Results day: the heart-beating, dry-mouth, whole-future-is-riding-on-this feeling as you wait for a few very important letters to flash up on a screen and set out whether you’ve got a place at uni, or the grades you need for your next stage in life, or – not.

Top tips to help you get ready for uni

If you’ve done it – congratulations! Going to university is one of the most fun, care-free, intellectually-interesting things you’ll do in your life. I loved it so much I wrote a book about it and here I’ll run through some key parts of A Guide to Uni Life to help you prepare for freshers’ week and the rest of your student experience.

(But if you didn’t see the letters you’d hoped for on your results slip, try to stay calm: A levels will not make or break your future. There are re-sits, other options, and still lots of ways to get into university, like Clearing or taking a gap year and reapplying. I did the latter and got into Oxford University second time around).

You’re probably super excited about uni, but it’s natural to feel nervous too. In my book, I compare fresher life to how you felt on your first day at primary school – nervous about the work and teachers (re-branded as tutors this time), excited about meeting new friends, and eager to check out your new surroundings (a whole room this time, and not just a coat peg). You might be a bit keener to say goodbye to your parents this time, and probably won’t hang on to their trouser legs as they try to edge towards the door, but don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel a tiny bit panicked on the first day. I did, and I definitely cried. It’s natural that you might have mixed feelings when you actually face independence for the first time.

But being prepared will definitely help. Here’s a packing list of the key things to take to uni for the start of fresher life:

Bedroom things

➤  Bedding – a duvet, mattress protector, two sheets, duvet covers, pillow, pillow covers – but first check with your accommodation officer to find out what is provided

➤  Hot-water bottle

➤  Box of tissues

➤  Sleeping bag – for visitors and in case you travel anywhere

➤  Laundry bag – to carry dirty clothes to the washing machine (or home…)

➤  Desk lamp (if not provided – check first)

➤  Coat hangers if not provided

➤  Room decorations, e.g. beanbag, cushions, blankets/throws, photos and posters, plants, rug

➤  Laptop and/or tablet, plus carry case(s) and charger wires

➤  Spare batteries

➤  Plug extension leads

➤  Phone chargers

➤  Speakers and/or noise-cancelling headphones, depending on your preference

➤  Power bank as a back-up to power up a phone during the day

➤  Ethernet cable in case the Wi-Fi is unreliable


Everyday necessities

➤  Clothes, socks, underwear, shoes

➤  Warm coat, scarf, hat

➤  Umbrella

➤  Bag or rucksack to carry your books, laptop, etc.


Important documents

You’ll probably have downloaded copies of most of these on your phone, but it’s worth having print-outs of vital documents too.

➤ Accommodation forms

➤  Bank account or building society details plus bank cards and online banking details

➤  National Insurance number

➤  Driving licence

➤  Insurance documents including student possessions insurance

➤  NHS number

➤  Your passport (have a pdf scan of it too)

➤  Passport photos

➤  Documents relating to your student loan


Books and academic materials

➤  A diary, if you prefer a paper one

➤  Folders and lined paper

➤  Pens including highlighters

➤  A hole puncher, ruler, scissors, stapler, Sellotape

➤  Writing pads

➤  You might want some of your A level subject notes or books – you probably won’t use them, but it can be comforting to know that they’re there just in case

➤  A noticeboard (check your room doesn’t already have one) and pins

➤  Blu Tack for posters and room decorations


 Toiletries and first aid

➤  Any prescription drugs you take

➤  Paracetamol

➤  Tweezers

➤  Condoms

➤  Plasters and antiseptic cream

➤  A flu remedy to battle against freshers’ flu

➤  All your normal toiletry bag contents – toothbrush and paste, soap, make-up remover, face creams, etc.


Kitchen goods

Before you start buying your kitchen gear, check what’s provided by your halls or student flat. If your accommodation is self-catered, a lot of the contents listed below will be provided, so don’t bother wasting your money.

➤  Cutlery – just two/three place-settings of crockery and cutlery; having loads will just discourage you from washing up

➤  Crockery – plates, bowls, mugs, glasses

➤  Bottle opener

➤  Frying pan

➤  Two saucepans, one small, one larger

➤  Chopping board

➤  Sharp knife

➤  Tin opener

➤  Peeler and/or grater

➤  Basic store cupboard foods (e.g. tea, coffee, sugar, cooking oil, herbs, salt, pepper, pasta, rice, cereal, tinned tomatoes, pasta sauce, etc.)

➤  Sandwich bags

➤  Tupperware (or similar) boxes with lids

➤  Reusable water bottle and coffee cup

➤  Cling film, tin foil

➤  Tea towel and oven glove

➤  Cleaning products – all-purpose, anti-bacterial spray; a microfibre cloth, washing-up brush and liquid, toilet and bathroom cleaner if you’re living in a house, but many halls have weekly cleaners included in your bill, so check first.


Extras for international students

➤  Visas and relevant paperwork, plus pdf scans

➤  A copy of your birth certificate and passport, plus pdf scans

➤  Travel documents

➤  Plug adapters

➤  UK (sterling) currency

➤  A UK SIM card

Once that’s all sorted, you’re ready for uni! There’s a lot of gloom about the undergraduate experience in the press right now – mostly around the expense, obviously – and there are loads of tips about how to save money, boost your income and financially thrive in A Guide to Uni Life. But don’t miss out: uni really is a unique experience. You have three (usually) years to follow your intellectual interests, to network contacts that will help you into your dream career, to pick up almost any extra-curricular activities you can dream of, to be independent, manage your own time and feed yourself, to make friends for life. I’m jealous! Good luck – and enjoy it.

A Guide to Uni Life


Heading off to university in September? Prepare for every aspect of student life with Lucy Tobin’s A Guide to Uni Life.