and from the bathroom back to their uni room. If I were living with a shared bathroom, this would definitely be on my list of things I wish I brought to university.

4. Electronic essentials – laptop, chargers, extension leads

If there's one thing that's certainly upgraded from the old-school days, it's that a lot of the learning at university almost always requires the use of a laptop or tablet. 

It might be worth doing a bit of research to send your child off with a quality laptop they can complete all their coursework and watch lectures on (sidenote: it definitely won't be used to binge-watch series on Netflix. Yep, I didn't do that, ahem).

Pink armchair with laptop on top

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

While I still recommend stocking up on stationery and notebooks (I love the ones from Papier), it's pretty much a given now that a laptop is a uni essential. If you wanted to up the ante with their little setup, you could also consider snagging a wireless keyboard and mouse bundle to encourage them to have a dedicated workspace (talk about an interior design tip to boost productivity). Don't forget a snazzy case for them either, while you're at it.

Along with these, more must-haves are extension leads, all their relevant chargers, and a USB memory stick. If their uni room doesn't already come with a desk lamp, it's definitely worth adding that to the list for those inevitable late-night cramming sessions.

5. Room essentials – hangers, clothes airer, photos

If you need a little head start on some things to think about for your kid's uni room we'll say this much: think hangers, storage boxes for organising their wardrobe, and a clothes airer.

If there's one thing every student can agree on, it's that doing laundry at uni is so expensive. While it's pretty unavoidable to pay for washing during that first year, your child can at least save money on drying clothes in their room instead of blowing their student loan on tumble dryer cycles.

Additionally, if you're feeling a little sentimental, offer to help them print out some photos of family, friends, and loved ones they can pin up in their uni room (don't forget drawing pins and command strips while you're at it).

Mind you, this list is not exhaustive, but it's a good place to start if you're feeling a little overwhelmed. I mean, it's not easy to say goodbye to your child and not have them home for months at a time, so I've got you.

In addition to the above items, if you want to make things even simpler for you, many retailers are actually offering 'university starter packs', like IKEA's student essentials box. Even Dunelm have their own student starter pack, as well! Knowing where to shop for uni truly has never been so efficient.

Now that many universities will be starting the Autumn term in just a couple of weeks, you'll definitely thank yourself for being that little bit more prepared beforehand. Trust me when I say that you do not want to be in those high-street stores the week of moving day.

Good luck!

Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike. 

With contributions from