You and your fresher: Read this before you rush out to the shops!

Getting ready to move into university halls 

If you are one of 400,000+ proud parents whose child is off to university in September your deserved celebrations may have come to an end now and you may start planning for the practical implications of leaving home and moving into student accommodation. If you went along to university open days in the past two years you, like me, will have noticed that student ‘digs’ are a bit different to what we may remember ours to be: where we were huddled in a blanket with fingerless gloves in a freezing room, your child is probably looking forward to moving into student halls with communal kitchens and if they are lucky even ensuite facilities.

student accommodation
The shampoo handover still needed practice in the run for the shower 1980s style…

Personally, I’m not sure that living without morning races for the one bathroom between 8 hungover New Romantics (yes, showing  my age)  even counts as true student experience..

In any case, your child, let’s call her Edwina again, has managed to bag a room on Readingham University campus and can’t wait to kit it out in style.  She’s thinking matching cups and plates, decorative desk tidy and floral bedspreads.  But have a look at our list before you dash off for what is likely to be a humdinger of a shop to Ikea, or even John Lewis – and, as much as I have sold my soul to John Lewis on a few occasions, in this instance: just NO!  Look into Edwina’s bedroom now. Exactly. Do you have reason to believe her room in halls will look any different after a week? No. So keep it cheap, if you can. (Why throw pearls before swine, metaphorically speaking?)

student halls, student accommodation
Cuthbert had brought his legendary tidyness to his room in student halls…

The list is divided into “Essentials – Nice to have – Are you sure you even need this/Luxury items?” carefully distilled down from my three previous experiences with both male and female freshers plus feedback from friends. The major conclusion drawn was: don’t buy/pack too much. The rooms are tiny. It is tempting to go all out and shops love selling ‘student starter packs’, but, trust me on this, it’s usually too much. You don’t want to take things back on your return journey because there simply was nowhere to keep them (it happened). You also don’t want to forget the duvet. Or bedlinen (also happened – fortunately, a friend had a later moving-in date and was able to take the duvet up for us whilst daughter slept under towels and coats – the shame!).

  • So first of all: wait until Edwina has had her exact accommodation confirmed. Halls differ and so do the rooms in them with meaningful (costly) implications.
  • Get as much detail about the room as you can – use that 360˚viewing option on the university accommodation website to spot what storage options are available
    1. single or double bed?
    2. Is it an ensuite bathroom – or more of a walk-in cupboard with a shower and a toilet? (no point in bringing that toiletry caddy into the latter – but it’s super-useful in the former)
    3. What is supplied, what isn’t – desk lamp, ethernet cable, storage options, room under the bed for low level storage boxes?
    4. Get Edwina to check on Facebook if there is a page for her halls and even the flat in her halls – clever freshers divvy up who brings what for the communal kitchen, they got those A levels for a reason 🙂
  • In addition to the meningitis jab which you may want to consider (Meningitis advice for students) get Edwina’s eyes tested and send her off with plenty of contact lenses.
  • Clothes: This is personal, obviously, but a couple of considerations should be:
    1. It will get cold quickly once term starts – think rain and thermals
    2. Freshers’ week organisers will send out fancy dress themes, and you will need one smart outfit for Freshers’ ball.
    3. Favourites only – these rooms are tiny!
      moving to uni, student accommodation
      When it comes to clothes try and stick to the basics.
  • Armed with this knowledge and all your inner strength hit the shops with the list below. We’ve had successful shops in Matalan, Homebase, Ikea (mainly for the  meatballs), and Wilkinsons.

Student room essentials:

  • Mattress protector – take one look at the mattress and you will understand
  • Duvet
  • Pillows (plural, the bed is also a sofa/dining table/coffee corner)
  • Bedlinen
  • Coat hangers
  • Door stop (makes it easier to be social during freshers week – but that’s another blog post)
  • Shoe rack to hang over a door (without wishing to be too gender stereotypical I would strongly recommend this for Edwina, if Cuthbert is a trainers freak then he may need one, too)
  • Collapsible luggage – it needs to be stored flat somewhere, but it is going to be necessary for travelling home at Christmas
  • Ikea blue bag (handy for moving in day and for laundry trips thereafter)
  • Ear plugs (don’t laugh, they’ll need them)
  • Towels in a bright colour – easily identifiable so they don’t go walking
  • Extension cables/extra sockets, chargers
  • Posters to cover up those bare walls
  • Bluetack or drawing pins (some rooms have pinwalls for this purpose)
  • 1 medium saucepan,
  • 1 frying pan (maybe even stretch to a Wok – stir fries are the perfect student food)
  • 1 sharp kitchen knife
  • Scissors
  • Tongs (these are not a luxury item – you may have asbestos hands after decades of cooking, Edwina doesn’t and needs this finger-extension)
  • 1 glass, 1 mug (they will probably get more during freshers)
  • 1 plate, 1 bowl
  • 1 baking tray
  • 1 set of cutlery
  • Spatula/wooden spoon
  • Tupperware dishes
  • Bottle opener
  • Tea towel
  • Very basic stationery because detailed requirements are hard to predict
  • Post it notes so Edwina can label her milk in the fridge
  • Picture of your slobbering labrador

Nice to haves:

  • Kettle ( If Edwina has a room in a flat then chances are someone is already bringing a kettle)
  • Toastiemaker (my son thought this was an essential)
  • Printer (yes, there will be printing facilities at uni, but for essay-heavy subjects, this can be a life-saver for that all-nighter)
  • Toiletry caddy (check size of ensuite), for shared bathrooms: toiletry bag with hanger)
  • Flip flops for shared bathrooms
  • 2 in 1 washing machine tablets to save money on fabric softener
  • Colour catchers (a recommendation from my son, obviously from bad experience)
  • Picture of the family

Luxury items –

  • TV/monitor (not my idea – but my kids value their friends’ TVs for Sunday morning communal viewing)
  • Mixer, especially if your fresher is into sports and wants to take protein shakes to training etc
  • Rug/bedside carpet
  • A second saucepan (the big one for spaghetti)
  • Colander
  • iPod speaker/station

Wouldn’t bother with:

Mini fridge – sounds cool but it probably won’t be allowed

Too many clothes: Did I mention that these rooms  are TINY? Be realistic.

Play stations/X box – University will cost around £50k, spending large amounts of time in the gaming vortex hidden away in your bedroom seems highly frivolous to me. A big NO.

Good luck with your preparations, these are exciting times! And, just in case I hadn’t mentioned it before: don’t overpack….

Edwina was positive she hadn't forgotten anything for her first semester.
Edwina was positive she hadn’t forgotten anything for her first semester.

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